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  1. #1
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    Default Laminate flooring and formaldehyde

    Has anyone had an occasion where a client has expressed concern about formaldehyde in conjunction with laminated flooring during or after an inspection?

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Laminate flooring and formaldehyde

    Yes, quite a bit last year when lumber liquidators was in the news with all their crap chinese flooring at 89 cents a square foot. Beyond that most buyers don't think about it unless they've heard something. All they care about is it looks nice.
    I usually tell clients if its cheap stuff there's a decent chance there could be an issue. Have to also explain to them it isn't real wood and you can't use water to clean it. When I come across it on new construction I scour the site for a wrapper. I can usually find one somewhere in one of the other Condos or garbage. Then I look it up to see how cheap it is and what the manufacturer says about it

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  3. #3
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    Default Re: Laminate flooring and formaldehyde

    I think that the Chinese hacked the thread or Lumber Liq., maybe both. There were about 8 postings that have disappeared. Does Clinton have access to the server???



    I was curious since the questions that have been presented to me come from a variety of socioeconomic groups and I can not seem to find any correlation to who and why the question comes up and it is sporadic. Some people are asking as a result of the lawsuit and 60 min. Others are looking at the entire house and its components. The majority of the people don't have it on their mind unless you bring it up. Most when told about the amount of glue that is in a house that uses formaldehyde they glass over since they are leaving a house with the same issues.

    I use to poo-poo the off gassing of the flooring small to large SqFt installations based on the amount of items found in construction that use formaldehyde. Recently had a conversation with a realtor who was thinking that the flooring will be the next disclosure statement made to the buyer as part of the transaction (realtor CYA for the motivation I think). Then you look around and see laminate flooring spreading like a horde of locus. Add to that how tight the house is becoming.


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Laminate flooring and formaldehyde

    Formaldehyde is used in many many common building products and off gassing does happen, but unless testing is done everything is pretty much a guess. If I had a client that showed concern over formaldehyde in the home, I would instruct them to contact an environmental consulting firm or an industrial hygienist to test and give recommendations.

    Simple air test can be performed to show the levels of formaldehyde in the home, after that it is a matter of tracking down the culprits and addressing them. Most products should finish off gassing about 120 days after the are produced.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Laminate flooring and formaldehyde

    Off gassing and smell are a common issue when looking at new construction. I tell people to leave windows cracked instead of just constant AC. In terms of people asking about formaldehyde issues it tends to be new moms and people who listen to advertising or those morning shows that masquerade as news shows. I haven't been able to define a distinct socioeconomic indicator.
    Laminate is cheap and fast, its why developers use it. Unless a grunt worker is a complete idiot you can have just about any grunt install it. No need to pay real wages for a skilled wood guy.
    My bigger problem with laminate flooring is the massive waste of resources that it is. While rated lifespan sounds great on ads or paper, the reality is that it tends to have limited lifespan in peoples actual homes.

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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Laminate flooring and formaldehyde

    Strangely, last week was the first time anyone has raised an issue or showed concern to me about the existence of laminate flooring in the home. I always note the type of flooring though I don't go into specifics about quality of the laminate or source of manufacture. If it's a newer install or one specifically for the sale I advise the client to get whatever documentation they can from the seller. I also note that there have been recent issues regarding flooring supplied by Lumber Liquidators. However, I seriously doubt they are the only company installing a suspect Chinese product. I typically don't give formaldehyde warnings, though maybe it's not a bad idea under some circumstances.

    The client last week said she had new laminate installed in a couple of bedrooms earlier this year. The smell was so bad in one, she moved the kids out, closed the windows and taped / sealed the door. She couldn't explain why one bedroom smelled so bad while the other did not and neither could I. Maybe it was all in the nose and air current drafted from one room to the other...who knows. Or maybe the room had its own peculiar odor before the install but she was just used to it. I told her sealing the room was probably the worst thing she should have done and simply extended the off-gassing smell. When kids are at risk though, you do what you think is best. She said she didn't use the room for about four months and by then the smell had largely disapated.


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Laminate flooring and formaldehyde

    I have found kitchen and bathroom cabinets to be the largest off gasser of formaldehyde in a home. Just think of the board feet of wood product used to make cabinets and if it has a laminate countertop the underlayment for that top. Have you ever opened a cabinet door and gotten a nasty chemical whiff? I would say on about a third of the homes I inspect the cabinets still have some off gassing going on with their cabinets years after they are installed. Why? Their doors are always closed and it just sits inside the cabinets..

    I would have to say that cabinets are just as big of a problem….

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Laminate flooring and formaldehyde

    I agree there is so many items that produces the offgassing/outgassing. Adding the laminate flooring may be just the newest item added into the mix since the original construction. The cheaper built (not necessarily the lowest cost) cabinets have particle board as their carcass/box with solid doors and frames (usually) . So, yep they have the glue and formaldehyde among other organics.

    If formaldehyde had the "new car smell" then it might become a more desirable condition. Even though cars have produced a "sick car syndrome" from the off gassing, it might add to status.

    Oddly enough I heard something on the radio yesterday(talking about a study) about gas levels and reducing or eliminating phthalates which are used to make plastics and vinyls flexible. Maybe phthalates is the next big issue.

    Aaaaaah the good old days when horses were boiled down for glue and everything was either metal, fabric (natural), wood and leather.. Car dashes were metal and wood and interior were leather..


  9. #9
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    Default Re: Laminate flooring and formaldehyde

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Patterson View Post
    I have found kitchen and bathroom cabinets to be the largest off gasser of formaldehyde in a home. Just think of the board feet of wood product used to make cabinets and if it has a laminate countertop the underlayment for that top. Have you ever opened a cabinet door and gotten a nasty chemical whiff? I would say on about a third of the homes I inspect the cabinets still have some off gassing going on with their cabinets years after they are installed. Why? Their doors are always closed and it just sits inside the cabinets..

    I would have to say that cabinets are just as big of a problem….
    I have never encountered this. How would you know that cabinets are "off gassing" anything, much less off gassing something hazardous without doing micro-environmental testing? I think you tread onto thin ice when trying to claim an off gassing hazard without any actual testing done.

    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Laminate flooring and formaldehyde

    Quote Originally Posted by Lon Henderson View Post
    I have never encountered this. How would you know that cabinets are "off gassing" anything, much less off gassing something hazardous without doing micro-environmental testing? I think you tread onto thin ice when trying to claim an off gassing hazard without any actual testing done.
    Scott's remarks are an opinion and anecdotal. They have a credible basis. Studies refer to offgassing/outgassing occurring over different durations. Scott did not refer to quantitative or qualitative levels, nor what may be considered exceptable levels.


    In general products used in construction will continue to produce gas for many years. The amount decreases as the years increase. So cabinets typically can and do produce offgass from their materials. Therefore I can accept Scott did have that experience, even though I may not have experienced it. The amount and concentration is what can be tested, yet there are many variables associated in the methods and results of that testing. But that is actual testing, not a nose test with an opinion.

    Some food for thought:

    http://www.ecobind.com/research/WHO_...rmaldehyde.pdf
    “In the absence of nitrogen dioxide, the half-life of formaldehyde is
    approximately 50 minutes during the daytime; in the presence of nitrogen dioxide, this drops to 35 minutes (1).”

    http://www.ecobind.com/research/deca..._emissions.pdf
    Decay or the Decrease in Formaldehyde Concentrations or Emissions over Time and UF-bonded Wood Panel Products (2005)

    “In controlled laboratory studies the half life of formaldehyde concentration varies from less than 1 month to about 1 year for particleboard. A large chamber laboratory study
    performed at four test sites on 16 particleboard products suggest that the half life of
    current typical particleboard with ~0.15 ppm formaldehyde concentration at standard test
    conditions is about 0.75 years (9 months).”


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Laminate flooring and formaldehyde

    This addresses three issues:
    - http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/drywall/docs...rmaldehyde.pdf

    And this:
    - http://www.kcma.org/index.cfm?fuseac...ues&newsid=345

    Then this:
    - http://greenhomeguide.com/askapro/qu...carb-standards

    So even if it is 'good' (meets the stringent requirements) ... it might not be 'good' (still may be approaching the 'medium' range shown on the CDC page) ...

    Unfaced particle board can outgas through all surfaces - faced and finished particle board used for cabinets only has exposed ends, and they are often tight against other surfaces, leaving the outgassing to take place through the facings and finishes ... which likely dramatically slows down the outgassing process and therefore lengthens the outgassing time.

    Last edited by Jerry Peck; 09-09-2015 at 11:25 AM. Reason: added last part
    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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