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February 1, 2008 6:31 PM   Subscribe

Water damage to our hardwood floors - what can/should we expect?


We had a new dishwasher installed a week ago and discovered last night that it had been leaking from the elbow joint. Our kitchen floor is hardwood, but the planks don't extend all the way under the dishwasher space, so the leak pooled there and then seeped under the boards. It was the discoloration around the seams and some noticeable buckling that tipped us off that something was wrong, but it was so gradual that we really didn't start digging around until last night.

The big-box home improvement store re-dispatched their contractor/installer, who addressed the leak first thing this morning, so at least that's fixed. Their installation service manager is coming out on Monday to inspect the damage.

We've never owned a place with hardwoods, so I'm not really sure what to expect with regards to remediation. I'm doubtful that they'd be able to match the finish/color of the rest of the kitchen, so my opinion is that they're going to have to patch the area and refinish the whole kitchen floor. But then there's the plywood subflooring to consider (we have a crawlspace). The total, visibly affected area is roughly 4-foot by 3-foot. Should I be concerned about mold and such?

I don't *think* they're going to try to shaft us on this, but what should I be looking for regarding the repair? They're clearly on the hook for it - the contractor said as much. I just want to make sure that we don't settle for something half-assed.

So, hivemind: any advice or further considerations?
posted by jquinby to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A few things - floor sanding / replacing is very much a low-cost trade, relative to others. Think $2-$5 per square foot for a new floor, installed sanded and finished. It's also a very specialty trade, and I wouldn't trust a generalist to do it. My main worry would be that they have a non-floor company fix it and they botch the job.

A good floor company will make it look like it never happened, fix the floor and subfloor, and do it quickly. You might want to consider asking the big-box company if they'll give you a cash credit to make it go away, and talk to a flooring company to get the actual work done (if they are willing to do that get a few estimates first) If they won't do that or you don't want to, I'd say that you should ask for:
  • The hardwood cut back in a random pattern (not a square - the biggest giveaway that a patch has been done is a straight line)
  • Replacement of the subfloor with plywood
  • Replacement of a like-species hardwood floor
  • Restaining/finishing of the patch to match, or if impossible the entire kitchen
  • Finish should be (some number you google, I can't remember) of oil based polyurethane (water based at your choice)
I wouldn't worry about mold - it doesn't grow well on wood and if they fix it promptly it won't be a concern.
posted by true at 6:46 PM on February 1, 2008

I don't *think* they're going to try to shaft us on this,

Not to completely scare you, but don't be so sure. I'm hoping your experience is much better and definitely more pleasant than ours was.

We dealt with your average orange logo big box home improvement store in 2006 where their subcontractor damaged our home while having windows and a sliding door installed. They damaged carpet with latex caulking in two places on opposite sides of the house - so basically, damaged a continuous run of wall to wall carpeting throughout 80% of the house. Our contractor admitted fault too. He even said, "looks like you'll be getting new rugs..." to me. And before he left, he tried to get me to sign the Satisfactorily Completed Job form. Hah!

I cannot tell you how manipulative and conniving they were. The installation foreman was the absolute worst of them all. It bounced around from the store's insurance to the subcontractors insurance.

It took over 6 months to resolve and I had to consult with the state attorney general, the consumer commission, and finally a private insurance adjuster to get it resolved. And about 6 months after our claim was closed, the local news here in Boston started doing expose reports on big box home improvement store damaging homes, screwing up jobs and giving people a hard time.

Here's my advice portion of this answer (finally!) - Do attempt to work things out "in good faith" It's quite simple - the errors of their subcontracted help caused damage to your home. Admit no wrongdoing at all. If your asked if you might have spilled a cup of water or overloaded the dishwasher, you didn't. You might come across an installation manager who makes it their job to mitigate the damages and minimize the money the company has to pay out in repairs.

Sign nothing until it's fixed. Verbal promises mean nothing, get everything in writing and signed. Absolutely get estimates on your own as soon as you can. Make copies and present the copies to the installation manager upon his visit to your home. If the manager gets there before you get all of your estimates, you can tell him that you do have some estimates coming in and you'll be happy to fax them over when they do. Document, take photos, get names/times/dates of everyone you spoke to.

Feel free to contact me if you have any other questions. I sincerely hope this turns out well for you.
posted by jerseygirl at 10:49 PM on February 1, 2008

Depending on a long list of variables (how much water, which way the wood runs, what kind of wood, what the subfloor is made out of, the finish they used and so on) this may be a problem that mostly fixes itself when the wood dries out. Raised grain, cupping of the boards, and/or damage to the finish are all highly likely, but these can be fixed by sanding and refinishing the floor. This is good for the store because it's an easy fix and good for you because you don't have to worry about mismatched flooring.

On the other hand, if your individual floor boards bow or twist so that they no longer lie flat on the sub-floor, well, that's bad and will require pretty much everything True lists.

Mold tends to be an issue driven by ventilation issues. By my just being here (breathing, cooking food, showering and so on) I add four gallons of water (or so) to the system every day. If that moisture collects in the roof or walls due to condensation, well, it's like this issue you're having only everywhere in the house for months and months at a time.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:50 AM on February 2, 2008

Response by poster: As it turned out, our hardwood floor is an engineered product, so sanding is out of the question. The resolution was this: the installer filed a claim with his insurance based on a 'faulty part'. His insurance company settled with us for a complete replacement of the kitchen floor, a thorough cleaning of the house afterwards and a small allowance to cover any repainting that might be required. It's taken awhile to get through it all, and we only just now have the check in hand. We used the time to get our own estimates and assessments from flooring companies in the area, which was very useful to have in hand when the insurance company finally contacted us.

Anyway, thanks one and all for the feedback.
posted by jquinby at 1:40 PM on April 2, 2008

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