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My Wooden floor is Lifting. Whose fault is it?

22/04/2022 Alan

Well lets start on a positive note and say that it’s unlikely to be your fault, and almost certainly likely to be the fault of the installers. But before I condemn all fitters like my old friends Harry and Steve, there will always be occasions when it may be your fault, but not many. So let’s start by blaming everybody else first.

First of all, the easiest way to play safe is to always choose a company that will install your wooden floor. That way you have some kind of guarantee. It doesn’t mean that it won’t go wrong; it just means that you’ll have somebody to sue if it does go wrong. I know that we all like to cut corners, but in the case of wood floor installation, it’s just not worth it. Why? Because if it goes wrong, the chances are that you will have to lift the whole lot up, and regardless of who’s fault it is, it’s aggravation you just don’t need.

Use a Hygrometer Before You Start

Most problems with a wooden floor lifting, cupping twisting etc occur before the floor has even been installed, and at the expense of sounding like a parrot, I’m going to repeat myself for the 100th time. If your installers walk into your home to fit a floor, and they don’t have a hygrometer, don’t let them fit it. Because most problems that occur in wood floor installations start here. Moisture is a big problem for wood, so if the site conditions are wrong, or the floor has been delivered with a high moisture content, I can assure you it will almost certainly go wrong. Most installation problems are to do with site conditions, so you are exonerated from all blame on this one. It will always be the fault of the company or installers. If you have moisture in your sub floor, then it is the responsibility of the installers to check, not you, so it shouldn’t even be installed. And there’s a host of other problems that won’t be your fault either. 

A squeaky floor – always an installation problem. 
A bouncy floor- installation problem. 
Floor expanding -installation problem or site conditions. 

The first two of the above problems is usually to do with uneven sub floors, so if the installers tell you after the floor been installed that it’s due to an uneven sub floor, it’s still their fault. Isn’t it great to know that for once you’re almost certainly going to be blameless. For all the tech boffins or lawyers reading this, you can always check BS8201-2011, which states that a wooden floor has to fitted over a sub floor that level to +or minus 3 degrees over a 3 meter span. But what if you can’t afford a new sub floor. Then it’s going to bounce and probably squeak, so unfortunately it will be your fault. As long as you’ve been properly advised, that’s the point. The list goes on, but it is worth remembering that a floor will always move to some extent, as long as its only minor seasonal movement, that’s all. 

Wooden Floor Lifting

So when can it be your fault ? I remember once being called to a house where the customer was unable to open his living room door because the wooden floor had expanded and lifted so much. Looking through the front window, I could see the floor had lifted nearly 300mm from the ground. But was it our fault. No, because the customer had informed me that they had just returned to the house after a 2 week holiday and had left the room closed, with no ventilation and lots of sun bursting through the window. The humidity had gone to over 85%, so moisture had caused the floor to expand. The customers thought it was quite amusing, so we rectified the problem for free. It wasn’t a big job, but they did allow us to take photos to warn others how moisture can affect wood. If you’re floor is ‘cupping’ or ‘bowing’ it’s almost certainly to do with site conditions. Either water form below or excessively dry conditions.

Emergency - Call the Fire Brigade

So, when is it nobodies fault? Many years ago we fitted a new floor and sub floor for a customer. The day after installation was complete we received a hysterical and irate call from the customer telling us that his cat had gone missing. By the way, it clearly states in our terms and conditions that we are not responsible if your cat elopes with the neighbours cat etc etc. Anyway, I don’t know where they eventually found Percy, but I can tell you that the fire brigade had to rip half of his chimney breast out to free the little mite. And don’t even think about blaming the fitters. They didn’t know he was there when they were nailing him under the floorboards of house.

It’s just like showbiz. Never work with animals or kids.