In this three-part article series, we’re taking an in-depth look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of wide plank hardwood flooring (see Parts 1 & 2). This final article will focus specifically on how milling and installation practices can be tailored to combat the unique challenges of working with wide hardwood planks.
Consider Movement when Milling Wide Hardwood Planks
While planks narrower than 4” don’t include entire cross-sections of a tree, wide hardwood planks typically do. This requires them to be flatsawn in order to produce more width per plank. Since these wider boards naturally include wood taken from the area of the tree nearest to the center, the pith of the wood will be a major part of each individual plank. The outer edge of the plank, therefore, will contain wood that moves differently than the inner section of the plank.
Riftsawn and quartersawn wood along the edges of the board won’t tend to move in the same direction as the central area of the wood when increases and decreases in moisture cause the board to swell and shrink. This difference in the amount and direction of wood movement can lead to problems such as cupping and warping. To try to alleviate this common problem with wide planks, milling and re-milling should require slow, methodical procedures. The wood ought to be carefully dried so it can become properly acclimatized before flooring installation.
Rather than using a shiplap method that’s typical for narrower wood flooring planks, the tongue and groove technique is a superior choice for wide plank wood flooring. It cuts down on the expansion of planks leading to an uneven floor as the wood shifts and moves over time. Milling is just half the battle when it comes to creating a long-lasting, stable look and feel for your wide plank wood floor. The other half, and perhaps even more important than the milling process, involves using proper installation methods.
Proper Installation is Crucial for Wide Plank Wood Flooring
Always keep seasonal changes in mind when it comes to installing a wide plank wood floor. Give the planks ample time for acclimatization once they arrive at the job site before installation. How long you should allow the wood to rest will depend on several factors, such as how far the wood had to travel from the dealer to its final destination and how different the climate is in those two areas.
Subflooring can have an impact on how long you should wait as well. Leave a gap in your tongue and groove installation between the boards to allow room for swelling and contracting due to moisture changes in the air throughout the year. This need for a small gap between planks should be spelled out to the customer ahead of time so they won’t think it was done that way by mistake.
Toe-nailing a plank to the subfloor on the undercut shoulder of the tongue side is a good way to add stability to the floor. If a customer balks at the idea of gaps, installing the planks as a floating floor may be your best option. Just leave a gap all the way around the floor’s exterior and hide it underneath molding. Make sure the customer is aware that there could still be potential for movement causing unevenness over time if they choose to go with a floating floor.
Humidity control systems offer a big advantage to mitigate the amount of movement hardwood floors made with wide planks may experience over time. Though they’re a bit costly, these systems could end up saving money in floor replacement down the road. They greatly cut down on seasonal moisture changes in homes throughout the year.
Though they pose some definite challenges, more and more homeowners are deciding to go with wide plank hardwood flooring. That’s why it would behoove every dealer and installer who chooses to work with these materials to get familiar with the troubleshooting options presented in this article series. If careful consideration is made for wood species, milling procedures, and installation methods, wide plank wood floors can add long-lasting charm and beauty to practically any interior design.