I’ve been inspecting flooring for a long time — 40 years! — and I thought I’d seen it all. Or at least, most everything. But this particular inspection really took the cake.
I’d been contacted by a major manufacturer to look at some of their wood flooring. The complaint was “floor falling apart”. There was a note attached that said they couldn’t find any warranty information for this product, sold and installed in 2005. They sent me their inspection form for wood/engineered wood flooring.
I made an appointment with the homeowner to inspect this complaint. When I arrived, I asked to see the “defective” wood floor. Mr. X said, “You are standing on it!” When I looked down, I saw a laminate floor.
Now, a lot of people think a laminate floor is the same thing as a wood floor. But they are made from completely different materials and in completely different ways. The only wood in a laminate floor is the powdered wood core. The wood-like surface is just a photograph of an actual wood floor. A clear plastic sheet protects the photograph.
Mr. X had purchased and installed this floor himself. He thought he brought home wood flooring. The boxes that the flooring materials were packed in said “Glueless Hardwood Flooring”.
He installed the flooring. Then, after eight years, his ice maker leaked and damaged the floor. He still had one box of original flooring left over. It wasn’t enough for a complete repair, so he returned to the retailer in order to find out if this product was still available. That’s when the retailer informed the homeowner that his original purchase was actually laminate flooring, not real wood flooring.
Naturally, he was flabbergasted! He called a flooring contractor to look at this floor. The contractor confirmed that, yes, his floor was laminate and not one of the many types of wood flooring. Mr. X was not happy!
I inspected the flooring, as requested. I have to run through a whole series of photographs, tests, and evaluations based on the manufacturer’s inspection form. But because the installed floor was laminate, many of the required tests were not even appropriate for this floor.
When I saw the box marked “Glueless Hardwood Flooring”, I just shook my head. How could a major manufacturer call this product “hardwood”? It was laminate, plain and simple. And, it even had an attached “pad” — very typical for a laminate floor.
So, how did all of this play out? The short answer is: I don’t know. As an independent flooring inspector, once I turn in a report, I am out of the loop. I don’t know how long it takes to resolve a claim. I don’t know the outcome of a particular claim. I don’t know if a claim has been denied or if the flooring was replaced. The reason is that the manufacturers don’t want an inspector to make any promises for them. They want to evaluate each claim on its own merit and make their own decisions regarding an outcome.
I would hope that the claims department would look at this complaint and think, “Gee, if it looks like laminate and installs like laminate, maybe it really IS laminate and the box shouldn’t say ‘Hardwood’. Maybe we should think this over and figure out how to take care of this customer.”
So what happened here? Why was laminate labeled hardwood? Was it just a mistake? Bad marketing? Something else? It’s anyone’s guess.
In my opinion, since wood is wood and laminate is laminate, it should be pretty easy to figure out a solution, even though we don’t live in a perfect world.
Definitely my weirdest inspection. He paid for a “horse” but he got a “mule”. Be careful out there!
Who is Glenn Revere?
Glenn Revere has been a carpet expert since 1973. He’s a certified flooring inspector and the author of All About Carpets, the only book written to protect and inform you about your carpet choices, from carpet buying and carpet warranties to carpet care and maintenance. You can find him on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.
Photo: Glenn Revere
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