Historic floods and hardwood floors

Q: We have a new wood floor installed in a new addition, over a newly built crawl space. The floor was installed during a very wet period of the summer (historic floods took place near that time). The floor was flat after finishing. We covered it with drop cloths for a few weeks while trim work was done. When we removed the drop cloths, the floors had cupped.

There had also been a problem with drainage that the builder had fixed, but not before it flooded the new crawl space. Now we are stumped – the job is done, we are about to have it inspected, and the builder is saying to wait until winter for the floor to flatten out with the heat. What if it doesn’t? What if it still needs to be resanded and refinished? Whose responsibility is this? We are reluctant to move into the space before this issue is resolved, but how long can/should we wait?

A: It seems obvious that the water source is not in question. I don’t think covering the floors with drop cloths for a few weeks was a very good idea since it would not only slow down the curing of the finish, but may impede the normal transfer of moisture that does occur with wood.

It may well have cupped in any case, given a substantial amount of water under the crawl space. I think efforts should have been made to ventilate and dry that area as soon as possible.

At this point, it really is important to allow sufficient time for the wood to adjust and it is possible that it will flatten out once the heating season begins. The problem is, if you sand the floors too soon, they may bend the other way or crown. I think you need to have an agreement with the contractor that if they don’t flatten out during the winter, he will have them re finished. I know moving into the area and then taking everything out is aggravating. But at this juncture, time, ventilation and warmth are the only friends you have.

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