Q: Are cracks in wood floors normal?
A: Because wood is a natural product it will react to changes in its
environment. Wood flooring is kiln dried from approximately 30% moisture content
to between 6-12% at the
time of manufacturing. This evens your floor to the standard normal relative
humidity level of between 35-55% that normally should be present in your home.
The most common causes of separations are Mother Nature and dryness. The loss of
moisture results in the most frequent reason for shrinkage of individual pieces
Most cracks are seasonal - they appear in dry months, or the cold season -when
heating is required, and close during humid periods. This type of movement is
Engineered floors are designed to compensate for dimensional changes within the
construction itself, and do not move as much as solid floors.
In a solid 2 1/4" wide strip oak floor, dry time cracks may be the width of a
dime's thickness (1/16"). Wider boards will have wider cracks and the reverse is
true. Cupping might
occur as humidity increases.
Q: How do I avoid cracks in my floor?
A: Engineered wood flooring is usually several times more dimensionally stable
to cracking and cupping than a solid floor. The engineered construction itself
--a cross lamination
of plies-- counteracts dimensional movements. Particularly stable is an
engineered floor installed with a floating method, which causes movement --or
floating-- as a whole if
temperature and humidity change.
The cure is to minimize changes by adding moisture to the air space during dry
periods, and to reduce humidity in the summer. A constant Relative Humidity (RH)
(minimum 35%, maximum 55%) works in concert with the manufacture of wood floors
to provide stability in the floor. You must either live with some cracks, have
or chose an engineered floating floor - it's your choice.
We recommend you purchase a small hygrometer that will tell you what the RH is
daily. It is especially important during the hot humid summer months to run
either an air
conditioner or a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air. Remember
that maintaining this 35-55% RH year around is not only beneficial for your
flooring; it is also
good for your own health and comfort.
Q: A solid wood floor can be refinished more times
than an engineered floor, right?
A: Most of the UV cured urethanes that are used today are so durable that it
should take many years before you should have to refinish your wood floor. There
is a misunderstood
belief that 3/4" solid oak floors can be refinished over and over again. This is
absolutely not true. A solid wood floor cannot be re-sanded once you get down to
the tongue, which
means only the top 1/8", or so, is sandable. The top ply on most engineered wood
floors is 1/8" also, so both solid or engineered wood flooring can be re-sanded
2 to 3 times.
The point here is when buying a wood floor do not buy it based on how many times
you think it can be re-sanded.
Q: Which should I use, solid wood floor or
engineered wood floor?
A: Each have their specific uses and is dictated by your lifestyle and specific
Solid wood flooring can be used on grade and above grade, but not below grade.
Solid wood should be in a moisture controlled environment. Solid wood strip or
plank is nail down
only and requires a wood subfloor. Solid wood parquet can be glued to a variety
of subfloor materials.
Engineered can be used on grade, above and below grade. Engineered wood is more
dimensionally stable so it can be installed in areas where solid wood is not
to moisture. Engineered strip, plank and parquet are glue down applications over
various subfloor materials. Some engineered strip and plank can be nailed down
a wood subfloor. Engineered includes floating floors where tongue and grove are
glued together, but the floor is not anchored to the subfloor. This is a good
choice for going over
existing vinyl flooring.
Q: How do I care for my wood floor?
A: Thanks to new finishes and floor manufacturing advances, today's wood
flooring is quite simple to maintain and care for.
Weekly - Vacuum or sweep your floor. Small stones and gritty dirt will scratch
the floor quickly. (Always keep mats or rugs at doorway exteriors and
Monthly - Clean the floor with a manufacturer's recommended cleaner on a
dampened sponge, and follow up with a dry terry cloth towel.
Yearly or when needed - Re-coat the floor with a surface finish when cleaning no
longer restores shine and/or when floors have been heavily used.
General Maintenance - Wipe spills immediately with a damp cloth or paper towel.
Q: How do I clean my wood floor?
A: If the finish manufacturer is known, follow the manufacturer's recommended
cleaning procedures and products. 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.
For general cleaning, there are good generic wood floor cleaners. Alternatively,
use a mild solution of white vinegar and warm water (1/4 cup of vinegar to 1
quart of warm water),
and with a spray bottle, spray a small amount on a mop or cloth and go over a
small area with the mop or cloth. Buff dry. Continue until the entire floor has
When luster does not return to traffic areas, the floor may require re-coating.
Consult us or your installer.
Do not wax a surface finish. Wax will, in most cases, be slippery. If you wax a
surface finish, the floor cannot merely be re-coated to rejuvenate it, it will
have to continue to be waxed
as a maintenance procedure.
Acrylic impregnated floors require a spray and buff system as recommended by the
For waxed floors: Keep grit off the floor, dust mop or vacuum regularly and keep
doormats clean. Wipe up spills promptly with a dry cloth or dry paper towel, use
a slightly dampened
cloth for sticky spills and buff with a dry cloth to restore luster. When the
floor looks dull, buff first to see if luster will be restored before waxing.
When areas of heavy use no longer
respond to buffing, wax only those areas and buff all the floor to an even
When the whole floor needs attention, clean the floor with a solvent based wood
floor cleaner and then wax. Your floor should only need to be completely
re-waxed once or twice
a year depending on traffic.
Q: What can damage a wood floor?
A: Grit and dirt - Grit and dirt will eventually cause scratches and dents,
which shortens the lifetime of the floor. Always use door mats and vacuum/sweep
on a weekly basis.
Water and wet mopping - Any excessive water causes wood grain to raise and the
wood to expand, crack, splinter and possibly, in extreme cases, to discolor or
Oil Soaps and Ammonia Cleaners - There are many over the counter oil soap based
or silicone, wax, or ammonia based cleaning products that will damage and dull
the finish of
your wood floor. The best suggestion is to only use the manufacturers
recommended cleaning products on your wood flooring.
Furniture and High Heel Shoes - Any furniture that rests directly on top of a
wood floor should have felt protectors, or furniture coasters, under all its
feet. Purchasing chair glides is
a very cheap insurance policy for your wood flooring. For extremely heavy
objects such as a piano, use rubber cups. High heels or shoes with any sharp
exposed nail or stone will
exert up to 8,000 lbs per square inch of pressure on a floor. That's enough to
damage any type of floor covering.
Sunlight - Exposure to the sun and its UV rays can cause wood floors to fade,
change color, or experience surface checking, and even cause color changes in
polyurethane finish. To avoid these problems we recommend using draperies or
shades to help block out the sun's harmful rays.
Spills - Spills in general must be wiped up immediately to prevent stains. Most
new finishes, however, prevent spills from affecting the wood if they are wiped
Q: How should my wood floor be installed?
A: Nail Down - Solid Strip floors or Plank floors can only be nailed (or
stapled) down, and only on or above grade on a wooden subfloor. This has
traditionally been the most common
Glue Down - Engineered wood floors and parquets can be glued down. Manufacturer
recommended mastic or adhesive is spread on with a trowel to adhere the wood
flooring to the
subfloor. Engineered floors can be installed on all levels, and on concrete.
This is the most expensive installation method on average.
Floating - Some engineered floors and all Longstrip/Longplank floors can be
floated. This is a very fast, easy and clean installation method. Floating
floors are not mechanically
fastened to the subfloor: instead, each plank is glued together with wood glue
applied in the tongue and groove. A thin foam-pad is placed between the wood
flooring and the
subfloor to protect against moisture, reduce noise transmission, "soften" the
floor, and to increase the "R" value. This is the easiest and most versatile
Q: How should the job-site be prepared?
A: The surface of the subfloor must be level within 1/8" in an 8 feet radius.
The subfloor must be clean and thoroughly dry.
For wood subfloors on grade or below grade, use a 15 lb. or higher asphalt felt
or rosin paper to retard moisture and to help alleviate subfloor variations. The
wood subfloor must
have 10% or less moisture content (MC). Concrete subfloors must have been
installed and cured at least 30 days, and the concrete dry-weight must be 2% or
For floating installation, a moisture barrier must be used, such as a 6 mil
polyethylene ("poly-film"), which overlaps 5" and is taped together with duct
For glue-down installation, it is imperative that the subfloor is clean, level
and dry. Fill low areas with leveling compounds; sand or plane high areas.
Foreign substances may
cause mastic to fail. Room temperature and humidity should be near living
condition several days before installation.
Q: How should subfloors be prepared?
A: Installation instructions follows each delivered product. The following
guidelines are general in nature:
In general, basements and crawl spaces must be dry and well ventilated. In joist
construction with no basement, outside cross ventilation through vents or other
openings in the
foundation walls must be provided with no dead air areas. A surface cover of 6
mil polyethylene film is essential as a vapor retarder in crawl space
The building should be closed in with outside windows and doors in place. All
concrete, masonry, sheetrock and framing members, etc. should be thoroughly dry
before flooring is
delivered to the job site. In warm months the building must be well ventilated;
during winter months heating should be maintained near occupancy levels at least
five days before
the flooring is delivered and until sanding and finishing are complete.
Because materials used to provide energy efficient structures trap moisture in a
residence, it may be necessary to delay delivery and installation of flooring to
allow the excessive
moisture trapped during construction to evaporate. The average moisture content
of framing members and subflooring should be below 10% before delivery of the
contents above 10-12% can cause moisture related problems.
When job site conditions are satisfactory, have the flooring delivered and boxes
placed into small lots and stored in the rooms where it will be installed. For
solid flooring open or
remove packaging for acclimation and allow 4 to 5 days or more, for the flooring
to become acclimated to job site conditions. Engineered flooring should not be
opened until the time of installation.
From the time flooring is delivered and until occupancy, temperature and
humidity should be maintained at or near occupancy levels. After occupancy,
continue to control the
environment. Extended times (more than 1 month) without HVAC controls can
promote elevated moisture conditions which can adversely affect flooring.
Q: How can squeaks be minimized?
A: Thorough job-site and subfloor preparation, properly followed installation
instructions, and constant temperature and humidity minimize the risk that
squeaks will occur. In
addition, one can use a foam underlayment which provides cushion and protects
from squeaking caused by friction. Foam underlayments are recommended for all
(but not for radiant-heated floors).
Q: Can wood floors be used in a bathroom or will the moisture be a problem? Are
engineered floors better?
A: Wood and moisture is always a problem. Therefore wood floors are seldom used
in bathrooms (especially not with bath and shower).
Engineered floors are much more stable to expansion and contraction that results
from high and low humidity (winter-summer) than solid floors. However, they are
as sensible to
direct water-contact (spills etc) as solid wood floors. Moreover, a flooded
engineered floor can potentially de-laminate when the glue is exposed to water.
floors range from $4-$10 (and more) depending on pattern (strip-plank) and
Laminate floors (Pergo, Formica etc.) are proven much better in bathrooms as the
high-density fiberboard construction doesn't damage as severely if a flooding
(it would swell 5-10% which causes heaving and buckling, but chances are it'll
settle back somewhat, not totally ruined.) Laminates are a "fake" wood floor;
it's a [paper] photo of a
wood pattern fused to the HDF board and then coated with a very hard, scratch
resistant plastic. Some people don't like laminates. Laminate floors range from
$2-6 depending on
quality and construction, thickness, whether it has the click-system or
conventional tongue and groove (glue).
Now, there's a brand new flooring category being developed: veneer flooring.
It's like laminate flooring (the HDF board construction and a really hard
plastic coating) but it has a
real wood veneer. The veneer is very thin, but it's sawn or sliced, not peeled
(which looks tacky). In other words, a veneer floor looks exactly like a pure
wood floor but has the
advantages of a laminate (thin, floating, stable, more moisture resistant, very
wear resistant). However, unlike a wood floor it can not be sanded/refinished or
repaired. It's floated
and cannot be nailed down. Veneer flooring ranges from $5-10. Most come with a
"glue-less" tongue and groove design, i.e. you snap the boards together.
We sell all categories, and for a bathroom setting we really only recommend
laminate or veneer flooring, and with caution!
Q: How should an unfinished floor be treated?
A: There are many different wood floor finishes. The earlier finishes used were
wax, lacquer, varnish and "shellac". Although these old methods of stain and
coat are still used,
they are becoming rarer today because of lower durability and higher maintenance
compared to oil-modified urethanes and water-based finishes. Nevertheless, these
still have their place. For example, oiled and waxed finishes are durable and
more repairable than urethane based finishes, and therefore often used in
They need more maintenance and have a fairly low luster. Shellac gives antique
flooring a beautiful rich patina and is used both as a sealer coat under certain
finishes or as a finish
Oil modified Urethanes (Polyurethane): -A clear, tough and durable finish that
is applied as a wear layer. The application is relatively easy. A common method
is to apply three
coats allowing each coat to dry overnight with light sanding and vacuuming
between coats. The coating has a thick looking appearance and gives the wood an
amber color tone.
It has great moisture resistance and is also one of the most scratch-resistant
finishes available. It can be hard to touch up or re-coat. Oil-based urethanes
have a tendency to
darken and or yellow with age.
Water based finishes: This blend of synthetic resins, plasticizers and other
film-forming ingredients (water based) produces an extremely durable surface
that is moisture resistant.
Different gloss levels are available, most have a clear finish and are
frequently used over white and pastel colored stains. Their drying time is much
faster than oil-based urethanes
(one to two hours), there is little odor, and clean up is with soap and water.
Their application can be difficult due to its quick drying time.
Moisture cured Urethane: Moisture cured urethane is one of the hardest finishes
available, but It is also extremely difficult to apply and it has a very
unpleasant (toxic) odor.
A respirator is a must when applying. Moisture cured urethane dries by pulling
moisture from the air, while most other finishes dry through evaporation of the
solvents leaving the
resins on the floor.
Q: What are the advantages of a pre-finished floor?
A: Factory pre-finished wood floors have grown tremendously. Today's
pre-finished flooring comes with very durable finishes such as oil-modified
urethanes and water-based
finishes (see above), using several coats of ultraviolet (UV) cured urethane for
UV cured urethanes can only be properly cured in the presence of UV light, which
would be extremely difficult to duplicate on a job site finish, not to mention
how many days it
would take. These UV cured urethanes create a tough, scratch resistant wear
layer and help prevent moisture from penetrating the wood's surface. This means
that these floors
won't watermark like the old waxed hardwood floors, and the UV cure urethanes do
make it easier to maintain the like new appearance than, for example, the old
waxed wood floors.
Choosing pre-finished largely boils down to installation, durability and
maintenance issues. Instead of taking several days to install and finish a wood
floor, a pre-finished wood floor
is generally done in one day, hence resulting in substantial time and cost
savings. Most do-it-yourselfers can install a pre-finished floor. Because of a
high quality and consistent
factory application, a pre-finished floor often has a more durable wear layer
and lower maintenance than a site finished floor.