In 1 ALL, Add-On, Remodel, Materials by Andy Bozeman0 Comments

Floor-Buckle-4-e1413550128864-300x289The news story that triggered today’s article is headlined LACK OF BARRIER CITED IN FAILURE, and begins with these two points :

  1. “A two-month-old polyurethane gym floor is buckling at the $656 million New York City Police Academy project and may have to be replaced.”
  2. “The buckling is being blamed on a ‘cost saving’ decision to forgo installing a protective vapor barrier under the floor’s plywood base,” the New York Post reported this month, citing multiple sources.

Here’s the link to the story that triggered today’s article :

In a nutshell the second point in the article says it all. An ill-considered cost-saving decision led to the failure, as well as the expense of replacing the floor.

While the triggering story is about a gym floor, this exact same thing happens in homes, too. It happens because of two primary factors :

  • failure to properly consider when and when not to cut costs
  • failure to understand that moisture protection is never a place to cut costs.

It’s the movement ( infiltration ) of water and water vapor through ceilings, floors, and walls that cause fluctuating room temperatures, dripping skylights, sagging wallpaper, and ……… buckling floors. The main things you need to know about this infiltration of moisture are that it’s present everywhere, affecting everything, all the time; and almost all temperature changes are brought about by the ever-changing presence of moisture.

To make the point I’m re-sharing one of my stories. It’s also about buckled floors caused by poor consideration and lack of understanding of the effects of moisture and temperature. Enjoy.


Christmas is a target for more than retail sales. It’s also a cut-off time. “We Just Have To Be In By Christmas” is the theme song for any family trying to build during late Summer and Fall. However, it’s only the cut-off time by default, because the last season, whose theme song was “We Just Have To Be In By Thanksgiving” came and went without enough of the house being finished to move in.

Ned (never his real name) was anxious to finish building. His family’s most recent Thanksgiving dinner had been served from little, toaster-oven heated, foil pans divided into small basins, each holding a single element of the season’s traditional feast. Turkey, dressing, gravy, and green peas were all separated by metallic barriers.

During the entire meal those silvery dividers constantly reminded Ned that he too was separated from the new home he had hoped to be in when he ate his Thanksgiving dinner. The worst part was desert. He had planned an authentic Baked Alaska, filled with homemade peppermint ice cream, covered with mountains of meringue, drizzled with raspberry liqueur, and set ablaze with imported rum. Instead, he used a flimsy plastic knife to crow-bar a lump of fruity cobbler-like substance from a compartment unwilling to yield it’s contents.

It was that despicable desert experience that pushed Ned over the edge. Without considering that he was clueless about construction, Ned pushed aside his contractor and took control of his housing destiny.

He only had to order the wood flooring, kitchen appliances, shrubs and topsoil, and just install everything. That was almost nothing.

As the reader, I can tell you that “almost nothing” is not a valid concept in construction. You don’t “just install” anything. That’s why there are professional specialists for everything from hauling dirt to sanding floors. That’s why there are building codes and inspectors. Nothing is ever simple. We are never safe from ourselves.

Ignorance was no deterrent for this man, now driven mad by an undefeatable desert. Ned no longer saw an order of events and inspections for the proper completion of his new home. All he could see now was Christmas dinner.

The heating contractor had delivered the furnace, but it wasn’t hooked up when a severe cold spell settled in to stay through the end of the year.

Oak planks were delivered and left stacked in the cold house. Ned would be the installer, but not now. Three weeks later he was proud of the wood floor he alone installed in an unheated house. Besides, those rough spots and splinters could be fixed.

The cold, dry air energized Ned. Anxious to achieve perfect flower beds , he was overly generous with topsoil and mulch, piling it extra-deep against the house.

The furnace was connected, the stove set in place, the floor was swept and the last layer of mulch was applied to the shrubs. Ned moved into his new home three full days before Christmas, just as the rain set in.

The cold, dry air may have invigorated Ned but it also shrank the planks. They got installed in a contracted state. When the heat was turned on and the rain was diverted into the house by the extra-deep topsoil, the wood began to expand, then buckle, then curl. Ned’s wood floor began to resemble the twists and turns of a thrill ride at an amusement park. He swallowed his pride and called everybody he knew for help. Nobody could come until after the holidays.

At least he was in the house and could have that fantasy feast. Then he realized that the electrician had never been called to connect the outlet for the stove. The electrician couldn’t come until after Christmas. Not knowing what to do next, he just waited for it to stop raining. It didn’t.

On the big day the family gathered for a Christmas morning fire but there was no firewood. Ned considered burning some of his curvy wood floor, but it was too wet.

Instead, the family gathered in the dining room, said the blessing and ate the finest traditional Christmas feast available in little, toaster-oven heated, foil pans. Then, Ned taught them a new theme song, “We’ve just Got To Get This Fixed By Easter.”

Thank you,
Andy Bozeman

Andy Bozeman is the author of
Available from Amazon Kindle
See similar educational articles related to the American dwelling industry at
American Home Journal, also by Andy Bozeman.

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