Installing a wood floor and I hit a water pipe!!

Well it had to happen sometime! Well, it’s actually the second water pipe I’ve sent a nail through in over sixteen years of installing wood floors, which isn’t to bad, is it?! You might think this is something that’s only possible for diy’ers but yes, us professionals are human too. When it happens, it’s never a pleasant experience but these things are sent to try us..

I read so many articles from professionals and rarely do I see mistakes or accidents written about. It’s like every company is the best in the world and the sun shines out of every pore. I thought I’d write this article to show that these things happen and they can and should be dealt with as quickly as possible.

You might think I’m bonkers sharing this story with the world, and you’re probably right. However, triumph over adversity is a strong belief of mine, so I suppose I’m trying to show that a good tradesperson doesn’t run from his/her problems.

The lead up

I received a call from a client that had had problems with their builder who’d built an extension onto the back of their house. The extension was open plan adjoining two room. These type of extensions are often problematic in relation to keeping the different floors level with each other. In this instance the extension floor was averaging a 20 mm  difference – lower than the adjoining rooms. An engineered floating floor had been installed.

At this point we'd already applied levelling compound which can be seen as the light grey area. A final finish of levelling compound was yet to come.

At this point we’d already applied levelling compound which can be seen as the light grey area. A final finish of levelling compound was yet to come.

After the fourth attempt at rectifying the height difference – baring in mind the floor had been installed and lifted FOUR times and still wasn’t right! My client was justifiably miffed and wanted the floor sorted out properly! The height corrections the builder had done had left the engineered floor bouncing and creaky on each occasion.

The final layer of self levelling compound. At this point the floor was ready to go. After drying out we had just the dpm to install

The final layer of self levelling compound. At this point the floor was ready to go. After drying out we had just the dpm to install

We took the installation on and promptly removed the skirting boards – which had been fitted after the floor – and lifted the engineered floor for the last time. Well, that was the intention! When the floor was removed we took measurements of the difference in heights and set to work installing a latex based self levelling compound, as well as a full spec liquid damp proof membrane. We got the adjoining sub-floors absolutely spot on and consistent with each other, fully expecting the rest of the installation to proceed seamlessly from that point on.

Well, during the period between sorting the sub-floor and re-installing the engineered flooring, I had trapped a nerve in my back and developed sciatica! I was literally lay on my back for two weeks, with a very understanding client keenly awaiting my return. I wasn’t prepared to put anyone else on the job as I absolutely wanted it to be perfect, especially after all the problems my client had been through. It needed my personal attention! After two weeks I was well on the mend but still had pain. I was conscious that this job needed finishing and wanted to get back into action. With my prescribed pain killers in hand and advice from my doctor to keep my back moving – which would help my full recovery, I went back to the job.

Finished! Or was it??!!

Finished! Or was it??!!

The floor went down perfectly! Our sub-floor preparation was excellent. Can you see the sun shining out of me??

The silent leak

It was now time to install the skirting boards. The builder, to his credit, had his plumber sink the radiator pipes into the walls so they were hidden. I love this type of finish. It looks so much better than the pipes being exposed!

However, when we raised the sub-floor, at the same time we obviously raised the engineered floor so the skirting boards now sat higher. I was in the euphoric state of the home run with the completion of this beautiful floor in sight.

All it takes to hit a pipe is a momentary lapse in concentration. The problem with putting a nail through a low lying heating pipe is that you rarely know it’s happened at first. The adverts when you see someone hit a pipe and water sprays out and the offender jumps into panic mode as the jets of water hits his/her face just doesn’t always happen. The nail goes in, not always making a sound. The nail itself acts as a plug, which in turn slows down the rate of water coming out considerably. The silent leak!

Whether it was the euphoria of seeing the finishing line or the painkillers for my back pain, I had a momentary lapse in concentration! I placed a length of skirting board in position and proceeded to drive a nail in the same hole that was used when it was first installed. With hindsight, bad move! The floor had raised and the heating pipe that was well clear of the fixing nails now came into play. When I drove the nail in, I heard nothing, felt nothing. The ticking time bomb had started and I was blissfully unaware. We finished installing the rest of the skirting boards, cleaned up, and left. Everyone was happy and it was a job well done.

Hello! What's that? The first indication of a problem perhaps?

Hello! What’s that? The first indication of a problem perhaps?

Four days later my client sent me this picture.

A blister on the surface of the engineered floor! Needless to say, I was completely confused. How? Why? Faulty flooring perhaps?

I called round the next day to remove the offending plank. What I discovered lurking beneath will be no surprise to you. Water! Puddles of water! We started to remove the floor to find out where the source of the water was coming from and slowly but surely as we peeled back the floor, the penny dropped! The skirting board, the nail, the raised floor, the heating pipe!

It was time to turn the heating off. Repair the heating pipe and start the mop up. Nearly half the engineered floor was warped and buckled due to soaking up the water (Sorry, I didn’t take pictures as I was in a slightly stressed state as you can imagine). Unusable! What a disaster. After all my client had gone through, they must have felt like there wood floor was jinxed.

It was time to purchase more flooring from the supplier, let it acclimate, and get it sorted.

At last!! You can see the join in the skirting board before it was painted. Right behind that join is THE heating pipe. Needless to say, my concentration levels at the point of re-fixing that skirting were peaking!

At last!! Finished and looking good and DRY! You can see the offending radiator in the back ground. A sure sign that there are heating pipes about! Duh!

Here’s the new floor in all it’s glory! I’m so glad that’s over with!

Can I summarize this article? Not really; It’s what happened and I suppose if anything it’s a story telling us that even people with experience can make mistakes and although we try our best to avoid them, we truly can’t learn without them. So if you’re sat in a puddle of water or walking on a squelching floor, it’s time to get your head down and clean up your mess. If the culprit is someone you’ve hired to do the job; before you go for the jugular, give them time to rectify it.

I’d like to wrap this up by thanking my client – Phil and his lovely wife Linda – for being so understanding and taking this epic project in their stride. It was a pleasure to work for you!

P.s. And thanks for the testimonial!!

© Copyright 2014 Wes, All rights Reserved. Written For: Fitmywoodfloor

I am a Pergo trained professional installer of 20 years. I've been up close and personal with lots of floors and have the knobbly knees to show for it...Should you have any questions or comments please feel free to add them below. Thanks for taking the time to call by and I hope the information you've found has given you some insight!........................................................................................................................................................................“When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in the site earning a commission. Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to, the eBay Partner Network,,,,,,, affiliate window network.” This statement is to comply with current internet regulations regarding transparency to consumers.

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