Blogging For Hardwood Floors

Blogging For Hardwood Floors

Not Your Basic Hardwood Floor Stuff

Hardwood Floors Seen Better Days? Dull & Worn

Years ago many of us didnt think about keeping hardwood floors in pristine condition. Sure, grandma would sometimes spend hours waxing those old beauties but did they fall off the deep end when the floors got scratched? No, it was just a matter of what to expect with the floors. Today we focus a lot of attention on hardwood flooring, almost as if theyre part of the furniture.

The Deep End? Yea, Thats Me!

We run into a number of people that obsess over their new hardwood floors, and yet some get so hung up with cheap solutions in how to improve the shine or restore the dullness in their floors. Billy Mays can be a compelling salesperson with the Orange Glow product but you have to wonder is my floor worth experimenting on at a cost under $25 bucks?

We found plenty of comments about Orange Glow at epinions.com. Mostly negative and if you should be on the short end of the stick having problems, there are a number of solutions mentioned by dissatisfied customers. The sample photo on the right is an example of applying too much cleaner that caused a gunky buildup.

The Professional Solution.

Sure, maybe grandma didnt care but you do. The question is how can I fix those dull or worn hardwood floors?  The page link highlights what to expect from minor dull or scratched floors. What it doesnt go on to say is an expected cost. For a professional fix, expect to pay anywhere between one and three dollars a square foot depending on where you live.

Can I Fix My Own Hardwood Floors?

Handling hardwood floor repairs by yourself requires alot of patience and precision if you want it done right. The question is do you want it to look like a repair? Over the years weve looked at some DIY attempts and frankly our opinion is stay away from them. Hiring a professional will offer better results. How much will I spend? Costs will vary depending on what type of repair work is performed. However most professionals will charge by the hour.

DIY. Whats The Worst That Can Happen?

Okay, youre determined to ignore our advice. Whats the worst that can happen? It depends on what the problem is. Most repairs are to fix squeaky floorboards and you can find plenty of that on the web. Hometips.com  is a good source with a few illustrations, but they only cover hardwood floors that are nailed down. The worst that can happen with this procedure is using too many nails. In general its an easy fix.

How About Board Replacement?

Board replacement  (video) is where the precision comes into the picture. It will be easier if the floor is a prefinished one and not one that is sanded and finished in place. The worst that can happen here is not using the recommended glue or not allowing the glue under the new board to cure properly. What happens is the glue bond may not be sufficient and will begin to creak or squeak. Its also important to place some weight on the area to insure a proper vertical height with adjacent pieces after the glue cures. Otherwise you will have a board whose edges may be higher than the rest of the floor; often termed sock catchers.

Naildown type floor repairs we consider to be the easiest with glued square edge floating floors becoming a harder task. Square edge indicates the boards are vertically flush against one another without any micro bevels. The difficulty lies in keeping a smooth transition from a repaired board to the rest of the floor. Micro beveled floors on the other hand allow for some discrepancies as the bevels will mask any marginal repairs.

To properly repair glued tongue and groove floating floors a router with a slot cutter is paramount to success. Excess dried glue in the grooves needs to be removed. Without taking this step any new board will not fit properly by tongue and groove into the repair area.  Considering there are different hardwood thicknesses no one single slot cutter works for all. We found a great source at Tool Barn. For naildown and direct glue down floors this accessory will not be needed.

What about fixing hardwood floor scratches. The fix here will once again depend on the condition. Minor scratching can be fixed with a Q-tip and a similar floor finish. Deeper indentations may require board replacement or complete refinishing. We can find all sorts of so called arm chair experts on the web when it comes to this subject especially this one which is entirely misleading:

#1 result on Google for fixing hardwood floor scratches?

The question is what to do about dog scratches on new hardwood floors.

Before you try any fix-ups, contact your builder. Prefinished hardwood usually comes with some kind of warranty.

No manufacturer covers this kind of damage.

What Rooms To Install Wood Flooring?

Years ago construction standards had hardwood floors installed in every room. Then it was considered a necessity because it became the subfloor (the area that we live on). Times changed as did styles and new flooring products like linoleum  and wall to wall carpet came into being. Only in recent years has the home created a specialized floor selection process mainly due to aesthetics and interior design.

Whats Functional? Are There Advantages?

Hardwood floors are no longer considered just a functional part of the home. More often theyre being chosen for the look and  reducing dust allergies many of us are drawn to with stuffy carpeting. Advantages? Absolutely, if you consider the overall costs savings and durability compared to carpeting. Often carpets have to be replaced every 5-10 years, or color styles change. More traditional 3/4 solid hardwood floors should easily last 3-4 generations and longer. Color changes are also possible with experienced professionals.

But Where Should I Install My New Hardwood?

Today (2009) its not uncommon to see an average installation in every area of the home except for bedrooms and baths. The general layout would include walking into the foyer, living and dining room and down hallways (Kahrs Oak San Jose pictured on the left). Big changes from a short twenty five years ago when an average   in new construction generally showed installations in the foyer or formal dining area. Perhaps an office thrown in here and there.

How about hardwood floors in kitchens. Considering the potential damages from falling kitchen wares and dishes, water leaks and spills one would think not. But installing wood floors in kitchens has been a very big trend in the last ten years. With the popularity of open floor plans today and the kitchen being an extention of the home creating an even flow with hardwood looks more natural then splitting it up with ceramic tile or vinyl. Anderson Maple Plank shown on the right.

Maybe youre thinkingyou talk about flow, but theres no flow when you stop hardwoods at bedrooms.  This is true, but closing bedroom doors especially when entertaining, blocks the appearance.

Different Hardwoods In Different Rooms?

In our experience breaking up rooms with different colors never looks appealing. It almost begins to look like an interior decorator experiment and we know how those crafty folks can go off on a tangent. Using different styles or colors to highlight sections has looked attractive, such as creating inserts and borders in formal dining areas or in greeting areas and foyers.

Unique Hardwood Floor Choices

Instead of the standard fluff one can find anywhere on the web, our article today deals with other hardwood flooring possibilities many are not aware of. Considering their design makeup expect prices to be much higher than the mundane stuff the big box stores sell. You know what I may be talking about. Bruce Lock and Fold, Traffic Master, and those other mass produced items.

Want Something Really Different?

How about something called Puzzle Floor. Its a bit too much for our tastes but could be an option for those artistic folks. These are actually 5/8 solid hardwood that are glued with a trowel adhesive. It really isnt a pile of pieces that you have to actually figure out what goes where like a standard jigsaw puzzle, but it is important to use the correct ones in certain areas specifically the starting areas. Proper layout is critical. The company offers thirteen different prefinished colors, all stained on Maple hardwood.

How About Those European Classics?

Europeans dont care much for our tastes, thats why parquet patterns remain a constant popular choice and dont seem to change with fads or design styles as they do here in the USA. These are not your ordinary parquets you may see in Home Depot or Lowes for under two dollars a square foot.

Who Makes Them?

Inex Hardwood Floors  based out of the Ukraine keeps busy with a multiple number of parquet designs in geometric and artisan shapes. These floors arrive unfinished requiring a direct glue down installation. Many of their designs have graced the palaces of Europe for years. Inex has offices in the USA where products can be purchased direct.

Another manufacturer were familiar with includes Czar Floors  based in Newtown, Pennsylvania. The company has the finest photo gallery weve seen on the web and worth spending some time on. Be forewarned, drooling may occur.

What Kind Of Prices Can I Expect To Pay?

The Puzzle Floor may be in the budget range more than those manufactured by Inex and Czar. The model P 322 Epha shown on the left sells at $ 43.00 per square foot but they do offer other less detailed designs for under $ 20.00.

Custom Hardwood Floor Medallions & Borders

Its been awhile since we last checked in with Oshkosh Floor Designs but theyre now publicizing the idea of custom designed products. Visit their online gallery for projects they have completed in the past. Of particular interest is the animals category.

Has Bamboo Flooring Lost Its Uniqueness?

Bamboo took the wood flooring market by storm over the last ten years. Is the popularity waning? Not according to our souces but nowadays you wont be seeing the standard solid stuff in only two different colors. New products can be found in an extremely durable format called strand woven bamboo  (shown on the left). Although many claim wonders with bamboo durability. weve always had our doubts. This new product innovation has the durability level elevated.

Stained Bamboo Floors

How about blue and red bamboo floors? Or turquoise? Dura-Design  manufacturers over fifty colors of stained bamboo flooring and offers custom coloring with larger orders. Sorry, no simple do it yourself floating installations with these goodies. All stained products are of the solid variety that requires glueing direct or nailing and stapling.

Curved Wood Flooring?

I usually dont open email solicitations but this one is definitely unique. The company is Chinese based and produces a number of colors of hardwood floors with a wavy pattern to it. Yea really. The boards are crooked! Looks like a real treat for some of those crazy decorators! However they are probably directed at the commercial flooring market than anything. Who knows, lets see how it evolves.

All products are engineered and many appear to have a very high gloss finish. Or perhaps thats what they call their water live effect. I cant imagine this product can be nailed or stapled. I did find some limited installation information here. Hand scraped products are also offered.

For more information visit Curve Wood Flooring .

Its important to note these products may have their own individual requirements for installation. For an introduction on what types of hardwood can become possibilites in your own home check out hardwood flooring types and styles. Different types of subfloors can dictate what products can be used more effectively. A few simple illustrations also offer how standard strip and plank hardwood floors can be installed.

Avoid Hardwood Floor Problems Before Getting In Too Deep

Congratulations! You’ve made it past that first step on your new hardwood floor selection by making the choice and purchase. Simple? It may seem so, but a key ingredient to enjoying that endless beauty lies in the actual installation. The retail store may claim to have experienced hardwood installers, but our experience has shown some do not have the knowledge to install a floor that should be without installation related problems.

That cutely packaged 25 year warranty may set your mind at ease but many consumers are unknowingly aware an estimated 90% of hardwood floor warranty claims are the result of improper installation, stemming largely from not following manufacturer installation specifications. Proper steps must be followed by an installer in order to provide a successful installation, or one that does not come back to haunt later.

Considering there are several types of installation methods, complaints or failure can come from different angles. Some of the more noticeable ones:

Solid Hardwood Floors

Topping the list of complaints are floor squeaks. One major reason includes a sub floor that is not flat enough. Any dips or humps will cause the flooring to flex over time; fasteners loosen. Boards rub together causing noises when walked on. Unusual sounds are also caused by moisture changes in the floor itself. “Our floor is making creaking and popping sounds even as we sleep.” Other reasons may include improper fasteners to install the floor. Add in improper use of fastening (ie not enough nails).

Another annoying feature can be hardwood floor cracks and gaps. Gapping generally occurs during winter months when dry heat is introduced into the home. Fairly common, especially in colder climates. Nonetheless for a new floor installation gapping can be minimized if attention to moisture conditions are followed before, during, and after the installation.

Floating Floors

Likely to be the single largest complaint is a hollow sound underfoot. First culprit to look at once again is lack of floor preparation just like our solid hardwood floor. Other symptoms can be bouncy, creaking, or seesaw effects. Walking across the floor you notice soft areas. Lack of floor preparation again. Note: hollow sounds or feel can also be a result of lower quality underlayments used.

Tenting or buckling. The floor starts to heave upwards. “It wasn’t there last week.“ This is a result of increased moisture into the environment combined with lack of expansion areas needed.

Glue Down Direct Floors

This type of installation creates more expensive solutions compared to the two discussed. Moreover, do you know what the largest cause for complaint is for? It’s been mentioned in the other two. Lack of floor preparation. This results in popping sounds, but may not be caused by the above. Another reason can be improper flooring adhesive used or not enough applied.

Solutions Before Problems Occur

Make sure your installers provide a proper sub floor. It is their responsibility to fix minor sub floor variances, but there are added costs. Declining or not agreeing to floor preparation can lead to problems. If a warranty claim is filed with the manufacturer it will not be honored in this case. Major structural issues should be left up to a professional in that field.

Spend some time researching manufacturer websites. All major manufacturers have sections detailing installation. Perhaps the flooring store has a box leftover in the warehouse. Flyer inserts detailing installation and warranties are always included. Some manufacturers have products that can be quirky. In other words, what works for one may not work for yours.

Once you’ve made that decision on a product take some time and ask the salesperson if these procedures will be followed.  Floor preparation or lack of is one of the largest reasons for complaints or warranty claims. Unfortunately some salespeople eager for a sale may not mention floor preparation because it can be expensive. This is particularly true with tract home builders.

Wood Floor Problems. Lack Of Knowledge

Considering hardwood flooring can be one of the most expensive investments for the home its best to know ahead of time what can happen and why. Hardwood floor problems  are especially common when business is booming. This was particularly true during the most recent real estate boom. Dealers had no recourse when faced with a customer who wanted it done last week. What did they do? Throw in some inexperienced installer who was untested in hardwood flooring but may have been a fairly good mechanic handling carpet or laminate floors.

Installation Specification Confusion

Most problems associated with newer hardwood floors are typically caused by lack of knowledge. For instance when bamboo flooring became popular many assumed the installation guidelines were basically the same as hardwood. Compounding the problem was many products would rarely come with installation instructions (still a problem today).  The direct glue down method of installing bamboo floors to concrete was the most troublesome. The product itself causes havoc with water or acrylic based adhesives by cupping or showing a washboard effect. Instead urethane glues must be used. Most failures requre complete replacement.

Laminate Floor Installation Guidelines Used In Error

Other common problems are the confusion between laminate and hardwood flooring expansion areas needed. Nearly all laminate floor specifications call for a one quarter inch expansion area on the perimeter of the room. For years the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) practiced a 3/4 expansion area at wall lines and other fixed objects. With the booming housing market at the turn of the century many laminate installers were being thrown into hardwood jobs because of the demand for hardwood flooring and lack of installers. They took this expansion rule of thumb with them, which under the right conditions, eventually caused buckling or tenting floors. Today we still see this expansion confusion.

Blogging For Hardwood Floors

Single Largest Problem With New Floors

Number one on the list when it comes to problems with new wood floors are the critical steps to be performed before the actual installation. In our opinion home improvement shows dont make a point to cover this subject as they should. Why? Probably because its a very boring part of the process and most viewers want to see the good stuff. Proper sub floor conditions are key to any floor without problems. Shown above is an installer correcting irregular subfloor conditions before the installation.

How Do I Go About Getting Things Fixed?

Generally minor problems can be handled with the installer or dealer. However when it comes to entire floor problems many will try to point the finger at anyone but them self.  Keep in mind most will be trying to blame the manufacturer. Afterall, it appears the product has not performed up to expectations, but rarely a manufacturing issue is the cause. Normally it becomes installer error or lack of knowledge in performing proper and time tested techniques.

Ordinarily an independent flooring inspector (NWFA  is a good source) is called in to make a report that will be sent to the manufacturer. Inspectors cannot asses a situation with you directly. The report prepared will detail all the conditions present along with photographs. Two to three weeks eventually pass where all parties are privy to the manufacturer reports. Manufacturers do not have any power to correct or assess who is at fault when its established their product performed satisfactorily.

Unfortunately the only recourse at this time if no one has owed up to their blunders is a court of law. All reports, symptons, testing, and field photographs will show who is at fault. In our opinion, its up to the responsible party to take corrective actions to satisfy the problem and customer and leave the attorneys and courts out of it. Most professionals dealing with a flooring problem will handle it in reasonable time. Afterall its their name in the community and they would prefer to keep it in good standing.

Solid Hardwood Flooring Use Staples or Cleat Nails?

Aside from what type of subfloor is proper for hardwood flooring installations, what method is probably one of the most asked questions when it comes to installing hardwood floors by the mechanical method.

Recent History

Professionals differ on what type of nailing or stapling tool can be used to install solid ¾” hardwood floors. Prior to the early 90’s manual cleat nailers were about the only choice available unless you wanted to painstakingly nail each and every board by hand. That was a job for our parents and grandparents.

Since the widespread use of pneumatic tools became more acceptable there are two choices with solid flooring. The air driven pneumatic cleat nailer or stapler (shown on the left).  Nowadays these tools can easily be found at the big box stores and rented by a daily or weekly period. For all intent and purposes it is more economical to plan ahead and get most of the work done within an acceptable period of time so rental costs don’t go skyward.

Let’s say you have a straight forward 500 square foot square room and the material being used is a 3 ¼” wide plank. A seasoned professional can get the job done in an eight hour day with pneumatic tools because the tool itself does all the back breaking work. Conversely, if we were using a manual nailer an estimated amount of area completed would probably be more realistic at 300 to 350.

Who Are The Manufacturers?

Most widely used pneumatic flooring staplers or nailers are manufactured by Stanley Bostich. Others with a large presence in the industry include Powernail and Primatech .

Which Is Best?

Going from jobsite to jobsite we’ve seen more pneumatic staplers used for solid installations. The consensus is staples allows for a tighter fitting floor after installation. One disadvantage to the stapling method is removing should you accidentally miss the tongue when fastening. It happens to the best of them. You’re going along and the staple did not engage properly into the groove area and suddenly you find the staple has been nailed into the face of the board.

Removing stapled flooring is not an easy task and can sometimes cause damage to adjacent boards when theyre pulled out. On the other hand, pneumatic cleat nailers do not have the massive holding power and mistakes can be corrected much quicker and easier.

What Are The Costs?

Comparing staples and regular cleat nails, expect staples to be priced at around $ 70.00 if  buying online . Each box will install close to 1,000 square feet of standard 2 1/4 strip flooring. Nails on the other hand will price out higher. Pneumatic staplers and nailers can run anywhere between $300 for reconditioned and upwards of $ 600 for new. Last we noticed, rental centers were charging about $ 45.00 each day for rental. Doing some research we didnt realize these tools can be rented online. Interesting! We tried out their online quote system and found seven days would cost only $89.00.

Pneumatic nailers have been used in the flooring business since the early 90’s. While staplers get the boards tighter it may be wise to gravitate to the cleat nailer in areas where high humidity can pose problems. The more movement during seasonal changes in the relative himidity provide a greater tendency to squeak because of the force at which the floor has been installed.

More information on what types of nail guns for hardwood floors  and air pressure settings.

What Wood Floor Is Best for Me?

I have a hard enough time choosing what kind of shampoo to buy these days. Walk down the aisle in a CVS or Wall Mart and look at the selections! My gosh Im just looking for plain old shampoo folks. Whats up with all these crazy names. Just give me a bottle that says shampoo!

Days Gone By. It Was All Red Oak

I now see how confused hardwood floor shoppers can be. For eons all we had were solid hardwood floors and parquet floors . Prior to the seventies homeowners didnt make the choices as much as they do today. Standard red oak floors were installed and finished natural. The hardwood floors of yesteryear werent treated as a major decision maker when it came to buying homes or what to choose. Builders randomly threw red oak floors in homes. They were considered just a functional part of the home in most cases. Finishes were just shellac or some kind of oil based finish.

Then Came Along Engineered Floors. Huh?

That was a funny name when they first came out. Most folks didnt want to hear about it. It looked cheap and old grandad didnt have those fake floors in his house so why should I choose to? Engineered hardwood floors  actually opened up new possibilities and their evolution has many surprised, including us. Many no longer look cheap, have more options than solid floors, and provide a more stable problem free solution in most cases.

Yea, those cheap looking ones are still around. Check any pricing under four dollars a square foot in Joes Floor Store or Home Depot down the block and its likely to be that ugly stuff grandad would not touch with his fifteen foot pole. Engineered floors now offer better solutions to many of us that live on cement concrete slabs. The great migration to the south over the last 40 to 50 years leaves many of these floors to be covered more efficiently.

Nah. Gimme The Real Stuff Grandad Would Use

Lots of that stuff is still around and is more preferred with homes that have wooden subfloors; plywood or oriented stand board (OSB). Grandad didnt see many prefinished floors either. If so they were probably waxed. Todays prefinished are the types that dont need any treatment once the floor is installed. In his days the floors would be installed then a sanding guy would come in and put a finish on the floor. Odors would take forever to dissipate and many were highly toxic. There are still some of those around today, but not used as often.

The older traditional floors in our opinion are a great choice, but some engineered floors made by Owens Plank are hard to ignore.  Yea, I know what youre thinkingits a freaking mess with all that dust and noxious fumes Grandad would be surprised at the advancements in that department. Some professional floor finishers use effective dust control setups that remove 99% of the potential airborne dust particles. Finish technology has improved as well. More environmentally friendly floor finishes are water based and do not take forever to offgas like the older ones. Companies like Bona. Poloplaz. and Parks  offer low voc oil finishes along with water based finishes.

So How About Those Prefinished Floors?

Undoubtedly their finishes are superior to ones applied after the floor sander is done. Newer factory applied finish technology allows for a longer lasting finish, but they wont do much for scratching or denting of floors. If there is any disadvantage of the prefinished floors of today it would be the use of micro beveled appearance nearly all hardwood manufacturers use. It doesnt look like old grandads floor but may last longer if taken care of without the need for periodic improvements or complete refinishing. When the floors do need to be refinished. costs will be higher due to the added time working with these tough as nail finishes.

What Happened To White Hadwood Floors?

If you went back in time to the early nineties when hardwood flooring wasnt as popular as today there were numerous manufacturers that sold prefinished white hardwood floors .  Nowadays its hard to find a small handful. What happened and where can one go about finding some?

Question remains; do you really want white?

Prefinished white hardwood floors are a maintenance problem from the moment theyre installed. The slightest gapping will show rows of off colored lines between the boards. Manufacturers dont stain the sides of the boards and thats the reason youll notice all the lines or seams. If youre looking for them try Kahrs; they handle a few white ones in their Castle & Cottage (distressed) and a newer line called Spirit (shown in the image above). Another option is Mirage. All products have a micro beveled appearance; a better option if youre determined to keep your mind set on white

How about that seamless appearance that happens when a floor is installed then sanded and finally stained and coated? Sure it will be seamless after the hardwood guys leave, but will it remain that way? Much of this depends on conditions before and after the installation. If the hardwood installers knew what they were doing, they would have paid attention to acclimation and job site conditions. If you live in a drafty home, or one with minimal insulation and negligable climate control that seamless appearance will not remain for very long.


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