She bought a condo w/ a laminate floor; is this deception?
August 21, 2014 12:48 PM   Subscribe

A friend of a friend bought an expensive condominium in Mid Manhattan. It appeared to me the floors are laminate; I have to return and look closer. Aside from the major cheapness factor, they are advertised as having wood floors. Is this a deception? How does she get clarification? Would her purchase documents have this detailed?
posted by ebesan to Home & Garden (31 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you sure they're laminate and not engineered hardwood? Non-engineered hardwood cannot be installed in condos typically because of the concrete underflooring (at leas that's what every flooring person I talked to said). If you were expecting solid hardwood, you weren't going to get it in a condo.

If it's laminate, then it's surely deception but whether it's deception that has a legal remedy is a question for her lawyer or realtor. What stage of the purchase is she at? When I bought my condo there was a date and time a few days before closing set for a walk through when I was supposed to inspect everything to make sure it was as promised and could in theory have pointed out flaws and said "The faucet is leaking, I want you to take $200 of for that." or whatever.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 12:54 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are they advertised as having "hardwood" floors? Laminate is wood, and floors are often called "laminate wood flooring", so calling it "wood" flooring would be true.
posted by brainmouse at 12:54 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

If it's a true laminate floor or an engineered floor then yes, it's made with real wood. As previously commented on, hardwood floors aren't possible in most condos due to insufficient depth/room for the sub-floor.

If by laminate you mean some type of printed vinyl or Pergo–like flooring, then no they are not wood and she should request clarification.
posted by Specklet at 1:02 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's hardwood (solid wood), engineered wood (essentially plywood), laminate (which is a picture of wood), and vinyl (which is, well, vinyl). Only the first two are wood.
posted by BillMcMurdo at 1:02 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

From your question wording, it sounds like the condo is already "bought." If the friend of a friend is happy with the purchase and hasn't noticed/cared/etc., then for the love of God please don't bring it up! Any remedy she would possibly get is going to be time consuming and probably lead to bad feelings more than anything else (and, honestly, is probably unlikely since she would have been responsible for inspecting the property before purchasing). For all you know, she is fine with the floors the way they are and is going to be pretty offended by some random acquaintance judging her floors. Or she has always been planning to rip them up and replace them, and got a deal in the sale that you have no idea about. I think this is firmly in MYOB camp.

On the other hand, if by "bought" you mean "in the process of purchasing but could back out without a significant penalty," it's more complicated. If you worry she's being defrauded on this issue, it's possible there are more serious issues that the owner is also being shady on. Depending on your relationship with her, you could bring it up directly or ask your friendly to gently inquire as to what has been promised by the seller. But please don't go around criticizing aspects of anyone's housing as "majorly cheap" - that is just rude. Come up with a way to phrase it that focuses on protecting her from a fraudulent or shady seller rather than judging her floors.
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:17 PM on August 21, 2014 [8 favorites]

Only the first two are wood.

Wood laminate is real wood. It's a very thin piece of wood that looks pretty, glued on top of engineered wood.
posted by hwyengr at 1:17 PM on August 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: I will (alone and quietly) return and examine closer; look in a closet, or remove a baseboard. It is on slab, a newish building. It is discolored by sunllight. I distinctly remember the 'feel' of walking across; it had no give, bounce, felt hard. Are there issues w/ sanding/staining an engineered floor?
posted by ebesan at 1:23 PM on August 21, 2014

I distinctly remember the 'feel' of walking across; it had no give, bounce, felt hard.

Wood floors in a newer condo building will usually feel like that, since they're laid out on concrete instead of being made of boards nailed into floor joists.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 1:27 PM on August 21, 2014 [7 favorites]

Wait, hold on. Has this woman in any way asked your opinion or advice on her flooring? If so, fine. If not, why are you so obsessed with it that you are planning to sneak into her apartment and pull up a baseboard/snoop in her closets? (!!!!!) Unless there is some large piece of information missing in this question (i.e. you are actually a contractor she has hired to sand and stain her floors), your plan sounds creepy and invasive. Let this woman handle her own floor until and unless you receive a specific request.
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:29 PM on August 21, 2014 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: Please ask rainbow, don't assume. I was requested to look it over. Not obsessed. I have a key, am not sneaking. I ran out of time, and missed examining this detail on 1st visit. I want to know the subject better, so when retuning, can evaluate it better.
posted by ebesan at 1:37 PM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Is there a floor register for heating/cooling? It's very easy to pull one of those up and get a good cross-section of the floor and subfloor.
posted by apparently at 1:41 PM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Are there issues w/ sanding/staining an engineered floor?

If it is Pergo brand, read this: "You may think that waxing, polishing, sanding and refinishing the Pergo flooring will renew its beauty and perfect the appearance. Never attempt these. It may work in hardwood flooring, but this is a totally different product."

The page also says warping can happen with standing water.
posted by soelo at 1:46 PM on August 21, 2014

It's rare that you can sand or refinish an engineered floor; some come with a urethane finish, but usually it's a ceramic oxide finish.

BillMcMurdo is incorrect: a laminate floor means it has a thin layer of actual wood (in the American architectural trade, anyway). He may be confusing it with plastic laminate, which is what cheap countertops and diner tabletops are made out of.
posted by Specklet at 1:51 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

There are a variety of engineered hardwood floors. Some are basically pergo but without the a photo. Some have up to a quarter inch of real wood and can be sanded and refinished. But per Specklet, you'll generally never refinish an engineered floor. They have very, very hard finishes and even the ones with enough wood to sand down would have to be pretty damaged before you'd consider refinishing them.

I'm not really sure what your question is, but in general anything that's not carpet or vinyl will be referred to as a "wood" floor regardless of whether it's Pergo (which is mostly made from wood) or 3/4 inch oak planks. I doubt there's a case to be made that the floors are "insufficiently woody."
posted by GuyZero at 2:05 PM on August 21, 2014

Pergo is certainly referred to (by themselves and others) as a laminate floor, and it's toppped by a picture of wood. Or slate, or marble.
posted by ftm at 2:05 PM on August 21, 2014

Response by poster: First and foremost, I just want to discover what exactly is there, its properties/construction, to understand what her options are.
posted by ebesan at 2:15 PM on August 21, 2014

friend bought an expensive condominium in Mid Manhattan

I presume friend-of-friend had an attorney, no? I'd think she could make a quick call to the attorney to resolve the issue of whether this is a "thing" worthy of pursuing.
posted by melissasaurus at 2:20 PM on August 21, 2014

Sorry to cause any confusion with my mention of Pergo. The company makes both laminate flooring (with real wood) and vinyl flooring (with a picture of wood).
posted by Specklet at 2:37 PM on August 21, 2014

Sanding and staining engineered wood depends on the thickness of the top wood layer (the actual hardwood bit). If it's thick enough you should be able to sand and stain. I think the other possible issue with sanding and staining can be micro-bevels on each plank, which might be hard to get at/into. Non-engineered hardwood often has micro-bevels, too, though.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 3:00 PM on August 21, 2014

Clearly, there is a certain amount of confusion about what constitutes a "laminate" floor. I checked around a bit and places like Lumber Liquidators say that what they call laminate flooring has a photo of the material it's meant to look like. They identify their wood flooring that has a wood laminate on the top surface as engineered flooring.
posted by BillMcMurdo at 3:02 PM on August 21, 2014

Response by poster: Thx if only. Indeed, laminate seems a loose term.
posted by ebesan at 3:12 PM on August 21, 2014

I don't think I've ever seen a real estate listing specify "laminate" if that's the root of the issue.
posted by GuyZero at 3:15 PM on August 21, 2014

My understanding, and your friend should be able to ask her attorney for free, is that the time to have brought this up would have been after she had the unit inspected, but before closing. I can't really imagine that somewhere in the closing documents her lawyer inserted a clause saying "the floors are hardwood or you owe us a new floor". However, I can imagine, since my understanding is that it's typical, that there is a clause saying that you inspected the place, and you take it, as is. I would predict (I am not a lawyer) that at this point, she can either keep her floor or replace it on her own dime.
posted by Phredward at 4:10 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

If the floor is concrete slab (as mine is), then it won't be solid wood floorboards, due to the sub-floor issues mentioned above. I have engineered wood flooring in my flat. It was as expensive as solid wood flooring because it has the thickest layer of real wood over the engineered base. You can't tell it's not wooden floorboards. It has grooves where the boards go together.

But in one bedroom there is cheap laminate flooring, which you can tell isn't real wood. It's more like a picture of wood sealed onto a board. It sounds different from the engineered wood and has no grooves where the boards look as if they fit together.
posted by essexjan at 4:50 PM on August 21, 2014

Clearly, there is a certain amount of confusion about what constitutes a "laminate" floor.

A laminate is any product that's glued on top of another to provide a different finish than the base material. It can be wood or vinyl, or anything for that matter. Just calling something laminate does not imply that it is, or is not, wood.
posted by hwyengr at 5:23 PM on August 21, 2014

I think in "common parlance", 99% of people would not call laminate a "wood" floor. Perhaps there is a different legal definition. Whether or not the laminate has a microscopic layer of real wood or a photo of wood, that's not a wood floor.
posted by reddot at 12:50 AM on August 22, 2014

But plenty of people would call laminate "wood" to distinguish it from carpet, tile, etc. As this thread is demonstrating.
posted by tinkletown at 1:40 AM on August 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

From my experience, most realtors will describe rooms with laminate (Pergo-type flooring) as been "wood". One can argue about the technicalities, but I've never seen laminate flooring described in a for-sale ad as anything but wood. :-)

The easiest way to see what the flooring really is, is to pull up a register vent. Second easiest is to find a corner in a closet that they didn't cut perfectly. There is almost always one.

In many condos, laminate floors are preferable to real wood because they are quieter for your downstairs neighbors. Some condo complexes require either carpet or laminate with extra-thick underpad if you are on the second level or higher. This is for noise-deadening reasons.
posted by LittleMy at 3:36 AM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

The offering plan will describe the finishes promised in the apartment, including the type of floors. See what it says.
posted by boots at 5:38 AM on August 22, 2014

Response by poster: thx for opinions. It has 'yellowed' a bit from the original; you can see where a carpet was. Would a vinyl laminate discolor? if so, I assume there is no way to correct this.
posted by ebesan at 11:06 AM on August 29, 2014

Yes, vinyl will discolor and no, there is no way to fix it.
posted by Specklet at 1:54 PM on August 31, 2014

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