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Expectations of quality of wooden floor installation?

After extending our living room, we had wooden floors installed to replace tiles (removed from concrete slab, ground and filled to level) and in the new area (fresh concrete slab).
We selected an engineered timber flooring with the top layer in brushed hickory. I originally asked the installers to glue the timber onto the concrete slab, but they insisted I’d be better off with it laid on their “best” underlay and that it would be “solid as a rock”. The total price was almost $11000 including installation.

Straight away, we noticed the floor creaking and moving underneath as you walk, as well as a number of places where it is obviously raised up, and in some places walking on it would cause nearby furniture to move. We have had the installer back a number of times to try to sort it out, although there have been many many delays in getting this done, with them cancelling multiple times or just not responding or booking meetings as promised. I’ve had to chase them up over and over again to get them to come and look at it. There have been some delays caused by COVID, but it seems quite ridiculous.

Now it has been over 3 years since the installation and while they have fixed some of the worst places by cutting the boards and gluing them down, mostly it is the same.
The installer seems to think that having a floor that doesn’t move and creak when you walk on it is an unrealistic expectation, and their solution to items on a bookcase rattling when you walk past it was to stick the items down with bluetack! Apparently the floor flatness is “in spec”.

Am I unreasonable to expect that my floor is “solid as a rock”? as promised? I’ve never noticed any other wooden floor in anyone else’s house that moves and makes noise when you walk on it.

What should I do? Give them a chance to try to fix it again, or give up, get my money back and get someone else to redo the floor?

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Get your money back and get a professional.

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Welcome to the Community @Tungsten

Floating timber floors are a common home product, especially as an alternative to tiles on a concrete slab.

In asking what next, it’s important to establish that the flooring has not been properly installed, or is defective in some way. Knowing which product and supplier is involved may assist others in the community to offer advice on how best to proceed. If you might share it could help others?

Notes:
Typically floating timber flooring is laid on a foam underlay. The boards are not glued to the concrete as they expand and contract with changes in moisture and temperature. Some products snap lock along the joints. Others require gluing of the tongue and groove joints as the planks are installed. There should be a clearance space between the floor boards and the surrounding walls to allow the boards to expand.

The particular product used in your property should have an installation manual available (on line?) which advises on all requirements for a proper installation. Many DIY renovators choose floating floors as an upgrade or replacement. The floating timber floor based on experiences of others in the family with that type of product, should not have any obvious feel or signs of movement under foot.

Did you use the same company to remove the tiles and level the slab etc as supplied and installed the floating timber flooring.

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If you have not already, read about your rights under Australian Consumer Law regarding products and services. After doing the research recommended by @mark_m if you feel it has not been properly laid send them a ‘Letter of Complaint’.

There are many links to the ACCC sites and Choice advice on the Community regarding the how to - use the Community search tool, as well as members’ advice.

As far as ‘spec’ and without knowing your situation, we consumers can sometimes be amazed at how much deviation most ‘specs’ (or industry standards) allow and be considered acceptable.

After 3 years and an $11,000 bill even if you feel it justified and it is so found, you may have to fight for a refund, and have very good evidence based cause to asking.

If you end up considering a complaint to your fair trading office they often require the ‘Letter of Complaint’ process and a company’s formal complaint process to run to completion prior to stepping in. Have everything in writing/email, conversations logged with who, what, and when as it will be required ‘evidence’. At the end, some companies also understand that even a determination by fair trading is not collectable until ordered by a court and even then is sometimes beyond collection as they dodge and weave.

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HI Mark,
thanks for your comments. The product is " *Elk Falls Hickory flooring". It looks great, and although it seems a lot easier to scratch than we expected (eg by wooden chair legs despite being Janka rating 9.5), the matt finish means this is not obvious. The supplier/installer is a major chain selling flooring of various types - they also installed carpet throughout the rest of the house. They suggested it was an issue with the product, but have apparently been unable to get a response from their supplier.

The stated selling feature of the engineered timber vs solid timber was that it is dimensionally stable and does not expand and contract as much as solid timber. The supplier/installer said it was an option, but they prefer not to glue them as it makes it hard to replace individual boards if they are damaged.

We were completing some other renovations at the same time, so installation of the skirting boards and kitchen cabinet kickers was delayed to allow the flooring installation underneath, so there was room for the clearance space but it would be hidden. They were installed after the floors were finished. Redoing this would be an extra expense not covered in the original installation cost.

I removed the tiles myself, but the company who supplied and installed the flooring also levelled the slab (at an extra cost not included in the $11k mentioned above).

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This may be of interest.

The product has a purpose designed locking edge. The manufacturer advises the product does not require gluing and should not be attached to the subfloor.

The timber flooring requires a PE water resistant membrane between the sub-floor and engineered timber planks.

The manual/guide provides further details of important and critical requirements for a reliable installation. I’ll not comment further on the technical requirements.

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Thanks for the link, it is interesting, but as the customer who paid to have the product installed, surely I shouldn’t have to know any of that. It should be done by the installer.

My main question is whether a brand new floor that creaks and moves is acceptable quality…

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Almost $11,000 excluding the price of levelling the floor or doing the skirting boards - that is rather a lot unless your room is very large indeed. What was the area? The foam underlay recommended comes in several grades, I take it their"best" underlay was of that type. If not what was it?

Given the time passed and efforts to fix it giving them another chance is a waste of time I doubt it is fixable in situ. I would go for the refund and re-do from scratch.

These kind of products are quite good in my experience, I have laid two such floors and had no problems. For those considering DIY the laying is not at all difficult nor time consuming. The skirting boards and (unless it is good) the floor preparation is likely to be more work than the laying. However if the floor is not flat within fairly close tolerance there will be problems.

Moving, creaking, lifting; something is seriously wrong. I suggest that you follow the advice available here about how to commence formal complaints etc ASAP. Without seeing it I cannot say for sure if it is the product or the laying or the floor but my guess from a distance is the floor is not sufficiently flat. As they prepared the floor, supplied the material and did the laying they have nowhere to run to avoid responsibility. Even if it turns out to be a faulty product they are still responsible under consumer law.

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A standard timber floor (floor boards on joists and bearers) is susceptible to vibrations across the floor and noises when walking on them. The noises are often from the timber moving in the flooring joints or butt ends of the timber rubbing. Our old place had particular parts which were noisier than others, and during the night, particular pathways were taken to prevent sleep disturbance of other occupants.

While traditional timber floors would have the characteristics you report for the floating wooden floor, one may expect that different results if flooring is placed onto a solid surface such as a concrete slab. Looking online, there are many reports (such as this one) that creaking floating floors are common and can be expected, and can be ‘worse’ if the underlying base isn’t perfectly flat (as @syncretic has indicated). The noise appears to come from the same location as a traditional timber floor.

Did they advise the use of a levelling agent before installing the flooring or advise that the floor meets the installation requirements for flatness?

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Just for clarity a floor being flat and level are not the same thing. Flatness is required in this case so that the hills and hollows are not enough to allow detectable vertical movement of the planks. It is easier to obtain flatness by making it level than by trying to raise or lower different parts. A levelling agent is a thick liquid or slurry that uses gravity to become level before it sets as after it is applied more flows into the low bits than the high bits.

It is of course a waste of effort if the floor being levelled is not soundly supported first, that would be much more a problem with a framed floor like timber as joists may have failed or the attachment of boards to them may be poor.

With a concrete floor the most likely source of hills and hollows is inaccurate screeding when it was constructed. Even the best concreter can make little errors during the pour especially in corners and edges. The way to check for this is using a long straight edge on a clean floor, running it both ways across the floor it will stick on high spots and clear low spots. This will tell you how bad the problem is and if it is restricted to certain spots. The solution depends on the situation. A bump in one spot under the bench in the kitchen would be dealt with much more cheaply by planing the plinth or adjusting its legs than by levelling the whole floor.

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Yes, the supplier/installer used a levelling agent (3 bags?) and also measured with a straight edge. Again, since I paid them to do this, surely it is their responsibility to do it right.

Yes, I expected that on a flat and level concrete slab there should be no noise or movement.

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So it sounds like we can assume the floor was flat (had been levelled using a levelling agent).

The next thing it could be is the acoustic underlay. The installation guide kindly posted by @mark_m above states…

A recognised acoustic underlay with a minimum thickness of, 2 or 3 mm incorporating a PE Moisture barrier or similar must be used on the flooring to reduce sound transmission and to reduce moisture ingress.

Do you know if the underlay they installed met this requirement, specifically 2-3mm in thickness? A thicker underlay may allow increased movement as it could potentially compress more…especially if the same or lesser density of a 2–3 mm underlay.

If they met the underlay requirements, it is likely the flooring meets installation requirements and unless the boards are defective in some way (such as warped, uneven widths etc), the creaking noise might be considered normal for that particular product. Have you asked the supplier/installer if the creaking noise are normal for that particular flooring product?

If the creaking is normal for that product, arguing the product has a fault might be difficult to do…as it could fall into a change of mind under the Australian Consumer Law. I know it won’t be good news, but it could be a change in mind as a reasonable person would expect creaks from such flooring, and you just happen not to like it.

If it was sold to you as being a quiet or silent flooring when using, this avenue could be used as such claims are misleading as you have found out post installation.

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For the best and as close to unbiased answer as @tungsten may obtain, I would direct that question to the manufacturer/importer, Preference Floors, contact details included in @mark_m’s link.

Assuming not, I would include the question on what they think might be causing the creaking. Manufacturer/importers are not completely unbiased, but maybe more so than the supplier/installer.

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When I renovated my third floor 2 bedroom unit I had bamboo floors laid over the concrete floor everywhere except the bathroom. The layers made sure the floors were level and indeed ‘patched’ sections to ensure it was to within the required tolerances. There is a soundproofing underlay (which is actually very thin but very effective - no complaints from the units below). Nothing was glued or nailed into place, and like you, the skirting boards were installed after the floors and cover a small gap between boards and the walls.The boards do need to be laid with movement tolerances as they do expand and contract according to prevailing weather conditions and humidity. However, almost 10 years on, there is no movement, squeaking, lifting or obvious wear. There is very little scratching even in higher traffic areas (although I don’t wear shoes inside and do have rugs).

Given you have a very protracted history of complaints and attempted rectification, I assume you also have a dossier of written communication. You can make an application to fair trading in your state and manage the case yourself. In fact in NSW lawyers are not permitted in NCAT cases.

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We have only in the past 3 weeks replaced 5 rooms which consisted 40 year old vinyl type slate which was now only turning up on the corners and 3 rooms previously carpeted.

The area covers 70% of the floor area in an open plan designed house, and now looks brilliant.

Concrete levelling (which we were not advised of) was required to overcome levelling discrepancies.

The overall result is really great, no complaints at all. No creaking, just a job well done. Would recommend.

Was installed on an rubberise overlay, boards ere tounged, and no gluing.

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I’ve also posted this to another topic on decking timber’s.

I thought the following service might be of more general interest as it covers both decking and internal flooring. Natural timber and ‘Engineered’ (manufactured composite) products are included in the scope.

General enquirers can be made to 1300 361 693.

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Hello
I’m curious what product and how much was spent per square metre. When installing floating floors the substrate and recommended expansion gaps and joints should ensure a great outcome
It’s possible creaking maybe due to an uneven substrate or poor expansion or even the boards weren’t acclimatized properly ( up to several weeks at your premises )
I hope this is helpful

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They are probably acclimatised now three years later.

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Oh to climatize the floating floor cover
The product once delivered must stay unpacked for several weeks before they are installed

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Each product and manufacturer has an installation manual.
The manual for the ElkFalls Hardwood product, the subject of the OP was linked in a prior post.

It specifically requires the packs to remain sealed until the day of installation.
The range of climate conditions that need to be met when the floor is laid are specified.
These include temperature 15-27C, RH 30-60% (45-55% ideal).
In the instance climatisation is required the recommendation is 48 hrs.

The product manual footer identifies the document with the Australian wholesale supplier/importer.

Different products may have variations in the installation requirements.
For a new build leaving the product unpacked for 3 weeks might be possible. It’s not the most recent experience I can relate of a replacement floor installation.

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