Why Your Engineered Wood Flooring Has Gaps

Wood Floor With Gaps Between Floorboards 1500 x 1000
Wood Floor With Gaps Between Floorboards. CC-Licensed; Flickr User Quinn Dombrowski

A reader asked, "I put in a new floating engineered oak floor last year and there are already gaps about 1/8 inch. Why is this happening and what should I do about it?"

No, This Is Not Normal

As you can imagine, it must be an alarming experience to spend the time and money to install an engineered wood floor--and then discover significant gaps between the boards not even a year later. This is not supposed to happen.

One explanation might be that the installer did not follow the old rule of wood floor installation, which is to allow the flooring to sit in the room for a number of days to acclimate to the room's humidity level. After installation, the flooring contracted (i.e., shrunk), causing these gaps.

Solid Hardwood vs. Engineered Wood

But engineered flooring is often called dimensionally stable, which translates to: the plywood sandwich helps prevent many of the problems of solid hardwood, such as moisture problems.

After being flooded, solid hardwood flooring will contract after it has dried (see image).  But you don't expect engineered wood to contract 1/8 inch.

It could be that, in combination with some slight contraction, the engineered flooring simply wasn't fitted together tight enough. Tongue-and-groove floorboards do need to be gently tapped in place.

Warranty Time?

But that's all water under the bridge.

The question is: What to do?

Determine how the boards are joined. Does this happen to be a "click and lock" type of engineered flooring? Is it tongue-and-groove? Are they glued together?

You say this is a floating engineered floor, so that means that it is not joined to the subfloor. If the flooring happens to be the "click and lock" type, then you can even re-install it.

I think someone needs to take responsibility for this, and it's not you--the homeowner.  You can call in the warranty on the flooring, though be prepared for losing one year of pro-rated value on the flooring (that's how most flooring warranties are written).

Have a couple of different floor installers come in and give you an opinion about the installation.  Yes, you should pay them for their time.  If the installation was sub-par, will these installers be willing to sign something that you can use in small claims court?

Honestly, you won't get much, if anything, from a local two-man floor installation operation (blood from a stone, etc.).  But the mention of courts and lawsuits may force them to take responsibility for a poor installation job.