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How to Properly Acclimate Your New Hardwood Flooring Prior to Installation

February 10, 2011

Being natural materials, hardwood building products such as oak flooring are bound to expand and contract with changes in weather and temperature. When flooring expands or contracts too much, the boards can warp, bend, and buckle. One way of preventing such damage is to properly acclimate your flooring before you install it.

Smoked White Oak Flooring

Properly acclimating your hardwood flooring will ensure a great looking floor for years to come.

You may be wondering, What is acclimation? How can I make sure my floors are acclimated? Good questions. The following is basic information on what acclimation is, why it is so important, and how to properly acclimate your flooring.

What is flooring acclimation?
Acclimation is an important step in the flooring installation process during which the moisture content of the wood is adjusted to match the normal living conditions of the home. If the wood’s moisture content is too high or too low, there is increased chance of the wood expanding and contracting in damaging ways.

What steps do I take in the acclimation process?
Acclimating wood flooring isn’t just a set-it-and-forget-it project. There are a number of steps involved, each of equal importance.

Unless you have a lot of experience with flooring installation it is best to leave the entire process up to a professional. That said, it is still a good idea to know proper acclimation techniques, in case the professional you hired is doing it incorrectly.

1. Check Board and Sub-Floor Moisture
The moisture content of both your new hardwood flooring and the sub-floors over which it will be installed need to be within an acceptable range of each other. What that range is depends on the size of the boards. For boards less than three inches wide, the moisture content differential between the floor and flooring needs to be less than four percent. For boards wider than three inches, the difference should be less than two percent. Wide plank boards – flooring wider than four inches – require even more care and caution when acclimating. Check with a flooring professional if you’re using wide plank.

2, Rack It
For the best results, you will want to remove the flooring from its box and rack it in the room in which it will be installed. This acclimation technique allows the wood to adjust to the room’s natural humidity, making the process more successful.

3. Keep It Warm
Keeping the wood warm is an important part of the acclimation process. A heated, controlled environment will lead to much better-acclimated and more stable floor.

4. Wait
This is probably the hardest part of the acclimation process. Most people want to install their new flooring as soon as possible, but the wood must be acclimated for at least seven to 14 days. The moisture content will determine how long the acclimation process will take, but most species don’t take less than a week.

Remember to consult a professional if you have any hardwood flooring acclimation questions. If the professional handling the installation of your new ash, acacia, or oak flooring doesn’t follow the aforementioned steps for acclimation, look for a new company. It’s better to take the time to properly acclimate your floor than spends hundreds or thousands of dollars repairing and replacing it down the road.

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5 Fun Facts About Oak

January 26, 2011
Smoked White Oak Flooring

Smoked White Oak Flooring

Oak has been a popular choice in flooring and woodworking projects in America for years, and for good reasons. It is attractive, tough, and lasts a long time. But how many people that love oak flooring and other oak products actually know anything about the wood? Outside of the lumber and woodworking industries, probably not that many. The following are five interesting facts you probably don’t know about oak but most definitely should. Enjoy!

1. Hardness
The Janka hardness rating measures how hard a wood species is, which can affect how easily it will scratch or dent, how resistant it is to the elements, and even what type of room it would work best in. The Janka hardness of oak is anywhere from 1,290 pounds to 1,360 pounds, depending on whether you are using red or white oak. This is softer than many other hardwoods, so it is not a great idea to use oak for outdoor projects such as decks or patios. However, it is a perfect hardness for flooring purposes. Oak flooring is hard enough to resist dents and scratches but soft enough to dampen the sound of heels and footsteps, which makes it perfect for second and third story uses, or in apartment buildings.

2.Structural Stability
Structural stability refers to how likely it is that a wood species will shrink or expand over time. The more structurally stable a wood species is the better, as shrinking and expanding can lead to warping, buckling, and end checking.
The two main properties used to measure stability are tangential and radial shrinkage. Radial shrinkage measures how much the wood will shrink from the center of the tree to the bark (it’s radius), while tangential measures how much the wood will shrink parallel to the tree’s growth rings (tangentially). Low radial and tangential shrinkage numbers is good, but the real key to structural stability is the differential between the two numbers. The smaller the differential, the less likely the wood will warp or buckle, even as it shrinks and expands.
The tangential and radial shrinkage for red oak is 8.6% and 4.0%, respectively. For white oak, it is 7.2% and 4.2%. As you can see, white oak flooring has both lower shrinkage percentages as well as a lower differential.

3. Density
Density is important when considering a wood species for flooring, decking, or construction projects. The denser the wood, the more resistant it is to mold, rot, and boring insects like termites. The density of white oak is 900 KG/m3. For red oak, it is 780 KG/m3. These aren’t nearly as dense as the more exotic hardwoods such as ipe, but they are much higher than other common flooring materials, such as cedar and walnut.

4. Cultural Significance
The oak tree is synonymous with strength, power, and endurance. Because of this, it has been adopted by many countries as the national tree, including England, Germany, France, and the United States. Other countries that have adopted the oak as their national tree include Estonia, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Basque Country, Galicia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Wales.

5. Habitats
Oak is a very versatile species of wood. Although native to the northern hemisphere, different varieties of the tree can be found everywhere from cold northern climates to tropical locations in Asia and South America. Most oak flooring material comes from local sources, as the species grows in many different parts of America.

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Wood Wars, Week XIV: Cherry vs. Maple

December 28, 2010

Welcome back to Wood Wars, everybody! We hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season. We sure are!

Okay, enough chit-chat. Let’s get down to brass tacks: this week’s fight. If you’re like most people, the holiday season means an endless parade of sweets and treats. Well, far be it for Wood Wars to break a tradition! This week’s match pits delicious Cherry wood with syrupy Maple wood. I hope you brought your appetite, because this match is going to be SWEET!

Cherry

Cherry Hardwood Flooring

Cherry Hardwood Flooring

Hardness: 950 pounds
Modulus of Rupture: 12,330 psi
Modulus of Elasticity: 1,490 1000 psi
Density: 544 KG/m3
Tangential Shrinkage: 7.1%
Radial Shrinkage: 3.7%

Maple

Maple Hardwood Flooring

Maple Hardwood Flooring

Hardness: 1,450 pounds
Modulus of Rupture: 10,700 psi
Modulus of Elasticity: 1,450 1000 psi
Density: 755 KG/m3
Tangential Shrinkage: 9.9%
Radial Shrinkage: 4.8%

Strength and Durability
Maple is not the hardest of domestic hardwood floors, but it certainly beats Cherry. However, the MOR of Maple just smokes the Cherry wood. With pretty even MOEs, this round is neck-and-neck. In cases such as these it’s best to go with the harder of the two species, since hardness directly relates to wear-and-tear. This round definitely goes to Maple.

Movement in Service
This round belongs to Cherry, hands down. Not only is Cherry’s tangential and radial shrinkage lower, but the differential is very low compared to Maple.

Looks
While Maple hardwood flooring is bright and attractive, it doesn’t compare to the versatile beauty of Cherry. Cherry wood features reddish brown colors with deep tones and a dark, dramatic grain pattern. This round goes to Cherry.

Conclusion
They both put up a good fight, but this match goes to Maple, for its hardness and dimensional stability. Well done, sir! Come back next time for another exciting edition of Wood Wars!

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The Pros and Cons of Oak Flooring

December 13, 2010

Oak has been a flooring standard in American homes for years, and for good reason. Locally produced, high-quality oak flooring looks great and adds to the value of your home. But, like all building materials, there are some downfalls. The following are the main pros and cons of using oak flooring in your home design projects.

White Oak Flooring

White oak flooring is a great addition to any home, but it does have its flaws.

Pros:

Appearance
The look of red or white oak flooring is hard to beat, and one of the main reasons why people so often choose it as a building material. Oak is full of light, crisp tones and ranges in color from grayish-white to yellowish-brown. The grain is tight and fluid, adding distinction to the wood without being too flashy.

Home Value
It’s no secret that having wood floors in your home adds to the value of your house. Oak flooring is a great choice if you think you may ever want to sell – it is relatively inexpensive, and it really adds to your home’s market value.

Durability
Finally, oak flooring is a very durable wood. It is hard, dense, and naturally resistant to wear-and-tear. Treat it with a high-quality finish and your floors will last a very long time.

Cons:

Tendency to Fade
Oak has a tendency to lose its color when exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time. You can protect your wood with a good finish or by closing the blinds or drapes when you’re not in the room. However, there is no sure-fire way to prevent discoloration or fading – the best you can do is slow the process.

Easily Scratched
Oak flooring is not the best type of wood for high-traffic areas, as it can be easily scratched. You can lessen the scratch severity by placing felt pads on the bottoms of furniture and by clipping pets’ nails. A thick finish can also help, but it may alter the look of the floor in an unpleasant way.

Vulnerable to Spills
Like all wood floors, oak is vulnerable to spills. Make sure to clean up all spills immediately, especially oil. The longer the liquid sits on the floor, the deeper into the wood it will soak and the harder it will be to remove the stain.

As you can see, oak flooring isn’t perfect. It is, however, a versatile, long-lasting flooring solution. If you are unsure whether it is the right choice for your project, talk with a wood flooring professional.

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Wood Wars, Week XIII: Red Oak vs. Red Cedar

November 30, 2010

Welcome back, hardwood fans! This week’s installment of Wood Wars is sticking with the color theme but switching out pale yellows for vibrant reds. That’s right – it’s Red Oak vs. Western Red Cedar! Which of these rosy competitors will come out victorious? Stick around and find out!

Red Oak

Red Oak Flooring

Red Oak Flooring

 

Hardness: 1,290 pounds
Modulus of Rupture: 14,300 psi
Modulus of Elasticity: 1,850 1000 psi
Density: 780 KG/m3
Tangential Shrinkage: 8.6%
Radial Shrinkage: 4.0%

Western Red Cedar

Western Red Cedar Flooring

Western Red Cedar Flooring

Hardness: 350 pounds
Modulus of Rupture: 7,500 psi
Modulus of Elasticity: 1,110 1000 psi
Density: 260 KG/m3
Tangential Shrinkage: 5.0%
Radial Shrinkage: 2.4%

Strength and Durability
It is rare to see a match so unevenly balanced, but here it is. Red Oak laid the proverbial smack down in this category, beating Red Cedar out by nearly 1,000 pounds! Red Oak flooring also hands it to Red Cedar in density, coming in at over 500 KG/m3 more than its opponent. Ouch!

Movement in Service
Well, well, well, look who came crawling back! Western Red Cedar wasn’t going to just fly the white flag quite yet. Both the modulus of rupture and elasticity are way lower than Red Oak, and the differential is smaller, too. Looks like Cedar isn’t going down without a fight!

Looks
Both Red Cedar flooring and Red Oak flooring feature warm, cozy tones and soft browns and yellows. The most noticeable difference between the two is their grain patterns. Cedar has a tight, fine grain that is sometimes too fine for its own good. Red Oak, on the other hand, has a consistent yet flowing grain pattern that is slightly more distinctive and eye-catching. On grain alone, we’re going with Red Oak for this round.

Conclusion
Whew – that was a close one! Looks like Red Oak squeaked out a narrow victory this time, but keep in mind that both oak flooring and cedar flooring are great options for interior projects. See you all next week, fans!

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Wood Wars, Week XII: White Oak vs. Maple

November 18, 2010

Welcome back to Wood Wars, folks! With the sun on it’s way out for the season, we’ve been feeling a bit pallid lately, so we chose some appropriately pale competitors for this week’s match. That’s right – it’s White Oak and Maple! Let’s get this pasty party started!

White Oak Flooring

White Oak Flooring

White Oak

Hardness: 1,360 pounds
Modulus of Rupture: 15,200 psi
Modulus of Expansion: 1,780 1000 psi
Density: 900 KG/m3
Tangential Shrinkage: 7.2%
Radial Shrinkage: 4.2%

Maple Flooring

Maple Flooring

Maple

Hardness: 1,450 pounds
Modulus of Rupture: 10,700 psi
Modulus of Expansion: 1,450 1000 psi
Density: 755 KG/m3
Tangential Shrinkage: 9.9%
Radial Shrinkage: 4.8%

Strength and Durability
At first glance, this round looks pretty close. Maple has the advantage over White Oak in Janka hardness, but oak flooring has a much higher modulus of rupture and a slightly higher modulus of expansion. If Maple’s hardness was, say, twice as high as White Oak’s, maybe it would win the round. That’s not the case, though, and this round goes to White Oak.

Movement in Service
White Oak takes this round as well. The tangential and radial shrinkage of oak flooring are both lower than Maple, and the differential between the two is also much lower. Sorry, Maple, but you’re 0 for 2.

Looks
Since we’re intentionally pairing up pale woods this week, this category is going to be close. White Oak features light, full tones that are versatile enough to match most any room décor. Maple is similar in appearance, but tends to have a much brighter, crisper look to it. White Oak’s grain pattern is tight and consistent, while Maple’s is open and more fluid. Because both hardwoods are versatile and attractive, we’re calling this round a tie.

Conclusion
Looks like White Oak flooring comes out on top this match. Congrats! Tune in next week when we’ll look at a couple of dark, daring exotic hardwood flooring choices.

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What Oak ISN’T Good For

November 11, 2010

We’ve raved about oak flooring a lot on this site, and with good reason. It is a sturdy, beautiful hardwood with a consistent grain pattern and subtle, contrasting tones. But there are definitely some construction and design projects for which oak isn’t the best material to use. Here are a few of such projects:

Oak Flooring

Oak flooring is a much better use for the wood than oak decking.

Decking
While oak is sturdy enough to withstand years of foot traffic, it’s not the best choice for outdoor projects such as decking. Most species of oak have a density of about 800 KG/m3, which is great for indoor uses but makes the wood vulnerable to rot caused by rain, snow, and other elements. When picking wood for outdoor use, go with a denser, harder variety like Ipe.

Patios
The problem with using oak as a building material for patios is similar to using it for decking – the density. Exposing oak to the elements can create problems over time, even if the patio is covered. The temperature changes can also cause oak to warp and buckle more than if it was used in a temperature-controlled environment, like indoors.

Fences
Again, using oak for outdoor purposes is a risky venture. While you don’t get the double wear-and-tear of combining nasty weather with foot traffic, you do have to deal with wind and yard debris (leaves, tree branchs, etc). You can protect the wood with a high-quality waterproof sealant, but you’ll need to reapply every few years and the hassle of maintenance may not be worth it.

Luckily, there are a number of GREAT uses for oak. The best, of course, is oak flooring. Both white oak flooring and red oak flooring have a multifaceted, understated beauty that complements any design scheme you may have in mind. And kept in a dry, temperature-controlled environment, oak flooring is very resistant to decay and buckling. In a nutshell: if you want to use oak, make sure you keep it in the house.

 

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