Hump Date Repaired

Got a call from a prospective customer who vacated their house and wanted to prepare it for renting.

Her main concern, and why she called was to seek help for a hardwood problem in the home that was a major trip hazard.

First and formost she revealed that Mr Handyman of Cherry Hill referred us because it was beyond their scope of service. A premiere and award winning handyman service, we are their go to referral partner for specialized floor care and restoration. For more about them,  Click here if you need handyman work or to learn more about Mr Handyman.   So they quickly referred us and the client was told to call us. Being a complex repair, they were correct in their quick action to refer it out.

So when our client called she was already confident and trusting us with her problem. In conversation she expressed that her hardwood floor had a major trip hazard which had to be fixed ASAP.  They wanted to get it on the market for rental. Not rentable as is, it would fail “code”, and instead be a law suit waiting to happen.

I told her I would come right out. And when I saw it, I agreed she was right!

Another wood wonder, as Mother Nature is at it again!

We enter the house, an open concept first floor, and she took me right to the ‘wonkiness’. Frankly I was stunned.  I have never seen anything like it. Right at the base of the stairs, parallel, and running with the face boards, there is this substantial “hump”. Not quite 18″ acrross, but about 2 1/2-3″ rounded high, and about 72″ long, it was an impressive flaw in the floor.

I was perplexed and told her that this was a first one for me! I first asked how long it’s been there, and she said 4 years. She said it suddenly appeared a couple months after they bought the house. In hindsight, I should of asked what time of year (probably summer), but didn’t. She did add they had been living with it like that ever since.

Although they got used to it (as a couple with no kids as far as I can tell), they delightedly moved to Philly, in the Brewery Town Section, and hoped to make this property a rental.

Again affirming this was an urgent request for a repair, I said I had research the problem and solution. I also said I’d come back with Chris and Marvin, to have them look at it. And also, I would seek some wood consultants and we’d get an action plan.

But before I left I did ask if there was a basement. She replied no, there was only a crawl space. I then asked is there access to the crawl space, and she said yes. But it’s a small access in a closet. She took me to the closet, where I saw a very small “hatch” panel to access the crawl space, but couldn’t get it open. So we left it at that. I asked can she meet me the following day, or leave a key. She opted to leave a key, and I left.

The next day Marvin and I arrived and went in to see the “hump”. Mavin’s quick response “what the heck”?

He agreed it was way wonky, and started scrutinizing it. Of course at the forefront of our detective work was to identify the direction of the floor joists. But at first glimpse, with the boards running parallel with the ‘hump’, if the wood was installed properly the joists would be perpendicular to the direction of the face boards (the wood you see and walk on). Not only that the ‘hump’ would also be running perpendicular to the floor joists.

Marvin then set about checking the stability of the ‘hump’. He jumped on it to see if it was soft and mushy, or hard and unwavering from his weight and jumping. The latter was the case, it didn’t budge when he jumped on it (and became a note to “catalog”).

Next, we absolutely needed to confirm the direction of the floor joists. We also needed to see the overall condition of the crawl space. With the access hatch being pretty small (for a small but big guy) we considered having him go into the crawl space, but didn’t.  We didn’t have a step stool, nor a hygrometer on hand (an instrument that measures humidity). So we planned on coming back with the tools we needed.

But before closing it up Marvin did see that the joists were running in the opposite direction (as anticipated), of the face boards. And also, the joists ran in the opposite direction of the ‘hump’.

With that we closed up, and I said that Chris and I would come back and get into the crawl space.

When we came back we brought a step stool, a penetrating hygrometer, a flash light, and a cell phone to check from beneath the wood floor. And as expected, Chris was able to diagnose the cause once down in the crawlspace!

He assessed several things that turned out could be reasons or contributing reasons that caused the “hump”. For instance he looked:

  • first to identify the type of subfloor, concrete or dirt. In this case it was dirt
  • for a presence of moisture, i.e. standing water, dried water puddles, dry or wet mud indicating the current or past presense of moisture. In this case it was dry and not evident of a past major moisture problem with the subfloor dirt
  • and measured the humidity of the trapped air space at the time of inspection. Although not sure the air humidity, probing the subfloor woods and joists (by sticking a hygrometer probe in the wood) he observed it was between 10-15% (high for November, and he determined it was probably far higher in the summer months).
  • for what visual issues explained the swelling and damages were the cause

Overall Chris summed up his inspection findings.

At first glance the dirt floor seemed dry, with no evidence of previous mud. No pipes are located in the general area, so he ruled out a plumbing issue out. As he got his bearings and I was jumping on the hump, he located the direct area. With the flashlight illuminating he saw two subfloors, one an (old school) tongue n groove subfloor, the other OSB (particle board). Upon further observation, the OSB started where the addition enclosing the porch began. But honing in on where I was making noise he discovers the issue, and its with the older tongue and groove subfloor!

The OSB behaved, but the older tongue and groove did not!

The tongue n groove subfloor has swelled up above the floor joists, over an inch. Also, there are 2 nails that missed the joist, and a third nail was abandoned. So there was a unsecured area of the subfloor not secured to the floor joists. This is the likely cause due to sloppy contracting. That was the direct area that swelled up. And it forced the installed boards to move above it creating a gap above the joist. Hence, this was the exact location where and how the “hump” formed.

Expanding his inspection he sought more clues as to why the hump happened.

Looking for more clues, he viewed the foundation walls. In this section of the crawlspace he saw only one vent to thru to outside, which is a major cause of the entire problem (both with the hump and with the cupped face boards all in that general area. This Chris concluded to be good news for the homeowners as it could be corrected without major structural repairs, plumbing or major waterproofing efforts (all major expense outlays).

Additionally Chris observed and took pictures of the very obvious evidence of not only drips but former puddles that are right where the swelling was located. And along with the evidence of water, it also displayed as a haze of mold that cultivated on it. So with pictures and video loaded Chris came back topside.

Now with a diagnosis we got an action plan to remove the hump and fix the floor!

From the inspection we now knew that we could open up the floor from above and begin the repair. Before we started we were hopeful we would be able to stabilize the existing subfloor back on the joist and level the floor. (The more involved fix might have been to cut the subfloor out, replace it, shave the joists, sister the joists and more, at additional time and expense.) So this was the best case scenario for repair, and for the homeowners for sure!

Marvin jumped back on the very next day and got started!

Didn’t take long to see he opened up the floor by removing the face boards. It revealed the subfloor swelling damage just underneath. You could actually see the starting place of the swelling. From the edge it cants the face boards up on angle, substantially. So he extracted those boards far enough across the hump.

Although there was play in the subfloor there was hope it could be secured back in place.

After they were out he saw that there was play and movement in the subfloor, but it wasn’t squishy (as in compromised by water damage).  He evaluated that the subfloor was solid. It was not soft from the water exposure, which could have been the case. So with some massaging, and a screw gun he got the subfloor tacked down on the joists, and behaving. He screwed several nails through to the joists so the subfloor would never do this again (in this area, at least!)

Then with a level placed across the floor he concluded he had success, and he was next be able to weave in the new, donor face boards on top. No major surgery necessary, he completed the repair quickly.

Before you knew it Marvin had all the new boards weaved into the open cavity. All installed as if they were always there it was done.

Our client’s dad, on hand to observe while doing chores was thrilled at the repair and forwarded pictures and a description of the repair process to his son.

We further left instructions that they need to install more foundation vents, and install an on-demand power vent fan in at least one of them.

Advising not to lose gained ground, the foundation repairs would serve them well in not replicating the hump problem again, or causing more cupping in the face boards. Simple, and somewhat cost effective measures, if executed would be good insurance from the recurring moving forward. So saying our piece, we handed the floor back over to them.

Clearly happy, they turned their sights on decisions about a realtor walk thru and an assessment whether to list for sale or list to rent.

While these contemplations took place the clients had decided to stop with a full sand and refinish of the open concept floor. They wanted that guidance from their realtor, so for now we were done.

To sum it up, it wasn’t full on refinished, but enough that they could weigh their options. We did say we would return if asked to refinish the floors and repair and refinish the stairs.

We left the job with cupped face boards that were screaming for help. And the stairs had pine treads with red oak nosing that were unstable, and ripe for an accident.

So let’s just say we wrapped up the job and said we would stand by if they needed our help moving forward.

If you have weird, peculiar or wonky things going on with your hardwoods give us a call for a free evaluation and free estimate. Call 609.953.0472. Or Contact Us on line and we’ll reach out!