When The Glue Sticks

Wendy’s Blog

A Botched Engineered Hardwood Floor Installation -The Glue Is Everywhere!

When the warning signs about an improper installation and concerns are real– trust your gut as this consumer recently did!

We were recently called out to inspect a brand new, barely completed engineered hardwood floor installation. Her situation is extremely unfortunate, and the work is clearly not acceptable. And, to think she sourced the goods from a prominent dealer, who recommended the installer as being experienced, credentialed, and insured.

To tee this job and situation up, we observed the homeowner has a well appointed (newer home), still under construction.

The homeowner is a single female newly moved in to a newer upscale 55 & over retirement home. Not a stranger to contracting, and the process therein, she and her ex-husband ran a tree service, a little further north. Wanting to be near her son and grandchildren, she settled in a nice retirement development in Medford.

The home, probably new to her, was manicured and nicely decorated. In fact she has chosen a light palate with elements of linen, (linen looking), and peaceful fabrics and furnishings. She has a new kitchen being installed, with quality cabinetry and appliances. All in all this is a nice home.

As for the floor, she has chosen a good quality engineered hardwood floor product, with a substantial wear layer (meaning it is thick to withstand 1 or more sandings once it becomes worn, scratched, sun faded, etc.) Providing us a sample board (as we can not adequately inspect the boards installed) we were impressed with the construction of the “wear layer’, and the under-surface that comprises of the stability component and the installation and connective component.

The first red flag (besides why she called us)- She informs us she has 10 extra cartons of boards.

What? Typically when flooring is ordered it is customary to over order to provide a small cushion of extra boards. This allows for odd cuts (that eat up material), for a tight or slightly short measurement, and to provide extra inventory to be left with the customer for repairs or slight modifications, perhaps needed in the future.

It is an industry standard to over order to between 5-10%, with most contractors allowing about 7-10% overage. So now, how does one explain or grasp an overage of 10 boxes? One doesn’t. This is rather extraordinary, wasteful and unnecessary to overorder that much.  Being that this is a quality product, this is wasteful dollars spent at the customer’s expense (what can she possibly do with that much extra material)? Thankfully the contractor left the extra goods with the homeowner at least. Some contractors quietly remove the overage they deliberately order to stock their own coffers.

The client observed that the contractor left his “wet behind the ears” helper ( with little experience), to do the bull work.

This young man worked dog hard, and did not stop. It seemed to the client that he was left with tasks that were almost too much to ask of, especially in the timeline given. (Although this is not something we can really challenge, clearly the client was both impressed with this young man’s fortuitousness, working nose to the grind without complaint, and disturbed that what she witnessed was a taking advantage of him by his boss, the installer.) Pointing out to his good work ethic, she about wanted to encourage him to seek employment elsewhere so he would have a more positive, respectful and guided opportunity- but she withheld her thought. (Again, being a contractor running a business herself, she certainly is experienced to evaluate worker performance.)

When the contractor did show, the client became concerned at what she witnessed, and what he explained or defended about his workmanship.

As we walked the installation, listened to the client and observed the workmanship, we concurred she had reason for her disappointment. Can’t quite get why the contractor, installing the flooring in the entire footprint of the home, would deliberately lay the flooring and put “cuts” in each door entryway. Doesn’t make sense at all. Every room had a cut at the door, where he is still planning to install thresholds. You only install thresholds where you are going from one installation to another, that is different. Here he had every opportunity to lay the floor out and install the boards in the direction to go right thru each doorway uninterrupted.  Odd. Furthermore it seems the line was not straight or consistently paralleled along the hallway.  When the homeowner questioned him, he seemed to be insulted that she would question his work.

The glue is everywhere!

It is all over, everywhere polluting  the face of the installation,  in every room PRECISELY WHERE IT SHOULD NOT BE!

Now with an installation such as this, it is proper to be as neat and tidy as possible while installing.

Glue residue pollutes the engineered hardwood floor installation
Although hard to see, the glue residue is absolutely everywhere, all over this house

This takes a concerted effort on the installer’s part to minimize fouling the “field” (the boards being installed) with the glue, or mastic as is known in industry terms.

The installer should work in small areas, doing a small amount of board installation, then stopping, and right then and there. Immediately he should have reverted to cleaning up the fresh mastic on the boards where it does not belong. Consistently this should be done in about 40-60 sf sections, to make sure the mastic is removed while still wet and easily removed.

This was not what the installer did, by any stretch of the means!

Apparently the installer informed the homeowner he would come back to remove the mastic off the floor.

And he explained that he would “swiffer” the floor to remove it (WHAT?)

As the installer moved thru the project the homeowner noticed there was glue, not just near where the boards were replaced, there was haphazard glue all over the place fouling the installation, in a random lazy manner. It was as if he needed to set the glue trowel down he laid it directly on the installed boards.

I believe she even asked if he wanted a drop cloth, to which he dismissed the notion. He assured her he would come back and “swiffer” it off. When she questioned how he worked as if he was remiss and doing a shoddy job, he spouted back to her that he is a floor inspector, and should know what procedures are appropriate. He dismissed her comment as if he did not at all appreciate her questioning his methods.

The first day after he piped he’d return to remove the glue, it came and went, no sign of him. The next day came and went, no sign of him as well. At some point he called her and asked her to be paid in full.

So at this point the main “field” of the floor is done. I believe all that was left were the transitions to be installed and the glue to be removed. She had paid him all but about $900 for the flooring project, and countered that she would pay him in full when he finished the transitions and removed the glue.

He did return with the express purpose of being paid in full, she refused. Now, in her house he calls his wife and reiterates to her that the homeowner is refusing payment. She gladly rebutted that she would pay him in full when he completed the work and removed the glue. At this point, one of the two of them, the contractor or his wife piped up that he should call the cops. The homeowner responded, I am dialing them now. (Clearly becoming adversarial, she felt threatened in her own home and did call the police.) They arrived, and while it is unclear exactly how it played out he left at some point.

Questioning our technician about his procedures, he out and out discredited this guys’ work.

Blatantly objecting to this guy’s execution of tasks, our technician shot bullet holes sight unseen about the mess the contractor left behind, and the time-line that went by. Our technician could not be more outspoken about the necessity of working carefully, methodically and slowly when it comes to installing, wiping and removing the glue along the way.

At most small areas, about 50-60 sf of the engineered hardwood should glued then installed, and

carefully cleaned up along the way- not days later!

He explained that the boards should be installed about 50-60 sf at a time, with drop cloths, working purposely to limit any excessive glue residue. (This is a slow, methodical, deliberate and careful procedure that must be done with precision and without rush.) Our technician mentioned after installing a small area he stops and removes any faint amount of residual glue as he goes- on the spot. At worst, glue left by mistake, maybe overnight should be removed immediately upon discovering it the very next day, and NO LONGER!

Now as thing ended up, she did not permit him back in her home, and for good reason! Why would, or should she?

As it stands she does not intend to short him what he deserves. She had and did plan to pay him for his completed work. But why should she pay for the last procedures left uncompleted? Especially now that she has to hire someone else to finish (and clean up).

After recounting the entire fiasco, she teared up with emotion, and after a bit apologized. She admitted that she was a business owner, having a keen understanding of both sides of this transaction, and that she wasn’t out to stiff the guy. If only he would have done his job professionally and finished, she would gladly have paid him in full. But to flat out demand full payment while leaving her with sub par work, unfinished at that, she would not cave in. (He deserved nothing more, and what she withheld was reasonable given what was left to mop up.)

Preferring not to go to court about this, she admitted she was troubled about what to do. Moreover, at this point she shot across the bow questioning why the dealer would recommend this clown anyway.  At the time while paying for the goods she “went” with the installer (although recommended by them, he was an independent sub-contractor not affiliated with them at all. He was deemed a professional, insured and on their approved list.) She surmised that going with one of their recommended installers she would be assured a professional job, as compared to hiring someone outright. Well now, in hindsight she frustratingly admitted that blew up in her face. (We strongly suggested she call the dealer and explain her debacle, and his unprofessional performance, and his unprofessional conduct, as this could happen to others too.) Doubting their involvement would give her any recourse she said she would think about whether to involve them.

Frantically she began researching about what to do.

At first she looked at the manufacturing information provided with her engineered flooring purchase. She contacted them. Having  remembered that the installer refused to use the mastic recommended by the manufacturer she was certain they would not stand behind the installation. (Side note- why would they this is installer error and negligence.) Preferring his own choice, and his installation error, any limited warranty the manufacturer would have extended most likely has been nullified. So she was certain there would be no recourse there.

Then no matter what research she did about glue removal, the go-to solution was to use mineral spirits. Mineral spirits would dissolve the mastic without jeopardizing the installation or the material, so she immediately went to get some to use.

Her predicament, was to choose to allow him, now her adversary, to “swiffer” the glue off the new engineered wood floor, or face removing it herself.

The very thought that he merely, and in a sarcastic tone, belittled the fact that returning to “swiffer” the floor was all but chump change, and that her concern was exaggerated, inordinate and superfluous boggled her nind. However, having tested a spot to remove the glue, she concurred otherwise.

The glue did not “just come off” easily. It took an extraordinary amount of time.

Now having no confidence in the “so called” professional installer and self proclaimed inspector, she wondered what planet he was on.

Frantically as the weekend approached she did two things, one was call us. She grilled us on our procedures to install the material . And she specifically drilled us about how and if we had experience with removing any excessive glue left on the floor that shouldn’t be there. She also drilled us about whether we had experience using a buffer to remove the glue. He hunch, and hope, was to seek someone who had a buffer that would mechanically remove the glue more quickly than what it took to remove it by hand.

Secondly, she called her son to come and help her over the weekend to try and remove it. After working for hours, both on their hands and knees she grasped at the thought that there had to be a better way. Thinking next week when we came out that there would be relief. But until then she still felt victim to this botched floor job, feeling like she was “Cinderella” at the hand and mercy of the wicked step-mother.

The doorbell rang, and we could not have arrived soon enough!

Right away she asked us to look at the floor, almost in tears as she showed us around. The glue was everywhere. It was everywhere, in every room. She then explained how she and her son spent hours, and what we saw was a combination of the glue that remained untouched, and the residual residue that was still apparent after their endless efforts to remove it.

Chris made no promise that using a buffer to replace any “elbow grease” would necessarily work.

After looking throughout the house he asked to do a test spot with mineral spirits, and she gave him permission. He picked a prominent spot in a corner, that was heavily loaded with the mastic. And as she approved, she also sarcastically piped out ” why couldn’t he pick a spot to leave his mess where my furniture covered it, no, he had to mess up everywhere in the middle of my floor, right in plain sight!”

While working the spot with successive applications of mineral spirits it did begin to dissolve the mastic. But, by nature the mineral spirits flashed off quickly. So this test spot led Chris to the conclusion that relying on a buffer would not serve the purpose. First off, nearing any edges (because he left no area spared), the buffer could not be used. It would not get the right grip on the mastic, and it would likely mar the new baseboard paint and wall paint. Secondly, the mastic would quickly gum up the pad, necessitating replacement. Then, copious amounts of elbow grease would be required to continue to work the spot until it eventually dissolved. With all these shortcomings, Chris was disappointed in delivering his opinion.

Chris, validated what she was already doing was the only course of action. He was frustrated in saying mechanical agitation offered no assistance with the problem.

He wished he had a quicker, less labor intensive solution. He did offer that we had someone in mind who would be suitable to address this, but like she and her son were already doing, it would be hand work as well. He indicated he would contact the person in mind (who is extremely meticulous), and get back to her about whether he would be willing to do it, and what the charge would be.

Having resolved to knowing the only solution was elbow grease and fortuitousness, she was accepting the fate of the dilemma, but welcomed the help by our team mate (maybe).

To be continued! To date we reached out and have not heard back from this homeowner.

Turns out our guy is interested, but to date we have not reconnected with the homeowner. She realized, for a stiff fee, he would be doing the same thing it would take hours and hours for days for her to do. She all but accepted the fate of the situation!

It is our conclusion- this is not professional work!

For whatever reason this is not professional work, nor a professional customer service oriented attitude on the part of the installer. Perhaps just having a “bad day”, this installer should own up to his work and do the right thing.

And regrets this client did not deserve what she is being dealt. She has a lovely home and has chosen credentialed and experienced professionals in about every other part of her renovation, which shows.  Furthermore she has chosen and incorporated other design elements and decor for a custom flare all the way.

PS- perhaps the homeowner should have insisted upon seeing the installer’s work on line, or even asked for referrals to speak to. It might not be the best thing to inherently accept another’s opinion, even by a dealer. Without question, every homeowner seeking a contractor to work with should cross validate, by whatever means as to the credibility of a potential contractor’s work!

Ahead of calling us, if you are considering us for your installation- See our work for yourself! Visit Case Studies to see before and after pictures of our work. They should speak for themselves. And, with permission of our clients, I am happy to coordinate a call with them to further give you confidence our work and customer service is what we and others say (thru experience) with us.

If you are contemplating a hardwood floor installation( engineered, pre-finished, unfinished or LVP) we are happy to provide pictures that show our work, or references for you to contact. FREE ESTIMATES. Call 609.953.0472 or Contact Us on line and we will reach out to you!