I don't usually write product reviews here, but I want to do an informational post on the Allure Trafficmaster Flooring from Home Depot because I suspect it is important.
Recently, I bought a new house. OK, not really new, as it was built in 1986, but it is a place to live. Anyway, it is a HUGE renovation project, and I don't exactly have tons of money. I needed to put down a floor in my bedroom after ripping out the old carpet that was there. I wanted a non-carpeted surface. While wandering through the Home Depot, I came across this vinyl floating floor from Halstead Industries called Allure Trafficmaster. It comes in boxes of plank strips that stick to one another, not your subfloor, and it looked really good. Better yet, it was reasonably priced, so I decided to go with it.
I bought 12 boxes. Eleven boxes were batch #10-10-2009, and one was #10-03-2009. I took it home and let it acclimate in its boxes for a couple of days, as one usually does with flooring. Then, in the space of only a few hours, my husband and I laid the entire 12 boxes. It looked fantastic. We moved in our furniture, closed the skylights and turned on the air conditioning, and prepared to spend our first night in the new bedroom.
As I was laying in bed, I noticed the bad odor. I opened a skylight part way, but left on the air. By morning, the smell was really bad. I turned off the air and turned on the ceiling fans, opening windows all over the house. Surely it was like a new car smell, and would dissipate quickly. It didn't.
I grew concerned, so I called the Customer Service line at Halstead. The woman registered my name and concerns, and told me that if I would wash it down a couple of times with some vinegar, it should take care of the problem. An odd idea, but I tried it. For 3 days I mopped the floor with vinegar. Now, it smelled more like a pickle factory, but that was somehow better than the strange chemical odor alternative. However, as soon as the vinegar smell dissipated, the chemical smell was back.
I Googled Allure Flooring to see if anyone else had this problem. There were a few angry complaints on various forums, but many people said the smell went away very quickly, and they loved their new floor. The only people with serious complaints seemed to be the ones who had installed it over concrete below grade who were having issues with it coming apart, and with mold trapped underneath. I had installed mine on a second floor over very dry plywood, so that wasn't it.
I had asked for an MSDS sheet on the flooring when I called, and the woman very kindly sent it to me via email. There are a lot of interesting items there. First, the MSDS sheet says it is for Metroflor Vinly Sheet Flooring and Metroflor Resilient Tile Flooring. Then, over to the side, it has a box that says Allure Vinyl Sheet Flooring and Resilient Tile Flooring. So which is it? It's hard to say. Metroflor is an upgraded product that is also manufactured by Halstead, but it is not the same product. That seemed odd. The MSDS seemed to indicate that the product was pretty innocuous though, which I tried hard to find relieving. There was a second "MSDS" sheet on the adhesive that is used to lock the floor pieces together. This didn't really look like a MSDS, rather it was a report from the Fu Hong Chemical Company, Ltd. of Taiwan. It showed a spectacular list of chemicals that sounded scary but were not detected in the sample of the adhesive. So I knew what it wasn't, but that didn't tell me exactly what it was.Hmmm....
The room got worse. It was always strangely humid in the room. My bed sheets felt cold and clammy. I was already keeping the air handler for the house going around the clock, along with a ceiling fan. I kept the adjoining bathroom window open. I added an Ionic Pro and a de-humidifier. Nothing helped. I woke up each morning with a sore throat, and sometimes my eyes would run in the night. After about a month, my daughter said, "this room is unhealthy." She's 13. Maybe she'll be a scientist.
I emailed my brother, who is a noted polymer scientist, and forwarded him the MSDS sheets Halstead had sent me. He told me that they had sent an SGS [contract testing organization] report, and he couldn't tell me what was wrong because all the report showed was a list of chemicals that were NOT found in the adhesive.
It was time to call Halstead again. The nice Customer Service woman listened to my story very patiently. She asked if I would like an "abatement kit." I asked her what that was, and she said it was a neutralizer I could apply, and then a sealer. [Alarm bells are beginning to go off in my head.] She went on to say that the product was made from recycled vinyl from China [Red flag! Red flag!] and that most batches had no odor at all, but some batches did seem to have a bad smell and she didn't know why.
OK, when you start saying that something was manufactured in China, that's when I start to get worried. It's not like the Chinese have such a great track record these days when it comes to the safety of their products. Who knows what could be hidden in this stuff? I was about to enter full panic attack mode when I heard her say "... or would you just like me to issue you a credit?" Excuse me?
The Customer Service representative asked me how many boxes I had bought. I told her I had bought 12 boxes in mid June. She said to just take my receipt to Home Depot, have them call the Halstead Customer Service line and reference my name, and they would take care of the credit. I was stunned, but I decided not to waste any time on this, so I jumped in my car and headed for the Home Depot.
At the Home Depot, the woman in returns had me speak with the Assistant Manager, who called Halstead and confirmed that I was due a $550.00 refund. They promptly credited it back to my Discover card and apologized for the inconvenience.
"Don't they want the flooring back?" I asked. Apparently not. No company rep would visit or call, no return the defective product hassle, just take the money and be on your way. It all seemed so suspiciously easy. I asked my brother the scientist about it. His take was that they knew they had an issue of some sort, and that it would be easier to pay me off rather than risk a lawsuit. Interesting.
I went home and ripped out the flooring and hauled it out of my house as quickly as I could. It took about 3 hours to rip it all up and haul it out. I opened the windows and ventilated everything. I also stripped all the sheets and bedclothes from the bed and washed them thoroughly. That was Thursday. It is now Saturday. The smell is gone, and the humidity levels have evened out considerably. I slept much more easily, and haven't had any sore throats or runny eyes since.
So exactly what is the issue with Allure Flooring? It's hard to say, as I cannot afford to test the stuff to see what it actually contained. I am extremely grateful to have it out of my home, though. And while I wasn't compensated for the time I spent laying or removing it, I really don't care. What is a few hours compared with the exposure to something terribly toxic, which is what I believe was happening with the Allure I bought.
Now, in fairness, the Assistant Manager at Home Depot said that they sell this stuff every day, and mine was the first complaint they'd ever had. So maybe not all batches are smelly. But if you think you want this flooring, be really cautious. You might get more than you bargained for.