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cracks in subfloor
cracks in subfloor  

cracks in subfloor 2
cracks in subfloor 2  
Hi Stephen,

I have been fighting with my HOA for a year to get approval to install laminate flooring in my upstairs unit condo (in Chula Vista, CA).  I finally got approval and when the installers from Home Depot came out today they said they couldn't do the install because of the cracks in the subfloor. The cracks mostly looked superficial to me.  There was one spot that flexed with movement (when they stood on it and bounced). They were concerned they would have to come back out if the subfloor recracked (after prepping it), saying it might cause the laminate to become uneven in that spot and they would have to come back out on their dollar to fix the problem.  I was upset because they called their supervisor who said to go ahead and treat with primer and intsall, but one of the guys called another supervisor who said don't install, so they didn't.  Anyway, I know it's hard to tell from the pictures, but can you look at them and give me your input?  What are the possible scenarios and fixes I'm looking at? (The HOA docs say the HOA is responsible for the structure, if it's a structural problem, but I just got through fighting with them for a year to get this far... not looking for more fighting and continuing scrutiny on my install.) (I have two additional images, if you would like to see them.)

Thanks Stephen.

Answer
Celia,

I'm not sure if you are able to answer this, but do you have any idea what the structure of the subfloor is?  Is it lightweight concrete over wood framing?   Is it a self-supporting concrete slab?
When they caused it to "flex" was the entire floor flexing, or possibly just the top layer of material?
That said, laminate flooring is quite forgiving when it comes to subfloor.  It is usually installed floating over a thin foam cushion layer so a small amount of flex is built in. Many subfloor problems will not telegraph through the floor when it is installed this way. A significant depression or hump in the subfloor will eventually affect the laminate flooring, but in your case this does not seem to be the issue.  
If it was my place I would install it.  In general, I don't like laminate flooring because it is a fairly cheap and short- to medium-term solution, and it is really affected by water (not repairable).  But, it does provide a nice surface for a number of years if done right.

I hope this helps, and if you can answer the questions about the floor structure I'd be glad to revise my response.

--Steve

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Stephen Major (Owner--Major Design Group)

Expertise

I can answer any questions regarding the design and construction of homes and additions. This includes trade-specific questions (how-to) in all major building trades: framing, foundations, site prep, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, water treatment, interior finishing, trim & cabinetwork, exterior finishing, roofing, siding. PLEASE indicate your state or region, so I can provide the best possible answer. PLEASE provide photos whenever possible.

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30 years experience in building design and construction, all hands-on, including the construction of dozens of single-family homes and hundreds of remodeling projects in the northeastern US.

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Author: "Architectural Woodwork - Details for Construction" published by Van Nostrand Reinhold (now Wiley).

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BS Cornell University.

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