Saturday, June 27, 2009

Wide Plank Flooring - Cupped Boards

Cupped boards are common problems after installation often due to moisture damage or flooring that was not dried sufficiently to start with.

The 5" piece of Beech Flooring is what a cupped board looks like before planing. Much of the imported prefinished wide plank flooring has moisture issues. Better to rent a moisture meter and check the ends of the boards for moisture content before putting material down from another part of the world. If it is more than 8% consider returning it for a refund. We have seen prefinished flooring measure at or above 12%.
I was skeptical when Merv told me that I could put down 1x8 boards without surface nailing or screwing--however it is true. When flooring is dried properly it lasts beautifully.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Applying Verathane to Unfinished Hardwood

Next comes the Verathane.

Spend the Money... Cheap verathane will not last. Buy the professional quality verathane for a durable finish.
We are using a paint tray with a liner, a broom handle and a wool verathane application head. Rule #1, Apply the verathane in even coats with the grain of the wood. #2 Maintain a wet edge. #3 don't paint yourself into a corner!
Slow smooth motion will avoid air pockets within the finish.

Don't apply too much at a time or you will have puddles. Give it 3 or 4 good even coats for a durable finish. Again, I can't stress this point enough. $30.00 verathane will not last as well as $100.00 verathane. The better materials are nearly often worth the extra money!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Applying Stain to Unfinished Hardwood

Applying Stain-- Old School

Here's an exhausting hobby! Rule #1, get knee pads. The trick to this is to keep your wet edge to prevent color discrepancies. In just the few moments it took to focus and snap some photos I could see dark spots. Keep in mind though--once the verathane goes on you won't see very much color variation. We actually had this color custom tinted by our paint store. It was a combination of 3 different colours in an effort to closely match a pine floor adjacent.
Yessir, Rubber Gloves, A Rag and Stain. You can use a mop head or wool pad with a broom handle to apply stain, however it will be more streaky and just not as deep and rich typically. You get residue resting on the grains unless it is hand rubbed.
It is a simple task really... apply with a rag... rub excess off with clean rag. Don't take breaks.
Some people will tell you to use a wood conditioner, and if you are considering you may want to do samples to determine which look you like the look of.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sanding Unfinished Hardwood Flooring Part 1

When it comes to finishing Hardwood you may want to leave this to the pros.

It is not an easy task. You can rent the equipment to do the job, however a drum sander. (photo below--is not a pleasant tool to use).
A drum sander is simply a spinning cylinder with sand paper on it, and what makes it tricky is that the drum is mounted on a slight angle. The first pass is diagonal from right to left until the floor is more or less even. You start working from right to left paralell to the floor....and work your way around the room in a clockwise pattern. The tricky bit is in the middle. You never want to start and stop in the same place or you could dig yourself a trench .
These are sheets of sandpaper that fit the drum sander--each machine is different so buy your paper where you rent or buy the machine. On harder species of wood we will start out using 18 grit, then 24, then 40, then 60 or 80.The machine blow is called an edger. This has a spinning disc and casters or wheels at the back. It tilts forward and is used for sanding close to corners and walls. IN the same way you use coarse paper and work down to smoother finish as you work.
These are the discs used in the edger. Edgers will usually have a light that casts down on the work surface... this one was broken!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Installing Unfinished Hardwood Flooring Part 3

Here are a few pro tips for actually installing the flooring.

Pulling the boards into place is not easy--so often we drive a chisel into the subfloor and use it to ratchet the boards tight for nailing. It always works better with 2 workmen.

Thresholds and in particular nosed thresholds at the top of stairs should look like the existing stair treads. You can rip a piece, glue, nail and screw to emulate the same look in most cases. Hide your screws where you can.

Casings and jamb extensions will often need trimming so that the flooring slips under and doesn't leave an unsightly gap. We use a flush cut backsaw (a saw that cuts on the pull stroke--Japanese steel preferred), and rest it on a piece of the actual flooring for a guide.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Installing Unfinished Hardwood Flooring Part 2

Putting down Hardwod

Here we are nailing wide plank beech flooring with an old fashioned T-Nailer. You need strong arms to use this unit all day. This is a pneumatic stapler. You still trigger using the mallet, however it does some of the work for you and shoots a staple with excellent holding power. These two are working in holds the board tight with a chisel (an old one), and the other fastens using the pneumatic nailer.
This floor is being put down over a good solid softwood floor... this makes an excellent base. Every board is glued down to prevent squeeks. IN the old days they would use a layer of building paper to prevent squeeks.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Installing Unfinished Hardwood Part 1

When you decide to install hardwood flooring the first consideration is whether the floor supporting it is strong enough. If there is movement when you walk on it you may want to add another layer of plywood (and glue the layers together), for strength.

In this case the floor joists were undersized, however there was a full width 1 1/2" cedar floor in place already. Considering that this 1" beech (very hard), flooring would be glued to the floor beneath, it should be more than strong enough as long as we ran the flooring perpendicular.
We always start with a clean chalk line and in this case we would be fitting a threshold to the entrance door later, so we trimmed off the lower part of the groove to make it easier to fit later. The first couple of rows get surface nailed typically... set the nails well below the surface though, and make sure the first board remains aligned to the chalk line.
Planning for full boards along obstructions is something that youwill find only experienced carpenters like Nick Vanegmond doing. (in photo above).

You will always start with the straightest boards, and alternate the width. This floor has 3", 5" and 7" boards. For the boards to remain tight you have to use the smaller boards to split the inconsistancies. End cuts all have to be trimmed off about 5-7" for stright from the mill products like these.

Every board is glued to prevent squeeks and for added strength and durability.

A cut off plank is used to bump the flooring into place. Trim off the tongue of the block leaving the groove face... this way you don't cause splinters that will obstruct the flooring from laying flat.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

2 Steps to Make Hardwood Flooring

Making Flooring in 2 Steps

Step 1, Plane the dried lumber. One person feeds, the other takes it out and stacks. That's Chris feeding.
Step 2, the lumber is fed into the shaper. This is trick. I haven't showed you the machine because Merv designed it and built it to work the way he likes it. This machine trues the wood (takes the crown out), trims it to width, then does the back cuts, shapes both sides and does all this in a single pass.
Out comes perfect flooring!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Wood Flooring and Moisture

Did you ever wonder how wood absorbs moisture?

Plants draw moisture up the stem to the leaves. Wood from a tree is just a slice of the stem.

Wood cells can be as long as 2 1/2" and they look like tubes. When the wood is alive they are full of moisture

Oak has rather wide cells and that give it a distinct grain. Mahogany is a similar shape of cell.

Sealing the end grains can prevent any wood from expanding and contracting quite so much and so quickly.

Many exterior builders seal the lumber all 6 sides.

The more wood flooring is dried, the harder it gets. When wood flooring is dried using heat the sap cooks. This cooked sap will not absorb moisture the same as air dried or partially dried floors, and it will actually deter the infiltration of moisture some species like pine.

This is why Merv dries his flooring to 6% rather than 8% moisture content.

Quite often floors are destroyed by moisture damage-- It takes considerably more moisture to make 6% flooring swell than it does flooring dried less.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

What makes good Hardwood Flooring?

Sanded in place flooring will always be more even and a more finished looking. Pre-finished flooring doesn’t get sanded in place and for that reason imperfections in the sub-floor will often show through. It also normally has v-grooves or ridges so that the joints are less prominent.
The other issue with pre-finished hardwood flooring is that it is typically not available in wider than 5” strips and the moisture content is rarely less than 8%. Our flooring is dried to 6% or less. We have seen flooring from brazil between 10-12% which is wet enough to buckle, twist and shed much of the coating in the first year. Even flooring with 8% moisture will have durability issues and movement.
Early flooring was comprised of alternating strips between 3-8” planks to make best use of the materials. It is a very different look and it simply cannot be matched in a pre-finished product.
They would also hand plane the rough materials while they were in place. It was always a rough, hand hewn look, charming and personalized. That can be done, however the price will be astonishingly high. Rather than $15/sq.foot it may be closer to $35/sq. foot. Finishing with sanders is far more efficient and much more quickly done.
When you buy pre-finished flooring you don’t have control over what finish is applied. Stains and Coatings vary greatly in both performance (durability), and how they age. When it comes to price stain can be purchased for between $20-200/gallon. Verathane can vary between about $30-150/gallon as well. Factory finishes can vary wildly in which product they choose to apply. It is often lacquor which is hard, but humidity can cause imperfect finishes.
The major difference between pre-finished and finished in place flooring is that you can create custom colors to nearly any tint and shade. From pink to green… natural is rarely the choice anymore.
Pre-finished flooring is often small chunks between 16” and 3’ long. Twisted material is simply cut shorter and milled at the ends as well.
Our finished in place flooring is typically between 8-12’ in length and put down by craftsmen. Working with our flooring enables patterning and borders as well as countersunk plugs. Surface screwing and installing tapered plugs adds a historical look to a floor. Alternating the species of plugs will also add character and interest as well. We can also give an antique look by just sanding lightly leaving a slightly uneven appearance to the planks. Nothing you would trip on—just an authentic type of look. Sanding happens with a large polisher rather than a drum sander.
Speak to one of our flooring installers if you are considering solid wood floors. If you are a builder or home renovator you may wish to visit the mill and talk to Merv about improving your offerings. Typically it means buying better and building better and more often than not—increasing your profit margin.