Bamboo flooring battle at Lumber Liquidators

Floor shopping? Here are questions you should ask

DETROIT – There have been a rash of headlines about Lumber Liquidators and a federal investigation surrounding the safety of some Chinese-made flooring.

The flooring company also is facing a national class-action lawsuit over concerns about the quality of some bamboo flooring.

A local family shared their story as a warning to customers in metro Detroit.

"It was just demoralizing because we spent all this money and ... we're left with a house that has problems all over the flooring," said James Rose, who has been working on this battle with his parents.

First, a look back at a rocky time for Lumber Liquidators. In March of 2015, CBS "60 Minutes" reported the retailer's laminates from China contained excessive level of formaldehyde. Months later, the company stopped the sale of all Chinese-made flooring and the CEO resigned. Lumber Liquidators offered free independent air quality tests to give customers objective, scientific information about the flooring it has sold.

Bamboo flooring battle

As that problem was making national headlines, the Rose family of Lake Orion was fighting it's own battle with Lumber Liquidators over the Morning Star bamboo flooring they purchased in late 2014. The family paid about $11,000 for the flooring and installation started in February of 2015.

The contractor hired by the family, Tom Perry, says he saw problems with the flooring immediately. He says the bamboo started to separate just days after he started to lay it down.

"I've never had issue like this with any kind of flooring I've put in," said Perry, who has been in the home renovation business for 40 years. "I've worked with wood for a long time. I know it expands and retracts ... but this wood started doing it two to three days after we installed it."

The family was frustrated and started to appeal to Lumber Liquidators, looking for solutions. The contractor, Tom Perry, says he's guided several clients to Lumber Liquidators for flooring and never had an issue until now. He says a salesman told the family they wouldn't have any issues with the bamboo for 30 years.

Class-action lawsuit

That claim is reflected in a class-action lawsuit filed in California in December of 2014. Although it's received less publicity than the safety concerns, the suit raises some questions about Lumber Liquidators Morning Star bamboo flooring.

The suit alleges Lumber Liquidators has created expectations that its bamboo flooring will last for 30 years, but claims "the product is subject to premature cracking, splitting, warping, and shrinking all well before the warranted useful life."

The Rose family has reached out to the law firm behind the class-action suit and is considering whether they might join the suit or file their own legal action.

"It's very upsetting because we're just a small family and we're going up against a multi-billion dollar corporation," said James Rose.

Lumber Liquidators response

In a letter to the Rose family, Lumber Liquidators blames the issues in their home on problems with installation and complaints there may have been too much humidity in the family's Lake Orion home.

The contractor, Tom Perry, says he followed all the manufacturer specifications for installation. Perry and the Rose family are surprised humidity is getting the blame especially in Michigan.

"Their humidity level, I think, as far as any house in Michigan is regulated as good as you can get it," said Perry.

The Rose family would still like a full refund but Lumber Liquidators is not budging.

The family says they never thought to ask the salesperson about humidity levels in their home before buying the bamboo flooring, and they want other customers in Michigan to know that's apparently something you should be asking when you're at the store.

"I don't understand why they would sell a product in an area that has humidity that would impact all the homes," asks James Rose.

Help Me Hank contacted Lumber Liquidators on behalf of the Rose family. The company said it could not discuss the lawsuit as it does not comment on pending litigation.

A spokesperson released this statement:

"Lumber Liquidators' bamboo products are popular and beautiful flooring options that, like all flooring products, require proper installation and a suitable home environment for peak performance. Lumber Liquidators clearly communicates these processes and requirements to customers at the time of purchase. Nonetheless, we regret Mr. Rose's experience and sent an inspector to his home. The inspector found that the contractor did not test for moisture as required and failed to install transition strips that allow floating floors to move as intended. These issues were compounded by humidity levels in the home above 55 percent, a level that's not only not ideal for flooring, but breeds mold and other health issues. Lumber Liquidators recommends ensuring a thorough understanding of the product instructions before purchase and installation."

The bottom line, as you shop for new flooring, do your homework! A simple internet search could reveal questions and concerns you might never think  about when you start your search. Be prepared with a lot of questions before you visit any store, so you know you're ahead of the game.

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