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More Q & A

Are wood floors expensive?

Hardwood floors are very competitively price and represent an excellent value when compared to other flooring options. Hardwood floors never have to be replaced and will enhance or even increase the value of your home should you decide to sell. When compared to other flooring products, hardwood floors provide long-lasting value, as Real Wood Floors are "Beauty that last a lifetime".

Is it cost-effective to select wood flooring over less costly materials?

Yes! According to the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) & Residential real estate agents, say homes with wood floors hold their value better, sell faster, and fetch higher prices, according to a recent nationwide survey commissioned by the trade organization. By a three-to-one margin, real estate agents said that a house with wood floors would sell faster than a carpeted house. Some 58 percent said a house with wood floors would bring a higher price.

What species and color should I choose?

There are several species, colors and grain variations to consider. Other than the walls, the floor represents the largest expanse of color or pattern in a room. Your floor should complement the fabrics, furnishings and accessories already present in the space, as well as enhancing the unique personality of the room as a whole. The most popular colors are red oak natural and maple natural, but with today's eclectic decoration styles, anything goes.

Darker colors - Formal or traditional interiors,

Lighter colors - country, casual and contemporary settings.

There are many choices when selecting the right floor for the rooms in your home. There are several many species, colors and grain variations to consider.

Which rooms can I install a wood floor in my home?

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. 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 type of area. All types of wood can be installed on- or above-grade.

Does wood flooring go well with most design styles?

Yes. In a recent survey commissioned by the NWFA, more than three-quarters of interior designers find that wood flooring works well with many decorating styles. "It's the most versatile floor covering there is," says one designer. "Wood goes with contemporary and traditional and everything in between." Designers rated natural materials as superior to man-made materials in beauty, prestige, style, maintenance, and durability. A variety of woods and finishes are available to complement the decor and style of any room. Oak and maple are the most popular woods, but some homeowners are investing in exotics such as Brazilian cherry and Purple heart.

Engineered floor versus a solid wood product?

Engineered products, available in Planks, Strips are manufactured of hardwood using a cross-directional laminated construction (3 to 5 layers), with a top layer of premium hardwood. This construction counteracts the natural tendency of wood to expand and contract with seasonal changes in temperature and humidity, making engineered products inherently dimensionally stable. Solid products, available in Planks, Strips, or Parquet, are manufactured from a solid piece of wood.

Is there an advantage engineered products over solid products?

Yes. In general, engineered products can be installed in any room in the home, whether on-grade, below-grade or above-grade. Engineered products can be nailed down, glued-down or stapled down, depending upon the situation. Engineered products, can be glued down, stapled down or some can be “floated” over most subfloors without the use of nails or adhesives, making it ideal for remodeling. Solid products are not recommended for below grade installations and must be nailed down or glued down.

Should I use a prefinished versus unfinished?

More and more hardwood flooring sold today is prefinished or factory finished with many coats of UV-cured polyurethane or aluminum oxide are applied. These factory finishes are tough and durable. Installing a prefinished floor eliminates the time, the dust and the odors associated with the on-site sanding and finishing of an unfinished product. A prefinished floor can be installed in a day. An unfinished flooring installation may require twice as much time for the same area.

What about installing wood in high traffic areas like kitchens?

The urethane finishes on most new wood floors stand up to water and traffic, bringing wood flooring into bathrooms, kitchens, and other higher-stress areas. These finishes resist wear and stains better than other finishes and require no stripping, no buffing and no waxing. High traffic areas include exterior doorways, hallways, mud rooms, and the areas in front of the sink, stove and refrigerator. To protect the floor just inside exterior doorways, use walk-off mats or small rugs to catch tracked-in dirt and grime. Place small rugs or mats at other high traffic locations. Watch for grit or pebbles that might be brought in on waffle soles of athletic shoes and collect these with a hand-held cordless vac. This should be done a regular basis.

Is there a difference between square-edge and eased-edge designs?

Yes. With a square edge, the sides of each plank or strip are square. An eased edge, more commonly known as a beveled or micro-beveled edge, features a slight angle on the top edge of the plank or strip. An eased edge can help mask slight subfloor imperfections, and can be felt if walking on the floor in bare feet.

Which installation method is best?

The method used for your hardwood installation will depend upon the type of product you have chosen, where the flooring will be installed, and the type of subfloor. Nail down, glue down & floating are the three type of installation. For instance, if you are remodeling your kitchen, some products can be “floated” over most subfloors, including vinyl or ceramic tile, eliminating the mess and cost of tearing up the existing floor and installing a subfloor. Engineered products, which are dimensionally stable, are ideal for basements and can be nailed, glued or stapled down. Your flooring retailer or contractor can help you to determine the best method for your situation. See Installation methods & details.

Which types of wood floors are best for in-floor radiant heating systems and are some wood species better for radiant systems than other?

Engineered hardwood floors--in planks, strips are the best floors to use with radiant heating systems. These floors are manufactured of hardwood using a three-ply or five-ply laminated construction, making them inherently dimensionally stable. This means they are less susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity. Of the engineered flooring options, with a floating installation as the best choice, because it can be "floated" over the subfloor, without the use of nails or adhesives for a permanent installation. It is important to note that when installing any hardwood floor over a radiant heating system, the maximum temperature of the subfloor should never exceed 80 (F). For the correct water temperature inside the heating pipes, refer to your manufacturer's guidelines. Oak is an ideal species for in-floor radiant systems. We also recommend ash and merbau. We do not recommend that you use maple or pecan for an in-floor radiant heat system. If you have a question about your species choice see Radiant Heat & Wood Floors.

Are wood floors hard to maintain? Can I damp-mop my floor?

No. A hardwood floor finished at the factory features three to seven layers of a UV-cured polyurethane. This finish gives the floor a tough, durable and smooth no-wax surface that is both luxurious and easy-care. See Maintenance and Do's & Don'ts for your wood floor. DO NOT damp mop - Water and wood do not mix. Therefore, we suggest that you use the maintenance products and procedures recommended by the manufacturer of your floor. Maintenance kits can be purchased by visiting our showroom or online store.

Is there a reason to choose red oak over white oak, or white oak over red oak?

The answer is yes! There are two main reasons one would choose red or white in preference to the other. The first reason is visual appeal. Some people prefer the pinkish cast of red oak, while others feel the golden hue of white oak is the best background color. Opinions vary because of personal taste, the rooms color scheme, and the species of other prominent woodwork in the room. Unfortunately, the white or red issue is often solved by a contractor long before the home owner (who might have a preference) gets involved with the home. The second reason which should affect the white/red decision is the amount of traffic the floor will receive. Red oak works well in many residential areas. However, white oak wins hands down when it comes to the dreaded heel pecks. Therefore, for high traffic areas like foyers and rooms for entertaining, taking a good look at white oak might save a few headaches.

Should I use Particle Board as a subflooring material?

The subfloor recommendation does not include particle board. Particle board, a panel product made of saw dust and or small wood chips, does not hold fasteners properly and so cannot be recommended. The most common occurrence for encountering particle board in a floor system is with remodeling. Particle board or a composition board underlayment is frequently used beneath carpet and vinyl. When these products are encountered, and nail down flooring is to be a replacement, NOFMA recommends removal of the products. After removal, inspect the existing subfloor and repair, re-fasten, or overlay to obtain a suitable subfloor. Where removal of the particle board is not an option, the recommended procedure is to overlay it with a minimum 5/8" plywood.

How many times can a solid wood floor be sanded?

A definitive answer cannot be given because no two people will sand a floor in the same manner. The amount of wood removed will depend upon the number of papers (different grits) the sanding machine operator uses and the manner in which he moves the machine. Normally, the operator will use three papers to sand a floor. Some will only use two. This will depend on the condition of the floor prior to sanding. Normally, a three paper sanding will remove 1/64; to near 1/32 of wood from the surface of the floor. A NOFMA member's thick flooring product has 19/64; of wood above the tongue so that a floor could be completely sanded and finished numerous times (six to ten or more) before one would reach a depth where the top of the groove edge is weakened. Typically when refinishing a recently finished floor to change color or repair a problem finish, 1/64 or less of the wood material is removed. Thus, even more sandings can be performed on flooring that does not require the heavy sanding procedures associated with long-term abuse. If a floor has been abused - scratched, gouged, crowned, un-level, etc. - a significant amount of material may have to be removed to reach a level surface. Replacement of these heavily damaged pieces may be the repair of choice in order to keep from over sanding undamaged adjacent pieces. In any case, a flooring product is considered a life-time product. Under normal conditions where finishing/refinishing occurs each 15 or so years the flooring, if not abused, will last as long as the structure.

How should I inspect my new hardwood floor?

Inspection should be done from a standing position with normal lighting. Glare particularly from large windows, magnifies any irregularity in the floors and should not determine acceptance. A finish similar to that found on fine furniture should not be expected. Trash in the finish, a wavy look along strips, deep swirls or sander marks, and splotchy areas can be indication of inadequate finishing or cleaning. The quality of the finish can be acceptable and still include some of these problems, but they should not appear over the entire floor. The perimeter and hard to reach areas (i.e. under radiators, around cabinets and cabinet cut-outs, closets, corners, etc.) are most likely to contain these irregularities. Again, when inspected from a standing position these irregularities may be present but should not be prominent.

How can I keep my wood floor from turning dark?

As most any wood product ages it's color will change. This change is most often influenced by the nature of the wood species and by light intensity or oxidation. Other factors involve the finishing materials used on the flooring. The finish products themselves also change color with age. The degree of change with finishes is influenced by light intensity and UV blockers in the finish. One exception is with new oil modified polys less than 22-3 months old. This material when covered or shaded by rugs or other items will generally darken considerably. If the shade is later removed a partial reversal will take place over time.

Can radiant heating systems be compatible with wood flooring both solid and engineered?

YES with certain cautions and restraints. First of all, check with the manufacturer for their recommendations. The most common recommendation for all systems is to have the heating system installed and on line running, before wood flooring products are delivered. Most contractors report a minimum of 72 hours of heating is required to dry the system; however, a week or more is suggested. Light weight concrete, gypcrete, gypsum slurrys, etc. tend to dry slowly so that the extra time is necessary.F or engineered flooring: adhesive applications, the adhesive manufacturer should be consulted for compatibility with the heating system. Engineered flooring mechanically fastened, - use fasteners which do not extend below the subfloor material. For solid wood flooring, the following three installation systems are the most common:1) Plywood subflooring over the heated slab. If the slab is on grade, above grade, in contact with the ground, or over an uncontrolled environment; a vapor retarder of 6 mil polyethylene, should be placed over the slab. Do not glue the polyethylene. A proper subfloor can be composed of 2 layers of 1/2; plywood, southern yellow pine or douglas fir. The first layer is placed on the normal square of the room; the second layer on a 45 degree angle to the first layer; space 1/4to 1/2around the perimeter of panels of both layers; pin plywood together with 7/8 ring shank nails or screws; nail from center out on a 6" grid pattern, avoid trapping a hump between layers; nail flooring to plywood with fasteners which do not extend below plywood. You may have to cut the nails for face nailing starter and finish runs. An alternate method is to use 16wide x 8' long 3/4; thick plywood planks, scored across the back 3/8; deep every 12 or so. Score more often if curling of the plywood is a problem. Lay these planks over the slab perpendicular to the direction of the flooring and stagger plank ends at least 2 ft. with up to 1 space along edges and 1/8; to space between ends. Always use at least a 2 ft. length of plywood plank at flooring starting wall and ending wall. Fill in short pieces in the center of the room. Again use appropriate length fasteners (1 1/2for blind nailing and cut the nails to less than 1 1/2; lengths for face nailing.2) Conventional wood joist construction with heating tubes fastened to the underside of the subfloor; with this installation fastener length is important also. No fastener should penetrate through the subfloor and risk puncturing a tube.3) Conventional wood joist construction with 3/4; or thicker firring strips fastened to subflooring; the heating tubes run between the strips with light weight concrete, gypsum, etc., poured over and around the tubes filling the space between the firring strips. The flooring is nailed to the firring strips. Firring strips should be group #1 dense softwoods (southern yellow pine, douglas fir, larch, etc.) spaced 12; on center or less and well attached to the subfloor. Flooring is oriented perpendicular to firring and nailed to firring strips. When deciding on radiant heat under hardwood flooring keep in mind the following:

1) Strip or plank less than 4 wide is recommended, the more narrow the better . Edge grain or quartered product is also more stable.

2) Use a moisture meter to check average moisture content of the flooring, make 20 or more readings and average them.

3) Acclimate to the average condition of the area. Heating does not occur year round so the contractor must allow for the expected flooring expansion of the non-heating season, in most areas. In other words, try to avoid installing a very dry flooring product over a very dry system in the winter with the heat running. If flooring has to be installed under these conditions provide adequate field expansion or spacer rows to accommodate expected expansion.

4) With radiant floor heating some extra cracks between strips may be expected in the finished floor during the heating season. But they should not be significantly greater than a non-heated floor where proper installation guidelines are followed and occupied jobsite conditions are met.

5) Provide an outside thermostat to call for heat during rapid outside temperature drops. These heating systems are slow to react and pre-heating helps even the demand load. Do not use set back thermostats. Continually changing the temperature shocks the flooring and finish with excessive heat and can cause performance problems.

6) It is not necessary to use asphalt felt (or rosin paper) under flooring as some odors may develop when heated .In summary, wood flooring and radiant heating can perform very well together for the life of the structure. Be sure the job site is ready for the flooring installation and check the moisture content of the flooring to establish the present condition and provide necessary spacing for the expected movement.

What can I do for a Cupped floor?

1) The most common cause for cupping is excess moisture, which originates from the subfloor, crawl space, basement, and/or slab. Excessive moisture is usually indicated when the average moisture content of the under-floor materials (checked in several places) is more than 4% higher than the average expected EMC (equilibrium moisture content) for the area. (Ref. Behavior of Flooring and Cupping & Crowning) If excessive moisture is the cause, identify the source, remedy the problem, then allow the flooring to re-acclimate to the new drier environment (this may take a heating season). After drying to normal conditions, the flooring should flatten. If the floor flattens with no significant cracks, movement between pieces, or noises (crackles and squeaks) no further action may be required. Along with the drying, shrinkage cracks, movement, and/or noises may result. For new floors with prominent cracks, movement, and/or noises throughout; re-installation and/or replacement may be indicated. For a floor with the occasionally occurring larger crack (up to 3/32), with occasional movement and/or noise, with smaller shrinkage cracks (less than 1/32) and little or no additional movement or noises; a good choice for repair is to:

1) re-fasten the flooring in those areas which exhibit movement and noises;

2) properly fill the cracks (fill from tongue level to surface, filler should not simply bridge the crack); and re-coat or re-finish.

Cupping can also be caused by the flooring acclimating to the area or space environment which has a higher EMC than the average moisture content at installation. This cupping is generally permanent and changes little with the seasons. For permanent cupping (cupping that has not changed noticeably in 12 + months) sanding the floor flat is the most common option, followed by refinishing. In order to maintain the before refinishing environment the same type of finish materials and number of coats should be used. After finishing, the floor should remain flat as long as the environment does not change from the previous norm. For the permanently cupped floor which shows a small difference in the cupping with the seasons (i.e. cups more during the humid season) sanding at mid season (spring, fall) mediates the expected change.3) For minor cupping (cupping which is not prominent and generally only noticeable in reflected light from large windows etc) where traffic wear has not worn the finish on the slightly raised edge, you may have to accept the condition. Over time, 2-4 years, the cupping will probably subside.

What causes loose, squeaky, creaking, or crackling in hardwood flooring?

The cause(s) of these conditions may be singular or multiple and include one or more of the following. Noises and/or movement may result from subfloor to support (joist) connections: i.e.; nail movement in plywood; glue set before plywood installation; laterally moving plywood across glue bead, etc. Flooring to subfloor connections: i.e.; lack of nailing; lack of adequate nailing near ends; improper fasteners such as small wire nails; where staples are used- over driven staples, and broken tongues; etc. Flooring match or tongue and groove fit: i.e., tongue too small for groove or tongue too big for groove, etc. Moisture change: i.e., too much moisture which loosens fasteners, excessive drying which disengages flooring, system stress as moisture tightens a floor, etc. System specification: i.e., inadequate subfloor materials, excessive spans or spacing, etc. Again, any one or all of the above may contribute to a performance problem. Remedies for floors which show movement and/or are noisy: First, if an area of multiple strips move together in unison, a system problem may be the indicated cause. This may require brackets to pull the subfloor to joist from below, and/or face nailing or screwing into joists from above. Second, If singular strips move, a nailing/fastening or match problem may be the indicated cause. When this condition occurs over an entire floor, if accessible, screwing from below with drywall screws with washers to back the head may correct the problem. If the under-floor is not accessible, general face nailing, specifically into joists may correct the problem. As a last resort replacement may be required. For single strip movement in smaller specific areas (not over the entire floor), screwing from below and/or face nailing the indicated areas, most always remedies the movement and noise. Third, if an excessive or high moisture condition has occurred or is present, the cause(s) must be identified and remedied. The flooring should then be allowed to re-acclimate to the new conditions before other remedial repair is initiated.

I have a new house. We have 2 strip hardwood floors throughout, and this winter, we had numerous cracks. Some of them are so large, you can stand a quarter up in them. What do I do with my unsightly floors?

I know some cracks may form in the winter, but these seem excessive. What is the standard to determine if the crack is too wide? First, there is no standard for determining if a crack of a particular size is not acceptable or excessive. Cracks are considered normal cracks if they close during the humid season of the year. If the cracks close, the natural wood product is simply absorbing the environmental moisture available, expanding, and filling the gap. To prevent unsightly normal cracks, the environment must be modified to minimize the difference between the Humid and Dry seasons. De-humidification above and below the flooring in the summer may be necessary, conversely, humidification during winter heating may also be required. Permanent cracks may be filled with an appropriate filler and/or by recoating the flooring. This should generally be done during the Spring or Fall when conditions are not extreme and more average. For much of the USA, October and April are the preferred months for remedial action.

(Mrs. Homeowner) I have a relatively new home, about a year old, with strip flooring on the first (ground) floor. The home is over a crawl space that is reported to be mostly dry. My floors cupped this summer and are very unsightly. I want to know who is responsible for the cupping and what can be done about it?

In virtually every case, flooring cupping is the result of excess moisture beneath the floor. The source(s) of such moisture must be identified and eliminated. Evidence of such moisture may be water or mud in the crawlspace, or mildew on the framing. Some typical sources of excess crawlspace moisture are: improper drainage of water runoff; faulty gutters or downspouts; soaker or sprinkler systems which direct water near or against the foundation; improper grading or backfill; seepage due to terrain features; improper drainage from HVAC or other household equipment. Recommendation: NOFMA recommends that a crawlspace be kept dry. Water, mud or excessively damp earth should not be present. A good ground cover (6-mil poly or equivalent) over 100% of the crawlspace earth should be installed as an effective

moisture barrier, and good cross ventilation should be present.

Q & A Information provided courtesy of the National Oak Flooring Manufacturing Association & Wikipedia


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