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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 for Proper Wood Floor Installation

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.

A great wood floor installation begins with proper subfloor prep…

Generally the subfloor should be flat to within 1/4″ or less over 10′. 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 for a good wood floor installation.

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 have used 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 but worth the effort for a successful floor for the longterm.

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

Reclaimed Wood Floors, Concrete, and Water

In the antique wood floor industry we often hear the comment that reclaimed wood flooring never needs acclimation. Unfortunately this is not the case. The high resin content of antique Longleaf pine diminishes the width changes driven by moisture fluctuations but does not eliminate them. Moisture concerns need to be addressed when using heart pine wooden flooring just as with other wooden floors especially if the subfloor is concrete.
Let’s start by listing a few observations
-Wood floors are often installed over concrete subfloors.
-The majority of wood floor complaints are moisture related.
-Untreated concrete readily absorbs, conducts, and emits water.
The combination of concrete and wood flooring calls for planning before the installation begins to avoid problems during the lifetime of the floor.
One of the first questions might be ’is the concrete dry enough now?’ Moisture meters or testing water vapor emission from the surface of the concrete can indicate if the concrete is wet. In some cases these tests are not reliable indicators of conditions that will lead to a successful wood flooring installation. Devices that measure the interior relative humidity within the concrete have been used in Europe for some time and are now often used here. If the moisture level is too high consider installing a vapor barrier or a penetrating sealer designed for use under wood flooring.
Concrete that is dry now may be exposed to water later. On-grade concrete can absorb water if exterior surface water accumulates or if the soil moisture levels increase. Once the water is introduced into concrete it travels to affect adjacent areas. If a vapor barrier was not installed the moisture can cause problems with an existing wood floor installation.
Non absorbing cushion such as closed cell foam is usually used under floating floors. Using porous padding material under floating floors introduces the possibility of retaining moisture if excess water is temporarily present.
Leaks from plumbing, appliances, roofs, or other building sources can result in wet wood floors. The National Wood Flooring Association suggests removing the water and drying a flooded floor promptly. For more details refer to the NWFA publication C200, ‘Problems Causes and Cures’. Some floors can not be saved. If the concrete under the floor has been wet it is important to verify that it has dried out before replacing a floor.

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5 Things to Learn About Antique Wood Floors in 5 Minutes

1. Help in choosing a reclaimed wood floor…River Recovered Antique Heart Pine Vertical Grain

To help you think about what you want here are a few choices:
· Do you want a unique wood floor with a story?
· A beautiful, historic and durable floor.
· Light, medium or dark tones?
· Consistent color or color variation?
· Grain with pin stripes, bold arches or subtle graining?
· A single width versus a random width pattern gives a different look?
· Do you like ‘character’ or prefer pristine?
· How about knots or do you want a ‘clear’ grade?
Maybe you just want to see a few of these characteristics in River Recovered Heart PineLegacy Heart PineRiver Recovered Heart Cypress… or Sustainably Harvested Woods.

Antique Heart Pine is the most frequently specified reclaimed wood.’Virgin growth’ heart pine is known as the ‘wood that built America’. It is mostly or all heartwood, is very hard and comes in many grades.

Some of the more commonly available reclaimed woods include: American Chestnut, Heart Cypress, Douglas Fir, Eastern White Pine and Oak.

2. Which finish should you use on reclaimed wood?

The finish you choose can dramatically change the look of your floor. While most reclaimed wood is sanded and finished smooth to the touch, you can also have a distressed floor. Distressing simulates old, old floors or barn siding and is usually done on milling machines, though it can also be done onsite by craftsmen.

How you want to maintain your wood floor determines if you want polyurethane that requires a professional to repair or if you want an oil finish that you can refresh when scratches occur. Polyurethane is a plastic coating that adds shine to the floor. The oil finishes are very natural and are low sheen; however, they can be made to have degrees of shine. They are especially appropriate for heavy traffic and come with easy maintenance products.

3. Would solid or engineered reclaimed wood work best for you?

Engineered wood flooring is a growing market. Goodwin began engineered flooring to help conserve the rare River Recovered® wood. While solid wood floor may remain the ‘gold standard’ for those who can accommodate its greater demands, now you can have ‘USA made’ engineered flooring that looks and lasts like solid and is easier to fit into the construction cycle.

4. Not all reclaimed wood is equal…

To consistently manufacture a well made reclaimed wood floor that is properly kiln-dried, precisely milled, graded to established standards and backed by in-house technical expertise requires a considerable investment. Reclaimed wood can be a confusing niche industry. You may want to know some terminology when specifying antique heart pine. Building design professionals can call for our free continuing education course on Architectural and Design Uses of Reclaimed Wood.

5. Installation tips to help your reclaimed wood perform well for a lifetime and beyond.

Once you have chosen your floor, learn what to ask; about installation, selecting an installer, even tips on existing subfloors on our blogs. Should you need stair parts or millwork it is possible to get any flooring complement in the same grade as your floor.

Engineered floor installation, when glued to concrete, needs to have an elastomeric type adhesive made for engineered wood. We generally suggest a vapor retarder over the slab. Even if the slab is dry now it ensures against leaks or storms.

Just a few of the important tips to help ensure your solid wood floor installation:
1. The sub floor needs to be flat and level to within 3/16” over 10 feet for nail down or flat within 1/8” over 6 feet for glue down installation.
2. The moisture content of the wood floor and the sub-floor need to match the expected indoor temperature and relative humidity once the building has been occupied. Be sure to use a pin type moisture meter on dense reclaimed wood.
3. Enough ‘cleats’ for nail down jobs will help prevent the floor from moving too much. You should nail a 6” inch wide floor every 4”, an 8” inch wide floor every 3”, etc.