The high-end customer who desires the distinctive look of wide-plank flooring certainly won’t settle for second-best. They want the job done, and they want it done right the first time. In Wide-Plank Flooring 101, we discussed two concerns related to sourcing wide-plank hardwood flooring: limited options and movement-minded milling.
Careful sawing, drying, and milling will get you a long way toward success, but even the best lumber can turn into a disastrous floor if installation isn’t done correctly. Now, we’ll explore some issues related to installation that take the unique movement issues into account. Carefully considering these potential problems can keep you from creating an uneven floor.
Using Tongue-and-Groove Joining
While hardwood flooring can be successful with ship lap joining, tongue and groove is preferred for use with wide-plank flooring. Why? The groove, in essence, “traps” the adjacent board by its tongue, preventing it from lifting up. You can allow movement while keeping the floor stable with a few modifications to this popular joint.
What kinds of modifications may be needed? You’ll need to include an expansion gap between each board. Now, you need to make sure your client is aware that such a gap is designed to open and close with movement that comes with changes in moisture levels. If your client prefers not to see gaps, another option is a float floor that will expand and contract as one piece. If your client chooses a floating floor, the expansion gap will be moved to the edge of the room, where it will be covered with shoe moulding. In such a case, unevenness or buckling can result due to inconsistent movement from one board to another.
Anticipating Change in Moisture Levels
Upon delivery to the job site, you’ll want to ensure proper acclimatization by allowing the wide planks to come into equilibrium with the room in which they’ll be installed. Factors that play into the time allotted for this process include the following:
• The room environment
• Distance the flooring traveled from the supplier
• Type of sub floor and need for moisture control
Reducing Changes in Moisture Levels
One solution is to ensure that moisture levels remain constant. Of course, a room-specific humidity-control system may be cost-prohibiting, particularly for extremely large rooms. However, the initial investment of material may warrant such a solution. Similar to the systems used in laboratory environments, these systems will keep the floor in constant equilibrium, all-but eliminating movement altogether.
Understanding the caution needed in sourcing, milling, and installing wide-plank flooring may help you understand why it’s rarely seen outside the most luxurious homes and facilities. However, as they grow in popularity, these hardwood flooring options require top-notch suppliers like J. Gibson McIlvain and attentive craftsmen like yourself.