“Wood” You Mind?
Wood is a natural material subject to many variations in color, dimensional stability, grain, pattern, texture and hardness. As a result, it’s NOT perfect. Hardwood flooring’s natural beauty and durability provide a unique identity that matures over time. For that reason, no two hardwood floors are exactly alike. Variation is even more predominant if you are dealing with exotic species of hardwood. (see below)
Like all organic materials, wood has its own character and quirks responding to the environment, and will change over time.Hardwood flooring is a product of nature that lives and breathes and is subject to infinite variations in colour, grain, pattern and texture, enhancing your floors individuality.
Wood should be treated with understanding and a certain amount of care. Knowing about wood properties, as well as individual species, is critical. For consumers, it’s important to have
realistic expectations about how wood will perform. It’s important that you consider the inherent properties of wood. If you see its variation and inconsistency as “flaws” (we stress that most consider this to be the uniqueness and beauty of hardwood) and as something that you “wood” mind, hardwood flooring may not be for you.
Beautiful Hardwood Floors are a product of nature and are therefore not perfect. As a result of this, accepted industry standards permit a Defect Tolerance of 5%. The defects may be of a Manufacturing or a Natural type.
|DOMESTIC & IMPORTED WOOD FLOORING SPECIES|
|Ash, Beech, Birch, Cherry, Douglas Fir, Heart, Pine, Hickory , Pecan Maple (Hard), Mesquite, Red Oak, Walnut, White Oak, Yellow Pine||Brazilian Cherry, Cypress (Australian), Jarrah, Mahogany (Santos), Merbau, Padauk (African), Purpleheart, Rubberwood, Teak (Thai/Burmese), Wenge.|
Wood Floor Characteristics
Wood is a natural product containing natural variations in colour, shade, and grain. These characteristics are what give the floor its appeal and charm.
No two boards are exactly alike. Every board will vary in colour from one to the next. This is especially true of the natural products where there is no stain to even out the grain. Although the boards may differ from one to the next, the over all appearance of the floor will blend to create a “natural wood look”. No two boards are exactly alike. Every board will vary in colour from one to the next. This is especially true of the natural products where there is no stain to even out the grain. Although the boards may differ from one to the next, the over all appearance of the floor will blend to create a “natural wood look”.
Most wood floors will have a combination of knots, mineral streaking and pinholes. This is a normal characteristic of wood and adds to that “natural wood look”. All wood grades contain some natural imperfections.
Wood requires a period of maturation before attaining its permanent colouration, which will grow richer over the years. This is particularly evident in the exotic species such as Cherry, Merbau, Rosewood, and Mahogany. This natural maturing or darkening process will vary in speed and intensity depending on the species and the lighting conditions in the home.
Wood flooring is timeless. It enhances the warmth of any home and complements the decor of any room. It is also a longterm investment and like a fine piece of furniture, wood flooring increases in value and becomes more beautiful with time. Wood is a natural resource, renewable and recyclable. The wood flooring industry has experienced great change in the last 10 years or so. A large part of this is due to the increase of engineered/laminated and prefinished flooring. State-of-the-art technology and almost limitless choices of today’s stains, finishes, styles and designs make wood flooring one of the most practical, easy-care and versatile floor coverings today.
Maintained properly, wood flooring should never have to be replaced. This document provides some basic information on the properties of wood, recommended maintenance and realistic guidelines as to what to expect and what not to expect from your hardwood floor. This information comes from manufacturers, suppliers, as well as the National Wood Flooring Association to assist you in both understanding and maintaining your hardwood floor.
There are 5 categories of wood flooring:
- Unfinished wood flooring is a product that must be job-site sanded and finished after installation.
- Pre-finished wood flooring is factory sanded and finished flooring that only needs installation. Comes in many colours, species and sizes. Prefinished wood flooring can be solid or engineered. Through a combination of technological advances, (new construction and urethane adhesives) it’s popularity has continued to grow.
- Solid wood flooring is completely lumber. It is available in unfinished and pre-finished. Solid wood flooring comes in three basic types: STRIP flooring is the most popular solid wood flooring. They are usually 2 1/4 inches wide, but also come in 1 1/2 inch and 1 3/4 inches. They are nailed to the subfloor. PLANK flooring boards are at least 3 inches wide. They are nailed to the subfloor, while some wider planks are screwed to the subfloor. The screw holes can be covered with wooden plugs.NOTE: The term strip or plank in the industry refers to the width of the board. Generally anything over 3” wide in the industry is referred to as plank and anything under 3” wide is called strip.PARQUET flooring comes in standard patterns of 6 x 6 blocks. Specialty patterns may range up to 36” square units. It often achieves dramatic geometric effects of special design patterns.Parquet flooring can be installed on a concrete slab that is on or above ground level and can be sanded and refinished over several generations.
Precaution: This type of flooring expands and contracts more with changes in your home’s humidity. To compensate for these changes there is often an expansion gap (later covered by base moulding) left between the floor and wall to allow for movement.
- Engineered Wood Flooring is made of several layers of different grades of the same wood (typically oak) stacked and glued together under heat and pressure. Some may have thicker top layers that can be sanded several times. Because the grains run in different directions, it is very stable and expands and contracts less than solid wood during fluctuations in humidity and This material is for general informational purposes only. The vendor does not warrant or represent the accuracy of information contained herein, due to changing circumstances and varying product specifications derived from various manufacturers. E. & O.E. November/2011 tridel.com temperature. Engineered floors are nailed, glued, or floated, depending on manufacturers’ recommendations. Engineered hardwood can be referred to as strip or plank.
- Acrylic impregnated wood flooring is a pre-finished wood flooring product, predominantly used for commercial settings. Through a high-pressure treatment, acrylic and colour are forced into the pores throughout the thickness of the wood. The “finish” is inside the wood, creating an extremely hard surface.
Floating Floors – This refers to a method of installation that can be used on some laminates and engineered hardwoods. Planks are laid over a foam or fabric pad and joined together at the side and end joints. So while the individual planks are joined together, they are not nailed or glued into the permanent floor. Instead, the planks form a system that “floats” over the layer of foam. With traditional solid hardwood flooring changes in humidity can cause floor planks to expand and contract more, resulting in more gapping. A floating floor reacts to those climate changes as a total system, resulting in a more uniform appearance.
Solid vs. Engineered
Solid Hardwood flooring ideally should not be installed below grade (below the soil line) or over concrete. When a solid product encounters moisture it reacts very negatively. Therefore, engineered flooring is ideal.
What is the difference between engineered flooring and laminate?
Refers to products that have 2, 3, or 5 thin layers of wood laminated together to become one boar These products will range in thickness from 1/4” to 9/16” and widths from 2-1/4 to 5”. Lengths will be random from 12” – 60”.
The benefits of engineered flooring
More dimensionally stable than solid wood. Engineered wood floors have several layers of wood that are applied in opposite grain directions resulting in a floor that is more dimensionally stable than 3/4” solid wood floors. This means engineered floors can be installed in basements, at ground level, or above the ground. Most of these floors can be installed by nail down, staple down, glue down, or the floating installation method. Engineered floors can literally go anywhere in the home and on a wide variety of subfloors. They are generally more level with other flooring materials.
Wood always wants to expand in a certain direction. In the presence of moisture solid wood planks will always expand across the width of the planks, rather than down the length of the boards. To avoid this problem, manufacturers of engineered planks place each ply in the opposite direction. After the engineered planks are manufactured the plies counteract each other that drastically reduces the expansion and contraction problems associated with solid wood planks. This is called cross-ply construction. This concept where one ply expanding to the left, while the other ply expands to the right counteract each other and reduce expanding, or contracting.
The benefits of laminate flooring
Laminate Flooring systems are based on a literally picture perfect image of a great looking wood floor, with all of its charm and beauty…without the vulnerabilities of a natural hardwood. Laminates represent a new standard in consistency and performance and are increasingly being recognized as the best option of hard surface flooring, depending on lifestyle and preferences.
Tightly designed joints virtually eliminate gapping and boast a 25 year water warranty. Highly protective sealants offer strength and edurance to sustain everyday rough and tumble. (A toughness that cannot be duplicated by natural wood since it is relatively soft by nature.) Top layer coating protects against fading to reduce the risk of natural sunlight discolouration.
Four layers of innovative materials combined with the aesthetic appeal of hardwood to provide you with a flooring alternative of unparalleled performance.
How to Inspect a Wood 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 is not to be expected. Wood is a natural product and therefore constantly changing. Irregularities such as wavy appearance around strips, swirls or sander marks and splotchy areas may be present, however not over the entire floor and not be prominent when inspected properly from a standing position.
What Not to Expect
- A table top finish.
Each piece of flooring is different, depending on its grain type making it impossible for a completely flat surface.
- A monotone floor.
Wood, as a natural product, will have colour variations resulting in a nonuniform appearance. Colour variations in flooring are a natural occurrence due to species, age, character of flooring and exposure to UV light or sunlight. For these reasons, new and/or replacement flooring may not match display samples and/or existing flooring.
- A floor that will not dent.
Contrary to it’s actual term “hardwood” flooring will indent under certain stresses such as high heels.
- A floor without cracks between boards.
As wood is a natural product, it will continue to absorb and expel moisture. Seasonally, your floor will expand and contract.
What’s Not Warrantable
Certain effects of wear and tear and nature cannot be prevented with hardwood flooring. We are unable to warrant problems that occur as a result of these conditions.
The warranty therefore excludes:
- Damage caused by leaking appliances including but not limited to dishwashers, washing machines, and refrigerators, standing water, leaking pipes or faucets, flooding or Acts of God.
- Wear layers exclude any indentations, scratches or damage caused by lack of proper maintenance, abrasives (ex. pebbles or sand), insufficient protection from furniture or failure to follow all manufacturer’s written maintenance instructions.
- Natural expansion and contraction resulting in separation between boards or damage caused by insufficient or excessive humidity.
- Natural occurring wood characteristics such as variations in grain, colour, mineral streaks, and knots, are not considered defects.
Wood is a hygroscopic material. Always containing water, it constantly exchanges water vapor with the air, picking it up when humidity is high, and giving it off when humidity is low. Since wood swells as it absorbs water, and shrinks as it releases water, both its moisture content and its dimensions are controlled by the humidity of the surrounding air.
In finished wood however, the moisture content changes extremely slowly, since water vapor must first penetrate the coating. With prolonged exposure however -weeks to months- wood eventually stabilizes at an equilibrium moisture content dictated by the average humidity.
An Ounce of Prevention
- Advanced finish technology and innovative products make wood one of the most easy-care flooring materials today. A few preventive measures can preserve a beautiful finish and keep maintenance to a minimum. Unlike most other floor coverings, wood is very forgiving. Most problems can be prevented by keeping the floors vacuumed and waxed and by wiping up spills immediately.
- Never use sheet vinyl or tile floor care products on wood floors. Self polishing acrylic waxes cause wood to become slippery and appear dull quickly. The only remedy in this situation is to sand and refinish the floor.
- Do not over-wax a wood floor. If the floor dulls, try buffing instead. Avoid wax buildup under furniture and other light traffic areas by applying wax in these spots every other waxing session.
- Place mats and throw rugs at doorways, exteriors and interiors to help prevent the tracking of grit, dirt and sand.
- Sweep or vacuum wood floors regularly.
- Use a recommended hardwood floor cleaner, specially formulated to eliminate streaking and residue.
- Never wet-mop a wood floor. Standing water can dull the finish, damage the wood and leave a discolouring residue.
- Wipe up food and other spills immediately with a dry or slightly dampened towel (wipe dry).
- Put plastic or fabric-faced glides under the legs or furniture to prevent scuffing and scratching.
- Remember: cleats, sports shoes and high heels can dent any floor surface. When a 125 pound woman takes a step in high heels she exerts 2,000 psi (pounds per square inch). An exposed heel nail can exert up to 8,000 psi.
- Minimize surface scratches by keeping your pets nails trimmed.
- When moving heavy furniture, completely pick up the furniture and carry rather than slide to best protect the wood flooring. If you are unable to lift, protect wood flooring by slipping a piece of cloth under the legs or covering each leg with a heavy sock.
- For wood flooring in the kitchen (although not recommended) place an area rug in front of the kitchen sink to catch water.
Which Wood Floor for What Room?
- Entry / Foyer – This area is highly used. Using walkoff mats and area carpets inside will help in keeping wear down.
- Family rooms – this is the number one place for wood floor installation in new construction. The ease of care and the flow of traffic make this a very popular area for wood floors.
- Home offices, Bedrooms – Often this sets a semi-formal decor, with area carpets being used. Regular maintenance is required.
NOTE: Rolling furniture, chairs, TV stands etc., can damage the finish very quickly, if used day to day. Make sure the floor is protected and/or the rollers are not made of metal or other damaging materials.
Is this a high traffic area?
This will affect the finish and colour. Darker colours tend to show traffic quicker, where as natural wood colours of oak and maple do not. Walk-off mats are strongly suggested for these areas, ie- working areas of kitchens, entry ways, entries/doorways from the outside.
Please be aware that should you have hardwood flooring in your kitchen or bathroom, there’s is an increased risk of damage due to continued moisture exposure. There is also the additional risk of damage by appliance failure from dishwashers and water from showers, tubs, toilets and sinks. Water damage is not covered under your warranty.
What type of wood do you like or will suit the area?
Some types are more traffic friendly than others. Is this species too “grainy” or busy looking? Some species are harder than others. Maple is harder than oak and has less grain. Remember that the type of finish can determine how well your floor will fair in high traffic areas.
What colour will work with the decor?
Some darker colours make rooms look smaller, show traffic patterns quicker. Lighter, or natural colour (oak & maple being the most popular) of wood floor species can give an open, airy feeling, making the room appear larger. This is currently one of the most popular selections by the consumer, in their homes. Your floor should complement the fabrics, furnishings and accessories that will be in the home, as well as enhancing the unique personality of the room as a whole.
Darker colours- Formal or traditional interiors, Lighter colours – country, casual and contemporary settings. There are many choices when selecting the right floor for the rooms in your home, as there are many species, colours and grain variations for you to consider.
When selecting wood finishes, look closely at the sample to make comparisons with other products and other materials, such as the fabrics, paint colours and textures being used in the room. Some floors are more pleasing than others, but may not work in your conditions, or may not work well with the traffic they will receive. The colour you like may be suitable with the decor, but bad for wear patterns. The type of wood, say pine for example, (not a hardwood), is softer than oak causing it to “dent” more. Many factors should play a part in your decision about the choices you make when it comes to hardwood floors.
This information should assist you in making an informed decision.
We have all swung a hammer at a nail – and missed! Embarrassing, but we have also damaged or dented the board. A property of wood is that it will dent, or crush fibers and vessels that are impacted by enough force.
What puts greater force on a hardwood floor?
Measured in pounds per square inch (psi), a car has a load of 28-30 psi, an elephant 50- 100 psi, and a 125 lb. woman with high heels, when she takes a step and those heels hit the floor, 2000-psi! That‘s a problem for any floor. Metal, wood, ceramic, carpet, terrazzo and resilient. High heels, although fashionable, are a huge threat to hardwood floors – as a result of the great force involved. Indentation will occur from the heels themselves, and even more so from protruding nailheads. An exposed head can exert a force of 8000 psi! High enough to pulverize hardened concrete.
Frequently Asked Questions On
What are considered natural characteristics?
The natural characteristics of wood include the grain pattern, dark gray or black marks, resin and knots of various sizes. They are a result of the growth process of a particular species and are influenced by sunlight, soil and climate. Minerals can appear in several forms such as a light gray streak across a board to black lines in the grain. The same holds true for grain patterns and knots.
Should I expect colour variations in my floor?
Yes. Wood is a natural material with variations from board to board. Therefore, each plank or strip will take stain differently. Darker stains mask the natural variations in the wood. The lighter the stain, the more prominent the natural characteristics. A white stain shows the most variation from board to board. Exotic hardwoods will sometimes have wider variations in colour.
How hard is hardwood? Will my floor dent?
Although the species used for hardwood are generally durable to withstand wear and tear of daily life, we realize that the concept of natural wear and tear varies for each household. The truth is that all hardwood will dent, should significant force be dropped on it. As a natural material, wood is made of thousands of cells. When the tree is in the forest, these cells are filled with water. Once that tree becomes lumber, the moisture in those cells is replaced with air. Therefore, if you drop a heavy object on the floor, the floor will compress, forming a dent or gash. In addition, heavy furniture and appliances, over time, will compress the fiber in the wood.
Should I expect my floor to splinter or chip?
Though advanced milling techniques assure smooth edges and provide a tight fit between boards, some edge splintering, though rare, may occur after the floor settles into the surrounding environment. Also, moving heavy objects across the floor might cause an edge to splinter or chip. Most chips can be filled with a wood floor filler.
Will my floor be perfectly flat?
Prefinished hardwood flooring is milled to exacting specifications of thickness for a level and flat floor. However, when walking across a floor with no shoes, you may feel a slight variation from board to board.
Will my floor age or change colour?
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 colour change will be more noticeable in lighter colours, which will darken over time. In addition, certain species like Brazilian cherry, will naturally darken over the years. American cherry is very photosensitive and will darken with exposure to light. Exotic species, such as Merbau will have significant colour variation after installation. These changes are due to the natural characteristics of wood and are not covered by warranties.
My floor has gaps in it, is this normal?
Because wood is a natural product it will react to changes in its environment. 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 and cracks. Most gaps are seasonal – they appear in dry months, or the cold season when heating is required, and close during humid periods. This type of separation and close is considered normal.
Range of humidity these floors work best with is 40% – 60%. Generally, condominium flooring is exposed to humidity level of 15% – 40%. The cure is to minimize humidity changes by adding moisture to the air space during dry periods and removing moisture during damp periods. Humidifiers work well in increasing humidity, yet you must use caution to not produce excessive levels of moisture.
Why doesn’t my floor look exactly like the showroom sample?
Similar to selecting paint colour with paint chips, it is sometimes difficult to visualize what a sample will look like installed. Remember, this is one small piece compared to an entire floor. Although your floor should look similar to the sample in the showroom, there are certain instances when your floor might look slightly different. As a tree grows and matures, over approximately 60 years, it absorbs minerals and other essential elements, which can change the colour and appearance of the wood. Even wood from the same tree can show signs of variance. For instance, “younger wood” closer to the outside of the tree will be lighter than the wood from the center portion.