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Wood Flooring

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Wood Flooring is a type of floor covering manufactured from wood. Other common types of flooring are carpet flooring, resilient flooring, laminate flooring, ceramic tile flooring, stone flooring and floors with special coatings.

Types of Wood Floors

There are two types of wood floors available on the market today: solid and engineered.

Solid

Solid wood flooring is milled from a single piece of processed wood. Its thickness generally ranges from ¾” to 5/16”. Solid wood flooring can be sanded and refinished many times but it should only be installed above or on grade to avoid humidity or moisture problems.

Engineered

Engineered wood flooring is a real wood floor manufactured using three to nine layers of different wood veneers. The sub layers can be of the same or different wood species. Since the wood grain of each layer runs in different directions, this type of wood flooring is generally stable. Engineered wood expands and contracts less than solid wood during fluctuations in humidity and temperature. This characteristic allows it to be installed in floors below grade such as basements.

Styles of Wood Floors

Three styles of wood floors are available on the market today: strip, plank, and parquet. Each style is available in a variety of species, colors and widths.

Strip Flooring

The width of each piece of strip flooring generally ranges from 1-½” to 3” wide. This style of wood floor creates a linear effect in a room, often making the area appear larger. Strip flooring is generally considered as “traditional” wood flooring.

Plank Flooring

Plank flooring have wider widths which typically ranges from 3” to 7”. Similar to strip flooring, this style of wood floor creates a linear effect but its wider widths often create a more casual look.

Parquet Flooring

In Parquet flooring, square-edged wood blocks (6-10mm thick) are individually glued and pinned on plywood to create geometic and non-linear patterns. Most popular design used is herringbone, basket-weave and chevron.

Wood Floor Finishes

There are three types of finishes for wood flooring: surface, wax or acrylic impregnated. Each type of finishes will produce different look for the wood flooring, but the kind of maintenance needed will also vary. It is therefore important to consider the lifestyle and maintenance preferences of the owner in choosing the right type of finish for the wood floors.

Surfaces Finishes

Surface finishes are durable, water-resistant and require minimal maintenance. A blend of synthetic resins referred to as urethanes or polyurethanes remain on the surface of the wood to form a protective coating. There are several types of surface finishes available: water-based, oil-based, acid-cured, and moisture-cured.

Water-Based

Water-based finishes appear clear and will resist turning yellow over time. They produce a mild odor during application, and will dry in about two to three hours. Water-based finishes are durable but generally more expensive.

Oil-Based

Oil-based finishes become amber in color as they age. They have a moderate odor when applied, and will dry in about eight hours. Oil-based finishes are very durable and water-resistant. They are the most common surface finish applied to wood flooring.

Acid-Cured

Acid-cured finishes are also known as “Swedish” finishes. They appear clear to slightly amber. They produce strong fumes and odor when applied, and will dry in about two to three hours. Acid-cured finishes are extremely durable.

Moisture-Cured

Moisture-cured finishes can either become amber in color as they age or non-yellowing. They have a strong odor when applied, and will dry in about two to three hours. Curing process is dependent on relative humidity. Moisture-cured finishes are extremely durable and more moisture-resistant than other surface finishes.

Wax Finishes

Wax finishes appear low luster and amber in color. Wax is spread in thin coats after a stain and sealer is applied then buffed to a desired sheen. They produce a mild odor during application, and will dry in a variable amount of time depending on the type of wax used and on-site conditions. Wax finishes need frequent re-application to maintain the shine.

Acrylic Impregnated

Acrylic impregnated finishes involve infusing sealant and color into the wood to create an exceptionally durable floor. Acrylic impregnated finishes are mostly used in very high traffic areas of commercial settings such as malls and restaurants. 

Installation Problems of Wood Floors

Problems may occur if wood floors are exposed to moisture, wood planks are not acclimatised prior to installation or with inexperienced installers and machine operators. Some of the most common installation problems are: 

Buckling

The wood flooring becomes separated from the sub-floor. This problem is usually accompanied by cupping and swelling.

Causes

Buckling is usually due to the following:

  • moisture or humidity problems
  • inadequate nailing or incorrect fasteners
  • incorrect subfloor construction or subfloor contamination
  • incorrect or insufficient adhesive

 

Chatter or Wave Marks

Sanding imperfections resembling waves occur across the grain of the wood varying from 1/4" to 1 inch apart.

Causes 

Chatter marks are caused by large sanding machines. The floor sander jumps and stutters due to an inexperienced operator.

Cupping and Crowning

Cupping and crowning occurs across the width of the wood planks. Cupping is when the edges of the material appears to be higher than its center while crowning is when the center is higher than the edges.

Causes

Cupping and crowning occurs due to moisture imbalance. Cupping will occur when the wood is wetter on the bottom than on the top. This usually occurs when there are water leaks underneath the floor. On the other hand, crowning will occur when excessive moisture is introduced on top of the wood floor such as standing water due to spills or overhead plumbing leaks. 

Cracks and Separation Between Boards

Cracks and gaps between individual boards that come and go with seasonal change are normal and should not be a cause of concern. During winter, homes are heated and the air is dry causing the wood floor to lose some of its moisture and shrinks. When this happens, thin cracks and gaps between board becomes obvious. Most of these cracks and gaps will close up when indoor heat goes in the spring and indoor environment regains moisture.

Finish Problems on Wood Floors

Alligatoring

Alligatoring occurs when the finish of a wood floor pulls away from itself causing ridges that look like an alligator hide. This condition can occur in both water-based and oil-modified finishes.

Causes

Alligatoring is caused by the application of a heavy coat or recoating too quickly. Other causes may be poor wetting of the finish, application under cold temperatures or contamination of the finish or use of thinners that cause the finish to dry too quickly.

Applicator Streaks

Applicator streaks are marks that are still visible from the path of application even after the floor dries. This condition is usually associated with water-based finishes.

Causes

Applicator streaks usually occur when too much or too little finish is applied or if not applied evenly. Another cause may be applying a satin or semi-gloss finish that has not been stirred properly.

Bleedback

Bleedback occurs when excess stain seeps up from the grain or from the spaces between boards.

Causes

Bleedback is caused by an excessive stain application.  Another cause may be by a low-viscosity finish.

Orange Peel

Orange peel occurs when the surface of the finish has a texture similar to an orange peel.

Causes

Orange peel may have been caused by rolling a finish which then dries too quickly causing the texture to be frozen into place before the finish has a chance to flow out and level.

Sticky Board Syndrome

Sticky board syndrome occurs when the finish will not adhere or cure properly on one or more boards.

Causes

Sticky board syndrome occurs when excessive tannic acid in the wood prevents the finish from adhering to the wood. This is most common with oil-modified finishes and with white oak.

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