Tag Archives: flooring


Every month, we seek to bring our readers insight from the worlds of home construction, home repair, and home maintenance straight from local Northwest Washington contractors in a segment we call “3 Questions.” Yep, you guessed it: we ask three questions, and the contractors answer them.

This month, we talk about flooring issues with WoodCraft Wood Floors, Inc. in Mount Vernon.

Q1: Oftentimes, home inspectors observe and report water-damaged or cupped wood flooring in kitchens, bathrooms, or adjacent exterior doors.  Can this be repaired and restored?

Floors that are water damaged can be replaced and refinished, or if the floor is not too far damaged by water, they can be dried and re-sanded. This must be determined by a hardwood flooring professional.

Q2:  In older homes, with original wood flooring, can the floors typically be refinished and restored?  Any advice or pointers for DIY weekend warriors thinking about restoring old wood floors?

Yes, old homes that have wood floors can be refinished. We typically don’t recommend DIY sanding floors because—if you do not know what you are doing—you can damage the floor and sand down too much of the surface, which can sand all the life left on the wear surface.

Q3: What’s your favorite type(s) of wood flooring, and why?

Red and white oak flooring is still a classic that does not go out of style.  It is a stable wood that is not susceptible to a lot of movement.

Bonus Q: Having floors refinished professionally vs. the DIY weekend warrior: what’s the typical cost difference one can expect?

Professional refinishing can run approximately $4.50 per square feet and up. DIY will cost rental, sanding materials (paper, wood filler, sealer, finish, applicators), time and labor.

About WoodCraft Wood Floors, Inc.
Woodcraft Wood Floors, Inc has been serving Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan and part of Snohomish Counties since 1980. In the 1980s, the company operated under the name of Woodcraft Construction, and focused on design and building construction with a wood flooring division. Over the years, its wood floors became so popular that the business decided to close the design-build portion of its business and concentrate on only wood flooring. In 1991, it became Woodcraft Wood Floors, Inc. Woodcraft Wood Floors is also a member of the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), which sets the standards for the wood flooring industry. For more information, visit https://www.woodcraftwoodfloors.com.

A big “thanks” to Woodcraft Wood Floors for their responses.

If you have questions or comments about home inspections in general, tweet me (@AIHomeInspect).

Video: PUZZLING Floor Insulation Install!

How long do you think it took to piece this floor system insulation together? I don’t know the answer to that, but I can tell you it does very little from a thermal efficiency standpoint. Insulation efficiency is about thickness, but just as importantly, it’s about how well it’s installed. Did you know, for instance, that a 1/4″ gap in ceiling insulation between the ceiling joist and R30 insulation can reduce the insulation R-value to around R-11? That’s a huge breach in thermal efficiency. In this particular case, I don’t even know where to start, but I’d judge the insulation value as negligible.

Engineered Wood Flooring

by Nick Gromicko and Ethan Ward
Engineered wood flooring is an alternative to solid hardwood flooring made entirely out of real wood.  It’s currently the most popular type of flooring in the world.  North America is the only area left where traditional, solid wood floors still outnumber engineered floors, but engineered wood flooring is quickly catching up, with the rate of use for new builds, as well as remodels, increasing steadily every year for the past few decades.  Inspectors and homeowners alike may be interested in how this product is manufactured and installed, and what its advantages are compared to older, more traditional forms of flooring.

Brief History

The beginnings of mass-produced wood flooring can be dated as far back as 1903, when an E. L. Roberts mail-order catalog offered “wood carpeting.”  This flooring consisted of 1½ x 5/16-inch wooden strips that were glued to heavy canvas that was then installed by tacking it down with brads.  The wood was then sanded and finished.  The varnishes used were usually slow-curing tung oils from China.  These were not durable in themselves, so the floors were hot-waxed and buffed to a shine with a floor brush.

Early examples of the “wood carpet” eventually evolved into more modern iterations, such as laminate flooring, which consists of melamine-infused paper as its upper layer, and wood-chip composite beneath.  Laminate flooring typically features a printed or embossed top layer meant to approximate the look of real hardwood.

The current incarnation of engineered wood flooring has been available since the 1960s, and has steadily increased in quality, leading to improved advantages over traditional hardwood flooring.


Engineered wood flooring is most commonly made with a plywood-core substrate and a real hardwood veneer or skin, which comes pre-finished from the factory.  The top veneer, which looks just like the top of a traditional solid wood plank, is called the lamella.  

Some engineered flooring utilizes a finger-core construction, with a substrate comprised of small pieces of milled timber running perpendicular to the lamella.  This can be made with an additional layer of plywood running parallel to the lamella, which gives it added stability.  Fiberboard-core flooring is also available, but it’s generally considered to be an inferior option.

Engineered wood flooring is meant to be indistinguishable from traditional hardwood floor once it’s installed, and only the lamella is visible.  The lamella veneers available are made from nearly every type of common wood, as well as many more exotic ones, in order to provide the same variety of aesthetics typical of quality hardwood floors.  The substrate that the veneer is attached to is just as strong and durable as hardwood — if not stronger — and the finish applied at the factory often outlasts one applied on-site to solid wood flooring.  Even surface effects are available that can be applied to the finish to give the flooring a time-worn look, such as light distressing.

Engineered flooring runs the gamut from the low end, starting at $3 per square foot, to the high, at $14 and more. To judge quality, check the thickness of the lamella, the number of layers in the substrate, and the number of finish coats.  Typically, the more layers, the better. Listed below are descriptions of the advantages of adding layers to the construction in the common classes of engineered boards:

  • 3-ply construction: 1- to 2-mm wear layer; five finish coats; 10- to 15-year warranty; 1⁄4-inch thick; current price is about $3 to $5 per square foot.  Options for lamella veneer are limited to common species, such as oak and ash, and just a few stains are available;
  • 5-ply construction: 2- to 3-mm wear layer; seven finish coats; 15- to 25-year warranty; 1⁄4-inch thick; about $6 to $9 per square foot.  More species, such as cherry, beech, and some exotics are available for lamella, as well as all stains, and a few surface effects, such as distressing; and
  • 7-ply or more: 3+-mm wear layer, which can be sanded two or more times; nine finish coats; 25+-year warranty; 5/8- to 3⁄4-inch thick; average price is about $10 to $14 per square foot.  The widest selection of species is available for lamella, including reclaimed options.  More surface treatments are also available, such as hand-scraped and wire-brushed.

The cost of engineered flooring can be around 20% more than that of traditional flooring, but the difference can be offset or recouped by saving on installation, staining and sealing.


Installation of engineered wood flooring is generally quite simple compared to the installation of traditional hardwood, and can often be accomplished by a homeowner without the help of a professional flooring contractor.  If the services of a professional are enlisted, the job can be done more quickly and cost-effectively than if solid hardwood were to be installed.  Engineered flooring can be fastened in place with screws or nails, glued down, or left to “float,” relying on its mass to hold it in place.  Listed below are several installation methods:

  • A bead of glue can be applied to the tongue of each board, which is then tapped into place with a block. The floor floats, unattached to the sub-floor except by force of gravity.
  • A floor stapler and compressor can be used to rapidly secure the boards to the existing floor, without having to deal with any glue.
  • Boards can be laid in a bed of adhesive, as is done with tile.  This approach works particularly well over cured concrete, which precludes the use of staples.
  • Some types of engineered floor are designed with milled tongues and grooves that lock together without glue or fasteners. It’s the quickest and cleanest installation method.

Advantages of Engineered Flooring

While solid hardwood is a great traditional building material that provides aesthetically pleasing and structurally sound flooring, it does have its limitations.  For example, it cannot be installed directly on concrete or below grade, such as in basements.  It is generally limited in plank width and is more prone to gapping, which is excessive space between planks, and cupping, which is a concave or “dished” appearance of the plank, with the height of the plank along its longer edges being higher than the center with increased plank size.  Solid hardwood also cannot be used where radiant-floor heating is in place.
Engineered wood flooring, on the other hand, can actually provide some distinct advantages over traditional hardwood in many instances and applications.  Some of these include: 
  • Lamella veneer is available in dozens of wood species.
  • Surface effects can be applied to further enhance its appearance.
  • The factory finish can outlast site-applied finish on solid hardwoods.
  • Drying time for the finish is eliminated because it’s pre-applied at the factory.
  • It can be used in basements and over concrete slabs.
  • Installation is quick and easy.
  • It can be used over radiant-heat systems.
  • It can be refinished to repair normal wear and tear.
  • The core layer can expand and contract more freely without warping.
  • The flooring can be removed and re-installed elsewhere, if desired.
Engineered wood flooring is increasingly the first choice for floor installations, and its advantages, in many circumstances, can be exceptional.  Homeowners with a little DIY experience can usually install it themselves.  Inspectors are likely to encounter it in new builds as well as remodels even more frequently as it continues to gain in popularity every year.

Cork Floor Inspection

by Nick Gromicko

While better known for its use as wine stoppers and for bulletin boards, cork is also used for flooring and other building components.

A renewable resource, cork is actually the bark of a species of oak tree, Quercus suberA worker strips the bark from a Quercus suber oak tree that will be used as cork flooring and other building products.that grows in the thin, dry soils of western Spain and Portugal. The trees are harvested periodically throughout their lifetimes in a sustainable fashion that does not harm the tree or result in deforestation.
To prepare the bark for commercial applications, it is first cut and removed, then dried, cleaned, fumigated and straightened. While most cork winds up in wine bottles, a portion of the material is allocated for use in buildings, such as flooring, seals, gaskets, expansion joints, intumescent strips, and even external cladding.

Unique Advantages of Cork Flooring

Air pockets allow cork flooring a unique and easy elasticity compared to other materials, which makes it ideal for installation in kitchens, where standing for long periods is common. These air pockets also protect dropped objects from breaking and keep floors at an even temperature, which contributes to a building’s overall energy efficiency. Proponents of cork flooring claim that it’s also sound-absorbent, anti-vibrational, fire-resistant, anti-static, mildew-resistant, insect-resistant, and anti-microbial.

Some Disadvantages

Despite these strengths, cork is prone to the following defects and forms of misuse:
  • moisture damage. If cork flooring gets wet, it will expand, become uneven, and potentially crack, once dried;
  • surface damage. Heavy, pointed objects, such as high-heeled footwear or dogs’ and cats’ claws, can create permanent dents and scratches in cork floors. These impressions cannot be easily sanded away the way they can in wood flooring;
  • color fading, typically a yellowing, which will occur when the flooring is exposed to sunlight for prolonged periods of time. Area rugs and large furniture will block light exposure and may create uneven discoloration;
  • off-gassing from the binders and adhesives used in cork tiles. Homeowners may purchase solid cork tiles with low-VOC adhesives as a more natural, non-toxic alternative;
  • improper use. Due to moisture concerns, only floating-floor cork designs should be used in basement floors. Floating floors may, however, create problems when installed over radiant heating systems, although homeowners may check with the flooring’s manufacturer for specific installation restrictions.  For instance, bathroom installations may require that the perimeter of the floor be caulked prior to installing the baseboards to avoid moisture penetration; and
  • installation defects that represent trip hazards, as well as cosmetic blemishes, such as:
    • bond failure, in which poor adhesion to the subfloor will result in lifting at the joints of the cork tile. The lifted surface can be forced flat under pressure, but this fix is often only temporary;
    • sliding, where the tiles slide out of alignment with each other. This is caused when tiles are laid on wet adhesive, allowing them to move as the installer stands on top of them. Installers should let the adhesive dry before stepping onto the tiles. A rectangular gap known as a window can be created where adjacent tiles slide vertically and horizontally, revealing the underlying subfloor;
    • waves or undulations, which are unsightly and might cause furniture to sit unevenly; and
    • debris beneath the tile, which causes the tile to lift above any object that was not removed from the subfloor before the tile was installed.
Cork floors are available in glued and glueless forms. Glued floors are made up of tiles that are glued down to the subfloor. They are more appropriate for bathrooms because of the protection offered by their polyurethane coating and the absence of the fiberboard core on glueless planks that can be damaged in wet environments. Glueless cork floors, similar to laminate flooring, are fused to a high-density fiberboard core to form planks that can be snapped together. These are suitable for below-grade applications, such as in basements. Cork flooring products range in thickness from 3/16- to 7/16-inch and tend to have natural color variations but can be purchased in light, medium or dark tones.

Tips for Homeowners

Inspectors can pass on the following care and maintenance tips to their clients:

  • Keep the floor surface free from dirt and grit through regular mopping with a well-wrung mop. Clean up spills quickly and never use harsh, abrasive cleaners.
  • Place entrance mats at doors in order to prevent dirt and moisture from being tracked in and onto the floor. If the mat gets wet, however, remove it from the floor.
  • Furnishings and floor coverings should be moved periodically, and heavy curtains or window shades can be used to prevent discoloration and fading caused by intense sunlight through the windows.
  • Place furniture rests beneath furniture legs to protect the floor from indentations.
  • Periodically apply urethane or polish to eliminate small scratches.
In summary, cork flooring, when installed and maintained properly, is a unique alternative to conventional flooring materials, such as wood and vinyl.

Engineered Wood Flooring

Engineered wood flooring is an alternative to solid hardwood flooring made entirely out of real wood.  It’s currently the most popular type of flooring in the world.  North America is the only area left where traditional, solid wood floors still outnumber engineered floors, but engineered wood flooring is quickly catching up, with the rate of use for new builds, as well as remodels, increasing steadily every year for the past few decades.  Inspectors and homeowners alike may be interested in how this product is manufactured and installed, and what its advantages are compared to older, more traditional forms of flooring.

(read full article on InterNACHI)