Home improvements are meant to be just that—improvements. But picking the wrong contractor, even when it's a business you think you could trust, could leave your home in worse shape after the remodel.
Boca Raton homeowner Laurie Edgar says that's exactly what happened to her. The engineered hardwood flooring in her master bedroom was only installed by Floors to Go of Boca Raton four years ago. Edgar says she began noticing issues too quickly.
Only a couple of years after the floor was installed, Edgar says, "We noticed in our bedroom that one of our floorboards started to kind of pucker up a little bit."
Since then, Edgar says one board after another has been cupping. And underneath, mold is forming.
"Totally maddening," Edgar says, "Absolutely maddening."
Frustrated, the homeowner says she went to Floors to Go of Boca Raton's manager for answers.
"He said he didn't really have an explanation for why that may be taking place," she says.
Edgar says manager Tim Jones told her the one-year warranty on her floor was up, and she'd have to prove a leak wasn't causing the damage before he'd work with her.
Edgar says she paid for two different inspections. She says one, from a plumbing inspector, shows she has no leak. The other, from a certified National Wood Flooring Association inspector, names the cause as 'installer related,' she says.
"As soon as the inspector lifted the couple of boards he looked right at us," Edgar recalls, "He said, 'I will do a further inspection, but I will tell you right now from my initial observation that this was absolutely an installation failure.' "
Under the wood, the inspector says the adhesive used to glue the flooring down is too thin.
Edgar's flooring inspection report says when wood flooring is installed improperly, 'It may take years for the damage to become evident.' However, Edgar says Jones told her he still wouldn't help her because she didn't spot the damage while the floor was still within warranty.
"You only warranty a proper installation of a floor," Edgar argues. "If you haven't done it properly, how are you, what are you warrantying?"
WPTV reporter Jacqulyn Powell went to the Yamato Road store to ask that question. At first, when she came across Jones, he claimed to be someone else, saying the manager wasn't in. After more questioning, he admitted to being Tim Jones. Powell was then given the same answer as Edgar.
"When you have a one-year warranty, it's there for a reason," Jones said. "Four years later, we find it highly difficult to service."
After Powell repeatedly asked his thoughts about the inspection report, claiming the flooring issues are his crew's fault, Jones answered that he believes she has a sub-floor leak, despite the plumbing inspection stating that she didn't.
The business owner isn't offering any solutions at this time, leaving Edgar with a big hole in her floor and potentially, an even bigger hole in her pocket.
"I then have to incur this expense, because somebody didn't do it right, and all they're hiding behind is the one-year warranty is up."
Edgar says she worries at this point that her only other recourse is to take the company to court, costing her more time and money.
Bob Goldstein, the National Wood Flooring Association inspector she worked with, says anyone looking into installing hardwood floors should make sure they ask a couple of questions before hiring a contractor, in order to avoid a similar situation.
First, he says, homeowners should always ask to see a contractor's certificate of competency. It's a special state license that helps homeowners know they're using a trusted business. It's not required for flooring businesses, but consumers may have more protection when choosing a business that has one.
Goldstein says homeowners should also ask the installation crew to do a special test that checks moisture levels in the concrete slab under their home before installing flooring. He says homeowners should specifically request either a calcium chloride test or an in situ probe. Those tests, Goldstein says, are much more helpful in determining long-term moisture levels underneath the home than a simple moisture meter reading. Calcium chloride testing or an in situ probe can take up to 76 hours, but it helps contractors most accurately determine the right type and amount of adhesive to use when laying down flooring.