Like it or lump it

Sid Bourne was intrigued by flooring that seemed to be infected with chicken pox. Here’s the story…

I WAS called out to inspect LVT flooring installed in a retail store. The complaint was that there were large gaps and - believe it or not - what was described as little lumps everywhere.

The contractor in this case was adamant the retail store was being too fussy and that the LVT they’d installed was superior to any other product currently being sold on the market. They stated this was a new LVT with special powers and was able to be installed on any subfloor type or condition. I thought: this, I must see!

I was sent to inspect as a single joint expert by the court. On arrival, I was met by the contractor, who started to describe the LVT which was a lock system and had a fibre layer. It was good quality but not something unique to the marketplace and certainly not one that could be installed over any subfloor state.

The retailers’ representative was present and simply wanted this issue sorted; however, for whatever reason the contractor was being confrontational to the retailer saying: ‘You’re being fussy, it’s only a clothes shop - people want to buy clothes, not look at the floor!’

I asked for things to calm down and said I’d investigate the issue, which I did.
Now to describe what I could see with the flooring: it was as if the LVT had chicken pox.

There were small lumps everywhere and large random gaps at the header joints.

I’d already asked the contractor what subfloor preparation had taken place, with the reply being none as the LVT was special, ‘unlike the other crap in the marketplace today’, as he put it.

I asked for the name of the manufacturer which I eventually got and looked at its instructions and claims. The instructions stated what all other manufacturers’ state: the subfloor must be flat.

Having taken this all into account, I continued with my inspection.

I lifted the floor to find the screed was full of stone and chips, which were now transferring through to the surface, giving the appearance of LVT chicken pox.

It was obvious what had caused this. I asked the contractor why they hadn’t just applied a smoothing compound: ‘Money,’ he said. The retailer perked up and said ‘There’s no way we wouldn’t have paid for correct preparation – we were advised by you Mr Contractor that no such preparation was required because the floor can go on anything.’

The shop was extremely large with the LVT being floated. Not only did the LVT have chicken pox effect, the undulations in the subfloor resembled a tsunami.

The LVT was having to travel over these undulations causing obvious issues with the header joints. They were becoming damaged, so again this was purely lack of preparation.

The other issue was the actual length and width, which were well beyond what a floating floor should go to and it would have been wise to have carried out a full bond on a prepared subfloor.

I completed the report and of course the contractor wasn’t happy and wanted to take me out on his boat to go swimming. I declined, saying I was already going on holiday, but anyway I thanked him very much.

What the contractor wasn’t willing to listen to, was the fact that in my opinion the way the product was described would to anyone wanting to do something cheap give you the idea it could be done.

However, in reality it can’t, so in spite of all the baloney that some describe their products as being capable of, when you actually read the small print then the fact is you can’t do what they say. I hate this type of thing – it’s so misleading.

The result of this was that I was allowed to contact the manufacturer in question, who when I pointed out what their advertising contained, were happy to supply the replacement material free - but not cover the cost of labour.

The contractor agreed eventually to install free-of-charge and the retailer agreed to pay for the correct subfloor preparation, so in the end it was a good result but an expensive lesson to learn. Don’t always believe what it says on the can - read the small print, then decide.

The contractor in this case truly believed the claims made for the product. Personally, I think most contractors if they had read the claims would be cautious.

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Sid Bourne is an independent consultant