Wide-plank wood flooring is gorgeous and popular, but wide-plank wood floors move—a lot. Especially during changes in humidity, a wide floor board has the potential to move anywhere from 3/32 of an inch to a half-inch. That’s why maintaining proper humidity in your home is so very important to the wellbeing of your wood floors.
But almost as important as proper humidity control is making sure your wide-plank floors are properly installed in the first place. Contractors who cut corners to save you money and bolster their bottom line are setting you up for a potential disaster down the road, when your boards start popping up like popcorn.
Here’s a review we received from a homeowner who had a terrible installation experience with their new wide-plank wood floors:
“We built a high-end lake home and purchased wood flooring from [store.] We also planned to use them to install. Needless to say, that process was a nightmare. Their installer never prepped the floor, used the wrong glue, and was extremely unprofessional during the process. The floor failed instantly and had to be pulled up. The installer admitted to knowing the floor was going to fail as he was installing it but was instructed by [store] to move forward. We were lied to multiple times by the installer and [store] during the mess. Our builder brought in Trevor as a consultant as we were extremely unhappy. Once we met Trevor and heard his recommendation for remedy, we fired [store]. Trevor took the time during his extremely busy schedule to complete our project correctly. He worked after hours during the evenings and weekends to try to get us back on schedule. He was very professional and provided thorough communication during the install. We noticed the quality immediately and feel confident we wont have any problems going forward. We strongly recommend Trevor and Lifetime Hardwood Floors.”
We were happy to get the homeowner back on track after such a disheartening disaster, but it was sad that this happened to them in the first place. At Lifetime Hardwood Floors, we take the “Lifetime” part seriously. If you want your floor to last a lifetime, these are the three most important things you need to know about installing wide-plank hardwood floors.
Preparation is everything.
The National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) has laid out extensive and detailed guidelines for preparing a job site for a wood floor installation—including meeting minimum job site requirements involving drainage, heat and humidity controls, subfloor testing, vapor barriers, and more.
We’ve pulled up enough improperly installed floors well before their time to know that every single step of the preparation process requires attention, skill, and expertise. If anything is amiss, your hardwood floor will fail sooner than later. Whether a previous installer cut corners out of greed or ignorance doesn’t change the end result—the tearing out of a young floor that was supposed to last decades.
At Lifetime Hardwood Floors, we’re…dare we say obsessive? about proper preparation. Thirty years’ worth of experience and expertise goes into preparing the foundation for your wide-plank wood floor—from moisture testing and leveling the subfloor to choosing the best vapor barriers, adhesives, and fasteners for your exact needs.
Proper acclimation prevents serious damage.
Acclimation is the act of allowing the moisture content of the wood to come into equilibrium with the installation environment. Once the installation site is fully prepared and the temperature and humidity in the space match the homeowner’s usual living conditions, we introduce the wood to the environment.
Wood flooring is hygroscopic, which means it if its surroundings contain more moisture than the wood, the wood will absorb moisture from the air. If the air is drier than the wood, the wood will lose moisture to the air. As wood gains or loses moisture, it expands or contracts. Ideally, once the wood enters the environment, you only want it to experience a big change in humidity once—and that’s during the acclimation process. This is especially true for wide-plank wood flooring, which is particularly susceptible to damage from frequent or dramatic temperature and humidity swings.
To properly acclimate the wood, it needs to be removed from its packaging and broken into smaller lots to maximize airflow. Following manufacturer’s recommendations for moisture testing protocol and readings is crucial. Once the wood’s moisture content equals the moisture content in the air, it won’t shrink or expand, and it can be installed without H-E-double-hockey-sticks to pay later.
If it’s not properly acclimated, the floor is likely to eventually squeak, develop large gaps between boards, or cup or crown. Worse, improper acclimation by your installer will likely void the manufacturer’s (and all related) warranties. As a friendly reminder, you can always trust Lifetime Hardwood Floors to properly acclimate your wood.
Proper glue-down installation keeps wide-plank wood flooring in place.
The wider the floorboard, the fewer the fasteners you can install per square foot—it’s simple math. And since wide planks love to move, the NWFA has recommended for years that floor boards wider than five inches be installed with the assistance of glue—otherwise, even a tiny amount of movement can loosen the whole floor system and make it very noisy.
But many installers who do a glue-assist wide-plank floor installation balk at using too much glue—it’s expensive and messy—so they use as little as possible, thinking a little glue is better than none. They squeeze a little glue on the board in one of the usual glue-assist patterns, like this—
—but in most cases, that’s just not enough for wide-plank floors, and the chances of the boards popping up are pretty high. In fact, the floor mentioned in the above review—the one we did the emergency tear-out and re-install on—used even more glue than that. As you can see in the picture below, they used very thin beads and left big gaps at the edges of the boards. They also (incorrectly) laid the boards parallel to the grooves in the adhesive—which, as the homeowner’s review mentioned, was the wrong type.
What most installers don’t do—but Lifetime Hardwood Floors does—is fully glue down a wide-plank floor. It’s really the only reliable way to fully secure wide-plank wood flooring to the subfloor and dramatically reduce the risk of movement, noise, and damage. Here’s what a proper full glue-down looks like:
The amount of glue we used and the short distance between beads ensures full coverage from side to side and end to end. We lay the boards perpendicular to the direction of the beads, which increases the grip of the adhesive on the boards.
A full glue-down isn’t just important for keeping the floor boards in place. It’s also one of the best ways to control sound. A floating or nailed-down wood floor is louder and more echoey than a glued-down floor. All glues used for wood floors have some type of an acoustical rating that makes them less likely to be noisy. Gluing a hardwood floor down over the sub-floor sealer, which is applied during the preparation phase, creates a vapor barrier that further protects your wood floor against moisture damage.
Lifetime Hardwood Floors Does it Right the First Time
It’s important to hire a qualified hardwood floor installer for any job, but that’s especially true when wide-plank floors are involved. At Lifetime Hardwood Floors, we value expertise, quality products, and full transparency. Give us a call or email us today, and schedule a free estimate.
Covid-19 Message: Your health and safety is our first priority. Our residential projects involve a one-person crew, and we take all necessary precautions to protect you and your family while your floors are being restored.