Repair & Care
Hardwood Flooring Warranties. Are They Realistic?
Since the early eighties prefinished hardwood manufacturers have been steadily increasing the duration of finish warranties on their products. One has to wonder, why? Yes finishes have improved with the advent of improved finish technology. The question really is; are 50 year warranties realistic?
No wait. Since this article was originally written some have gone to 100 years! No. Wait again. This being the third update (September 2012) to this article, now the gimmick has become a transferable warranty. Quite frankly I'm not even interested in the fine print on this new ploy as it appears far too unrealistic to begin with.
Are they realistic? In a nutshell, no. It’s become more of a marketing ploy than anything. Twenty years ago major prefinished manufacturers did not offer warranties past three to five years. Sure the finishes have improved, but what’s in these finishes that make it so attractive to boost the warranty period up to a one hundred years?
Aluminum Oxide Finishes
In the mid nineties aluminum oxide finishes hit the flooring business. We saw it in laminate, hardwood, even vinyl and ceramic tile flooring. It suddenly became the best thing since sliced bread in the flooring business. Retailers were armed with all sorts of cool tricks to show the public how durable the finishes were. From rubbing steel wool on the surfaces to scratching with a quarter.
Impressive to say the least, but they weren’t completely indestructible. Aluminum oxide finishes are impressive, but one should read the fine print in any warranty getting the full gist of what is covered. Sales of the new finish technology took off like a rocket. It was an easy sell for salespeople and it worked, until some complaints started trickling in.
Some finishes were too rough for everyday life. Aluminum oxide crystals in the early days were contained on the actual surface of practically all products. Socks were getting worn out from everyday foot traffic and young children’s knees took a beating. Manufacturers made adjustments by applying the new finishes sandwiched in between other types of finishes.
Like many things in life, it’s not a perfect world. Reports do indicate aluminum oxide finishes are the most durable on the market for prefinished floors, specifically hardwood. However anything in a perfect world eventually gets spoiled. These types of finishes do have a tendency to shatter microscopically when items are dropped. Aluminum oxide type finishes also do not expand and contract with the underlying hardwood very well causing distressing in the finish itself.
Other items to consider with 50...no wait... 100 year finish warranties
Will the manufacturer be around to make good on it? As quickly as today’s business world changes, new and old come and go, or get swallowed up by others. Styles and trends change. A new suitor may just close the doors when consumers find something new. Your warranty is basically gone.
Who lives in the same home 50 years? I don’t know of anyone thesedays. Warranties are also non transferable. (Oopps were, but really?) For example. Say your nephew buys your home after twenty years. The warranty is now void because it only covers the original owner.
Who Keeps Maintenance Records?
This can be vital in assessing whether a warranty is still good. Read the fine print. Manufacturers do not want you to use certain cleaners. Even if only two years pass as an example, and you’ve applied something to the flooring against the manufacturer guidelines your warranty is likely to be void.
Conclusion- After spending time putting this article together I have come to realize some manufacturers really know the tricks. What’s next on the horizon?
The above conclusion was written before the transferable warranty was created. Now I ask, can that be topped? Likely, but in some other creative form.
Avoid Problems Before they start