My wooden floor has started to rise at the seam, what should I do?

Your property queries answered

During warm, humid weather, wood expands, during dry weather it contracts. In winter, when homes are heated and the air is dry, wood flooring gives up some of its moisture and therefore shrinks. Photograph: Thinkstock

During warm, humid weather, wood expands, during dry weather it contracts. In winter, when homes are heated and the air is dry, wood flooring gives up some of its moisture and therefore shrinks. Photograph: Thinkstock

 

 

I have been renting an apartment for the past five years. I have enjoyed living in this apartment since I moved in and there have been very few maintenance issues during this time period. The apartment has not suffered from damp or moisture.

However, very recently, I have noticed that a section of the wooden floor has started to rise up at the seam between the boards, creating an uneven surface. Could you explain to me why this is happening as it is becoming more noticeable and I would be grateful if you could provide some solutions.

A You have not said whether the apartment is at ground or upper level which may well have a bearing on the problem. There are a number of things to consider – leaking plumbing pipes from heating, water supply and wastes pipes as well as dampness from an external source such as raised ground levels or drainage problems. I note that it is a recent problem and that you have had no evidence of any previous issues with dampness, but it is important to check all potential sources.

I assume the wooden floor is natural timber as opposed to factory made laminate flooring.

Your description of the board distortion at the seam appears to be what’s known as “cupping”. Cupping is described as boards with their edges either higher or lower than the centre of the board. It is a common complaint that develops with high humidity.

Heat in a specific location or a very dry environment above the floor may result in cupping. Timber is a natural product that will shrink and swell in response to changes in atmospheric humidity. A small amount of cupping can even occur in some locations within a dwelling, for example where the floor is exposed to the sun.

During warm, humid weather, wood expands, during dry weather it contracts. In winter, when homes are heated and the air is dry, wood flooring gives up some of its moisture and therefore shrinks. This seasonal movement is a normal characteristic of wood flooring, sometimes it’s noticeable but it never stops, regardless of the age of the wood.

Most forms of timber distortion are driven by changes in moisture content of the timber. In high humidity rapid drying can cause distortion of timber as one side dries quicker than the other, or one side has a lower moisture content than the other. Assuming it is a humidity problem, then try and regulate the room temperature and avoid high levels of heating, air conditioning, etc. The timber should settle back to its original form, otherwise I would seek advice.

James Drew is a member of the SCSI.

Planning issues

QUnfortunately we have recently been refused retention planning permission on a renovation to our holiday home by which the planner has stipulated we must erect a 1.8m-high screened fence (ie with frosted glass or other blocked material) in front of our home in order to protect our neighbour’s amenities, as we now devalue his home. In other words, when we are outside we cannot overlook him when he is outside. Our other adjoining neighbour has a balcony that overlooks us but this was not made as a stipulation of his planning. We also had full planning for a four-bed home with an upper and lower balcony so it seems crazy that this has now been retrospectively applied as a condition.

In short, at the time of the renovation we erected a 1.8m-high glass frosted screen to the side of our property as agreed with our neighbour in a witnessed verbal agreement to offer maximum privacy to both parties. Before the renovation took place we were able to completely overlook each other. Our house is at a higher elevation than our neighbour so it is impossible to avoid this problem. Other homes in the development, who have not been required to conform to this stipulation and who are also elevated to their neighbour have only put a 1.2m glass clear fence to the front of and sides of their homes.

We wish to proceed with an appeal to An Bord Pleanála but need advice as to what grounds we can appeal. Erecting the 1.8m screen will block our view (which I believe is not a valid reason); will seriously compromise the look and feel of the development, and also be an eyesore in one of Ireland’s top scenic areas. Any help or guidance on how to appeal would be much appreciated.

APlanning is a complex area and to fully answer this question, a number of issues require clarification. What exactly is the nature of the renovation and how does this development differ from your original planning permission? How was the local planning authority (LPA) notified of the new development, did your neighbour make a complaint? It should be noted that the condition requiring a 1.8m screen to the front of your dwelling is not a retrospective condition to the original permission. It is a condition attached to what is now essentially a new planning application, albeit planning retention.

As such, LPA is entitled to attach conditions to it, however unfair it may seem. The renovations may have triggered something which now warrants the 1.8m screening. If you are intent on appealing to An Bord Pleanála, it needs to be on valid planning grounds and as pointed out, a right to a view is not a valid reason.

Issues to consider for an appeal are: 1. Review the development plan for the area to see if there are any policies/ standards on neighbouring privacy or screening. Development plans are generally updated every five years. 2. Some neighbours have 1.2m screening, but you need to check if this was a condition stipulated by the LPA or, indeed, if these screens even formed part of their planning permissions; 3. Can you demonstrate that your renovations do not materially alter the nature and degree of privacy between you and your neighbour? 4. Does your neighbour have a problem with the new renovations? If not, this would strengthen your argument.

In conclusion, this case highlights the benefits of having pre-planning consultations with the LPA. It also demonstrates the risks of retrospective planning. There are no guarantees when it comes to planning retention and one is, to a degree, at the mercy of the planning authority. Andrew O’Gorman is a member of the SCSI Planning and Development Surveying Professional Group.

House with a debt

Q My parents are looking to buy a house. Recently, they spotted one they liked which is located not far from where I currently live. After making some initial enquiries, it appears the house has a judgment mortgage against it. Could you explain what a judgment mortgage is and the process involved in buying a house with a judgment mortgage against it? Is it likely to be a more complex and lengthy process than buying a house without a judgment mortgage against it?

AA judgment mortgage is a mechanism to try to recoup an unpaid debt and arises when a person or company who are owed an unpaid debt by the registered owners(s) of a specific property apply to the courts and are granted a judgment mortgage.

The judgment lasts for up to 12 years and will remain a burden on the property until it is discharged. The application to the various courts will be determined by the sum of money involved. An applicant for a judgment mortgage can seek to enforce a sale of the property and recoup their unpaid debt from the proceeds of the sale.

The sale of this property may in fact arise from such an application or may be a consensual sale by the owners. In any event, the judgment mortgage or indeed a bank mortgage will have to be discharged from the proceeds of the sale before the title can be conveyed.

A solicitor acting on behalf of a purchaser will ensure that all such matters are fully dealt with prior to completing the sale to ensure that their client gets a good marketable title to the property free of any burdens. Essentially, therefore, this is a matter for the property owner(s), their debtor and respective solicitors to deal with.

As with any sale of a property, when there is a larger number of stakeholders, this increases the prospects of delays in having the sale completed.

A sale with a judgment mortgage attached is therefore more complex than a sale without one. However, there is an established process to have such issues dealt with and most solicitors handling property transactions will be familiar with this.

I would suggest, should your parents decide to pursue this property that they seek to appoint a solicitor early on who can review the title of the property and advise them exactly of the implications of the judgment mortgage and how long it may take to complete a sale of the property.

Gerard O’Toole is a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI)

 

 

Send your queries to propertyquestions@irishtimes.com or to Property Clinic, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2. This column is a readers’ service. Advice given is general and individual advice should always be sought

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