Hickory Floors with Huge Gaps

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  #1  
Old 03-10-09, 12:55 PM
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Hickory Floors with Huge Gaps

I've got a new house with 5" plank hickory flooring throughout the main level (about 1200 sq. ft). The house was finished in late June, so the floor was installed in late May/early June. We're in the Kansas City area, and I have a humidifier on the HVAC system. I know there's more than "enough" moisture in the house, because since some gaps have shown up, I turned up the humidifier to the point I've got condensation on the lower part of most of my windows.

The floor has developed some tremendously huge (to me) gaps between the boards. I'm not talking a single thin gap or two, but dozens that run over 10 linear feet or more. I've measured a few of the widest gaps, and they're well over 1/4" (using the "spare change" method, 51 cents - two quarters and a penny - fits in some of them). In most of the larger gaps, you can easily see the (unfinished) tongue of the next board. I wouldn't mind so much if they were thinner than a dime, but when I can drop a whole pocketful of change on the floor and watch it disappear, I think there's a problem.

My flooring installer came and looked at them, and told me "It's a problem with the species of wood. Hickory shrinks more than other woods, so gaps like this are typical and unavoidable." While the company has (reluctantly) agreed after much arguing that we can get the floors replaced, he's suggesting that we switch to a different species of wood. My wife and I love the look of the hickory, and if there was such a problem with this species of wood, I don' t see how it could be sold as a flooring option.

From what I've been researching online and in talking to other flooring installers, this guy is full of it. I'm guessing his crew didn't acclimate the wood completely, and slapped it down within a day or two of delivery to the house. Additionally, I don't think they put down any moisture barrier or roofing felt (I've been told by several contractors that this would have helped, although not completely).

Is there anything that can be done to salvage the floor, or does the whole thing need ripped out and replaced (after having the new wood acclimated for at least a week or two)? If not, how much damage to the old flooring will there be - i.e., can it be "reclaimed" for other projects?

Also, if hickory is "unacceptable", what is a comparable looking replacement species that won't have this (or any other equally unwanted) issue?
 
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  #2  
Old 03-11-09, 08:39 PM
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Playing armchair inspector: you bought a cheap chinese hickory. It came in with a high moisture content (somewhat common for cheap chinese woods) and was never acclimated or tested for moisture. It was installed and shrunk within a week or so? Yes hickory has a higher expansion/contraction rate than most woods. But not to the point where people question if it should be used as flooring.
This was an installer not checking the product before install, the store not acclimating it in the house long enough, and the cheap wood didn't help matters.
A moisture barrier would make no difference in this matter. Whoever is telling you roofing felt will stop gapping is a$$backwards. You are losing moisture not gaining it.

What method of install was used? Gluedown on slab?
 
  #3  
Old 03-12-09, 06:38 AM
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I don't think it was cheap hickory -- the installation company is a well-known, high end company here in Kansas City (but I know that doesn't mean they don't sometimes use cheap materials). I think your second concern (high moisture/not acclimated) is the bigger issue. The shrinkage and gapping happened over the course of a few months (installed in June, gaps appearing in late fall).

The floors were nailed down and (I think) glued together. I can see where the glue is pulling apart the wood in the gaps.

I know hickory has more movement than other woods, but what should be "typical" for gapping? Mine is obviously excessive, but I need to make sure my wife knows what to expect when we get this situation fixed.

What questions and information should I get from the store before they start the replacement process?

Thanks for all the help.
 
  #4  
Old 03-12-09, 07:26 AM
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Ditto on what Arkon said. I'm surprised a reputable flooring co would have this serious of a problem, but be thankful they are willing to take care of it. Try to find anyone who has used the Hickory close enough to you where you can go look at it. May not be possible, but would be nice as you know the flooring guys WON'T replace it again. Also insist upon a much longer acclimation period. Iíve seen as long as 6 weeks before the bundles were opened. One or two weeks just canít get into a bundle of wood, therefore you are relying on how if was treated before it got to you. MO. Also, while it is waiting to be installed, you are in control of the humidity so the longer the better.

If the flooring guy will agree, try just one room or area. If it does not work, you have minimized your losses. Of course if it doesnít work he may say the original problem wasnít his fault to begin with. And matching the remaining project could also be a problem.

Trying to help, good luck,
Bud
 
  #5  
Old 03-13-09, 05:24 PM
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Interesting that I found this post. My house has somewhat the same problem. We purchased this home in 2004 and think the house was built in 1997. When we bought the home, the floors were fine. Since 2004, little by little, gaps have been showing up in our formal dining room and now in the living room. Our formal dining room have 3 gaps that are 1/2" wide. Living room gaps are 1/4" wide. We've had several people look at the gaps and don't know what the problem is. Just last week, I filled the gaps with wood filler and painted the filler with varnish to match the wood. No, its not perfect, but it's much better than the gaps. Oh, we have oak floors. I took pictures, so if anyone is interested in seeing them, please let me know.
 
  #6  
Old 03-14-09, 09:38 AM
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I would have to see pictures to believe you have 1/2" gaps. Your tongue is only 1/4" so you would have a gap where no wood strip is touching each other. You're house is falling apart and could come down at any moment. Get the kids out!
 
  #7  
Old 03-17-09, 12:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Arkon View Post
I would have to see pictures to believe you have 1/2" gaps. Your tongue is only 1/4" so you would have a gap where no wood strip is touching each other. You're house is falling apart and could come down at any moment. Get the kids out!
I'd be more than happy to show you pictures. Is there a way to post pictures in my message?
 

Last edited by mommatee; 03-17-09 at 12:11 PM. Reason: spelling
  #8  
Old 03-17-09, 12:28 PM
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mom...you can't post directly...but if you link to a photo hosting site like Photobucket or Flickr and either put the html or IMG info in your post...it can be viewed. Make sure the photos are public...not private.
 
  #9  
Old 03-17-09, 12:57 PM
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OK, lets see if I can get these pictures on here. If it doesn't work, I'll have to try something else. Thanks!







http://teezpics.shutterfly.com/27

 
  #10  
Old 03-18-09, 09:18 AM
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The pictures came through fine. No Pro here, but that doesn't appear to be a solid hardwood floor? It doesn't look thick enough. Can't really tell from the angle of the pics. And it looks like some sort of pad below it? Perhaps its some sort of engineered floor that wasn't glued correctly? I'll bet if you remove the baseboard at the end of those rows, you'll find a piece sticking out the width of the gap.

The original post (and most "gapping floor" posts) was talking about gaps between the long edges I believe. As I understand it..thats the way boards expand and contract with humidity changes. I may be way off...

Well, at least you know your picture posting process was successful.

I'm sure the flooring Pro's will be around...give them time.
 
  #11  
Old 03-18-09, 09:39 AM
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Thanks for your comments. I started my own thread, so hopefully I'll receive more input.
 
  #12  
Old 03-28-09, 01:50 PM
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Arkon is right. Looks like you are loosing moisture. I would hire a licenced inspector National Wood Flooring Association - Wood Flooring Professionals Source of Information
 
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