Cleaning Engineered Wood Floors: Consumer-Caused Delamination

The process of layering materials together to form a product is called lamination. Any product made by layering materials together can separate under the right conditions. Engineered wood floors are made by gluing (laminating) several thin plies of wood together to form a board suitable for flooring. By definition, engineered wood is a plied board and can delaminate. That is, any of the layers can separate, including the veneer top sheet.

There is more than one reason why boards delaminate. My job as a flooring inspector is to figure out the exact reason for a flooring failure. Is the cause manufacturing, installation, or site/maintenance related?

Today’s Inspection Safari looks at a maintenance-related cause.

The floor had been installed for about 14 months when I inspected it. This flooring was installed in a well maintained, rural, single-story home built along a golf course. The flooring had been professionally installed over a concrete foundation in a step-down living room. A beautiful 9’ X 12’ oriental rug covered the center of the floor. The floor was cleaned weekly by spraying Murphy’s Oil Soap onto the wood and mopping with a flat cotton mop.

The consumer stated they noticed end joint lift (raised board ends) after about six months. For my convenience, the homeowner had marked three typical end joints.

I have reproduced the body of my inspection report here. I have omitted the manufacturer’s name from the text:

OBSERVATIONS / TESTS

The flooring is installed in a 16’ X 18’ isolated step-down family room over an on-grade slab. A 9’ X 12’ area rug covers the center of the room.

The consumer marked three end joints in non-traffic areas that exhibit overwood at the corners and/or centers. I found that one marked raised corner has delaminated. The other raised areas are intact. I found 13 other end joints that exhibit overwood ranging from .3 mm-1.3mm either at centers or corners. When I moved the area rug to check floor flatness, I noticed two things: the exposed flooring has a sticky Murphy’s Oil Soap film that stops at the edge of the rug; and none of the end joints under the rug exhibit overwood. The floor is flat to 3/16” over a 10’ radius.

I used a pin meter to take wood moisture readings throughout the installation. All readings were less than 8%. I used a non-invasive moisture meter in all areas of the room and found qualitative readings of 13%-14.5%.

Because of the custom painted molding, I was unable to completely check perimeter gaps. I found gaps of 1/4”- 3/8” where I was able to gain access under the baseboards.

Typical end joint stagger was 9”-14”. I did find four end joints with stagger less than 6”.

Conclusion

The NWFA (National Wood Flooring Association) “Problems, Causes and Cures” states: “Delamination can be caused by excessive moisture. End lift is due to improper maintenance.”

The XXXXX engineered wood maintenance requirements state:
“STEP TWO: Apply the approved XXXXX FloorCare Essentials Hardwood & Laminate Cleaner or XXXXX Hardwood Flooring Cleaners to a cotton, terry cloth, or micro-fiber flooring mop, never apply any solution directly to the surface of the floor.”

It is my opinion that the delamination and endlifting exhibited by this flooring are site related only.

Glenn Revere IICRC #113098

Unfortunately, the homeowner did not know how to properly maintain her floor and she ruined it. Care instructions are included in every box of wood. Ask your installer to give you these guidelines. It is up to you to know how to take care of your flooring. If the care instructions are not available, call your retailer. Go to the manufacturer’s website. Do whatever is needed to find these instructions and follow them carefully. If your car engine blows up because you’ve never changed the oil, you wouldn’t expect a new engine. Floor care works the same way. You have no recourse for a flooring failure if you’ve “mistreated” the floor.

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.

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