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Home » Troubleshooting/Inspections » White spots on Prefinished Brazilian Cherry

For problem floors and inspection-related issues.
11/21/2011 5:13:03 PM

Hina
Hina
Posts: 5
I'm hoping I can get some advice from the experts in this forum. I had Prefinished Brazilian Cherry floors installed (glue down over concrete slab) in my home at the end of 2009. Several months later, I noticed some white discoloration on some of the boards. It was not confined to a particular area but was throughout the house. About a year after it was installed, I brought the salesperson in to look at it to get his opinion. He said to let him know if I wanted to make a claim and he would start the process. At the time, I wasn't sure it was noticeable enough to trouble with a claim. However, after another year, the wood had darkened to such a degree that the discoloration was very noticeable. I also noticed that it was very widespread, with many boards being affected. The manufacturer sent out an inspector to determine the problem.

The inspector came out and took moisture readings and assessed the floor. I asked him if he knew what the problem could be, since it had no characteristics (in my opinion) of water or moisture damage. There is no buckling or cupping of the floors, or dark discoloration that would indicate water. He said he knew what the problem was but couldn't tell me. I remember telling him that I thought the discoloration was probably there when it was installed but wasn't apparent, then as the floor darkened it became noticeable. About a month letter I get a letter from the distributor saying that based on the inspection, the manufacturer had determined that the white discoloration was caused by moisture and was not covered under the warranty. In the inspector's report, he gave the moisture content of the floor and slab and relative humidity of the home. The white discoloration that I had mentioned was characterized as "uneven wear". He then stated that the conditions were a result of "both elevated moisture levels as well as envionmental (sic) conditions." There was no mention of what the acceptable moisture levels were, or HOW the damage was caused by the moisture.

I'm upset because I believe the inspector is either biased for the manufacturer or unqualified to be wood flooring inspector. He apparently is certified by the IICRC. I've included some pictures to hopefully get some opinions on the cause of the discoloration. It is noticeable throughout the house, obviously more in areas where the wood has had more exposure to sunlight. One board can be discolored and a board right next to it will be perfect. Is is possible for this to be caused by moisture in the slab?

I would appreciate any advice on this matter. I apologize for the lengthy post, but I wanted to provide as much info as possible. I've remodeled several homes and have used this particular product twice before with no problems.

[floor_1.JPG]att1[/floor_1.JPG] [floor_2.JPG]att2[/floor_2.JPG]

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11/21/2011 6:19:11 PM

TDMAC
TDMAC
Posts: 1323
Over my 40 years I have seen this numerous times, especially in the last 20 yrs. Is is possible for this to be caused by moisture in the slab? your question
That is the answer in my opinion. Moisture in the slab may not have been properly checked with calcium chloride tests or a Tramex Moisture encounter meter like I have used for 20 yrs. ; successfully. The wood, looks like engineered product glued over the slab has slowly been invaded by moisture trying to 'evaporate' through the flooring. The moisture process is very slow,( that is why the flooring doesn't buckle) but most likely the dark spots are from mold. The flooring , being multi ply construction is very stable and hard to buckle also. A simple wood moisture meter will show that ( see picture attached)
I have seen this many times when some installer thinks that the Urethane adhesive is a moisture barrier! IT IS NOT!! The moisture vapor will penetrate the wood right though that glue sometimes very slowly.
The manufacturer is NOT at fault for the finish flaking off showing the whitish appearance, or mold black spots in my opinion.. That finish is flaking and breaking its bond with the wood as the wood fibers swell . This looks to me a classic problem of moisture in the slab being too high.
NOW why is there moisture in the slab; and why did this take so long to show??? Tough question. The moisture in the slab may have been too high originally to install this flooring over it. WAS the moisture in the slab test checked??
I will tell you that moisture in a slab can come from the water table around the slab being trapped by 'hard pan". the yard can slope toward the slab. That gets the slab wet from under and that moisture will through osmosis, want to evaporate! It will evaporate through carpet & pad. In the old days before testing meters, we laid a solid black mat, plastic or something over the slab 3ft x3ft. for 73 hrs. If the slab showed wet....It was! That was called the Matt test.

Secondly, there is the possibility of a broken waterline under the slab. Any good plumber can do a leak down and tell you if that is happening!! The real good plumber can also find the pipe and show the exact cause of the moisture, if that is the cause
Remember that all slabs have some moisture. Most all manufacturers of engineered flooring state in each box with instructions to the installer the maximum moisture allowed to glue to the slab. That amount is usually stated as 3 points on a Tramex and calcium chloride test. If higher than that a MOISTURE MEMBRANE MUST BE used.

I hate to throw any installer under the bus but that seems to be the common situation. No moisture testing. I could be wrong, yet it is a prevalent problem; especially with the urethane adhesive fallacy of being a moisture membrane.
What state are you in?
Hope this helps.

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11/21/2011 8:23:19 PM

Stephen Perrera
Stephen Perrera
Posts: 1005
You should get your own inspection done.

The white discoloration that I had mentioned was characterized as "uneven wear".


Wow, after only one year? Carpet cleaner inspectors, jeez.
I have heard this species is not good for radiant heat due to calcification, can slowly migrate to the surface just under the finish and looks like white spots.

Is there radiant heat in the slab?




..
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11/21/2011 9:59:20 PM

Hina
Hina
Posts: 5
Thanks for all your comments! To answer some questions:

First, I didn't mean to imply that there was a darkening of the floor in terms of the moisture, I meant that the Cherry wood darkened from it's lighter state to a much deeper red color, where the white marks became more noticeable. There are no dark spots on the floor, just white marks. Also, it is my understanding that the installer DID test for moisture. They let me know that they were installing some sort of underlayment (I don't know what kind, though) in some rooms since they did some tests. I don't know if they did in all the rooms, though. The white spots show up in all rooms, distributed throughout the floor in a random fashion. There is no flaking off of the finish to the touch, the white spots appear to be a result of the finish and the wood separating under the "topcoat".

We did do a hydrostatic line test of the plumbing system before we moved in, so at that time and as far as I'm aware, there are no leaks under the house. Also, the pattern of discoloration does not correspond with any plumbing lines under the house. There is no sloping towards the slab, and I live in Texas, which is in the middle of a terrible drought. This problem started before the drought, though.

There is no radiant heat under the wood. If this is caused by moisture escaping the slab, why is one plank damaged with the discoloration and the damage literally stops at the end of the plank and doesn't continue to the plank next to it? (See pics in my original post).

I agree that it would be a good idea to get my own inspection. I also wanted to get some opinions here to see if they agreed with the original inspector before I had someone else come to look at it.

I did some research and came across something called "silica spots" which apparently is a problem with Brazilian Cherry wood- the pictures that I've seen look exactly like the damage I have, and the characteristics are the same as well, often showing up when the cherry color of the floor deepens from the sun. It is apparently NOT a result of moisture, but resin in the wood. Has anyone heard of this?

Something I forgot to mention- I have some extra boards that were not installed that appear to have this same white discoloration- they have been in my garage so not in a controlled climate environment like the installed flooring. I also have a couple of sealed boxes left over from the original installation that I'm curious to see if they have the discoloration as well. If this was from the moisture in the floor, how would uninstalled planks have the same damage? Would moisture in the air cause the same damage to an loose plank?

One other question, the flooring was moisture tested two times, once when the distributor came out to do the preliminary report for my claim, and the other time was when the inspector came out to do the official inspection. I noticed that the holes drilled by the inspector were right next to the previous holes drilled a few weeks earlier. Would this affect the test? Wouldn't moisture get into the plank from the previously drilled holes and throw off the reading? I'm not sure how the testing works.

Thanks again for everyone's expertise!
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11/21/2011 10:26:02 PM

TDMAC
TDMAC
Posts: 1323
No mold spots? Just color darkening. Yup, that is Brazilian cherry. You need an expert to examine the floor, especially since moisture is out of the situation.
The picture you sent was deceiving. It looked like raised grain causing the finish to release.That I have seen. Good luck, back with manufacturer, Is is BR!!!???
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11/22/2011 9:38:06 PM

Hina
Hina
Posts: 5
Yes, that's correct- no dark spots on the floor at all, just the white marks on random boards throughout the house. The finish above the marks is perfect, no cracks or anything. I've included another picture of a different area, sorry if the other ones were misleading. You can see a line going across the grain. The manufacturer is Timbercreek/Earthwerks. I've used them several times before and never had a problem, but I'm very disappointed in their denial of responsibility and the inspector that they sent out.

Attachments:
floor_3.jpg
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11/23/2011 1:04:23 PM

Sean Stewart
Sean Stewart
Posts: 8
I cannot tell for sure from the pictures, but you could be looking at a very common occurrence with Jatoba/Brazilian Cherry, white silica. If the areas look like spilled milk on the surface, there is a high probability this is the issue. From the pictures it is difficult to say without a doubt. Silica is a natural feature of Jatoba as in many other species, but in Jatoba when it is finished, it creates this white veining in the grain and does grow over time. It would be further highlighted over time as the floor darkens which you note. This silica is in the wood and visually identifiable in unfinished material. It should not be included in first quality production, but there are different perspectives on whether or not this constitutes a claim today due to manufacturers many disclaiming this in literature. As a direct container importer of tropical species from South America, Stewart Floor LLC does not accept this silica and it is taken out at my suppliers. I have also learned this years ago due to a claim and a manufacturer of mine at the time stating it wasn't possible to see this, I learned this statement was in fact incorrect during a visit to Brazil. I also experienced this in a Jatoba floor which was manufactured in Asia in a condo I purchased from a developer. This is still an issue where the industry needs to learn to look for this if in fact it is in the material prior to it being installed. There is no solution for removing this silica in a natural finish other than replacing the planks.
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11/23/2011 4:08:35 PM

30plusyr
30plusyr
Posts: 6
I have had silica show up in floors we have sight finished and pre- finished products but it is usually yellow in color not white. My supplier had a rep from the mill come out to are job site to look at about 8 years ago and told us at the time that the silica appears in about 5% of every 1000 board feet of material and spots can get larger over time as it bleeds up over time.Here in seattle are floors are usually done with oil modified finish that could be why it appears yellow instead of white.please note that a older slab may show low moisture or none at all during certain times of the year so do not be so quick to blame a installer because if he did test for it and it was dry at the time it is not his fault. water can change flow pattern under ground at any time where a slab can be dry for years then become wet suddenly,I have seen this occur many times.
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11/24/2011 1:31:50 AM

Sofiaeva
Sofiaeva
Posts: 2
Our Natural Brazilian Cherry hardwood flooring is distinguished by it's unique variations of brownish-red tones with black streaking, though the heartwood can also show colors ranging from light brown and pink to dark orange.
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11/28/2011 1:28:13 PM

samim
samim
Posts: 13
These, I believe this is face filler coming out the early portions of the wood. I have seen it before. We had some photos and boards cut from an installaion at one of the NICFI conventions. That is a group carpet and flooring inspectors. The IICRC, now Clean Trust, does train wood, tile, marble and carpet inspectors. Veteran NWFA inspectors such as Claudia Lazell and Fred Gamble do a lot of the training. In fact, the NWFA and old NOFMA were patterned on the IICRC inspection classes which started in the early 70's. Regardless this is considered manufacturing related in my opinion.
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11/29/2011 9:25:12 AM

Dan Levin
Dan Levin
Posts: 12
Too much speculation. The only way to determine what it is is to have it tested - independent lab or Univ of Wisconsin. I had one (inspection) 2 years ago very similar only over wood - did not blame the installer - knew it had to be manufacturing related as (it) showed up 1 month after installation in the uninstalled attic stock. I left it up to the manufacturer to have it tested and make the call - do not know the results.
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11/30/2011 3:54:16 PM

ccoffer
ccoffer
Posts: 1
It's a frustrating phenomenon with Jatoba. There's no known way to grade for it either. It's some silica junk that sometimes shows up in the wood after the fact. It can be months or years after installation. I don't know of any manufacturer who will call it a defect. It's simply a characteristic of that species.

Best,
Chuck Coffer
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11/30/2011 3:58:16 PM

Sean Stewart
Sean Stewart
Posts: 8
This isn't true Chuck. If in fact it is the silica, this is clearly noticeable at the time of grading in raw form. Putting finish on it accentuates it and with time it increasingly becomes worse. Whether or not a manufacturer warrants it or it is pulled out during installation or not, doesn't mean it is not noticeable. I learned this the hard way years ago and was clearly shown during a trip to Brazil visiting my suppliers that you can see it and that they were actively grading for it.
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11/30/2011 10:07:29 PM

Hina
Hina
Posts: 5
Thanks again for everyone's comments regarding my problem. I'm pretty confident that the problem seems to be the silica spots that were mentioned by several people here. I found some pictures online and they are very similar if not identical to the problems that have developed in my floor.

First of all, I'm concerned by the apparent inability of the inspector hired by the manufacturer to correctly diagnose the problem. There seemed to be a knee-jerk reaction to find the cause as moisture related, even though none of the characteristics resembled moisture damage in any way. He is either unaware of the occurrence of silica spots in Brazilian Cherry wood, or he made a biased judgement since he was hired by the manufacturer. It seems like silica spots are a known problem in this species of wood. How could he not know about this? Either scenario is a cause for concern.

To Sean and Chuck, in my (limited) experience with this, I think you both may be right. I'm sure this is a problem that can be spotted in finished wood and some of the more obvious planks are graded out, however, I think that there are some instances where the spots are very subtle and not easily seen in wood that has not yet darkened. I can assure you that I didn't see any problems in the floor after the wood was installed, it was only 6 months to a year later that I noticed some discoloration. And believe me, I am the type of person that would notice something like this. As I mentioned before, I brought the sales rep in to look at it with me and was deciding whether the white spots were noticeable enough to warrant having it fixed. As the floor continued to deepen from the sun exposure, the spots stood out more and more.

I looked at my warranty and there is no mention of silica spots. I had not even heard of them before I had this problem, and this is the third Brazilian Cherry floor that I have had installed (the other floors were in other houses, of course, not this one!). The assertion by other manufacturers that this is a "natural" feature of the wood and is not a basis for a claim is absurd. It is clearly an undesirable characteristic. How can manufacturers expect installers to grade out these defective pieces of wood if they themselves are unable to see the (perhaps nonexistent) spots at the mill? Who is responsible for replacing the defective pieces? I certainly don't think I should have to pay as a consumer. I don't think it's the responsibility of the installer either. They should not install pieces that are clearly defective, but what if the defect is not obvious at the time? I think that the responsibility lies with the manufacturer.

What would the proper "repair" be- does the whole floor need to be replaced or can the damaged boards be replaced individually? I estimate about 30-35% of the floor has the damage. Someone was really sleeping on the job at the mill if those boards were noticeably defective and they made it past the grading process.
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12/1/2011 7:14:39 AM

David Harrison
David Harrison
Moderator
Posts: 437
The silica spots I have seen in the past were on Doussie, a pinkish red African species. The spots had more of the appearance of a liquid being dropped in different areas....small out of round spots. They did not follow the grain pattern as you would expect with a natural occurrence. I was told the silica was introduced to the wood at the initial sawing stage. The pictures you submitted look more like damage to the finish as opposed to silica contamination.
edited by dharrison on 12/1/2011
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12/1/2011 11:41:03 AM

johannes
johannes
Posts: 410
Silica streaks are not uncommon in BC and this is publicized on the web. Not everybody in our industry is aware of it or knows what it is though. Sean is spot-on with his reply.

See the below attached links to clear up any doubt about the sublect (specially the silica policy).

Johannes.

http://www.castroefilhos.pt/en/index.php?a=produtos&b=brasileiras&c=jatoba
http://www.stewartfloor.com/species-types/brazilian-cherry-jatoba/
http://www.roblumco.com/Silica_policy.pdf
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12/1/2011 1:10:14 PM

David Harrison
David Harrison
Moderator
Posts: 437
Thanks for the info Johannes.....my experience with the visual of silica is obviously limited.....only seen it in an African species and it just looked a lot different..........I've sold and seen a lot of Brazilian Cherry but never seen the silica streaks....... :-)
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12/5/2011 12:00:16 PM

Robert Middleton
Robert Middleton
Posts: 3
Chuck and Sean are correct.

During the manufacturing process (milling & finishing), if and when the whitish silica spots are plainly visible, then individual effected boards are routinely graded out. It should be stated that this occurrence is not limited to Brazilian Cherry only, other exotic species like Walnuts and Teaks can also later manifest these whitish spots. The current wood science understanding is that (calcification/whitish silica spots and mineral streaks) are naturally occurring characteristics related to species. Therefore, both the positive and negative beauty of wood; especially with the exotics are the result of deposits or formations derived from nutrient rich or poor soils and trace minerals. Manufacturers and installers can only cull-out what is readily apparent at the time of handling. It has been noticed well after installation, that certin species do not react well when in service over radiant heat or in sun-rooms with sustained high heat or constant UV exposure. Because of the nuances of some species, most manufacturers are more than willing to provide installers and customers with best recommendations regarding species specific selections and application practices.
edited by Bob Middleton on 12/5/2011
edited by Bob Middleton on 12/5/2011
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12/7/2011 3:25:44 PM

floordoc808
floordoc808
Posts: 19
Robert's post has is my understanding & been my experience with Jatoba & other exotics.
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1/5/2012 10:22:45 PM

Hina
Hina
Posts: 5
So how would silica spots be identified by a wood floor inspector? Is there a specific test that indicates it? Or can they tell just by looking at it because the look is so distinct?

Also, what is the treatment? Can individual affected planks be replaced or does the whole floor need to be? About 30% of the floor has the problem (a rough estimate). It's glue down engineered wood over slab if that makes a difference.
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