Signs of a Bad Hardwood Floor Installation

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signs of a bad hardwood floor installation

Hardwood flooring is one of the most durable and classically beautiful flooring types. 

Whether you are looking for a rustic look or a modern feel, hardwood flooring can deliver. There are so many different options available to you and so many looks you can achieve. 

However, the most important aspect of a hardwood floor is the installation. 

Without a high-quality installation, your floor won’t enhance your home like it should. Instead, it can make the house look unfinished and ruin a perfectly good interior. 

Whether you have recently had a floor installed or have just moved into a home, it’s important to recognize quality. If your floor has not been properly installed, you must take steps to fix it. 

A bad hardwood floor installation can cause aesthetic issues as well as safety problems. 

In this article, we have laid out all the signs of a bad hardwood floor installation. 

Some of the most prominent signs include: 

  • Large gaps between planks
  • Sanding marks
  • Buckling in the wood
  • Wood debris in the finish

Knowing these signs can help you act quickly and replace your floor when the time comes. 

Why is a Bad Hardwood Floor Installation a Problem? 

why is a bad hardwood floor installation a problem

One of the problems with a bad hardwood floor installation is what it means for the rest of the work. 

If you can see at least one problem with your new floor, the odds are good there will be other issues. These can range from simple cosmetic problems to serious structural issues

If you are seeing problems with your floor installation, it is a good idea to get the whole thing checked out. This will let you rest easy knowing that your floor is safe and secure. 

It is also worth knowing that you should not have to settle for a poor installation. Hardwood flooring is expensive and it should be immaculate if you are going to get enjoyment from it. 

Paying money for a hardwood flooring installation means that you should expect some quality. 

If it doesn’t look as beautiful as you want, it should be replaced as soon as possible. Hardwood flooring requires craftsmanship and patience and needs to be of good quality. 

Large Gaps 

One of the most common signs of a bad hardwood floor installation is large gaps between planks. 

Large gaps in your flooring can cause drafts as well as structural problems. The individual planks of your floor should be completely sealed with no space between them. 

This is usually the result of not letting the planks acclimate to the room. Wood is a very malleable material and is sensitive to moisture and temperature. 

Before the floor is installed, it will need to sit in the room for at least 72 hours. 

This will allow the wood to expand or contract as much as it is going to in the room. Then, the floor can be installed without worrying about gaps. 

It is also a good idea to install the floor during the driest time of the year. This way, the wood will not contract and create gaps in the floor. 

Sanding Blemishes 

When your floor is refinished, it will need to be sanded to get rid of the old top coat. 

This is a very sensitive procedure and will need to be done by an experienced craftsman. If the sanding goes down too far, it can cause blemishes and marks that are unsightly. 

Making sure that your sanding and refinishing are done correctly is a crucial part of floor installation. 

If you are going to do the sanding yourself, be sure to use a light grade of sandpaper. This will ensure that you don’t put divots or gouges in the wood. 

You want to remove the finish but you don’t want to sand down into the wood. 

Going too far can cause inconsistencies when the floor is refinished and dries. Sand just enough to remove the top coat and work slowly so that you don’t cause issues. 



Your hardwood floor is made up of several different planks that need to be seated correctly. 

If they are not given enough room, they will expand with the moisture in the room. Just like with the gaps in the floor, you also don’t want the planks to get too swollen. 

When the floor changes size and expands, it can cause buckling and bumps on the surface. 

To avoid this, the installer will need to make sure the floor has an expansion gap. This goes between the floor and the walls and needs to be between 10 and 15 millimeters. 

Debris in the Finish

Your floor’s finish should be completely smooth with no inconsistencies or bumps. 

If the installer does not completely clean the floor before finishing it, you could end up with issues. Debris and dust can make their way into the top coat and cause a rough surface. 

When you have a floor installed, be sure that it is as smooth as possible. 

This will ensure that the surface is comfortable and that no one will get hurt on it. Debris can be dangerous and if any makes its way onto the surface, it will need to be removed. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

faq signs of a bad hardwood floor installation

Why do my floors creak and pop?

Floors creak and pop when the joists start to wear out. While a little bit of noise isn’t an issue, if it gets worse, you may need to get it inspected. 

This can especially be an issue if your flooring is above a basement or crawlspace. 

How do you know if flooring is safe?

If your floor feels sturdy and comfortable, it is most likely safe to walk on. As long as it isn’t dipping or swaying, you shouldn’t have any issues. 

If you are unsure about your floor, it may be a good idea to have a home inspector look at it. 

Can you walk on hardwood floors after installation?

After your floors have been installed, it is best to let them completely cure. The finish can take a while before it is fully and completely dried. 

Ask your installer what they recommend when it comes to walking on your floors after they are finished. 


If your flooring isn’t as beautiful as it should be, it is a good idea to get it fixed. Hardwood floors last for many years, so it is essential that you make sure you are happy with them. 

Knowing the signs of a bad hardwood floor installation can help you determine if yours should be fixed. 

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Michael J. O’Connor is a writer and marketing specialist from the Bay Area of California. A graduate of Sonoma State’s Creative Writing program, he spent many years as a contractor and carpet layer, learning the ins and outs of flooring and general contracting. When he’s not typing away at his desk, he enjoys hiking with his dogs, woodworking and collecting rare books. See full biography here.

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