Recently, we discussed several different problems that can happen with improperly-dried wood, including:
- Shrinking of Wood
- Swelling of Wood
- Insect Infestations
- Mold Growth
While we discussed some of the personal safety hazards that these problems pose to the occupants of a building, we didn’t discuss the financial costs that might be attached to improperly-dried wood. For the most part, we’ll be discussing the cost in terms of remediating the problem or fixing the structure, as the human costs (hospitalization, lawsuits, etc.) are much more difficult to attach a specific dollar value to.
The Initial Installation
When installing wood floors, if the subfloor contains too much residual moisture when a contractor begins building on it, there are a number of expensive problems that can occur. This is why both the wood being installed and the subfloor need to be properly acclimated and checked to make sure that their moisture content is in equilibrium with the environment they’re being used in.
One such problem is that moisture can cause wood floor planks to warp, expand, and deform. The resultant cupping, crowning, or separation of planks in the floor is unsightly at best, and potentially dangerous.
For the contractor who installed the floor, this problem can cost them significantly in time and material, as they will often be called on to do the flooring job over again. This means:
- Labor time spent ripping up the original flooring.
- Working to remediate the moisture source.
- Replacement costs for the old, damaged flooring.
- Labor spent installing the new flooring.
- Compensation to the building owner for damages (sometimes, depending on installation agreement and other legal factors).
The absolute costs of the above can vary wildly depending on the total square footage of the original installation, the severity of the moisture problem, and even on how much labor you typically use per sq. ft. of the job.
For an example, let’s say that the installation was a midsize office with 3,000 sq. ft. of hardwood flooring consisting of Oak that cost $3.79/sq. ft. Take that $3.79 and multiply it by 3,000 and the cost, just for the wood, is $11,370 for that flooring job on the initial install.
Now, we have to add the cost of labor. If you have a crew where each person makes $18/hour, and it takes them a combined total of 100 labor hours to finish the install (they’re really good), then that’s another $1,800 in expenses, not counting worker’s comp, health insurance, travel, or taxes. Bill so far: $13,170.
Correcting an Improper Installation
However, the job was too rushed and the flooring was not properly dried (turns out quicker isn’t always better), so now the client is demanding their money back or for you to fix it. The originally-installed wood is too damaged to be reused now, so it has to be replaced: tack on another $11,370 to make the total cost of this job $24,540.
But wait, you still have to get rid of the old flooring before you can install the new flooring. Let’s assume that the process of removing the old flooring takes about three-quarters as long as the installation, so that’s 75 hours of labor at $18/hour: $1,296. Total cost so far is now $25,836. During this installation, the crew takes much longer to finish the job, as they double-check their processes and make sure that the flooring is ready, so they take 150 hours to finish this time, which costs $2,592 in labor, bringing expenses up to $28,428.
The job is now complete and the client is now satisfied, but how much money did you lose? Assuming that you have a 25 percent margin on your installation work, your invoice for the initial job is likely to be around $16,500 dollars (rounded up to make a nice, round number). Take away your total expenses for the initial installation and the work required to re-do the job, and you are left with a deficit of $11,928.
Naturally, this is a very rough estimate, which leaves out a lot of specific expenses. However, this should give you a rough idea of how much improper structural drying can cost when it comes to flooring.
Preventing the Problem
Experienced and licensed contractors know that moisture is a hazard that they must deal with. This is why they carry rugged and reliable moisture meters with them on the job wherever they go. With a pinless moisture meter, contractors can quickly find the location of a troublesome moisture pocket in a floor or subfloor, which allows them to remediate the moisture before it can cause thousands of dollars in damage to a structure.
Moisture meters help ensure that the structure of a building has its proper moisture content, and enable contractors to determine whether or not further structural drying is necessary. When used to verify the moisture content of wood, a moisture meter can save contractors thousands of dollars, making these remarkable devices money well invested in the future of the company.
Even the most expensive moisture meters don’t cost much more than $1,000, which is far less than what a single botched installation can cost. Acquiring a simple, easy-to-use moisture meter that only costs a few hundred dollars can wind up saving you tens of thousands in the long run. That’s why we like to say that “having a moisture meter is like having an inexpensive insurance policy.” These devices are one of the best ways that a professional contractor can prevent expensive losses.