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Drainage Problems and Your Floor

Few things are more aggravating to a new homeowner than drainage problems with a home.

Many consumers never think about it until a problem arises. Your realtor will likely not point out issues with improper grade or existing drainage issues.

Moisture problems can be detrimental to having a dry undamaged home. Common problems include pooling ground water near the home’s foundation, improper drainage from your neighbor’s property, or from a clogged drainage ditch.

When buying, building, or remodeling your home, it is imperative to ask the right questions.

Why Mess with Moisture Testing?

If you have a professional installing your flooring without first performing moisture testing, you should demand it! This is the #1 way to avoid moisture issues with your floor.

Ask questions and do your homework. Not all contractors are created equal. When proper testing is performed on the slab, subfloor, and hardwood, you can be assured that you have found a quality craftsman.

Taking this extra time up front will give your flooring the solid foundation it needs to last a lifetime.

Don’t make assumptions about the expertise or knowledge of the contractors who work for you. Instead, understand what potential moisture problems could arise on your property and address them before they happen.

Knowing these beforehand can help avoid costly repairs down the road. If something doesn’t look right, ask about it. If the answer isn’t satisfactory, consult an expert.

How Drainage Problems Affect Your Floors

Along with comfort, your home provides a dry place out of the elements. While many resources are spent on cleaning and furnishing your home, it’s easy to overlook its primary role as shelter from inclement weather. Moisture can be destructive depending on its source, volume, and force. From a misdirected downspout, clogged drainage ditch to a damaged sprinkler head, seemingly small problems can compound and if left unattended, can damage your home.

Common sources that can damage your flooring include:

  • Improperly routed drainage ditches or trenches directing runoff toward not away from the foundation.
  • Rain gutters clogged with leaves and debris, or downspouts not properly extending at least 4 feet out from the home’s foundation.
  • Misdirected automatic lawn sprinklers can deposit gallons of water at the foundation.
  • In-slab, wall, or ceiling plumbing breaks or leaks due to settling or earthquakes.
  • Hydro-Entrapment: Concrete slabs that have not been allowed to properly dry and cure.
  • Leaks: Common ones include plumbing in the slab, hidden leak under a sink, and behind the wall near the bathroom.
For these problems, most sources for moisture can be easily fixed with expert help.

Warning Signs of Moisture Damage in a Floor

Moisture issues can exhibit several obvious and some not so obvious signs.

Some common ones to watch for:

  • Discoloration between boards
  • Bubbles or peeling in the finish
  • Cupped or raised edges of floor boards
  • Spongy feeling or squishiness when walking across the floor
  • In extreme cases – water coming through seams between boards or slopping sounds when stepping on the floor

What if Excess Moisture is Present in the Subfloor?

A quality flooring professional will know when to and not to install your new flooring.  A delay can sometimes be a gift and can prevent future problems if the site conditions are not ready.

Other aspects to discuss with your installer:

  • What kind of moisture barrier is needed?
  • Is a traditional nail-down over subfloor or a glue-down installation best?

In some cases, it may be best to float your new flooring over a chemically sealed slab with an underlayment for added protection from ground moisture.

Whatever installation method you decide on, rest assured that our floors are made to last a lifetime and bring warmth to your home.

drainage problem wood floor

Getting an Inspection

For common moisture issues in flooring, a qualified flooring specialist or NWFA certified flooring inspector can generally assess the cause of the problem with an inspection.

During the inspection, the professional surveys the problem areas taking moisture readings inside and outside the home, as well as in the concrete slab. Relative humidity test equipment is the most accurate method for determining the actual content of moisture in the slab.

Other methods for testing moisture related to concrete slabs are electronic pin-less surface meters and pin-type meters. These devices test just below the slab surface.

Another method is the Calcium Chloride Vapor Emission Test. This test does not actually test the moisture contained within the slab, but only what moisture vapor emits from the surface. Because of this, the Maple Flooring Manufacturer’s Association has stopped accepting it as an authoritative method.

How Can I Prevent Moisture Problems?

Additionally, you can eliminate many problems by paying close attention during routine seasonal home maintenance.

A couple easy things include:

  • Clean gutters during the spring, autumn, and winter months. Between cleanings, observe water flow and drainage from your gutters to see if there’s any ground water runoff problems.
  • Before turning on the lawn sprinklers in spring, inspect each sprinkler head’s trajectory and coverage zone is correctly set. Make sure that those located near the house are not directed at the walls, windows, or foundation of your home.
  • Inspect the outside perimeter of the house, yard, and flower beds. You may catch some surprises that could cause a problem down the road.
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