Halloween just past and in keeping with that theme, Metro Atl. Floors would like to share a “Horror Story” of our own. From time to time, we come across instances in which home remodelers have been taken advantage of by contractors and are forced to pay inordinate amounts to repair floors that are not up to the correct specifications. These situations are very unfortunate and the homeowner’s floors begin to, after a short period of time, display the faults in the installation. Floor cupping, foundation issues, instability, cracks and spacing become visible briefly after they have paid for the work done on their floors. The manufacturers provide installation guidelines for their products for a reason. These guidelines need to be followed to ensure a long lasting installation and are necessary to keep the warranty on the floors intact. The unfortunate truth is there are far too many flooring contractors that are just trying to turn a dollar and are not concerned with provide quality, long lasting work for their customers. We’ve stressed this point in previous posts, but it is EXTREMELY important that you background check your flooring contractors. Ask for certifications and look at their past customer reviews before making a decision. The extra research could save you a considerable amount of money. With that said, we will now share a customer’s experience in which their floors were not installed using NWFA or manufacturer guidelines, and were fundamentally flawed from the start.

Earlier this year, Metro Atl. Floors’ Joel Negron went out for a routine in-home consultation and flooring estimate regarding a floor that the potential customer expressed wasn’t performing well. In Joel’s decades of experience he had seen few floors that were as structurally flawed as the one he observed that day. He found the following issues with the floor: entire floor cupping due to moisture, on surface installation, end joint rule breaks, and stair step rule breaks. The most troubling aspect was the foundation of which the flooring was installed on top of. The foundation was comprised of some 80 bags worth of leveling compound which was placed on top of gyp-crete. This combination is inherently unstable and won’t meet the minimum PSI standards (pounds per square inch), and should be tested to ensure that the 2,000 PSI level is intact. These layers of foundation were layer on top of a 1/2 inch of plywood. To add to the insufficiencies, the 1/2 inch plywood was installed in 1983 with nails as fasteners. After that much time has passed since original installation, and the weight and wear the plywood experienced over that time, the plywood was not suitable for the foundation of a hard surface floor. To say the least, the floor was structurally unsound, and a much different approach should have been take to produce the proper result.

Here comes the “horror” part of this story: the homeowner had to pay nearly $20,000, on top of the illegitimate installation costs, to repair the floors. It is unfortunate that the floors were in such bad shape, but the homeowner could have easily saved more that half of their total costs if they would have used a certified flooring contractor from the start. The customer is doing what they can to recoup some of their lost money by taking the contractor to court, and unfortunately the contractor is challenging the issue by claiming that there was nothing wrong with their installation. Metro Atl. Floors is working to help the customer and will provide them with detailed facts outlining how the installation was overwhelmingly flawed.

Here are some bullet points identifying the general issues with the installation:

  1. Mohawk, in attachment one requires a minimum of 48 hours of acclimation. (See guideline documents at bottom of article)
  2. Flooring was brought directly to the customers home and installed without proper acclimation.
  3. Even after putting 80 bags of level Quick leveling compound the sub floor is still not flat per NWFA guidelines. (See guideline documents at bottom of article)
  4. Manufacture requires a home to be kept 60-80 degrees F. and the in-home RH to be between 35-55% (See guideline documents at bottom of article)
  5. No moisture test were taken at the time of installation so there is no way to compare those measurements to measurements taken later.

Now that we have identified the general issues with the installation, we will show how Metro took the flawed installation apart and addressed the problems through a series of pictures with explanations.

Here you see the Metro Atl. Floors’ crew in full demolition mode. For this particular floor demo we are using the Wolff Turbo II Floor Stripper. It was vital that we completely take out all of the flooring so that we can start from stretch and make sure that the subfloor is up to spec.

After the demo, we notice how flawed the underpayment actually was. Here are some guidelines on bonding to Gypsum surfaces that definitely were not followed by the original contractor. These guidelines must be meet to install a long lasting and well performing wood floor.

(Guideline Citation) Bonding to Lightweight Cement and Gypsum Surfaces

Lightweight or gypsum-based underlayments must first be treated with RedGard® Waterproofing and Crack Prevention Membrane (((SEE PICTURE AND VIDEO SHOWING NO RED GUARD MEMBRANE HAVING BEEN APPLIED))) and must obtain a minimum 2000 psi (13.8 MPa) compressive strength at the recommended cure time. (((DID THE GYP CREET MEET THE 2,000 PSI REQUIREMENT?))) The underlayment must be sufficiently dry and properly cured to the manufacturer’s specifications for permanent, non-moisture permeable coverings. Surfaces to be tiled must be structurally sound and subject to deflection not to exceed the current ANSI Standards All lightweight concrete and gypsum-based underlayment surfaces to receive RedGard® must be primed with properly applied sealer or a primer coat of RedGard®, consisting of 1­ part RedGard® diluted with 4­parts clean, cool water. (((SEE PICTURE AND VIDEO SHOWING NO PRIMER COAT))) Mix in a clean bucket at low speed to obtain a lump-free solution. The primer can be brushed, rolled or sprayed to achieve an even coat. Apply the primer coat to the floor at a rate of 300 ft/gallon (7.5 M/L). Drying time depends on site conditions, but is normally less than 1 hour. Extremely porous surfaces may require 2 coats. (((SEE PICTURES AND VIDEO SHOWING GYP CREET BEING VERY PORAS))) At this point, RedGard® can be applied to the primed lightweight or gypsum-based surface. Refer to the individual product data sheet or packaging directions for application instructions. Expansion joints must be installed in accordance with local building codes and ANSI/TCNA guidelines. Refer to TCNA EJ171. (((WERE EXPANSION JOINTS TAKEN INTO CONSIDERATION BEFORE, DURING OR AFTER INSTALLATION?)))

Here you can see that the flooring was installed directly on top of the level compound. This is the improper spread rate and manufacturer guidelines should have been read and followed.

Take a look at the manufacturer instructions:

(Guideline Citation) Limitations to the Product

Do not bond directly to hardwood, (((SEE PICTURES AND VIDEO AND SEE HARD SURFACE FLOORING DIRRECTLY APPLIED TO LEVEL QUICK COUMPOUND))) Luan plywood, particle board, parquet, cushion or sponge-back vinyl flooring, metal, fiberglass, plastic or OSB panels. Do not use as a wear surface. When setting glass tile larger than 6″ x 6″ (15 x 15 cm), contact Custom’s® Technical Services for recommendations. When setting dimensional stone larger than 12″ x 12″ (30 x 30 cm), contact Custom’s® Technical Services for recommendations regarding subfloor deflection requirements.

And here are some additional guidelines on the proper installation of leveling compound.

(Guideline Citation) Application of Product

Apply LevelQuik® Latex Primer with a paint brush, short­nap roller or soft-push broom. (((NONE OF THESE TOOLS WERE USED))) Apply a thin even coat and allow to dry approximately 2 hours to a clear film. (((THIS STEP WAS SKIPPED))) Pour or pump, and then spread with a long­handled gauged spreader. (((THIS TOOL WAS NOT USED)))  LevelQuik® RS will seek its own level during the first 10 minutes. For feather edging and touch up, use a smoothing tool. (((IS A BOARD THAT IS NOT PROVEN TO BE STRAIGHT A SMOOTHING TOOL?))) LevelQuik® RS can be applied to 1″ (2.5 cm) thick in one application; if a second layer is required, install immediately after the first layer has set to a walkable hardness. If the first layer has dried over 12 hours, re-prime before the second application. For installation on wood subfloors with joists to 24″ (61 cm) o.c., apply a 1/2″ (13 mm) thick layer of LevelQuik® RS over 3/4″ (19 mm) Exterior Grade Plywood with a with a minimum of 2.5# properly-fastened metal lath. For pumping and large scale applications, contact Custom’s® Technical Services Department for more information. (((DID ANYONE READ THE INSTRUCTIONS?)))

In these photos you see the demolished floor all the way down to the layer with the 1/2 inch of plywood. We have included some more manufacturer specifications that outline a proper subfloor.

(Guideline Citation) Suitable Substrates

Interior and exterior applications Concrete Masonry Mortar beds Lightweight concrete Air entrained concrete Primed gypsum self-leveling underlayment, minimum 2000 psi (13.8 MPa) cured Post-tension concrete (((DID THE GYP CREET MEET THE 2,000 PSI REQUIREMENT?)))  Exterior Grade Plywood Primed OSB Exterior decks Existing ceramic tile Resilient flooring Cutback adhesive Radiant heating systems

Because the level compound specs were not met the plywood was unstable. You cannot build a proper floor that will perform for years on an uneven surface. This installation was completely flawed from the start. We have also included a technical chart that shows proper testing.

(Guideline Citation) Technical Chart


  • Property Test Method Typical Results
  • Pot Life 30 Minutes
  • Flow time 10 Minutes
  • Initial Set ASTM C-191 90 Minutes
  • Final Set ASTM C-191 3-1/2 Hours
  • Compressive Strength ASTM C-109 4400 psi (30.3 MPa)
  • Flexural Strength ASTM C-109 1100 psi (7.58 MPa)
  • Walkable Hardness 2 – 4 Hours
  • Time Before Installing Floor Covering
  • Ceramic Tile 4 Hours
  • Robinson Test ASTM C-627 Extra Heavy
  • Environmental Consideration
  • Custom® Building Products is committed to environmental responsibility in both products produced and in manufacturing practices. Use of this product may contribute to LEED® certification.

In these photos you can see the Sentinel Shingles being laid out by Metro Atl. Floors foremen.

In these you can see the Bellawood Platinum Underlayment being applied to the floors.

Here you can see the plywood subfloor being installed using GripRite Exterior Screws. In addition you can see buckets of the adhesive that we use regularly on our hardwood flooring installation; Mapei 995.

In these photos we give an up close look to what a proper nosing line should look like.

And viola! Here are some images from the finished floors. A much better turnout than how the floors looked before Metro’s certified professional installers got their hands on them.

Hopefully this horror story will have a happy ending and the customer will be able to recoup some of their lost money. Let this story be a warning to prospective home remodelers, and ALWAYS background check your contractors before making a decision. Angie’s List, Home Advisor, Yelp, Google, and Facebook are all good areas to see what past customers have said regarding a flooring company. Don’t stop there, and ask if the companies contractors have been certified by the NWFA. The NWFA is essentially the governing body of the wood flooring industry and their guidelines should be followed on all flooring remodels and installation. Any legitimate flooring contractor will have all of their foremen certified by the NWFA before setting them loose on a customer’s house. There will be instances in which the foundation is not structurally sound and the project will end up costing more than the homeowner had originally planned. That is just a reality of some renovation projects. Paying more in the beginning to ensure that the floor is structurally sound and installed by a certified pro is much better than having to circle back and pay for the repair of a botch job. Your floors are the foundation of your family’s home and you should do your due-diligence to be certain that the flooring company you decided to go with does legitimate work and is professional about how they conduct business.

Happy Halloween from Metro Atl. Floors! We hope that everyone has a wonderful start to the holiday season.

Guideline Documents:

A video recap of Metro’s foremen demolishing the hardwood floors.

Horror Story – Customer Pays 20k To Repair Floors
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