Whenever we’re about to undertake a hardwood flooring project, we always turn first to Lumber Liquidators. We’ve found them to be helpful, and we really prefer and recommend their Bellawood product. If you’ve been reading here for some time, you probably remember that we installed more than 1000 sq. ft. of their Bellawood Brazilian Walnut product last Summer in our own home.
A good friend of ours is currently remodeling a townhome rental to get it ready for sale. We recommended he check out the local Lumber Liquidators (official site) in person as they have good prices and we’ve found their customer service to be pretty good. He ultimately selected LL’s Casa de Color product line (a less expensive alternative to Bellawood). Specifically, he picked a medium-tone stained maple hardwood that ran about $3.00/sq. ft.
Upon beginning the installation in the rental, he noticed that the butt joint bevels between the boards looked strange. Some of them were really dark, while others were really light. It didn’t look like the uniform hardwood he had expected.
Upon closer examination, it appears that the cause of the problem is a stain alignment issue on the boards. Take a look at these photos.
Casa de Color Hardwood Flooring Pictures
You can see that the board on the left has a deep black bevel, while the board on the right has a white, unstained bevel. Our best guess is that the machine that applies the stain/sealer wasn’t properly aligned.
Here’s another shot with the boards stacked one-on-top of the next:
And here’s how it looks when the boards are next to one another. You can definitely see the unstained edge in this picture:
My buddy took the product back to Lumber Liquidators and explained the issue. He had already laid 5 rows before realizing the quality error in the boards. Unfortunately, the store manager there said that everything looked OK to him, and asserted that he would “install this in his own home”. As a result, he would not take the product back.
I was surprised, since our experience with Lumber Liquidators has been very good, and this is clearly a problem with the boards that will be visible on the entire floor. I would not lay this product in my own home and recommended that he try again with the store or corporate.
Update Feb 16, 2011: Our friend took a series of pictures and forwarded them to Lumber Liquidators, who ultimately offered him several resolutions: (1) he keeps all the product and receives a direct credit of a large portion of the cost (about 1/2); (2) he returns the unopened boxes (less than half are unopened at this point) and receives a store credit for the full cost of all materials; or, (3) he returns the unopened boxes and receives a cash refund only for those boxes.
Perhaps the best resolution would have been a full cash refund for returning all the wood whether opened or not. However, we recognize the balance that Lumber Liquidators must strike in this situation. The question is whether or not everyone would view this defect the same way (is it just an annoyance or does it make the hardwoods truly uninstallable – that’s a question that doesn’t have an easy answer). We think the options they propose are reasonably good.
Ultimately, our friend chose to take the discount and to work through the installation the best he could with the defect… this was the most cost effective option for him given the time constraints he faces.
Examine Hardwoods Before You Start Installation
Hardwoods are a rather permanent addition to a house. If you’re taking the DIY route to install a hardwood floor, we highly recommend inspecting the product before you start to lay it down. Check for board uniformity, and if you’ve picked a stained product, make sure the stain adequately covers the whole top of the board and the bevel edges.
We’ll keep this article updated with the final resolution. I am confident that with good pictures that show the problem, it will be more obvious and LL will make it right!