Home Inspection – 10 Common Defects Of Flooring

By on June 16, 2017

Many homeowners do not give the flooring of a house the attention and respect it deserves.

If you think about it, the floor is the one part of the house where you are in constant contact with (obviously with the exception of sleeping in bed) everywhere you go. This makes it at least one of the top 3 areas of concern… if not the top.

Yet it can be deceptively easy to spot defects because problems would be very obvious… right?

Well maybe if you know what to look for. A lot of times, a lack of experience can cause you to think something is normal when it is actually not. And little clues can tell a big story behind it.

Here are some common flooring defects and signs of defects to look for when inspecting a house.

1) Levelness

This is the most obvious thing to look out for concerning flooring.

While older homes can understandably be more prone to this problem due to foundation settlement or shrinking floor joists, it’s not an issue limited to old houses.

Because I was shocked to see newly built condominiums having blatantly obvious uneven flooring when inspecting some units.

They were so evident that they stuck out like a sore thumb!

2) Squeaking

Squeaking of wooden floors are commonly due to poor workmanship from fastening of the subfloor or movement in the finish. These problems can easily be fixed by a contractor.

Sometimes, squeaking can occur on floors under the carpet too.

Similarly, this is usually caused by inadequately glued or nailed subflooring when the work was initially done.

The challenge is that squeaking of flooring hidden under carpets can often escape the attention of an inspector since the sound is buffered by the carpet.

So do take extra notice when walking on carpets.

3) Cupping or warping of hardwood floors

You’d think that if each plank is placed, positioned, and glued together nicely with adhesive by a meticulous contractor, that this would not happen.

But nature has it’s ways of making our life miserable. Wood is after all a material that is prone to warping and dents.

Signs of this problem can be observed when the edges of a tile bends slightly upwards. Raising the edges.

This happens when moisture has been absorbed by the underside, causing the underside to expand while the upperside facing up stays in the same size. This causes the upward “cup”.

The good news is that this defect is often primarily found on hardwood floors. This means that if the cupping is minor, and depending on the material, you might be able to resolve the problem with just a simple session of sanding down.

Otherwise, for full rectification, the affected tiles must be removed and the moisture dried before re-tiling the tile.

4) Damaged floor near exterior doors

This is an area of the floor that is subject to a lot of wear and tear. So it’s no surprise to find defective concerns here.

The damage is often caused by the constant barrage of water attack from the elements outside.

Rain, snow, higher humidity from outside, poor maintenance, etc.

5) Bowing at the center

This is a problem that has it’s roots from the initial planning to build the house by the builder.

When rooms and houses are not built with a gap installed around the perimeter, the floor will have no space to expand from the effects of heat. This means the only direction it can go is up by altering it’s shape.

The result is a creating of a bow at the center. Somewhat like a hump… to a lesser extent.

6) Sloping

You can usually feel a minor change in gravitational force when walking along sloping floors. However, just because there is a slight slope does not mean that you have a big problem on your hands.

Older houses that have aged gracefully often have floors that suffer from slight sagging and sloping towards the center. This is often not an indication of a major problem.

However, if the slope is all towards one side, there there might be serious structural and foundation problems. Especially if it’s a landed house.

You should definitely take note of one-sided sloping floors and investigate a little deeper.

If for example, doors and windows are difficult to open for no apparent reason, you might really have a bad situation in your hands as these are signs of perimeter foundation problems.

If the house is multi-storey and the level below is part of the house, go downstairs to check of any visible signs of causes. If it’s an apartment unit, go befriend the neighbor living directly below and get permission to take a good look at their ceiling.

7) Floor tiles

Loose tiles are common defects of floors using ceramic tiles. They sometimes also come together with cracks along grout joints.

This is caused by shoddy workmanship when the adhesive required is insufficient or applied with bad technique.

Some common defects of floor tiles are:

  • Dirty joints
  • Grout with uneven color
  • Unnatural stains like oil, adhesives, chemicals, etc
  • Lippage and imperfectly manufactured tiles causing inconsistent measurements and dimensions
  • Cracks are common due to fragile nature of ceramic tiles
  • Chipping
  • Adhesive failure
  • Inconsistent tonality of tiles that don’t match

8) Loose linoleum

Linoleum is basically a canvas-like material used for floor covering.

Loose or oddly worn-out linoleum near the washroom can indicate a leak, and quite possibly implies that the subflooring beneath has deteriorated from the moisture.

To correct this problem, you might need to remove the floor tiles to examine what kind of party is going on below it. And rectify it accordingly.

Don’t forget to fix the leak!

9) Bloating vinyl tiles

Slabs with moisture from below can cause vinyl tiles to bloat, lump, or “pop”. Another sign of this problem to look for are stains.

This can occur for linoleum and laminated flooring as well.

Repairs for this issue can be extensive. Which is a reason why many homeowners and investors choose to ignore this problem altogether.

So this is definitely something to get right the first time. And get the developer to fix it if the house is under warranty.

10) Asbestos

Residential construction these days don’t use material that contain asbestos anymore.

But older houses can still have tiles that contain it. This can be an environmental health hazard and should be taken seriously.

Legally speaking, sellers of houses have to declare the presence of asbestos to buyers.

If these tiles are flat and well secured, you might be able to step away from this problem just by overlaying them up with new flooring. Otherwise, hire an asbestos-abatement contractor to remove them completely.



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