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Taking the Mick with click?

Richard Renouf attends a complaint where the click LVT was apparently ‘impossible’ to install.
The product was said to ‘definitely’ be at fault. But was it?

THE instructions were clear and confusing at the same time. There was no doubt about the customer’s address, nor about the reason why she’d complained. What wasn’t so obvious was why I was going to see her.

The complaint was simply that the click LVT flooring was, apparently, impossible to install. The customer was a hands-on property ‘developer’ (a ‘doer-upper’ would probably be more accurate) who had installed ‘hundreds’ of floors over the years, so this was ‘definitely’ a product fault.

But the brief showed that most of the flooring had been taken up and only half of one room still had flooring down, the rest of the room only underlay and elsewhere the flooring appeared to be stacked in piles awaiting my visit.

It seemed highly likely I’d be expected to endorse the customer’s diagnosis, or to give her instruction on how to lay this particular type of product. I allowed extra time in my schedule just in case.

The property was a mature cottage with two extensions of unknown date in an idyllic West Country spot. The driveway showed that the property was still a building site, and the lady who answered the door was dressed for the part. She had floorlayers trousers, trimmed in pink, and a polo shirt, both suitably caked in dust, paint and sealant.

I asked her to explain the issues she’d found and she gave me a tour of the entire project while doing so. She showed me all the areas where the flooring had been taken up and told me the flooring wouldn’t click together. If it did, it popped open again very soon afterwards no matter how much she rolled the header joints or weighted them down while she worked across the rest of the floor.

‘It’s already agreed that this is being taken back by the supplier.’ She said. ‘I’m not sure why you’re here, but I guess they need confirmation so they can pass the claim up the line. I left this bit down so you could see for yourself.’

She pointed to the half-fitted room and the uneven header joints. Then she disappeared to get on with other work, leaving me to take a look.

I lifted the underlay. The subfloor was sand and cement screed which had several cracks. It was covered in blobs of plaster which hadn’t been scraped off, and even where it appeared ‘clean’, it didn’t look flat.

The normal way to assess the flatness of a subfloor is to use a two metre straight edge, but the exposed area was barely big enough to justify getting this out of the car. So I took a 300mm rule and laid this in various places. Even over such a short span, the flooring had lumps and hollows aplenty.

I took out my laser floor scanner. Sadly this device is no longer manufactured. It projects an ‘X’-shaped laser beam horizontally forwards and this is adjusted so that a single line (the cross-over point of the ‘X’) in front of the scanner.

Any deviation from this datum level is then revealed by the line appearing to split into two, with the gap between the lines being the height variance at that point. The scanner revealed that the subfloor was not level, but more importantly, that it was not flat.

Have you ever tried covering a football by sticking 10 pounds notes to it? No-one has ever answered that question with a ‘yes’. But it illustrates the issue that was causing the problems for this customer. You can’t cover a curved surface using flat tiles with square corners.

The tiles will stay flat, in which case there’ll be hollows underneath where the tiles aren’t supported, or they’ll curve downwards and this will ‘bend’ the edges so they’re no longer square and cannot butt together closely. The tiles appeared to be impossible to install because the subfloor was so uneven.

There was a further problem because the property was built before the mandatory requirement for a structural DPM and therefore the flooring would need protection from the raised moisture level of this traditional floor construction., but this was simply noted to include in the report.

I don’t know whether the supplier honoured their apparent agreement to take the flooring back, but I hope the contents of my report were noted before any new installation began.
Richard Renouf is an independent flooring consultant

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