Al’s Column: Questions about wood flooring you’re afraid to ask

HomeColumnsAl's ColumnAl's Column: Questions about wood flooring you’re afraid to ask

April 13/20, 2015; Volume 29/Number 1

By Roy Reichow

Many flooring professionals have gained knowledge in their field yet still have questions they may be embarrassed to ask due to an expected level of expertise. Following are some explanations for popular questions regarding wood flooring that appear basic but have numerous intricate parts.

What is the best time of year to install a wood floor?

This has always been a common question. There is no real best time of year to install a wood floor because it comes down to controlling your project environment before, during and after installation. For example, a customer may want to have a wood floor installed in her newly remodeled kitchen, but it is still under construction. Therefore, the job site conditions won’t represent what the typical living conditions will be once the kitchen is completed or in service.

Most wood floors are installed in unfavorable sight conditions and will react to surroundings. These reactions are most likely not covered by manufacturer’s warranty. It’s vitally important to understand what these requirements are and to meet them prior to installation.

Which is better: solid or engineered wood floors?  

That’s a tough question. Both floors have their advantages and disadvantages; the buyer has to discern which is appropriate for each individual job.

Solid wood floors have been used for years and are favored by many people, however many dislike some of its characteristics such as wide gapping in the winter or cupping in the summer. These are legitimate concerns if the site conditions are not met per manufacturer requirements. In some cases it may not be possible to obtain preferred conditions, therefore solid wood floors can appropriately be acclimated to those conditions where engineered cannot.

Engineered floors are more stable (within manufacturer’s requirements) than solid wood floors, yet they also have limitations. There will be reduced gapping or cupping under normal conditions, but if exposed to unfavorable conditions splitting and checking may occur and are usually nonreversible.

What is acclimation?

Acclimation is the process of adjusting (conditioning) the moisture content of a wood floor to the environment in which it is expected to perform. This has been one of the most misleading subjects in the wood flooring industry. Many times people think it’s a matter of timeline (days) as opposed to conditioning wood flooring to meet the expected living conditions. Many manufacturers of factory-finished flooring (including engineered) provide instructions to acclimate/condition for three to seven days. This timeline would be considered accurate if the site conditions were within the manufacturer’s relative humidity conditions.

The acclimation/conditioning of unfinished solid wood flooring is different because it will be acclimated to the expected living conditions. It is important to remember when acclimating solid wood flooring the goal is to reach equilibrium moisture content (MC). This may take days or months to obtain depending upon the starting moisture content and targeted environment range. Reaching baseline MC before installation means when the wood swells/shrinks due to moisture change there is little to no effect on the appearance of the wood floor.

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