Is it okay to lay hardwood in new homes?

Q: My husband and I purchased a new home in NL last September. Not long after we moved in we noticed splits and gaps in some of the hardwood flooring. It took a long time for us (about 5 months) to finally get the company who sold and installed the flooring to come look at it.

He was in and looked at it in March and said to give him a call in Middle of May-June. We did call and finally were able to get him to come back out in July. I went over the flooring and marked all the pieces that had faults. Some were splits, some had the knots raising and you can really feel the edges. We also noticed that they filled in between some of the flooring with filler. He said this is perfectly normal, but I know lots of people who have laid new hardwood and didn’t have filler placed between their slats. I am very discouraged and frustrated. I do not believe that it is normal to put filler between newly laid hardwood, especially now seeing that the filler is cracking. We also have uneven pieces; pieces that are moving. Just a poor job done as far as I’m concerned. I feel that there was faulty wood laid and it should be replaced. He now says there is too much work involved and has not yet fixed it. Basically, it is going to cost him too much money and he feels my contractor should be responsible to pay the cost. The other thing that he has said to us is that it is not recommended to lay hardwood flooring in new homes due to the moisture level. Are splits in flooring normal? Should filler have been used when the floor was laid, and if so, what do we do now that it is cracking? Is it normal to have uneven flooring? Is it okay to lay hardwood in new homes? Hope you can help.

A: New house? They probably installed the cheapest product they could find. If it was, for example, “mill run” the milling may not be very good, and you would end up with knots and probably some boards with splits. They just include everything in the mix. If the installer misses these boards and they end up being nailed down, it could lead to a problem later. Movement in the boards could be insufficient nailing or installing on an inappropriate sub floor. To have filler cracking between boards of course indicates movement. It also sounds like an unacceptable gap. Again, probably poor milling or a badly bent board. I would not agree with the statement that wood floors should not be installed in new homes. The flooring should be about the last thing installed. All concrete should have been completed at least 3 months prior and all mudding and painting should also have been completed. Any flooring contractor can check various parts of the building with a moisture meter before starting his installation and should always check the flooring and the sub floor itself to make sure the 2 are within 4% of each other as to moisture content. I wouldn’t say the use of some wood filler is out of line even with a new floor. Being unfinished wood, it is likely there will be the occasional small defect or blemish on a board edge or pin holes etc., that would be better with a little filler. If these are large gaps or a lot of gaps, then the flooring itself is suspect in my mind. If the board could not have been nailed tight, it should have been removed.