A flooring contractor is reported to have quipped to his dissatisfied customer: "Ma'am, I didn't make the wood." Wood is a living material and has natural cycles of expansion and contraction. Cupping or separation can result if the wood has no room to move, is subjected to excessive or inadequate moisture or is not acclimatised before installation. Squeaking may be the result of an uneven subfloor or one that is wet and not holding the nails or glue.
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Cupping or Buckling
Cupping or buckling occurs when the flooring boards expand and push against each other, forcing the edges up. This always signifies a moisture problem. Water may be leaking into the subfloor, the moisture barrier may be inadequate or the subfloor may have been too wet when the flooring was installed. This can be corrected by sanding the floor flat after the source of the moisture has been corrected. This may mean draining water from under the floor or installing a moisture barrier on the bottoms of the floor joists.
Crowning and Separation
Crowning and separation also signify a moisture problem, but the opposite one. The wood is too dry. This can happen in the winter months when the central heating creates extremely dry conditions. HardwoodInstaller.com recommends using a humidifier in the room during the winter months to correct this problem.
Squeaking or Sponginess
Sometimes the flooring nails will work themselves free of the subfloor or the adhesive bond will fail, and the resulting loose boards may squeak or give a spongy feeling when you walk on them. Nails will pull loose from wet or uneven subfloors, especially ones made of particle board. Moisture and unevenness can also cause glue bonds to fail. Correct this by top-nailing boards or injecting glue after first doing what is necessary to the correct the subfloor.
Floor joists can move as the house settles and the result is a squeaky floor. Correction of this problem will require structural support for the floor from below to compensate for the settling of the house. Concrete slabs that are uneven were probably that way when the floor was installed and the only remedy for this, unfortunately, is to remove the flooring and even out the slab.
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