Engineered Wood Flooring Fading From Sun Exposure

fading wood flooring
Did you realize that sunshine fades everything — even furnishings in your home that are not in direct sunlight? Yes, paint, fabrics, photographs, and flooring all fade when exposed to ultraviolet rays from the sun. How quickly fading occurs depends on what part of the country you live in, how your home is situated on your lot, and window covering effectiveness. Everything inside your home sun fades eventually.

Flooring manufacturers try to compensate for this fading by including ultraviolet “blockers” in their wood finishes. This slows the fading but does not stop it. Fading is more noticeable in the darker tones.

A major manufacturer asked me to inspect one of their engineered wood floors. It had only been installed a few months when the homeowners noticed a color change. Naturally, they were very upset to see that their new (and expensive!) wood flooring was fading in such a short period of time.

The wood had been installed throughout this new single story suburban home. The affected area was in front of the slider in a west-facing family room. The owner explained that all the windows had ultraviolet-reducing glass and that they had installed vertical blinds before they moved in so that they could keep the sunshine off the floor. After move-in, they placed a woven walk-off mat in front of the slider to protect the wood from the un-landscaped back yard. A 5’ X 7’ woven area rug (non rubberized back) butted up to the mat.

When they moved the area rug away from the mat after three months, they noticed an obvious color change. They feel that the fading is severe given the short time since installation, the ultraviolet-reducing slider glass, and the vertical blinds that remain closed during the day.

As an inspector, I use a grading scale to determine the amount of color change that has occurred. The scale is called the “Gray Scale for Evaluating Change in Color.” It was developed by the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists and is recognized as an international standard for comparing color change. The numbered scale compares two gray colors in a gradient. “5/5” is a perfect match between two samples, the original sample and the one showing color change. “5/1” means that the appearance of the sample in question is totally different than the “standard.” I always see complaints that are somewhere between “4” and “2”.

In this case, I determined that the color difference between an uninstalled, leftover board and the faded area was 2-3 to 3 on the Gray Scale. That is quite a difference. And while the Gray Scale is an international standard, each manufacturer has their own proprietary standard regarding fading. Inspectors are not given that information.

This particular warranty states:

“Hardwood contains certain types of acids in the cellular structure. With exposure to sunlight these acids begin to amber. The color change is referred to as patina. The wood will reach its own natural warmth and patina level and stop ambering. The amount of patina is directly related to the species, amount of acids in the wood species and the amount of sunlight. The entire floor will reach the same patina over time. This is often noticed after a rug is removed and the floor is noticeably different in color underneath. If you remove the rug and expose the entire floor to the same amount of light, it will even out over time and become uniform in color.”

I took an unused board as a sample and turned in my report and photographs. I informed the manufacturer that the sample would be available for any testing for 30 days. The sample was not requested by the manufacturer.

I am never told by a manufacturer how they decide a claim, so I don’t know if the flooring was replaced or not. The point here is to make you aware that sun fading can be a problem in a short period of time.

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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