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Question:

Joseph, Wood Floors Plus told me that Eterna is trying to contact me (my e-mail bounced, which is possible, given that my ISP is having problems). They want to fly someone down (I believe from Canada) to meet me. Is this standard behavior?

....................

Doug

Answer:

Dear Doug

No this is not standard behavior, you may have them by their short and curlies. Go for the whole shebang. They must have shipped out some defective material, and now they are learning where it all went. They are certainly threatened by your web abilities. But just be polite and say things like, "I sure you didn't mean to ship out this material under the Eterna name". Or "even though only ten percent of the boards are defective, it makes the overall floor look shoddy" Even though we install a floor a piece at a time, it's the entire surface we walk on, and either enjoy or detest.

Oh and I do appreciate the offer to use the pictures. I saved them in a web archive, but will NOT mention your name NOR Eterna when using these in a free information article. Only if you have to go to court and win a public case against them would their be any possible publication of the guilty parties (eterna) name. And I hope that this stays out of court, for both your sakes. It's very stressful.

Good luck from Joseph

Well, some things have happened, none of which are good..............

Dear Doug

I've been thinking about this all weekend, and have come up with a new twist based on the evidence gathered by the Eterna folks. They may have found a piece of metal 1" to the left of each crack, but there are a lot more staples in that floor than there are cracks. So really most (almost all) of the staples have done their job as well as they are designed to do. And quite possibly only when the staples were encountering a weak part of the board did the split come to the surface.

But let me back up here a minute. Staples have a really checked history in the wood floor business. Read my free article about these terrible fasteners (in the Product Review section-the Primatech article). The study that the article quotes states that the staples will take up to two years to show defects in the wood. With most well selected and well milled wood, the staples would only crack the toungues leaving the floor with a crunchy or squeaky effect.

I haven't installed a grade of oak or maple less than select or better in these last 15 years of my career. One of my early jobs (we were trying to save the customer a few hundred dollars) in which we used a Common #1 grade oak strip began to slowly self destruct over about 10 years. By the time I came back for that 10 year recoat the floor has splits in some boards right down the middle. As these folks sold the house soon after, they were not concerned, and I at least was able to fully restore the finish. But since then, I have never been suckered into bargain priced hardwood flooring.

Especially prefinished floor, where I cannot really see what grade of wood they used, due to the dark stain and disguised filling. Void and defects can be well inside the floor boards, and just about invisible to the installer. He makes the least amount of money in this cut throat business, yet has to shoulder all the blame from poorly milled wood. If he's going to be the final grader, why isn't he paid by the manufacturer. This argument from Eterna may not stand up. You might mention to Eterna that installers have a wide circle of installer friends. If Eterna wants to squash this installer, they might consider the consequences.

I wrote a bad review on Melrose prefinished hardwood (prod. review section), and 3 years later he's (the owner) is begging me to give him another chance. Bad news in this industry can be a real sales killer, for small brands.

What I'm getting at is that the store should have warned you about the potential defects that happen in these low grade floors. I'll bet they either don't know or didn't want to loose a sale. The staples aggravated this situation, and the installer should have stopped dead in his tracks as this pattern of floor failure repeated itself with no end. But also Eterna should have big RED warning signs on these low grade materials, stating the Disadvantages, and the fact that there is no warranty.

As consumers we are advised by the "experts" in the stores and by tradesmen. We cannot investigate everything we buy, as you are now forced to do. When we are not warned of the realistic shortcoming of products, we have to assume they will perform to realistic expectations. They had a warranty on the premier material, so even this lower grade material was at least expected to survive the installation.

And to be fair to the installer, the biggest trade association (NWFA), advocated using Staples OR Nails on any solid wood nail down installation. I think that NWFA is just ignoring strong evidence to the contrary, but your installer could prove that he was installing the floor by well known and accepted industry standards.

I'm betting that a judge would find all four of you somewhat culpable in the end, and you may only have to take up as little as 25% of the costs. Or if you have a really sharp lawyer, you may get all of your costs covered. This I do believe is a win-able case. Don't be discouraged by the "digging in" attitude of all the parties, this always happens early in the game. Expect an out of court settlement to take as much as 6 months. You are in early days. But a full blow court case (small claims, where lawyers fees are not recovered) may take as much as a year.

In the mean time, remove the floor with a high quality video camera running, and record just where the staples are and the cracks are. Keep a running written tally of this with a neighbor looking on as you do this. You need the video and a witness. So rip up the floor, install a new one (with a new subfloor-even though OSB is industry standard) and have it sanded at least by a pro. Do the finishing yourself, that's the fun part. Keeping busy while you are waiting for the court case to come up, will keep you from obsessing too much. Don't let this floor take over your family life. The best revenge (even if you loose the case) is to LIVE A GOOD LIFE.

You may also find these articles helpful:

1. Avoiding Squeaks And Pops When Nailing Down A New Strip Floor

2. How to remove various stains from wood floors

3. Installing Hardwood Floors On Concrete Slabs

4. Prefinished Hardwood Floors: How To Choose!

5. How To Take Care Of Your Health And Safety when Installing, Finishing, Repairing or Cleaning your wood floors