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Vinyl Plank Flooring - Cupping

Joe
3 years ago

A little background, in March 2017, I had just bought my 1985 condo in Florida, a few hundred yards from the bay and set off on a lot of renovations. I tore up the carpet and tile and contacted an independent flooring company to prep the concrete slab to install vinyl plank flooring - Floor and Decor NuCore rigid, cork-back, click together style. I hired a flooring company to prep the floor. They took moisture reading and indicated they were too high for the vinyl's parameters and that a moisture barrier was recommended. They recommended a product called Bostik Moisture Barrier. He said it was the best and recommended it unequivocally to seal the concrete. The product went on and produced a flexible, rubber like consistency and I never thought about it again. Honestly, I didn't even know what cupping was until just a few weeks ago.


Fast forward, was emptying the house to paint and the floor appears to be cupping. It's been two years. This is not about blame, money or being vindicated. This is about fixing the floor. Since the likely culprit is moisture, how should I proceed.


Call the flooring company? Hi, my floor's cupping. I doubt they'd return that call.

Call a plumber, maybe it's a leak under the concrete sub-floor?

It is Florida and humid most of the year but the inside humidity is relatively low at 40-50% as the house is always kept very cool around 72F. I don't like it any other way. Could it be something environmental like excess ground water under the slab? An engineer?

Start with a broad approach - a general contractor?


I just don't know where to start. and welcome feedback.


I attached a few pictures -- most clearly seen when the room is dark and just a bit of light is peeking through. Excuse the mess, I was removing everything to prepare to paint.








Comments (23)

  • GreenDesigns
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    Get a plumber with a moisture meter who is used to hunting leaks in a slab. If that’s it, it should be easy to find. If that’s not it, and it’s a standard humidity and concrete issue, then forget about it. That isn’t horrible, and with the furniture in the room, is likely barely noticeable. In 7-10 years when it’s time to do something else with the floors, do something else.

    Joe thanked GreenDesigns
  • Joe
    Original Author
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    Thank you GreenDesign but if it is just naturally occurring moisture, couldn't mold grow under the floor? Honestly, the way it looks is of no concern to me BUT I do care very much about my health and well-being. Maybe Floridians hyper sensitive to mold and that scenario is unlikely?

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  • PRO
    Uptown Floors
    3 years ago

    If they used Bostiks MVP, "a flexible, rubber like consistency" they covered the bases for sure.


    Forget a general contractor. They'll just hire others. Start with the flooring company. They should respond in good gesture and possibly offer good clues as to the cause(s)


    Mold grows in dark and damp conditions. Very doubtful a plumber would have the proper moisture meters.

    Joe thanked Uptown Floors
  • Joe
    Original Author
    3 years ago

    Uptown Floors, thanks, I feel a little better that they tried to take the right precautions even if it didn't work. I'll give them a call and see what they say. He did indeed use Bostik and if that product covers all the bases, then I'm surely concerned.


    If a plumber doesn't have proper moisture meters, how/who determines if there's a leaky pipe under the slab?

  • PRO
    Johnson Flooring Co Inc
    3 years ago

    " Since the likely culprit is moisture"

    You're getting ahead of yourself. You have a floor that shouldn't be overly affected by moisture ("Exclusive to Floor & Decor, NuCore® is 100% waterproof flooring"), sitting atop Bostik MVP, an excellent moisture barrier product. Jumping to the conclusion that the likely culprit is moisture seems illogical.

    If it's pretty uniform all over, it's unlikely to be caused by a broken pipe under the slab (and under the MVP). If it's from another unidentified leak on top of the slab, you should have other signs of moisture present. Since you don't mention any, I assume they don't exist.

    Call your installer first. I don't know what your arrangement was in regards to who bought the flooring, but if it's a material issue, that party will have to pursue it with the supplier.

    You'll likely need to hire an inspector if you want to get to the bottom of this. I'd start at: http://www.ifcii.org/ . They will likely ask questions about acclimation and whether you have proper transitions and expansion space.

    Or you could do what Jan Moyer suggested, which could make sense since you didn't notice the issue until you moved the furniture. If you go that route it would be interesting to remove a plank in a closet to see if there's any evidence of moisture.

    Joe thanked Johnson Flooring Co Inc
  • SJ McCarthy
    3 years ago

    I'm going to throw my hat into the ring. The vinyl plank has a CORK BACKING. Cork is wood. Cork bark (not ground up stuff) is almost impervious to moisture...almost. But the GROUND UP stuff (the crumbly bit on the back of the planks) is not. I'm going to bet the moisture has reached the cork backing and the cork has expanded...every grain of cork has puffed by 1% or so...which mean it is now much BIGGER than the vinyl it is attached to. When the bottom of the plank puffs MORE than the TOP you get cupping....just like you see in your photos.


    Just like normal wood, a cork-backed vinyl plank will show the direction of the moisture. If you imagine the centre of the plank as an arrow head, it will point you in the direction of the moisture. The centre of the plank is sitting lower than the edges...and therefore is pointing DOWN. The moisture is greater underneath.


    I personally would pull up a small section (pick a room) and investigate the subfloor below. See if the moisture barrier is still in place....if it is peeling/bubbling, etc. These basic roll-on topical applications can be overwhelmed. Despite their claims of 100% vapour barrier, they may not be tough enough to be a MOISTURE barrier (vapour = airborne water: moisture = visible/running water).


    The next thing I would check is the INTERIOR HUMIDITY levels. It is possible, the indoor air humidity is too high. You will need to maintain it around 35%. If the roll-on product is still intact it is possible you can correct this cupping by DROPPING the humidity levels.


    Because cork is the only product on this plank that can expand in the presence of moisture, I'm putting my money on the cork being the culprit...but always check your expansion gaps and your transition strips through ALL doorways.

    Joe thanked SJ McCarthy
  • PRO
    BeverlyFLADeziner
    3 years ago

    Where I live in southwest FLA, the humidity in the house is always high for the most part except in December and January. It's why I selected porcelain tile for the floor. If you have your doors and windows open any length of time you have to purchase outdoor ceiling fans for indoor rooms or your blades will sag



    Joe thanked BeverlyFLADeziner
  • GreenDesigns
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    Someone that doesn’t think vinyl expands or contracts has no experience with vinyl.Look at a badly done vinyl sided house for primary facia evidence. Gaps everywhere in the winter, and buckles in the summer. It moves more than wood does due to temperature changes. It’s why you can’t have it in front of a big sunny window without it buckling.


    Climate control with vinyl vinyl floors is more critical than it is with wood.

  • Joe
    Original Author
    3 years ago

    SJ, I think you're mostly right and I knew that already but sometimes when others concur it helps lead the way. I do disagree on a a few things though ... 35% indoor humidity is almost impossible to maintain in Florida. Even friends with brand new homes and far more modern HVAC systems experience higher than that. Surprisingly, for the age and its modesty, my condo is on the dry side because I never open windows or doors and run the AC virtually 24/7. Also, the barrier wasn't a roll-on but a trowel application and pretty thick. From what I've learned since, it is considered a better application. I was lead to believe it was the best option but like I said, this is not about blame. If it failed, I just want to know what won't. And when I bought the vinyl, they lauded the cork back as an anti-microbial which sold me on it.


    Beverly, you're right. I should have gotten tile but I'm so sick of it and it's so permanent. It took me a few weeks to drill it off the original floors (so the moisture level certainly wasn't affecting it) but since the vinyl floor was installed, the stairs have also been renovated (it's a fixer-upper) and I think a thick tile on the floor would adversely affect the incline/height of the first step so I feel that fixing/understanding what is happening is best. Hindsight is 20/20, right?


    I'm going to call the flooring company or a different one and see what is happening as soon as the drywall work is done -- the electrician left quite a wake! I don't like not knowing. I'm not too worried about mold but it is something to always consider in Florida.


    I'm actually very surprised by your comment Jan. You're not usually so laissez-faire but I do indeed, hope you're right!!


    Thank you all.


  • PRO
    JAN MOYER
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    Laissez - faire and reality are very different. : ) It's ALL over , not a huge issue in one spot. Buy a big de humidifier, or rent one. Bet me it goes to nearly flat.

    As a really good contractor said to me: "We stick to tile on main floors here, or we make them sign their lives away.........."

  • erinsean
    3 years ago

    I am wondering (for my own information) if expansion room is needed for your type of f!oor. It definitely is here in the midwest. Not enough room for expansion will cause cupping.

  • Joe
    Original Author
    3 years ago

    erinsean, thanks! When it was installed, they left a gap for expansion but those instructions are always right on the box for any flooring. I read the whole box when he indicated the natural moisture level was too high and told me I should apply the vapor barrier. I wanted to know for myself. If you're considering a specific flooring, read the box. I would imagine most people don't.

  • erinsean
    3 years ago

    Good to know. Guess our installer knew what he was doing. You have a pretty floor.

    Joe thanked erinsean
  • PRO
    G & S Floor Service
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    You will need to talk to your floor installer. Ask them if, they prepared the subfloor before applying the MVP. Any contamination that was not removed would act as a bond breaker - causing adhesion issue. It is not something that would be noticed within the next day. It usually takes a few days of curing, before the products starts to become loose and pull away from the subfloor. Installation is usually completed by then.


    It is the same type of issue with leveler, when sealers and contaminants are not sanded or grounded off. The product does not have a good bond and fails.

  • SJ McCarthy
    3 years ago

    Is this a click together or a glue down floor?

  • Joe
    Original Author
    3 years ago
    SJ, it’s a click together. Thx.
  • Joe
    Original Author
    3 years ago
    F&S Flooring, yes, the floor was prepped pretty meticulously about a week before and then all furniture was removed and it was dry vac’d for like an hour and then the trowel application was done over two days and it wasn’t walked on for 24 hours. About a week later, the floor was installed in an afternoon. Should the cure time have been different? T
  • SJ McCarthy
    3 years ago

    And the installer used plastic sheeting (6mil or 10mil vapour barrier properly taped at the seams) underneath? And all TRANSITION strips used at ALL doorways? And expansion gaps at the walls/door jams are 1/2" or more?

  • Joe
    Original Author
    3 years ago
    No, the vapor barrier was a trowel application of Bostik MVP and the gap was surely done but live and learn, no, the doors do not have transition strips. At the time, I thought that was only required if the floor transitioned to another floor which it doesn’t. There is no other flooring on the ground level. Could that play that big a role? Wow, If that’s the reason that at two doorways there’s no transition strip, the overall floor is cupping, I’d never buy or recommend such a fussy product again. Thx!
  • PRO
    G & S Floor Service
    3 years ago

    MVP is rated for unlimited vapor protection. But your flooring indicates moisture issue. It is either the product or the installation. I would question the installation First. Was the slab grind And free of contamination? Was the trowel replace as needed to ensure proper coverage? Was the correct size trowel used? If, all these questions pass. Then you will need to contact bostik for tech support.

  • Joe
    Original Author
    3 years ago

    You know, it's funny you say that because the slab was prepped for the MVP as I originally hired the flooring company to only prep the floor for installation and I was going to install the floor myself but after drilling all the tile up and the discovery of the moisture, I let them do the whole thing. The installer took a photo of the new trowel with the bucket, my name on a card and I think the moisture reading and he used a new trowel with every bucket he opened and photographed those. I remember because I thought wow, I hope this works, he's really covering his butt.


    And here we are! ;-)

  • SJ McCarthy
    3 years ago

    Transition strips are required for ALL floating flooring....not just LVP with cork backing. All floating floors need to have the ability to 'move'. A hardwood floating floor needs them. A cork floating floor needs them. A laminate floating floor needs them. A linoleum floating floor needs them and a vinyl floating floor needs them. The question becomes HOW OFTEN do you need them.


    I have a massive problem with the Floor & Decor website with the installation suggestions. They state that you can install up to 6400sf without transitions. I have to call BS on this one. The reason: cork.


    Cork is EXTREMELY dynamic. It REALLY LIKES to stretch its legs. In fact a cork floating floor can expand as much as 1" over 25 linear feet. That is HUGE! MASSIVE! Almost unheard of. So...are the transition strips "really necessary"? With cork, yes. With vinyl, no. With cork+vinyl, yes.


    Floor & Decor has used the "click edge" documents (the fastening system) without taking into consideration the dynamic nature of cork. The 6400sf of continuous install is fine with an SPC core and the edge system. But the technical data becomes useless as soon as you add in vinyl and cork together.


    I would pop off a baseboard (somewhere) and look to see if your expansion gap has been maintained (I want to see 5/8" or more). If the floor has pushed itself up to the drywall, then you know you have a problem that can be fixed with transition strips.


    The easiest fix *might be to cut the floor at all door jams and drop in a low-profile t-moulding. As annoying as this is, it could the be the simplest fix. But first the moisture source needs to be addressed.


    I still think the Bostik has been overwhelmed and I think the cork has grabbed the moisture and pushed everything to the absolute limits (ie. the walls).