Buckled laminate flooring after floodingGuide to Types of Floor Damage & Defects

InspectAPedia tolerates no conflicts of interest. We have no relationship with advertisers, products, or services discussed at this website.

Floor damage catalog: how to recognize the causes of different sorts of damage to floors.

Here we provide a catalog of types of damage found to flooring in buildings, such as improper installation, buckling, burns, cracks, loose, sloped, squeaky floors, mechanical damage, wear damage, water damage, and special kinds of damage found on wood floors.

We describe various causes of floor damage. We describe the wear and damage problems associated with different types of flooring materials such as carpeting, ceramic tile, vinyl or vinyl asbestos tile, resilient or sheet flooring, wood flooring.

Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved.

Floor Damage, Defects & Finish Problems

Wood floor with apparent water and rot and mold damage - site of complaint of maple syrup sweet odor complaint (C) InspectApedia H.G.

[Click to enlarge any image]

The following floor and flooring defect descriptions are adapted and expanded from original citations provided courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates, Home Reference Book, with permission.

The damaged, stained floor shown at left is discussed in detail at WOOD FLOOR DAMAGE.

Article Contents

Application Errors, Carpeting, Tile, Vinyl Tile, Resilient or Sheet Linoleum or Vinyl or Wood Floors

Some ceramic tiles are intended for wall use only. When used on floors, they will wear quickly.

Damaged ceramic tile flooring, Barcelona Spain (C) D Friedman

Ceramic tiles and softer clay or terracotta floor tiles are also broken, forming cut and trip hazards such as this floor (photo at left) we photographed in Barcelona, Spain.

Stained loose carpet on stairs (C) D Friedman

The combination of broken cermaic tile risers and stair treads and a dark hallway are an invitation to a slip trip or fall accident in this building.

Carpet may be loose on stairs, a serious trip and falll hazard, not be laid flat or torn, more trip hazards, or wet, rotted, and moldy, health hazards.



Also see CARPET MOLD / ODOR TESTS for details.

Wood flooring may not be well secured, buckled, rotted, due to improper installation or lack of maintenance, or failure to act immediately following a spill or leak in the building.

See FLOOR WOOD, DAMAGE DIAGNOSIS for examples and details.

Damaged Asbestos-Containing Floor Tiles, Sheet Flooring, Carpet Padding

Vinyl and vinyl asbestos tile floors and other resilient flooring such as linoleum or sheet vinyl may form trip hazards at tears and bulges or just plain disintegrate; some products contain asbestos and must be handled appropriately.


Antique sheet flooring Justin Morrill Smith Home © Daniel Friedman

Tile and stone flooring may not be set properly or may be installed over inadequately stiff framing (leading to cracking). Grout may be poor quality or an incorrect type.

A stunning snafu in the installation of tile flooring is described
at FLOOR RADIANT HEAT Mistakes to Avoid where the builder failed to randomize the tiles, leading to ugly color blotch rectangles, failed to clean grout, leaving hazed ceramic floor tiles, and worst of all, failed to properly install radiant heating, leading

Buckling Wood or Wood Laminate Flooring

Improper floor installation can conspire with shifts in building moisture (or outright leaks) and temperature to cause severe buckling of wood floors and in some instances laminate flooring products as well.

PHOTO of interior floor covering, pre-vinyl, probably linocrusta with burlap fabric backing, Justin Morrill House, Vermont, ca 1845 - 1900

Also failure to install a properly level and smooth underlayment or subfloor can cause uneven laminate floor surfaces.


For an explanation of wood board cupping and which side of deck, ramp, and exterior stair boards should face "up" see BARK SIDE UP on DECKS & STEPS.

For a discussion of formaldehyde outgassing hazards from laminate wood flooring reported sold by Freight Liquidators (or possibly other vendors)

Burn Marks on Flooring

Most types of flooring are susceptible to burns, with the exception of stone, terrazzo, ceramic and quarry tile. Common burns on finish flooring that we find include

Fireplace hearth missing, burned floor (C) D Friedman

Cracked or Damaged Floor Tiles

MEthods for supporting tile flooring (C) Carson Dunlop Associates

The most common problem with brittle floor tiles is cracking. This is usually the result of a floor system that is not stiff enough to support the tile. Tiles can also be cracked by impact damage. Heavy items dropped on the tiles will sometimes crack or break them. Replacing individual tiles is not difficult, although color and grout matching may be a problem.

The sketch at left, showing alternative methods for installing and supporing ceramic tiles on floors is provided courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates and appears in their Illustrated Home.

[Click to enlarge any image]

A cracked and broken concrete floor may only be a problem if it is not safe to walk across, or if there is moisture coming up through the floor. Since it is not a structural component, replacement of this floor is rarely a priority item.

Loose Flooring & Trip Hazards

Loose or missing sections of flooring should be replaced.

These areas may present a trip hazard. Carpet with ridges and buckles can be pulled tight to lie flat again by a carpet installer.

Sloped Floors out of Level

A concrete basement or crawl space floor that does not slope down to a floor drain can lead to water accumulation on the floor and resulting damage. Adding more concrete to an existing slab to improve the drainage slope is difficult, since new concrete does not usually bond well to old concrete. A better solution may be to add another floor drain. This is expensive, because it requires breaking up some of the concrete floor. Replacing a deteriorated floor may be more cost effective than trying to repair or re-slope the floor.

Squeaky Noisy Floors

Squeaky wood floors are a nuisance, not a structural problem. A floor usually squeaks when walked on because the flooring finish or subfloor is not tightly secured. The subfloor may not be well-secured to the joists, or the finished flooring material (e.g. hardwood) may not be tightly fastened to the subfloor.

Flooring that is not tightly secured sits just above the support in some spots. When someone steps on the flooring in this area, it is pushed down onto its support. When the foot is taken off the floor, it springs back up. The squeaking is usually the result of the nails sliding in and out of the nail holes, or adjacent wood surfaces rubbing.


Mechanical Damage & Wear on Floor Finishes

When softwoods such as pine, fir or cedar are used as finish floorings, they can be damaged by high heeled shoes, for example. Furniture marking and denting is another common problem with softwood and resilient floors.

Scratched oak flooring © Daniel Friedman

Softer materials, such as resilient flooring and carpet, will eventually wear out in high traffic areas. Sharp objects and furniture dropped or dragged across flooring may also damage the surface.

At FLOOR WOOD, DAMAGE DIAGNOSIS we discuss mechanical damage to flooring.

Water Damage or Stains on Floors

Pet urine stains on a hardwood floor © Daniel Friedman

Common sources of water Damage/ damage include leaks from roofs, windows, doors and skylights, plumbing leaks (especially toilets and showers), leaks from hot water heating systems, and condensation.

At left the floor was damaged by pet urine, then re-finished or re-coated without removing the stains.

Aquariums, room humidifiers or dehumidifiers, over-watering of plants, melting snow and ice from boots, etc. can all cause water damage.

Wood-based floors may discolor, cup, buckle, warp or rot as a result of exposure to water. Carpet may develop mold. Flooring may be stained by water, food spills, improper cleaning, dirt, sunlight, or other factors.

See STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING INTERIORS and see STAINS on INDOOR SURFACES, PHOTO GUIDE as well as these specific articles: ANIMAL STAINS & MARKS in BUILDINGS - and how to get rid of them (the stains not the animals)


Details about types of damage to wood flooring are provided at FLOOR WOOD, DAMAGE DIAGNOSIS.

Readers should also

and SLAB INSULATION, PASSIVE SOLAR for examples of discussion of energy-efficient floor designs and passive solar floor systems.


Continue reading at FLOOR WOOD, DAMAGE DIAGNOSIS or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Suggested citation for this web page

FLOOR DAMAGE DIAGNOSIS at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.


Or use the SEARCH BOX found below to Ask a Question or Search InspectApedia

Or see


Or use the SEARCH BOX found below to Ask a Question or Search InspectApedia


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Click to Show or Hide FAQs

Ask a Question or Search InspectApedia

Questions & answers or comments about the causes & effects of flooring that is damaged or unsafe due to installation errors, poor maintenance, or other events. .

Use the "Click to Show or Hide FAQs" link just above to see recently-posted questions, comments, replies, try the search box just below, or if you prefer, post a question or comment in the Comments box below and we will respond promptly.

Search the InspectApedia website

Comment Box is loading comments...

Technical Reviewers & References

Click to Show or Hide Citations & References

Publisher's Google+ Page by Daniel Friedman