Reclaimed Wood Floors Are A Sound Investment

By Carol M Goodwin 

Reclaimed wood floors are becoming an important consumer choice in historical home renovations, new construction and commercial building. As the green movement gains momentum, reclaimed wood becomes the ideal building material for the environmentally-friendly builder. Wood floors are the best choice for the environment for several reasons.

 

    • Manufacturing is cleaner. Steel products give off 24 times the amount of harmful chemicals than wood product manufacturing. Concrete leaches a great deal of carbon dioxide.
    • Wood requires less energy to manufacture. Brick takes four times more energy, concrete six times and steel 40 times more energy to manufacture than wood.
  • Wood actually conserves energy. It takes 15″ of concrete to equal the insulation qualities of just one inch of wood.

 

Wood certification is a growing trend. Regulations on cutting over harvested species began in the 1980’s and spawned tree plantations of Teak and various species of Mahogany like woods. Another result was forest certification beginning in Europe. Today almost 10% of the world’s forests are certified sustainable; 39% in North America, 54% in Europe, but only 8% in the rest of the world.

The problem is that most of the certified forests are in the Boreal forest regions where we are already managing the forests for the long term, and not in the rain forests. There is good news in a study published by the National Academy of Sciences founded by Lincoln in 1863, using satellite data to scientifically prove where deforestation is occurring. Previously data were self-reported by countries to the FAO, Food and Agriculture Organization, making the data suspect. It is now possible for developed countries to work together with fact based data to help undeveloped areas.

Reclaimed Wood is recycling.

River-Recovered logs were lost once and presumed gone forever… waiting perfectly preserved. Beams from industrial revolution warehouses are another good source. Existing wood floors have an extended life span and can often be reused. Many antique floors are in homes of the 18th or 19th century and are still walked on every day. They offer tremendous design diversity and the look of an old floor can be completely transformed with stains, faux finishes and inlays.

Health and Happiness

Wood floors are the healthy choice. They require fewer chemicals to clean than other floor coverings and they don’t trap dust, fumes or mold in the fibers or grout. Wood is a good floor choice for anyone with allergies. Depending on the sub floor or underlayment a wood floor can be better for your spine and joints. Wood gives a little and is easier on your legs and feet, more or less depending on the installation type.

As ‘green’ building has become more prominent, more products are available with environmentally certified ‘green’ faces and backers. International currencies make it much less costly to send wood from America to China to be made into flooring and then ship it back to the United States. These products may not all be using the NAF or ‘no added formaldehyde’ glues. When the author of the Idiots Guide to Green Living tested her engineered wood floor for formaldehyde it read.23 to.51 ppm versus the.1 that was established by the 1960’s in Swedish and various other studies to be the highest safe level. The California Air Regulatory Board has now adopted that standard for composite wood. Look for a product with certified formaldehyde emissions from glues and backers.

Reclaimed Wood Manufacturing

Reclaimed wood floors, manufactured without cutting trees, are a niche industry and are often made by small companies such as the one pictured in the slides. Reclaimed woods generally require more labor and craftsmanship. There can be 100 nails or more in an old stud, all of which have to be carefully located and removed. The wood must be carefully sawn to isolate the defects in a log or beam that may have been growing for several hundred years. It takes extra time to render the highest quality timber and keep waste to a minimum. The lumber must be air-dried depending on thickness and carefully kiln dried to set a moisture content baseline for proper acclimation to the expected average RH and temperature of the building. Reclaimed wood is often graded multiple times at sawing, after kiln-drying, after milling and finally during packaging to ensure that you receive the grade you ordered.

Engineered wood flooring uses a smaller amount of high quality or rare wood for the face. Some of the less well made engineered flooring contains smaller pieces not suitable for use in solid flooring, resulting in a chopped up look. However, a well-made engineered floor can be produced from full size boards and maintain the same aesthetically pleasing look and same average length as solid.

A wear layer on engineered wood that is comparable to a solid wood floor can be achieved using a precision ‘frame’ saw instead of slicing or peeling the faces; however, a thicker wear layer requires even more attention to the details of the profile or balance of the milling. One example is the location of the tongue and groove; setting them too high on a plywood-backed product or not using the same wood on the bottom of a balanced construction when using a thicker wear layer increases the risk that the flooring will not remain flat.

Diversity Available

Reclaimed woods are steeped in history. All of the antebellum plantations built along the Mississippi in the early 1800s were made entirely of old-growth Heart Cypress and are still toured today. Settler’s cabins across the South, Victorian mansions up the eastern seaboard and hotels and palaces all over Europe were built from the once vast old-growth Heart Pine ecosystem. Then Redwood and Doug Fir supported the country’s expansion as people moved westward.

There is tremendous diversity available including: Oak, Beech, Cedar, Cherry, Chestnut, Doug Fir, Maple, Redwood, Heart Cypress, Hemlock, Poplar, Spruce, Walnut and White Pine, among other species. To help ensure you receive wood that is reclaimed, ask for documentation on the source and approximate age of the tree when the wood was harvested. Age may be the most important factor, particularly in antique reclaimed wood, and can generally be determined by the growth rings in the heartwood.

Grades, grain patterns and distressed milling options often set reclaimed and especially antique woods apart. It requires larger logs or beams and wastes some wood to make vertical grain with only pinstriped grain patterns. Plain sawn wood is much more commonly available and has arches and much more movement in the grain pattern and is less formal in appearance.

Grades can vary from highly character with cracks, checks and various markings to mid-grades to select to clear and in between. Be sure to ask for the details on grades including: grain patter, heartwood content, knot maximum size and approximate number per 100 square feet, growth rings per inch on average, color variation degree, nail holes and bolt holes and how many to expect per 100 square feet, widths available and any other characteristics that the manufacturer thinks important to share.

Distress marks include saw kerfs that are artificially introduced today (circular saws waste much more wood and have all but been abandoned in developed countries). Wire brushes can be used to emphasize the early and late wood differentiation and introduce a pronounced raised grain pattern. “Hand scraped” is most often done on a molder with specially scalloped knives and often gives a repeated pattern appearance on more commercially available flooring. Real hand scraping can be done onsite like it was 100 years ago for a more natural look. Many scraping patterns are available from deeply scalloped to a ‘foot worn’ appearance.

So build green and build beautiful with reclaimed wood.

Goodwin Heart Pine Company, a custom manufacturer of antique reclaimed wood products since 1976, is committed to providing building design professionals with the facts about specifying reclaimed wood. Visit us at Goodwin Heart Pine

Choosing a Wood Floor Professional – 2

Legacy Select Antique Pine Wooden FloorPart 2 – Hints for finding a finisher for heart pine wooden floors
Many of the suggestions for finding an installer in the first section also apply to looking for a floor finisher for heart pine so you might want to look at Part 1.
A directory of professionally certified finishers such as NWFACP’s list at http://www.nwfacp.org is one place to look for a person or company to sand your wood floor. Websites will often list certifications for the individual or company and classes they have taken. Membership in a wood flooring association can also be a positive sign. A certain minimum amount of work experience is highly desirable, but this is not a guarantee of quality work. Another indication of a commitment to quality work is attending wood floor industry schools. Also the sanding equipment should be professional grade. This does not mean that it has to be new but well maintained high quality equipment is important for a top quality job.
A discussion of the look you want to achieve helps choose between the many types of floor finish available for wood floors. Natural oils, hard wax oils, oil modified polyurethane, water borne acrylic or poly, and Tung oil (fortified or not) are some examples of what is available. Talk to your finisher about the properties of the different products such as –
—overall look,
—ambering,
—gloss levels,
—drying times (walk on floor),
—durability,
—odor,
—time for full cure (replace area rugs),
—VOCs,
—film build,
—maintenance requirements, and
—environmental concerns.
Additional information is available on the internet at http://www.woodfloors.org/WoodFloorFinishes.aspx and other sites. The brand of finish should be designed for use on wood floors for durability and so that film forming products flow to yield a smooth surface. Saving money by using low quality finish can significantly reduce the life of the floor. Professional products cost more but usually only add a small percentage to the overall price. Discuss the finisher’s experience with sanding antique wood floors. River Recovered® heart pine sands slightly differently than most other woods. Some finishes darken antique heart pine floors as they are applied and continue to enhance the natural color change in the wood as it ages. Other products maintain a much lighter shade. Certain species have different reactions with different finishes so it is best to use a combination of flooring and finish products that your floor finisher has experience with.
Dust control and possible paint touch ups on the baseboard are other topics to discuss in advance. The temperature in the room, relative humidity, and direct sun light in the areas where the finish is applied will be of concern to the workers. Commissioning a new flooring project can be stressful, but finding a good team to install and finish your floor makes the process easier and gives better results.

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.

Log Rounds and Wood Tiles for Antique Wood Floors

Large End Grain Tiles of Antique Heart Pine

Heart Pine End Grain Tiles

Entries and other transition areas present an opportunity to use patterns in wood flooring.  The distinctive appearance of end grain tiles with their circular grain pattern creates a strong impression in an entry.  Designs such as herringbone, chevrons, or an English weave used in transition areas create interest and elegance.

Antique Log Rounds

Log Rounds

Herringbone at Master Bedroom Entry

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 Cypress Floor Inlay

Antique Cypress

Floor of the Year Matt Marwick

Once again creative work by Matt Marwick of Precision Floorcrafters in Florida has garnered him national recognition.  The National Wood Flooring Association gave a Floor of the Year award for Matt’s innovative design at the national convention this year. The eye catching design features large end cuts from an antique cypress log as the centerpiece.

Now featured on the cover of the Hardwood Floors magazine for June /July 2011

Reclaimed Pine Flooring Heartwood Colors

There can be confusion between sapwood and heartwood that has not darkened in antique wood.  As living trees mature they develop heartwood around the center. Pine heartwood has more resin than the surrounding sapwood.  As mentioned in an earlier posting the heartwood darkens over time.  In large antique pine beams it is common for this process to progress through out the entire piece.  Occasionally however we find beams that still have yellow portions within the heart.  These areas are called yellow heart.  The picture has a board that was just surfaced showing areas that have changed color and areas that have not.  The question is sometimes asked if these yellow sections are sapwood, but they are not.  The sapwood is on the outside of the heart wood. If you look at the curvature of rings and the yellow has heartwood outside of it the yellow part is heartwood. Over time the light heartwood sections will darken and blend in.

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Color in Heart Pine

Heart Pine

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.