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 Post subject: H-Joint panic
PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2019 11:09 pm 
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TL:DR Version - Are H joints really that bad if the materials and sub floor are good, and the contractor is experienced and has lined up everything perfectly and tightly?

Rundown of the situation: My wife and I have bought our first house, and decided on Cali Bamboo (https://www.calibamboo.com/product-vint ... 04101.html) and cork underlayment for all 2200 sqft, not including the bathrooms. We've been working with a contractor who has a a great resume, photos of his work, and specializes in carpentry and electrical work. He's worked with us before and has always done his best to meet our expectations. He does great work. He even commented on the great quality of the material we bought. A lot of money has gone into the floor and our contractor.

So he finally starts the install (there were delays, not his fault) and gets two and a half bedrooms totally finished in a day. By himself. I take a look, and I think they look magnificent. My wife and baby are at her parent's house while there is painting/flooring/other renovations going on, and I send her wide shots of the rooms. She says they look great. No gaps, parallel to the walls, and it barely squeaks when you walk on it. He works for two more days ripping out carpets, scraping off carpet pads that were glued to the wood subfloor, removing nails, etc, and gets the entire living room and kitchen done. Yesterday and today, he finishes the second living room and dining room. By himself too.

My wife stops by to pick me up, and she walks through to check out the floors. Suddenly, she thinks there's something off, they don't look right. She can't put her finger on it. I'm not sure what she's seeing, but I start to worry.

She calls me later, really upset, saying that our contractor has incorrectly installed the floor. He's used H-joints instead of staggering the planks. She sends me some information from some flooring websites that say H-joints are a bad idea. I look at Cali Bamboo's instructions, and they say to avoid H-joints. Now we're both freaking out. The floor is 2/3 complete, and it'd be insane to have the entire thing pulled up and start over. I call the contractor, and explain what the issue is. He says that every floor he does, even in the new constructions, he uses H-joints for hardwoods/bamboos because it's more secure. He says he's seen staggered patterns start to come apart at corners, start to buckle with time, and never uses them. It would be almost impossible to tear out the floor and relay it without re-buying a lot of material and wasting lots of time, and the contractor insists that the best way to ensure the floor stays put and make it look professional is the way he's done it. He reassures me that it's the best way.

He didn't ask what kind of layout we wanted beyond the direction of the planks when he started, but we also didn't think to ask. I installed our floors in our downstairs, but with cheaper materials (laminate), and I also had no idea what I was doing when I started. I staggered the planks.

I start doing research online, trying to sort out professional opinions by real professionals apart from those by random people, and trying to figure out why the H-joint is so terrible. I look back at the install instructions for Cali bamboo, it says that the H-joint should be avoided for "aesthetic reasons". Photos of H-joints falling apart on the internet look like they were installed by someone who had no idea what they were doing in the first place (even I could tell, and I'm an utter novice).

H-joints seem to be a big problem with laminates and vinyl flooring, which apparently are more likely to separate if that racking is used. But with hardwoods and bamboos, especially higher quality materials, it seems that H-joints are fine as long as they are consistent and intentional.

Here's the thing: I can't find any reason the H-joint is terrible beyond "some people don't like how it looks". We have a good sub floor, good underlayment, good materials, and a contractor with a lot of experience who has thus far placed immaculate H-joints through 2/3 of the house. I mean perfect H-joints. The plank ends all line up within tiny fractions of an inch, every other plank. You can't see the variations unless your face is on the floor looking at a string drawn straight across the room, and then you might see a plank or two slightly to one side or the other of the string. This is consistent in all four main areas of the house, plus the bedrooms, and even under pocket doors.

Did my wife and I freak out over nothing? I feel like my opinion swung from "the floors look great!" to "everything is hot garbage" because some websites and an install guide said it looks bad, and that I may have panicked my contractor as well.


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 Post subject: Re: H-Joint panic
PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2019 8:31 am 
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I'd be more concerned with the squeaks that you mentioned.


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 Post subject: Re: H-Joint panic
PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2019 12:06 pm 
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The squeaks are from the subfloor, not the planks, and were pre-existing. He's gone and re-stapled and re-nailed all the squeaks he could find, and any remaining are from the actual structure of the wood underneath, which he will get to later from underneath using the drop ceiling in the basement. With the work he's done, the squeaks are greatly reduced from when the entire place had wall to wall carpeting of various types.


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 Post subject: Re: H-Joint panic
PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2019 10:31 pm 
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There is usually a reason to follow installation instructions. The reason not to follow instructions that your worker brought up just doesn't make any sense at all. Sometimes since there was some success on the last job no one takes the time to read anything that comes in the package. Now instructions usually come in three or four languages.
For a solid oak floor a reason to stagger the joints is because the floor will be stronger. With a good sub-floor that is fastened well and does not have any squeaks and little deflection,
strength is not much of an issue. Concrete floors do not have this issue either.
For me, the reason would be to have as little waste as I can. The last board's cut-off can be used for the starter in the beginning of the next row. This may not be an issue if the material is being provided by another.


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 Post subject: Re: H-Joint panic
PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2019 3:12 pm 
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No pro uses H Joints unless specified by some crazy designer. It looks horrible to see H Joints running across the room.

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Stephen Perrera
Top Floor Installation Co.
Tucson, Arizona
Floor Repairs and Installation in Tucson, Az
http://www.tucsonazflooring.com


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 Post subject: Re: H-Joint panic
PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2019 7:49 am 
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Mechanically, the floor should be fine.

Aesthetically, I think it looks terrible. Same with the stair step pattern that sometimes comes up when all your boards are the same length (like laminate)


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