FAQ - Hardwoods

WHY HARDWOOD?
Hardwood floors add a beautiful and natural touch. They also add value to your home and are highly praised in the resale home market. Today's hardwood floors have made advances in style, durability, maintenance and care, making them more widely usable throughout the home. With simple sweeping or vacuuming and occasional spot cleaning, wood floors can last a lifetime. There are hundreds of choices in style and color, spanning into exotic hardwood species. Most wood floors are available in several grades in a wide range of prices to fit any budget.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT STYLES OF WOOD FLOORING?
Woods styles come in strips, planks, or parquet tiles with numerous edge treatments such as square, micro, and beveled edges. You can choose from a wide range of stains to complement your décor and from several types of finishes, even unfinished.

Another factor that determines the appearance of wood floors is the angle, or “cut,” of the grain. No matter what the specie, construction or finish of a wood floor, it comes with one of three cuts: plainsawn, quartersawn or riftsawn.

Plainsawn is the most common. A plainsawn board contains a more open and varied grain patterns because the angle of the cut shows the growth rings more prominently. Quartersawn cut wood is done at an angle that produces less board feet per log than plainsawn, therefore it can be more expensive. As for appearance, quartersawn wood is tighter-grained for a more consistent look, which many find more desirable. Another benefit of quartersawn wood is that it tends to twist and cup less and wears more evenly. Riftsawn wood is similar to quartersawn in cost and benefits, but is cut at a different angle for a slightly different grain pattern.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SOLID AND ENGINEERED FLOOR?
There are two constructions of wood commonly sold. "Solid" wood is milled from one piece of wood. Solid wood construction is generally used when installing over a wood subfloor where the hardwood will be attached to the subfloor. "Engineered" wood consists of three or more layers in a cross-ply construction. The top layer is the floor chosen and looks exactly the same as a solid floor once it is installed. Engineered floors can be used almost anywhere in the home, including the basement, and are particularly well-suited to installation over concrete subfloors. Most engineered can be stapled, glued or floated over subfloors.

WILL MY FLOOR AGE OR CHANGE IN COLOR?
Yes. You can expect to see shade differences in your floor over time. The cause is usually from exposure to the ultra-violet rays of the sun, whether direct or indirect. This color change will be more noticeable in lighter colors, which will darken over time. In addition, certain species like Brazilian cherry, will naturally darken over the years. These changes are due to the natural characteristics of wood and are not covered by most manufacturers’ warranties.

CAN I INSTALL A HARDWOOD FLOOR IN ANY ROOM?
Yes, any room except a full bath. With the variety of products available and a choice of installation options, hardwood flooring can now be installed in any room of the home. The only consideration is whether the floor will be installed on-, above- or below-grade. For example, because of potential moisture problems, solid hardwood is not recommended for installations below grade, such as in a basement. Engineered products, which are inherently dimensionally stable, are better choices for this area. All types of hardwood can be installed on- or above-grade.

WHY IS MY WOOD FLOOR LOOSE AND SQUEAKY?
Some causes are inadequate nailing, flexing weak subfloor system or nailed over particle board type subfloor. Check sub floor thickness and joint direction. Other possibilities are insufficient or incorrect adhesive, which subjects the floor to excess moisture or excessive drying.

CURE:
Add face nails, counter-sink & putty. Strengthen subfloor from below. Inject adhesive or pull-add-relay. Lubricate squeaks with graphite, wax, baby powder. Wedge sub floor up from joints.

CAN YOU LAY WOOD OVER RADIANT HEAT FLOORS?
Yes. The most important factor in a successful wood flooring installation over radiant heat is a dry slab and dry subfloor. Turn on the radiant heating system before installing the wood flooring to dry the area. If this isn't done, moisture left in the slab will enter the wood flooring as soon as the heat is turned on. The result is floors that will expand, contract, shrink, crack, cup and bow excessively. If the heat can't be turned on, then everyone involved-down to the homeowner-should understand and accept the compromises that will appear down the road.

Not all species of wood are good candidates for an installation over radiant heating. It's best to follow the manufacturer's recommendation for a species' suitability over radiant heat. When possible, choose a species that is known for its stability. Laminate flooring is a very good choice due to its dimensional stability. Strip flooring is a better choice than plank flooring, because narrow boards expand and contract less than wide boards do. Using narrow boards also means there are more seams in a floor to take up movement.

WHAT ARE THE PROPER CONDITIONS OF STORING MY FLOOR PRIOR TO INSTALLATION?
If the building is heated, temperature should not exceed 72 degrees and controlled humidity should be provided. If the flooring is delivered to the job and installed immediately, without acclimation, the use of continual dry heat may dry flooring below its manufactured moisture content, which may later result in buckled floors. Delivery to the job 3-4 days prior to installation permits acclimation and helps prevent problems later. Flooring should not be delivered to a job until the building has been closed in, with outside windows and doors in place and until cement work, plastering, and other materials are thoroughly dry. In winter construction, the building should be heated prior to delivery of the flooring with heat maintained until the floor is installed and finished. Temperature should not exceed 72 degrees.

WHY IS MY FLOOR CUPPING?
Cupping, or ''washboard'' - across the width of one piece of the flooring material, the edges are high, the center is lower. Generally develops gradually.

CAUSE:
Moisture imbalance through the thickness is the only cause. The material was manufactured flat and was flat when installed. Job site or occupant provided moisture is greater on the bottom of the piece than on the top. Find the source of moisture and eliminate it. Common moisture sources and their corrections are:

  • Airborne Relative Humidity– dehumidify air space or– humidify air space during the heating season
  • Wet basement – ventilate, dehumidify
  • Crawlspace – total groundcover with black plastic 6 mil; vents; add exhaust fan on timer
  • Rain handling provisions – correct to drain away from house
  • Reduce excessive lawn & garden moisture, waterproof foundation
  • Repair leaks, i.e. plumbing, roof, doors (Don’t hose patio)
  • In kitchen, the dishwasher and icemaker are notorious leakers

Expansion is also the result of site moisture and may have moved the floor tight to vertical surfaces. If so, remove flooring along the wall, or saw cut, to relieve pressure.

CURE:
Allow time for the corrections to take effect permitting the floor to improve on its own. It may become acceptable. After it is stabilized, sand flat and finish.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LAMINATE AND WOOD FLOORING?
Laminate flooring consists of synthetic backing with a high-pressure laminate surface. Laminate is not renewable and therefore has a short usable life span. However, some manufacturers offer wear, fade and stain warranties between 5-25 years.

Wood flooring consists of wood backing with wood wear surface or solid wood. Wood flooring with proper care will last generations. Wood floors can be refinished, re-sanded, and re-coated to look like new again.

HOW DO I CLEAN MY WOOD FLOORS?
If the finish manufacturer is known, follow the manufacturers recommended cleaning procedures. However, if the manufacturer is not known…

For surface finishes, including urethanes:

  • Keep grit off the floor, dust mop or vacuum regularly and keep doormats clean. Wipe up spills promptly with a dry cloth. Use a slightly dampened cloth for sticky spills.
  • Do NOT wax a urethane finished floor. Waxing a urethane finished floor will cause the wood floor to be slippery, requiring continuous waxing as your maintenance, and any re-surfacing will require a full sanding process.
  • For general cleaning, use a generic hardwood floor cleaner. If the luster does not return to traffic areas, the floor may require recoating.
  • Acrylic impregnated floors require a spray and buff system as recommended by the manufacturer.

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