How to Specify The Right Wood Floor for the Job: Presentation by Lavinia Rathbun

March 13, 2017 - Posted by: earthelements

Earth Elements Design Center partnered with ASID Intermountain Chapter and Lavinia Rathbun of National Wood Products, Inc. to educate you on choosing the right wood flooring for the job. All infomation below was gathered from the live presentation by Lavinia Rathbun at the Gallatin Gateway Design Center, and provided by the National Wood Flooring Association.

Wood flooring can add a gorgeous luxurious feel to any room. Because wood flooring is an investment, we want to make sure you get it right the first time. We hope to inform you on the types of wood flooring available, and explain how each type of wood flooring will perform based on where it is installed.

Climate certainly plays an important role in wood flooring specifications. The levels and variations in humidity within the service environment can make the difference between a long-lasting floor OR flooring that should be replaced before its time. 

Renewable Resources

Wood flooring is a natural and sustainable product. Most wood flooring is harvested from private forests. Because this is a 100% natural product, you won't have to worry about chemicals and other harmful byproducts being used during the manufacturing process. Additionally, this process requires less energy and water to manufacture natural wood flooring than any other flooring product on the market. 

Conservation of natural resources is also an important aspect of choosing a solid wood flooring product for your home. At the end of its lifecycle, your wood flooring can be recycled, used as reclaimed wood, or used for fuel resources. 

Extended Life Cycle

With an all-natural, solid wood flooring you're going to see an extended life cycle. This is due to the conservative manufacturing process. Once installed, your solid natural wood flooring will last for decades, adding beauty and function throughout the space. 

While it will be necessary to maintain these floors to keep their gorgeous aesthetics, you'll only need to sand and refinish your wood flooring once every 10-12 years, depending on the wear and tear. Because this is a solid wood product, you will be able to sand and refinish your flooring 10-12 times before it reaches the end of its life cycle.

What this means for you is that you will have a gorgeous wood floor with enough longevity that can easily last 100 years or more if properly maintained. There simply isn't another flooring product on the market that can compare. 

Indoor Air Quality

The EPA agrees that a solid wood floor will actually improve your indoor air quality. Unlike carpeting and other flooring products, your wood floors won't harbor dirt, microbes, or allergens. In addition, the American Industry for Allergies also approves solid wood flooring as a product for consumers with allergies and other respiratory issues. This is because the wood naturally resists microbes, and is mold and mildew resistant. 

You can also install a solid wood floor without worrying about VOC emissions. By using a specific finish for your natural wood flooring, you can install a solid wood product that is 100% VOC free. 

Wood Flooring Types: Solid vs Engineered

There are two types of wood flooring available: solid and engineered.  Both solid and engineered wood floors are real wood products.  The difference is in how they are made.  Solid wood flooring is made just as the name implies; it is manufactured using one solid piece of wood from top to bottom.  This is clearly visible in the photo on the left.  Conversely, engineered wood flooring is manufactured using multiple layers of real wood, or a hybrid core material.  In the photo on the right, you can see this construction process, and that the number of layers used varies.  The engineered board at the top of the photo is made using three layers of wood, while the board directly underneath it is constructed using five layers, including what looks like an MDF or HDF layer.  While the number and thickness of these layers can vary, they are always made of real wood or wood components, with the top layer being a high-quality wood veneer.

From an aesthetic point of view, once a wood floor is installed, it is nearly impossible to tell if it is solid or engineered.  How that wood is cut, however, will have a big impact on what the final product will look like.

A Cut Above the Rest

There are four main types of saw cuts for natural, solid wood flooring. Let's look at the different types of cuts and how they are different from one another.

Plainsawn

These cuts are the most common when making wood flooring. A dowel is placed in the middle of the log, and a series of parallel cuts are made in a square type fashion on the four sides until the middle is reached.

Your select, clear grade materials will come from the center of the log. What this means is that these planks won't contain knots, mineral streaks or much contrast in coloring. These planks can often offer wider widths and longer lengths, but they won't show much character. 

The outside cuts of a plain sawn log will offer plenty of character, showing lots of knots and mineral streaks to create a variegated look within the final product. This means you can have one plank that will have dark brown wood and blonde wood together. Because of the angle of the saw, your wood planks will feature what is called a cathedral grain. 

Plain sawn wood flooring makes a great product for homes but isn't the best choice for a vacation home that will only be lived in for 2 weeks out the year. Without maintaining the indoor environment, these floors can be prone to shrinking and gapping. 

Quartersawn 

With quarter sawn planks, you're going to see a tight wavy grain with a flecked pattern. Since these are cut in quarters from the log, you may find it difficult to find planks that are more than 6 inches. Because of the angle of the saw, and grain patterns achieved, you're going to have less seasonal movement and gapping with quarter sawn planks. In addition, these cuts will give the planks up to 50% more stability than plain sawn planks. 

Riftsawn

This is produced similarly to the quarter sawn planks. However, there are a few things you should know about this type of saw cut. Rift sawn cuts come from the smaller part of a quartered log wedge and will produce more waste than any other cut. This is the main reason that rift and quarter sawn planks are often sold together. 

You won't be able to get very wide planks with this type of cut, but it's important to note that a rift cut will provide more stability within the floor. With a rift sawn log, you won't get as much medullary flecking as you would with the quarter sawn.  

Livesawn

This type of cut is the least wasteful of all the cuts. This cut begins with a single cut through the center of the log. The remaining cuts are made parallel to the first. With this type of cut, you are able to get much wider planks. Livesawn planks will give you the best of all the cuts.

With this cut, you are able to achieve the 'rustic' look that has been gaining popularity in recent years. These boards will have more of the medullary flecking within the grain and will feature the natural characteristics of the wood, like knots and cracks.  

It's important to note that because of these natural characteristics, this type of cut will make the boards more susceptible to movement when exposed to moisture differentials.  In contrast, the wider cut and natural characteristics will help keep the seasonal movement less visible. 

The Nature of Wood

It's important to understand the nature of wood. Ever wondered why solid wood flooring must sit in your home for an undetermined amount of time before it can be installed? Well, wonder no more!

Wood is hygroscopic, which means it will take on, and give off, moisture according to the climate it is in. Acclimating your solid wood flooring to the environment is essential to a successful, and long lasting, installation and final product.  If your wood flooring is installed before acclimation, you could see swelling or cupping depending on the relative conditions of the environment. This could lead to potential failure of the flooring. 

It's important to note that solid wood flooring cannot be installed below grade. This means that solid wood isn't recommended for spaces that have more than 3 inches of soil above foundation level. In this case, engineered wood should be considered as a flooring option. 

HVAC must be up and running
Home must be completely enclosed
All windows must be fully installed
Wet trades must be completed which includes:

Drywall
Masonry
Tile installation
Painting

Subflooring must be clean, dry and level

Key things to remember:

  • Wood is a renewable raw material that can regenerate infinitely
  •  Wood floors can last 100+ years
  •  Manufacturing wood flooring uses fewer natural resources than other flooring options
  •  Laminate flooring is not made using wood
  •  Wood flooring types include solid and engineered
  •  Wood saw cuts include plainsawn quartersawn, riftsawn, and livesawn
  •  Saw cut affects the appearance and performance of wood
  •  Solid wood floors should be installed only above or on grade
  •  Engineered wood floors can be installed above, on or below grade
  •  Wood floors should be acclimated to the job site
  •  Installation methods for wood flooring include nail-down, glue-down and floating
  •  Radiant heat and other extreme conditions can affect the performance of a wood floor

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