Your Place: Cork floors are bubbling in new condo's basement

Posted: December 02, 2011

Question: I recently bought a new construction condo in which the living room and master bedroom are in the basement level.

The developer/builder installed cork flooring down there and already the tiles are bubbling up. The unit next door has the same issue.

The home inspection showed no moisture in the walls. so I suspect it is related to it being laid down on concrete. I have a one-year warranty and I'd like to know what the solution would be, what to expect of the builder/developer in terms of fulfilling the warranty.

Will different glue help or should they lay down a subflooring over the cork and put something else on top of it?

Answer: If the builder is still in business and building condos, I would not hestitate to call and tell him about the problem. I'd also carefully read the one-year warranty first to see what it actually covers.

You say the home inspector found no evidence of moisture in the walls, but there is the matter of a rising water table to contend with, even in new construction.

If the cork was installed on a porous concrete floor, the unglued seams of the cork could absorb water. The planks can swell and warp because of it. The floor also expands and contracts with changes in the weather, so proper installation is required to keep that to a minimum.

Although I am considering putting a small cork floor in our basement exercise area, I've not yet worked with it. It is a very expensive material, however, and messing up the installation is a gigantic waste of money.

If I went with the cork, I'd probably put down the same DRIcore subfloor I'm putting in my basement office, though what I've read about cork flooring is that you need to cover the concrete slab with 6-mil polyethylene sheeting and run it about three inches up the wall.

I gather, in your case, it wasn't done that way.

Call the builder.

Q: Any suggestions for a freezer door that doesn't stay closed? Rubber appears to be in good shape.

A: A door hinge out of alignment is another possibility.

From the Nov. 14 "Ask Al" chat on philly.com:

Q: I recently (accidentally) broke off my toilet paper holder in my bathroom. It appeared to be stuck into the wall with caulk or mortar. Any idea what the best solution is to fix this? Do I remove all existing mortar from the wall and add new material to get this to stick?

A: The tile adhesive on the piece still stuck to the wall likely hides screws that hold it to studs behind it (the fixture looks ceramic, so there is weight that needs to be accommodated).

I know this only because I did something like this last week: Remove the adhesive on the back of the piece on the wall carefully (I used a cold chisel but found that a nail set gently tapped with a rubber hammer did the job better); replace the adhesive with new; re-embed the fixture, and tape it in place with masking tape until the adhesive sets completely.

It should work.

Q: We live in an East Falls rowhouse, and we have higher than acceptable radon levels in our basement. We knew it when we bought the home two years ago.

We now have a 3-month-old baby and are thinking about taking care of the radon. How important is radon mitigation?

A: It depends on whom you ask. Some experts will say it is much ado about nothing; others say it poses increased cancer risks.

It seems to be an issue that usually appears as part of a home-sale transaction. The seller is asked to come up with money to take care of the problem down the road, after a lengthy radon test is conducted and the results are received.

From what real estate agents tell me and what I've seen, the buyer takes the money and does absolutely nothing until it is time to sell the house again.

I'd ask your pediatrician about the risk to your baby over the long term, and then proceed from there. They do change the levels of what is acceptable periodically, so it is best to seek out the most current information available.


Questions? E-mail Alan J. Heavens at aheavens@phillynews.com or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies. He is the author of "Remodeling on the Money" (Kaplan Publishing).

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