Gaps in Exposed Timber Floors

Gaps in Exposed Timber Floors

Regular readers of this publication will probably be aware this is not the first time
I have spoken about this subject
and in all probability it won.

Historically gaps in timber strip flooring probably causes the most number of complaints within the timber industry.
I believe the reason for this is because a floor is in the house owner’s face, particularly the lady of house, virtually every day.

Many within the timber industry also do not help the situation by displaying flooring,
whether by displays or literature, as a perfect scenario, that is, not a gap to be seen.
We have displays at our Croydon and Rowville stores where gaps that have appeared post installation, are left as they are.

The fact is timber flooring is wood based which is hygroscopic, meaning it is subject
to moisture content changes which often lead to dimensional changes.

This is not to say measures cannot be taken to minimise post installation gaps appearing.
Space does not allow to go into to detail now, but one I would highlight is protection
from sunlight coming through windows, particularly those with a north/west orientation.
Builders should also take action during and after installation.

A simple thing is to place newspaper on the window or use an old light
coloured sheet or drape. When an order is placed we will issue our normal
flooring advice literature which will go into more detail.

It would be prudent for builders to pass some of this information
(particularly regarding ongoing care) on to the homeowner.

Notwithstanding the above, I believe builders should be aware of how the Building
Commission handle this subject and I refer to their "Guide to Standards and Tolerances"
12.1 Gaps in Exposed Timber Flooring, and I quote;

“The effect of sunlight, heating or other heat generating appliances are to be
taken into consideration and if determined that they have contributed to the higher
rate of shrinkage then it is not considered a defect.

A gap of more than 2mm between adjacent boards will be considered a defect.

A total measurement of gaps between four consecutive boards in timber strip flooring
of more than 5mm is a defect in areas other than those which may be effected
by direct sunlight, heating or other heat generating appliances.

The builder shall not be liable for gaps considered as defects where the builder
has made the owners aware, as acknowledged by them in writing, that the flooring
system installed could suffer significant shrinkage leading to visually obvious
movement resulting in gaps well in excess of the tolerance listed above.

If only one gap exists that is defective within the meaning of this section,
and it extends over 1 metre in length, it is considered a defect”. Unquote.

I believe the fourth paragraph, if builders used, could avoid situations of dispute.
(whereby the owner acknowledges in writing the possibility of gaps)

Even if the owner refuses to sign off on this, at least the matter of gaps has been raised
and if gapping does occur (within legal tolerances) it should not be a matter of dispute.
I hasten to say none of the above covers poor workmanship.

My final comment on this subject comes from experience when a dispute arises
and even after resolution, no one is happy and there are never any winners.

By Jeff Harvey

For further information please send me an email to;


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