Finding a Wood Floor Professional

River Recovered Antique Pine FlooringPart 1, Choosing an installer for heart pine wood floors.

Historic reclaimed floors represent a substantial investment that will look good for a long time if installed and maintained properly. A good installation is greatly aided by the choice of a good installer. Installers range from those with little concern for quality, to the reliable and experienced, and finally an elite few have a reputation that commands a premium.

Here are a few hints toward finding an installer for your reclaimed wood floor; however, there are no hard and fast rules.
• Talk to people you know who have had good experience with their wood floors.
• Find out if questions asked after the installation received the same attention once the bill had been paid. Was service work done promptly?
• References from repeat customers are especially helpful. Most accomplished craftspeople are proud of their work and feel good about providing references.
• Websites usually show pictures of past work, and general company information.
• Schedule ahead of time. Many of the best firms are booked in advance.

Moisture issues are the cause of the majority of wood flooring complaints. Discuss the steps that will be taken to achieve the proper moisture content in the wood flooring with the installer. Highly resinous antique heart pine wood should be checked with a pin type moisture meter. Experience with local conditions helps determine the proper moisture level. Vapor retarders or barriers are a necessary part of most reclaimed wood flooring installations. Which product or system do they plan to use?

It is best to agree on your expectations of the final product prior to your purchase. This can include reviewing antique lumber grades for pine floors, species characteristics, installation standards (NWFA), and the time required to complete the work. A few detailed topics such as the proper nail schedule and checking the flatness of the sub floor are appropriate for discussion at this time.

Knowledgeable professionals are happy to spend the time to communicate with you in advance to assure your satisfaction. Written agreements can also help avoid misunderstandings. And don’t forget, workers should be insured to protect you from the potential liability of a medical claim.

Most good installers check the room lay out prior to starting the installation and periodically check that the floor is running true during the installation. Wood floor installation is a profession that offers easy entry for new workers in most localities. Experienced workers have had the chance to gain the knowledge needed for a proper installation.

You will not have all of the technical expertise to make the decisions needed for a good installation. Care in choosing the correct installer can help achieve the goal of long-term satisfaction. Contact Goodwin Heart Pine if we can answer questions about antique wood flooring.

Part 2, Wood Floor Finishers will follow

Solid Wood Floors Over Concrete

There are many questions about gluing down solid wood flooring to concrete.  The traditional industry standards for wood floor installation limited the direct glue down of solid wood flooring over concrete to short pieces or parquet patterns.  A well made engineered wood floor looks like a solid floor but avoids some of the installation difficulties.  The backer of the engineered flooring helps reduce the movement with moisture changes.  For many applications this is the best solution.

Flooring insert

Small Flooring Insert Including Antique Heart Pine

With the advent of elastomeric adhesives gluing solid flooring directly to concrete has become more common.  NOFMA produced a technical publication outlining recommended procedures for installing solid wood floors to concrete about five years ago.  Despite the inherently higher risks of gluing solid to concrete it has become an accepted practice for many people in the industry.  This installation method takes more effort to manage the risks.  Moisture issues are the primary concern.  Test to see if the concrete is dry enough.  The ASTM F2170-2 test is a widely accepted procedure which measures the relative humidity inside the concrete.  It is often prudent to apply a sealer to the concrete just in case moisture is introduced into the concrete at a later time. Then if the concrete gets wet in the future a trowel on moisture cured urethane vapor barrier or penetrating sealer such as Bone Dry which was applied prior to installing the floor can keep the water away from the wood. An alternative to a glue installation is to install a plywood subfloor over the concrete then nail down the flooring.

Subfloor Preparation Tips

River Recovered Heart Pine Log

River Recovered Heart Pine Log showing water errosion

Starting with a flat subfloor is essential for a good wood floor installation.  Older homes often have areas where the subfloor is irregular. Refasten any areas of loose subflooring.  It is sometimes advisable to renail the entire subfloor using ring or screw shank nails. Renailing can also be needed in new construction where the subfloor was left exposed to the weather. Sand any small high spots flat. Small depressions can be filled with layers of thin plywood.  Cut the plywood to progressively smaller pieces (like a contour map) then feather the edges by sanding.  Plaster based floor patch is not recommended. If the floor joists have sagged in an old house removing the subfloor and sistering new joists to the old ones can be a good solution. Adding stiffness to the framing is better than reducing stiffness. If you are not doing a large area and the plywood is sound you can use 2x4s turned on edge. Cut them to follow the floor contours and create a flat top.  We used to use a metal rail system and a router to trim the tops of the 2x4s to a flat plane.  Install the floor as you would over a sleeper system.  This is still a lot of work

Plywood vs. OSB

Antique heart pine

Antique Heart Pine Wood Floor in Herringbone Pattern

The relative merits of using OSB or plywood for the subfloor under a wood floor has been a hot topic.  The issue is the nail holding ability of the OSB especially if the moisture content of the subfloor has been high.  Many experienced professionals prefer plywood subfloors.  The consensus is that staples hold better than cleats if you are faced with a nail down installation over OSB.  Here are two links where subfloor materials are discussed.

http://hardwoodfloorsmag.com/forum/topic9-loose-squeeky-crackling-popping-floors.aspx

http://hardwoodfloorsmag.com/forum/topic167-understanding-osb.aspx

Antique Wood Floors Over Radiant Heat

Antique wood floor

Decorative feature in antique wood floor

We are occasionally asked if antique pine flooring is a good choice over radiant heat.  Over the years our customers have had many successful installations over this heating system.  There are general guidelines such as turning on the heating system in advance for several days to make sure that there is no excess moisture in the subfloor.  Also the temperature of the subfloor should not go above 85 degrees F. Wider boards are prone to show larger gaps in the heating season.  Vertical grain flooring moves less than select grain flooring.  As with any installation starting with properly milled flooring and exercising care to get the moisture content of the flooring (and the job site) correct go a long way towards getting an antique heart pine floor which looks good for years and years.  The NWFA has also developed guidelines for installing wood floors over radiant heat see Installation Guidelines, Appendix H.

Antique Heart Pine flooring from Reclaimed boards

Inlay of log end

Occasionally we get calls from people who have some salvaged lumber and they want make their own flooring.  Here are a few details to consider.

The fit of the tong and groove is critical if the wood floor is going to perform well.  A loose fit can lead to squeaks while a fit that is too tight will make the floor hard to install.  If you put two short straight boards together and then hold them in the air by one of them the other should not fall off.  A quick shake should cause the boards to disengage.  A difference of a few thousandths of an inch can make a significant difference.

Almost all wood flooring is made with the top face slightly wider than the bottom. As the floor is installed the top touches first leaving a slight gap between the boards on the bottom. The difference in width between the top and bottom avoids cracks showing between the boards in areas of slight sub floor irregularity.

A groove on the top inside corner of the tong allows a space for the nail heads as an addition aid to a tight fitting floor.

Some individuals with good skill levels have been able to produce serviceable flooring from antique wood, but most high quality reclaimed flooring is made by experienced craftspeople.

Be Aware of Water in Concrete

Wood Floors are Beautiful in the Bedroom TooWhen a client’s water heater flooded their Goodwin Heart Pine engineered wood floor the insurance company called in a restoration contractor. The contractor pulled up half the floor to the point where they said the water had gone in the concrete. After three days of dehumidification they declared the concrete dry.

Following the National Wood Floor Association’s procedure we used a concrete meter that requires drilling a small hole 40% of the depth of the slab. The meter readings were much higher than recommended to install a wood floor over concrete.

We pulled up the remainder of the floor so that the entire slab could be dried. And we provided the restoration contractor with the meter readings and a study on water movement through concrete. Fortunately, they agreed to bring back the dehumidification system and get the slab to the proper moisture content.

Wood floors are not rocket science; however, they do demand a scientific approach to water and subfloors of all types. Call if you would like us to send you the research paper on how to properly test concrete for moisture content.

Best wishes for great wood floors all the time for the longterm.