Bamboo problem

Home Columns Bamboo problem

by Lew Migliore

Here’s an issue with a woven bamboo floor sold to a builder who then installed it over a new concrete slab.

The installer claimed he followed the manufacturer’s installation guidelines. The first issue encountered was white spots on the flooring’s finish. These looked like baby powder and were mainly in the areas with the handscraped finish. Upon seeing this, the dealer first thought it was sheet rock dust stuck to the glue haze that occurred due to the installer failing to promptly wipe off the adhesive. The installer claimed it was like that out of the box, producing an uninstalled plank with similar white spots.

The flooring in question was cleaned which removed the white spots. Now it has buckled and the homeowner is blaming both the product and the cleaning. An upstairs hall floor glued over plywood, which wasn’t cleaned as it had no white spots, is fine. The dealer said while there is expansion around most of the walls he doesn’t think the installer adequately checked the concrete slab moisture levels as there is a span of eight to 10 feet where the wood is cut tight.

The retailer further questioned the installer’s decision to install the product after noticing the white spots. He also mentioned that some of the wood had no white spots so common sense should have told him to verify the spots were part of the finish. The dealer also said the house felt very damp and warm the day he went to look at the flooring.

Our response was that there is no question if the installer noticed a problem with the product he should have stopped the installation. That said, the installer had to have known the white spots were not supposed to be there. If he was not familiar with the product, that could have easily been the case—some wood flooring materials will also have “white” looking sections in the roughhewn part of the material. Any defect noticed at the time of the installation and not reported, noted or photographed for proof can nullify any claim you file. There is likely a moisture issue with the slab as well as an indoor environment issue, the warm and humid conditions felt by the dealer, both of which will wreak havoc with wood flooring.

The dealer sold the bamboo as a material-only sale and said he made sure the builder and installer had all the technical information from the manufacturer as to what glue was recommended, acclimation time and acceptable moisture levels in the slab.

The retailer also thought the manufacturer was generous in having the bamboo cleaned at its expense however, the homeowner is now using that against them and the builder. The builder is asking the dealer to help with the cost of replacement. Though it is not the retailer’s fault the installation failed the builder is a good customer and he doesn’t want to lose the business.

This case has a number of problems: It is assumed the installer knew the product and what it should look like, which I would think is not the case here. Installers are not concrete experts but the act of installation constitutes acceptance. However, if the installer was experienced one would have to suspect the slab and environmental conditions would be at least considered and questioned. The slab and interior environment issue must be addressed and corrected before a replacement is made or else the problem will reoccur. The dealer is being railroaded a bit here to participate in a problem that is not his because he doesn’t want to lose a customer—most retailers today would do the same.

Not a happy ending. If you don’t control the job, the job controls you.

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