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Acclimation, Installation and Maintenance of your new plank flooring…


Congratulations of your investment in a beautiful durable new wood plank floor. Sometimes complaints with wood floors are the result of the floor owner not understanding the natural characteristics of hardwood floors. All wood expands and contracts as the surrounding temperature and moisture levels increase and decrease throughout the year. That’s just the physics of woods. Sometimes this expansion and contraction exposes small little gaps between the wood planks that may develop and then mitigate. Wider plank flooring is considered a premium plank floor; however it is natural for wider planks to have more movement than narrow strips. The wider planks are more beautiful but it is unrealistic to expect them to behave the same as narrow planks. These factors do not pose a problem for most wood floor lovers, especially when they understand the nature of wood. Centuries of successfully installed wood floors are evidence these floors are adequately stable, remain beautiful throughout the years and are reasonably easy to maintain. However, proper care, installation and understanding the characteristics of wood plank flooring can moderate the excessive expansion and contraction of your wood floor.

Depending upon your area and flooring choices, proper climate and humidity control may be an important part of the answer in mitigating the natural expansion and contraction of your beautiful wood floor - especially for those who desire the premium wider plank flooring. There are a number of inexpensive in-house humidifiers that can be integrated into your heating and air conditioning system to keep your humidity levels more consistent. For best results, Western WidePlank recommends humidity is kept within the 40% - 50” range and the temperature remain within the range for comfortable living. Even more important is limiting the seasonal swings in the percentage of humidity. For example, some studies suggest there may be up to a 1/32” movement in a 10” wide plank for each percentage of humidity that is experienced over a season. Thus a 3% variation in seasonal humidity levels could add or reduce the width of a 10” flat sawn plank of wood by up to 3/32” of an inch. If you add a climate control system with a humidifier, this is greatly reduced, but avoid adding too much moisture, as this may cause the wood to expand too much and may even contribute to condensation and wood rot (usually around 55% and/or when the home is vacated and the heat turned off for the winter months). However, usually it’s the winter heating of our homes that dries the cold winter air out and causes the planks to shrink, forming small gaps. For most this plank movement is not a problem and is a reasonably small price to pay for the beauty of the wider planks, but this reality must be understood. However, proper climate control can mitigate this. Quarter-sawn boards are more expensive, but they have less movement over flat sawn planks. For this reason, narrower quarter-sawn planks are recommended for in-floor heating systems with a maximum radiant heat tubing temperature of 75 F, and may be a good option for those more concerned with the possibility of small gaps opening up in applications near fireplaces or heating stoves.

Summary:

From the time your wood flooring arrives, stability of its environmental will be the most helpful factor in the performance of your beautiful wood plank flooring. This is especially true in wide plank and is the most important and direct way to avoid extremes in wood movement. This speaks to proper acclimation time being given to your flooring before install, proper installation and glues, some management of humidity and reasonable expectations and acceptance of the natural properties of wood. Be sure to allow a ½”expansion gap around the edges of each room that you install your flooring in. Then trim with ¾” base.

Following is a partial list of things that can cause cupping, bowing, gaps or small cracks to develop in wood flooring:

A) The flooring not being allowed enough time to properly acclimatize to its environment before being installed.

B) The flooring is installed in a house before the house is properly enclosed from the elements, dried inside and heated to normal living condition temperatures.

C) The flooring is installed in a freshly painted house or over a fresh “green” subfloor that has too high a moisture content.

D) Allowing humidity to rise too much or allowing condensation to develop within the house.

E) The flooring was stored outside or in a damp environment before installation.

F) Wider planks were not properly fastened to the subfloor. For a successful installation, proper advance care of the flooring, an experienced installer and a moisture meter are a must.

G) Introduction of moisture to the wood such as a leaking pipe, excessive spills, saturation moping or cleaning or anything that introduces moisture to the wood.

H) Absence of a proper vapor barrier being installed under the flooring. (For over concrete slab applications a complete moisture barrier will be needed.)

I) Extremely high humidity levels or temperature extremes in the home due to the heat being turned off or turned down too low – usually while the house is empty in the winter months. This allows condensation to develop. If you’ve got condensation on your windows, your wood is absorbing too much moisture.

J) Excessive variations in humidity percentage levels throughout the year. For example, heating the home in the winter months will dry out the wood, possibly exposing gaps and cracks in the wood.

K) Unrealistic expectations. Wood is a beautiful and durable time tested flooring option, but its organic nature means it responds to its surrounding elements. Understanding this removes the “fear of the unknown” and enables the owner to best care for their beautiful wood plank floor with reasonable expectations.  


Understand the following before you install:

Typically, the subfloor should be within a couple percentage points of the flooring being installed over it. Be sure that any paint on all walls and the subfloor are thoroughly dry and acclimated before installing Western WidePlank® flooring. The flooring is usually kiln died in the 6% to 8% moisture range at manufacture, but immediately begins to adapt to the moisture of its environment. Each building and each area will have different levels of humidity, and sometimes wood flooring can absorb moisture during transport. This is normal. When your Western WidePlank® flooring arrives it should be removed from the crate and spread around the room it is to be installed in so that it has even air-flow around each plank. Alternately, you may stack the wood up using thin dry evenly thicknessed stickers between each layer, to allow proper wood support and proper ventilation. This will help insure that the flooring has time to adapt to the climate and moisture of that area it is to be installed in before installation. Typically a minimum of 7 to 10 days of time is recommended to allow the wood flooring to acclimate before installing. In very dry desert like climates, or in more humid climates, such as coastal areas, rainy climates, or winter time, up to three weeks or more may be required for the wood to fully acclimate before being ready to install. A moisture meter should be used to determine the flooring moisture has adapted to within a couple percentage points of the subfloor before installing. Strip flooring should be no more than 4% difference than the sub floor moisture reading before installation. Wide plank flooring should be no more than 2% difference than the sub floor moisture reading before installation. Western WidePlank® flooring should not be installed in a new building before it is fully enclosed and the heat thermostatically controlled to stay within standard living temperatures. Nor should Western WidePlank flooring be installed over a subfloor that has not yet fully acclimated. When installing over a wood subfloor, subfloor should be a proper exterior grade plywood or other approved subfloor material of at least ¾” thick. If installing over 2x6” or similar plank subfloor, be sure to run flooring perpendicular to the direction of the subfloor rafters. When nailing down flooring the staples or nails should be spaced every 4” – 6” and be long enough to adequately bind to the subfloor. For best results, flooring staples or nails should be long enough to get maximum “bite” into the subfloor but not long enough to completely pierce through the subfloor and possibly into exposed wiring or plumbing etc… In the unlikely event customer finds any defective wood planks, they must be culled before being installed and returned to Western WidePlank to be evaluated for replacement. Installed planks cannot be replaced.

Glue down applications are always the most secure. WAKOL 290 is rated for any width wood plank over concrete, wood subfloor or radiant heat applications, and the adhesion is very strong. WAKOL 290 is our recommended flooring adhesive. Be sure to follow glue manufactures recommendations and be sure the adhesive you choose does not contain water and that it doubles as a vapor barrier. DO NOT USE WATER BASED ADHESIVE under your wood floor! Not everyone does it, but it is recommended that planks 6” and wider be both nailed and glued. It is NOT recommended Western WidePlank flooring be installed over any press board, fiber board or particle or chip board that was not manufactured for use on subfloors. Always allow ½” gap from each wall to allow for expansion and contraction. Always use flooring vapor barrier that restricts the transfer of moisture but allows the wood to “breath.”


Over Concrete Subfloors:

Wood flooring needs additional special care when being installed directly over a concrete slab. To avoid developing possible problems of condensation moisture under the floor and the extreme temperature variation between that of the concrete slab and the interior air temperature, the slab must first be cleaned, level and properly cured. There are a few options for you to consider: 1) You can take the traditional approach of priming and sealing the slab, and then installing a vapor barrier (6 mil poly film) with cold application mastic. Roll the poly film over the mastic to insure adhesion and pop any bubbles to release the air. Next, quality exterior grade plywood of at least ¾” thick must be fastened to the slab. Fasten plywood to the slab with power-actuated fasteners, securing the center of the panel first, then the edges, using an adequate number of fasteners. Leave ½” between the panels and ¾” space from the walls. You’re now ready to install the flooring over this new subsurface. OR 2) As an alternative, many people are installing their solid hardwood flooring directly over concrete with WAKOL MS 290. These excellent ZERO VOC adhesives are rated for direct application of solid hardwood flooring over concrete, and the glue double as the vapor barrier. Visit www.wakol-usa.com for more information and follow their installation guidelines.


Cleaning your new wood floor:

For cleaning, follow finish manufactures recommendations. Typically, you will want to avoid harsh chemicals or over wetting the mop. Typically white vinegar or a mild wood floor cleaner on a damp (not soaking wet) applicator is best. Avoid any puddles of any water or cleaner on your wood floor. If it happens, don’t worry. Just clean it up. It’s repeated and excessive water puddles that can do damage – not the occasional spill or wet mop.


Failure to follow the above safe smart installation and care practices over time may result in excessive gapping, cracking or cupping or swelling of the wood flooring. What we provide is stable kiln died T&G wood flooring at its manufacture. Due to the above mentioned variables, Western WidePlank® cannot be responsible for the development of cracks, gaps, cupping, bowing or swelling that may develop after manufacture or install. Cull any defective planks before install and return them to Western WidePlank for a prompt evaluation for replacement. Adhering to and installing your new wood flooring according to the above accepted wood flooring installation and care standards will allow you to enjoy your beautiful wood floor for generations.  The team at Western WidePlank thanks you for your business. There’s really nothing else like the look and feel of a beautiful wood plank floor. Enjoy!