Home Inspection Articles

Floor Facts & Finishes - How to Upkeep What's Underfoot

Posted by Olivia Hunt on Oct 19, 2012 9:21:00 AM

Floor FinishesWith laminate and engineered wood flooring becoming so popular these days (especially with do-it-your-selfers), it’s good to familiarize yourself with some of the common issues with not only laminate and engineered wood flooring but other floor finishes as well.  You’ll find yourself an expert in no time and likely have a better idea of when you need to fix your floors too.

So what are the main issues with floor finishes? First and foremost – water damage. Water damage can occur from a variety of sources but the most common include: leaks from roofs, windows, doors, skylights, plumbing (especially toilets and showers), hot water heating systems and condensation.  Water damage can also occur from humidifier/dehumidifiers, over watering of plants and melting snow from boots or shoes.

You’ll know you have water damage on your wood-based floors as they may discolour, buckle, warp or rot. With carpet, you run the risk of developing mold.  Water damage can be prevented by regularly checking those areas that are most susceptible and investing in a shoe rack or mat to soak up all that winter slush!

Other common problems with floor finishes include:

Wear and Tear

Floors take a lot of abuse on a daily basis and will eventually have some damage due to normal wear and tear. When softwoods such as pine, fir or cedar are used as a floor finish, they can be damaged by high heels, furniture and heavy items being dropped onto them. Softer materials, such as resilient flooring and carpet, will eventually wear out in high traffic areas. Sharp objects and furniture dropped or dragged across flooring may also damage the surface. You can prevent a lot of damage by adding good furniture pads to your furniture. Not to mention keeping those heels off the floors ladies!

Homeowners should also ensure to replace any loose or missing sections of flooring as they may present a tripping hazard. If you find your carpet has ridges or buckles, you can have a carpet installer pull it tight so it lies flat again.


The most common problem with brittle floor tiles is cracking. Cracking is usually the result of a floor system that isn’t stiff enough to support the tile or by impact damage such as a heavy item dropped on the tiles. A cracked or broken concrete floor may not be aesthetically pleasing but it might only be a problem if it’s not safe to walk across or if there is moisture coming up through the floor.  Replacing the tiles is easy enough but be warned – it may be difficult to match the colour, style and grout, and could turn out to be a bigger headache than it’s worth if it’s done just for aesthetic reasons.

Squeaky Floors

Dreaded by all nighttime snackers and sneaky teenagers, squeaky floors can be quite a nuisance. However, they aren’t a structural problem. A floor usually squeaks when walked on because the flooring finish or subfloor is not tightly secured. The subfloor may not be well-secured to the joists, or the finished flooring material (like hardwood) may not be tightly fastened to the subfloor. Although this issue may prove to be a bit annoying, it’s not necessary to replace your floors in this situation as it does not pose any major safety concerns.

Poor Sloping

It’s important to ensure your concrete basement floor slopes down to a floor drain that can lead away water. Otherwise, you may find yourself with that ever so popular issue of water damage. There are two options of addressing this issue. First, you can add more concrete to the existing slab to improve the slope. Unfortunately this is often difficult to do as new concrete doesn’t usually bond well to old concrete. The second but more expensive option is to add another floor drain by breaking up some of the concrete floor. In the end, replacing a deteriorated floor may be more cost effective than trying to repair or re-slope the floor.

Keep these issues in mind as you walk around your house and make sure to address any problem areas that involve water damage or infringe on your safety.  If you liked the tips in this blog entry, you can find more information on your home in our Resource Center or by purchasing a copy of our Home Reference Book – the essential homeowner’s guide to owning a home.

Topics: Home Reference Book, Homeowner Tips