Importance of Moisture Management for Wood Floors

Photo: Shaw Floors

Wood is an organic material that reacts to its environment. It is hygroscopic, which means that it absorbs and loses moisture in reaction to its surrounding environment. Wood gains moisture and swells in humid environments. In dry environments, it loses moisture and shrinks. This is completely normal and happens at all stages of the wood life cycle, even as the tree is growing in the forest.

If wood gains or loses too much moisture, problems can occur. Wood that gains too much moisture can cup. Cupping occurs across the width of a floor board, with edges that are raised on each board and centers that are lower than the edges. Cupping always happens due to a moisture imbalance through the thickness of the board.

Wood that loses too much moisture can gap. Gapping occurs between floor boards. Gaps can vary in size and are considered normal if they appear and disappear during seasonal changes in humidity. Gaps are not considered normal if they are large or do not close during more-humid months.

Both of these issues can be minimized by maintaining an environment that is consistently between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit, and 30-50 percent humidity. Significant fluctuations outside these ranges can result in cupping or gaps.

Source: National Wood Flooring Association

Unique Flooring Options

 You can create a unique look with simple upgrades such as borders, medallions, distressing, painting floors, mixed media and staining.

  • Borders create a frame effect. They can incorporate multiple wood species, stone, marble, brass, stainless steel, nickel and other metals.
  • Medallions are installed in the main field of the floor. They can incorporate multiple wood species, stone, metal and leather. Medallions also can be routed into existing floors.
  • Distressing offers an antiqued appearance. Hand-scraping is the most-common distressing technique used to achieve a worn look.
  • Painted floors transform an ordinary wood floor into something unique. Features such as borders or other design elements can be added and sanded off later.
  • Mixed media mixes wood with other materials. A marble and wood foyer makes a dramatic entryway, while brushed nickel accents in your kitchen wood floor could showcase your appliances.
  • Staining can give your existing wood floors an entirely new look very affordably. Light, medium and dark stains transform your floors without replacement

Source: National Wood Flooring Association

Wood Floor Sheens: Which Is Better?

Photo: Shaw Floors

Some wood floor sheens are shiny and some are not. Is one type of sheen better than the other?

It really is a matter of preference. If you choose to install a site-finished floor, you can choose any sheen that you like. Gloss finishes offer the most shine, and will reflect the most light. Semi-gloss finishes offer some shine, and will reflect some light. Satin or matte finishes offer the least shine, and will reflect the least light.

Generally speaking, the less sheen, the less you will notice small scratches and other wear that is normal with wood floors. If you choose to install a factory-finished floor, you will be limited to the sheen available for the material you select. All sheens will offer the same protection for your floor, so it truly is a matter of which look you like best.

Source: National Wood Flooring Association

Flooring Moisture Management

Photo: Shaw Floors

Photo: Shaw Floors

Wood is an organic material that reacts to its environment. It is hygroscopic, which means that it absorbs and loses moisture in reaction to its surrounding environment. In humid environments, wood gains moisture and swells. In dry environments, wood loses moisture and shrinks. This is completely normal and happens at all stages of the wood life cycle, even as the tree is growing in the forest.

If wood gains or loses too much moisture, problems can occur.

Wood that gains too much moisture can cup. Cupping occurs across the width of a floor board, with edges that are raised on each board and centers that are lower than the edges. Cupping always happens due to a moisture imbalance through the thickness of the board.

Wood that loses too much moisture can gap. Gapping occurs between floor boards. Gaps can vary in size and are considered normal if they appear and disappear during seasonal changes in humidity. Gaps are not considered normal if they are large or do not close during more-humid months.

Both of these issues can be minimized by maintaining an environment that is consistently between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit, and 30-50 percent humidity. Significant fluctuations outside these ranges can result in cupping or gapping.

Source: National Wood Flooring Association

 

 

Beetle Infestation: What to Look For

Photo: Shaw Floors

Photo: Shaw Floors

Insect infestations are not common in wood floors, but they can occur. Many people know that termites are often associated with the destruction of wood products, but beetles can infest wood as well.

The most common destructive beetle associated with wood floors is called the lyctid beetle. It is often referred to as the powderpost beetle because the damage it causes reduces wood to a powder-like consistency.

A powderpost beetle is a wood-boring insect that is reddish brown to black, about 1/32”-1/8” in length, and has an elongated, flattened body. Because this beetle is quite small, the damage they can cause is much more likely to be seen than the beetle itself.

Powderpost beetles also may not originate in wood flooring. They can be introduced into the structure in wood furniture, cabinets, paneling, moldings, firewood, and even picture frames and small decorative grape vine wreaths, so identifying the primary source is necessary to alleviate the problem and keep it from spreading.

Infestation occurs long before the wood floor is installed. Female lyctid beetles lay their eggs within the pores of the wood. The larvae feed on the wood, creating tunnels that fill with a powdery substance called frass. Later, when the larvae mature, they exit the wood, creating small pinholes, generally measuring 1-3mm. These exit holes will often be surrounded by frass. This frass material is very fine and will feel like talcum powder when rubbed between two fingers.

This infestation typically occurs in hardwood lumber. Kiln drying lumber will eliminate powderpost beetles, but infestations can occur at any point in the supply chain, including production, storage and transport. U.S. wood species are not prone to powderpost beetle infestations due to the industry standards utilized for drying and storing lumber, but imported wood species do not necessarily following these stringent requirements and may be more prone to infestations.

Not all pinholes in wood flooring indicate that powderpost beetles are present. Small pin holes in the face of wood products are a natural characteristic of wood, and will not damage the floor or affect its performance. In addition, any wood product that has been in use for five years or longer is very unlikely to have powderpost beetles as the starch content of the wood, which the beetle needs to survive, declines as the wood ages.

If powderpost beetles are suspected, a wood flooring professional can evaluate the floors and recommend a course of action for repairs.

Source: National Wood Flooring Association

 

Wood Floor Maintenance: 10 Tips

Photo: Bona

Photo: Bona

Cleaning your wood floors is easy. Regular maintenance includes sweeping with a soft bristle broom, and vacuuming with the beater bar turned off. You also should clean your floors periodically with a professional wood floor cleaning product recommended by a wood flooring professional.

Here are some other steps you can take to maintain the beauty of your wood floors.

  • Don’t use vinyl or tile cleaning products on wood floors. Self-polishing acrylic waxes cause wood to become slippery and appear dull quickly.
  • Use throw rugs at doorways to help prevent debris from being tracked in and scratching your floor.
  • Don’t wet-mop a wood floor. Standing water can dull the finish, damage the wood and leave a discoloring residue.
  • Wipe up spills immediately with a slightly dampened towel.
  • Don’t over-wax a wood floor. If a wax floor dulls, try buffing instead. Avoid wax buildup under furniture and other light traffic areas by applying wax in these spots every other waxing session.
  • Put stick-on felt protectors under the legs of furniture to prevent scuffing and scratching. Replace these often as dirt and debris can become imbedded on the pad and act like sand paper on the flooring surface.
  • Avoid walking on your wood floors with sports cleats and high heels in disrepair. A 125-pound woman walking in high heels with an exposed heel nail can exert up to 8,000 pounds per square inch. This kind of impact can dent any floor surface.
  • When moving heavy furniture, don’t slide it on wood flooring. It is best to pick up the furniture to move it and to prevent scratches.
  • For wood flooring in the kitchen, place an area rug at the kitchen sink.
  • Use a humidifier throughout the winter months to minimize gaps or cracks.

Source: National Wood Flooring Association

Are Wood Floors Eco-Friendly?

Photo: Shaw Floors

Photo: Shaw Floors

Wood flooring is the most environmentally friendly flooring option available.

Through sustainable forest management, wood can be harvested with minimal impact on the environment because trees are a renewable natural resource. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, for every cubic foot of hardwood harvested in the United States, 1.66 cubic feet is planted in its place. This has resulted in a 90 percent increase in standing hardwood volume in the United States since 1953, which currently is about 328 billion cubic feet.

In addition, because wood floors can last hundreds of years, they use fewer raw materials, energy and natural resources.

Cutting down trees to make wood flooring does not contribute to global warming.

The main cause of global warming is carbon dioxide, and wood flooring is a carbon neutral product.

During their growth life, trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen. This process makes wood carbon neutral. In addition, wood flooring also stores carbon throughout its service life, maintaining its carbon neutral status even after the tree has been harvested.

A study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison further indicates that wood flooring production has minimal emissions for carbon dioxide and no emissions for methane, nitrogen oxide and other particulates, all of which contribute to global warming.

Source: National Wood Flooring Association