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Bryan Baeumler – Spring weather can make your floors mov

We moved into our Linwood custom home in the country 10 years ago. The kitchen floor is red oak — from a tree on our cottage property. The wide plank flooring was laid and pegged by a local tradesman, but they had trouble laying it without gaps.I went to the hardware store; asked all the questions and was advised to buy Saman latex wood filler (tinted) to match the floor. The product cracked and left gaps. Is there a caulking product you could suggest that would stay pliable and fill the gaps?
Louise D., Marmora, Ont.

Well Louise, this is one of the reasons why engineered hardwood flooring was developed. That’s basically just a veneer of hardwood on top and a plywood base underneath, which is a lot more resistant to expanding and contracting.

The problem with the wide plank of red oak is that there’s going to be a lot of movement, especially during the summer. When we get into winter, there’s less moisture in the air. It sucks the moisture out of the wood, making it shrink. In the summer, the humidity is higher, so that wood is going to absorb some moisture and grow.

So the first thing I’d suggest is that in the winter you should crank up the humidity in the house. And in the summer, you may have to put a dehumidifier in to reduce the amount that the floor shrinks. The problem with filling those gaps, because there’s going to be so much movement, is there’s nothing that will perfectly absorb that moisture and stop it. In the winter, you’ll see some gaps and it’s something you’ll have to constantly maintain. The wide plank, solid hardwood flooring is a tough customer when it comes to expansion and contraction. There’s no way to control it apart from controlling the humidity level in your home. It’s a beautiful floor but it’s tough to deal with. That’s just the way the red oak crumbles.

Hi Bryan! A couple of times in the life of our 45-year-old house, water has come up through the basement floor, due to a periodically high water table. This has left cracks in the basement concrete floor and walls, which also show signs of mould. I’m currently trying to remove the mould with a natural concrobium mould-control product. However, what is the solution for sealing the cracks in the concrete floor and walls? Your help would be much appreciated! (LOVE your House in the Sticks show!)
Joanne, Kawartha Lakes

Thanks, Joanne! The cracks in your basement floors won’t necessarily be caused by a high water table. You’re always going to get cracks in the basement pad — concrete’s a rigid material and when it moves around, it’ll crack. The mould is what concerns me a little more. You can certainly seal the cracks in the concrete floor with hydraulic cement—when it comes into contact with water, the chemistry of the cement seals itself so water doesn’t come through that patch. Now that’s not to say you won’t get some moisture that comes up through the rest of the concrete, the walls, etc. And that’s not going to be a solution for you.

Cleaning the mould is one thing, but if you’ve got water that’s coming up, I’d recommend taking a look at your sump pump. Ideally, if that water table comes up, the pump would go on and remove that water from the foundation. So if that pump is working, you should never have water coming through the walls or up through the pad. The cracks, if they’re small hairline ones, are really not much of an issue. The key is, if you’ve got water coming through your foundation, that, unfortunately, is something you may have to solve from the outside — waterproofing that whole thing from the exterior. That could mean digging and exposing the concrete foundation, putting a waterproofing membrane on it and sealing it that way. Direct everything into a weeping tile that will bring the water away from the house. If you’ve got mould on that basement pad, it sounds like your water table was too high for an extended period of time. The only way you get mould growing is through consistent moisture.

Hi Bryan: We are renovating our kitchen and putting in new four-inch LED lighting in an insulated ceiling. It appears that there are two types of units: One where the complete unit is an all-in-one assembly; the other which has a base unit and then an LED unit that screws into the socket in the base. Which one — or both — meets Ontario’s Electrical Code?
D. Clark, Caledon, Ont.

Well, D., that really depends on the unit itself. But if you’re putting new pot lights in a ceiling that’s insulated, they’ll definitely need to be IC pot lights, which are rated for insulation contact. If you put a regular retrofit light in there, firstly, the insulation will warm that light up and it will flicker; they have a thermocouple in that shuts the light off to cool it down when it gets too hot. But the other thing is, that’s not a sealed unit. So when you puncture your ceiling, you’re going through the vapour barrier and you’ll actually have air escape through that pot light up into the insulated area as well. Pot lights need a certain amount of space around them to breathe and operate, except for those IC pot lights. Those are designed to be vapour barrier-compliant, which allows the insulation to go right up against them.

My recommendation for you is to speak to a licensed master electrician. They can point you toward the lights that will make sense, and help you install them in a way that they’re safe.

Hi Bryan: Despite repeated requests to return and adjust the door hinges on a newly installed steel door, we’ve been ignored by the contractor. The result is a nice door that swings wide open against the door stop if left open more than a couple of inches. Is this an adjustment for a DIY’er? If so, how should I shim up the hinges? Thanks in advance for your help.
Ron C., Scarborough

Hi Ron. If a door is installed properly and the frame is square, plumb, level and not twisted, then the door shouldn’t swing open or close. The door should just stay where it is, no matter whether you’ve opened it halfway or a couple of inches. It sounds to me like the hinge side of the door may not be plumb. If the hinge side is leaning out, the door will swing in whichever direction the top of that door frame with the hinges attached to it is leaning.

Now, if that wall itself isn’t perfectly plumb and you’ve installed the door flush with the wall, that’s your issue right there. You can adjust that by moving the hinges slightly, but the problem there is the hinges already have the holes for the screws, so it’s very hard to move the hinge a 16th of an inch. What you want to do there is take the hinge off, fill the holes and adjust it that way.

The first thing you’ll want to do is grab a level and check to see the door is perfectly plumb on the hinge side. Some doors have adjustable hinges on them, but it doesn’t sound like yours does. If the frame is indeed twisted, take the trim off and adjust the frame itself — don’t adjust the door. Otherwise, try to get another door installer to come over and fix it. See if you can back charge the original installer!

Hi, Bryan. Thank you for your column! I bought my 1926 semi 17 years ago. The previous owner had Armstrong linoleum installed in the kitchen with some kind of black glue or adhesive. A few years ago, someone told me that glues used back then had asbestos in them and that removing the linoleum would release asbestos dust. I really want a new kitchen floor. Is the better thing to simply cover the linoleum?Jean R., Toronto

You’re welcome, Jean! It’s very possible that the adhesive or linoleum itself contains asbestos. Typically, that’s referred to as ‘non-friable’ material — meaning as long as you don’t turn it into a dust by using a power saw or grinder or sander on it, those asbestos fibres are locked into the material and won’t collapse. So just scraping it with something or pulling the tiles up won’t release the dust. But of course, it’s still a good idea to whet it down and wear a mask.

You certainly can cover over the floor, depending on the type of floor that’s going down. But I like to remove things as well. Of course, removing that black adhesive would very hard. Normally, they’d use a power scraper, which is a blade that moves very quickly and will scrape that stuff up off the floor. But before you do any of that, go to BaeumlerApproved.com and find an environmental remediation company that can come in, take a sample of it, have it tested and put your mind at ease, one way or another. Once you know whether it contains asbestos or not, then you can make a decision. You’ve got to know what you’re dealing with before you can decide what you’re going to do!