Inspector Bill Baxley investigates what happens when Mrs. Mellow, one year after her vinyl floor covering was installed...

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One year after the installation of Mrs. Mellow’s vinyl floor covering, she noticed a slight yellowing in one area of the floor. She called her retailer to come and inspect the discoloration.

The retailer, after inspecting the flooring, submitted a request to the manufacturer to also come out and take a look at the complaint. After everyone from the proper channels had taken a good look, no conclusions could be reached as to the cause of the discoloration.

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An independent was called in to offer his expertise.Photos 1 and 2are of the area of the discoloration. The yellowing is very faint, and could not be photographed under normal lighting conditions. This made it very hard to document, and even harder to describe the conditions to all parties involved.

Photos 3 and 4 were taken with the assistance of an ultraviolet light source, or black light. Using the black light, the yellowing becomes very visible. Shapes in the yellowing become much more vivid due to the contrast between the discolored areas and those areas unaffected.

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The problem is, there are two very different shapes emerging under the black light. Some resemble wood grain-looking hazy clouds, while the others are 1-foot-by-½-inch lines, both parallel and perpendicular to each other.

If you can’t figure it out, don’t feel bad. This is not an easy one. Perhaps some additional information will help. Out of 100 or so square feet installed in three different areas, only a 4-by-8 area showed the faint yellowing condition. This area, as shown in the photos, is directly in front of the sliding glass doors. Photos 1 and 2 were taken under normal lighting with the drapes pulled back, while photos 3 and 4 were taken with the drapes closed.

You Make the Call!

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First, where is the discoloration? In front of a south-facing window. As I entered the home, I noticed the drapes were half-drawn. The discoloration is only in the area of the floor that is exposed to direct sunlight via the sliding glass doors. Mrs. Mellow confirmed that the drapes are normally kept at half-mast.

Photos 5 and 6 are close-ups of a straight-line shape and a wood grain-looking cloud shape. Because the discoloration is less evident in the grout line areas of the patterns, the discoloration appears to be topical in origin. But if over-exposure to direct sunlight is the cause, why are there two very different shapes in the yellow discoloration?

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Take a good look at photo 1. Do you see the wood grid pattern in the sliding glass doors? Light travels in straight lines, but it can be magnified when made to change direction. The parallel and perpendicular lines of yellow discoloration directly reflect the dimensions of the wood trim in the glass doors.

But what about the wood grain-looking clouds? In both shapes, the urethane topcoat layer of the vinyl is turning yellow due to extreme long-term exposure to direct sunlight. Over time, both shapes would blend into an overall yellowed, 4-by-8 section of the floor directly in front of the sliding glass doors.

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So I ask again: who’s responsible for this? Is it installation related? After all, the installer did install the vinyl floor covering in front of the south-facing windows! Is it the retailer? After all, he or she did sell it to be installed! Is it manufacturer related? Because, after all, the manufacturer made the product in the first place!

If you are still having trouble deciding, pick up a warranty from any vinyl manufacturer and read it. Even if this is the first time you’ve ever read one, do it. It will open your eyes and make you more familiar with the products you are working with. And while you’re at it, read the installation and warranty information on all the products you sell or service. The more knowledge you have concerning the products you deal with, the easier it will be for you to “Make the Call!”

P.S. The answer is: Site-related conditions due to extreme overexposure of the floor covering to direct sunlight. The problem is not the responsibility of the installer or the manufacturer.