When a Floor Doesn’t Stay Together

I love it when a floor goes together. Plank by plank, the steady beat of the malet and boards snapping together and growing into a beautiful work of art. There is nothing worse than getting a complaint sometime after the job is finished that gaps are starting to appear between the boards. Today, we’re going to look at some of the reasons why abnormal gaps appear in wood floors.

First things first, be sure you have ruled out gaps resulting from a seasonal change, one of the most common and relatively normal types of gap. Get out the hygrometer and make sure your floor is being kept in an environment of 35-55% relative humidity. Also, there are times when gaps are installed on purpose to allow for the wood to expand for an upcoming season. Typically, gaps are considered abnormal if they remain through a full seasonal cycle, or about 6 months.

The important things to consider in diagnosing why gaps happen are where the gap appears, what method was used to install the floor, and the flooring material itself.

Jobsite / Environment

This involves the location where abnormal gaps appear. Environment is critical to a happy floor, but also a well-prepared, well-acclimated jobsite can prevent gapping issues later on.

Proper acclimation

Solid hardwood flooring needs to acclimate to the normal living conditions of the home before it is installed. If the floor is not fully acclimated before installation, it will continue

Materials or Jobsite

The wood flooring may have had a high moisture content at the time of installation and ended up drying out at a later point causing gaps. Also, materials with a low moisture content that are installed tightly will not have room for expansion if they acclimate to a higher moisture content. This particular issue leads to damage of the boards that can lead to gaps when the moisture content of the flooring returns to normal.

Foundation Issue

Cracks or uneven surface can transfer to the flooring. Floor boards will find a way to lay as flat as they can and if the subfloor isn’t flat, they may seat unevenly, causing gaping.

Hot Spots from Uninsulated Heating Ducts under Subfloor

You’ll see this in traditional subfloors where HVAC ducts are beneath the flooring. If not adequately insulated, the heat will transfer unevenly to the floor. Drying and shrinking may happen around spots with greater heat causing uneven shrinking and gapping.

Radiant Heat Systems

With the heating elements so close to the flooring, special consideration has to be made with the choice of flooring materials, correct installation of the heating system, and correct installation of the flooring materials. If not, radiant heat can quickly dry out your flooring, causing shrinkage and gaps to appear.

Something can be wrong with the installation.

Sometimes an abnormal gap doesn’t come from the wrong relative humidity or poor jobsite preparation. The issues begin with the installation.

Not Starting Straight

Taking the time to chalk a straight line and checking rows can make the difference in the finished product. When one board is off, whether that is the first row or a later row, subsequent boards will follow suit. The result is gapping.

Nailing Issue

Nails and fasteners can also play a role in the long term success of a floor. Make sure they set at the right depth and at the proper spacing according to the industry or manufacturer’s standards. Boards may be loose from not enough fasteners allowing for gaps. Or, boards can be too tight not allowing for expansion leading to compounded issues from compression set.

Flooring Not Installed Tightly

Boards that are not pulled tight against neighboring boards will stay loose. That movement can shift throughout the floor and cause gaps.

Debris Between Boards

If the jobsite or subfloor wasn’t properly cleaned and vacuumed, debris may end up between boards not allowing them to be installed straight and tight.

Foot traffic before adhesive Dries

Check with the adhesive manufacturer, but if you step on a glued-down board too soon, you may slide that board right out of place. Weight on the floor from a stationary object is great to help the adhesive to cure, but the motion and weight of walking will quickly undo your hard work.

Something can be wrong with the material

It is not a common occurrence, but there are times where problems start at the mill with improper milling or tapered boards. A qualified inspector will need to be consulted to determine if this is an issue.
As always, if you have questions about pesky gaps that aren’t correcting after environmental considerations, let us know and we’ll be happy to help.

Great Brands, Great Training

Great names in the flooring industry often mean great resources for those using the products day-in and day-out. We wanted to let you know about some upcoming events in 2017 backed by some serious sand and finish muscle from Norton, Vermont Natural Coatings, and Lagler.

All three of these classes will earn you credits towards your NWFA degree and the Denver class also has credits towards PST Certification.

For questions or to reserve your place, contact Audrey Hix.

Advanced Sand and Finish School

May 23-25  |  Lagler North America Training Center in Denver, CO

 

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Advanced Sand and Finish School

June 6-8  |  National Wood Flooring Association in Chesterfield, MO

 

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Expert Sand and Finish School

September 19-22  |  Vermont Natural Coatings Training Facility in Hardwick, VT

 

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Gap is not a 4-Letter Word

“Dents du bonheur” is a French phrase for happy teeth, you know, the two front ones that have a gap. In parts of Africa it is a sign of wisdom to have that gap and in Chaucer’s time women with that quirky feature were considered attractive. There are many other things in life that have gaps that aren’t considered bad. Frequently with wood flooring however, this occurrence signifies a problem. The issue isn’t necessarily with the gap itself, but the understanding of what is going on. So here’s a run-down of what makes a normal gap, the type that isn’t a 4 letter word.

Environmental / Seasonal Gaps

What is going on:

Gaps typically show up in the winter when the air is dry and return to normal in the Spring. This happens due to seasonal changes and is normal for most wood floors.

Low relative humidity brought on by naturally dry winter weather combined with firing up the heater causes indoor air to become dry and draw moisture from the wood flooring. For solid wood floors gaps tend to vary in size relative to the width of the boards. Wider plank floors will gap more than their narrower counterpart. Light-colored and square-edge flooring will show gaps more than dark or beveled floors. With engineered products, you may notice the sides curling or the ply backing separating.

Homeowners that keep their house in the 35-55% relative humidity range with an in-home humidifier will help reduce the occurrence of winter-time gaps.

What may happen:

A homeowner may worry because their floor gaps. When this call comes during the dry season, there’s a really good chance that it is due to low moisture content in the wood caused by low relative humidity in the home’s environment.

Start by encouraging them to get a hygrometer and humidifier to help keep the floor stable during seasonal extremes, When spring rolls around, see if the gaps have closed back up.

Infield Expansion Gaps

What is going on:

Some gaps are intentionally included, meaning you need them. Wood flooring is an organic material that expands and contracts… a perfect extension of the natural design of trees. Under certain conditions in the installation process, gaps need to be present so a future problem doesn’t appear.

One of these instances is winter time installation when the wood’s moisture content is at its lowest. This allows for the natural expansion and contraction of boards from summer to winter. The wider the plank, the more critical this infield expansion gap becomes. If this allowance is not made, the boards may cup and cause damage during the summer.

The exception to this rule is with engineered flooring due to the product’s built-in stability.

What may happen:

The floor was installed in the winter when the moisture level of the wood was at its lowest and the air was dry as the Sahara. Two things can happen at this point:. First, the floor is installed and expands in the spring when the air becomes more humid and the floor boards take on moisture.

Or the floor is installed allowing for expansion. This is usually done by installing with a dime, washer, or thin weed- eater line placed between the flooring boards leaving the necessary gap. When summer comes around, the floor can expand without damage.

Manufacturer’s Gaps

What is going on:

The last set of gaps come from the flooring manufacturer’s side of things and is typically seen with a solid product. What happens is that the best lumber is milled first for the top quality grade. What is left goes to lower grades of flooring. It is in these grades of flooring where tolerances are less and gaps may appear during or after install.

This is all well within industry tolerances for that grade of flooring. Trowelable filler may be applied in the sand and finish process to fill in the gaps, or could be left unfilled for a more rustic appearance.

What may happen:

A couple years after installation a homeowner may call saying gaps have recently shown up in their flooring. Remember the filler? As the floor goes through seasonal expansion and contraction cycles, some of the wood filler may work itself out of the gap.

As the floor is swept, vacuumed, and cleaned, small parts of the wood filler may be removed. Eventually there isn’t filler left and so the gap appears. At this point wood putty can be used to replace the filler and get the floor looking like it originally did.

Advanced Sand & Finish School in Kansas City

There are quite a few folks out there who think that all it takes to “do wood floors” is buying a sander and a nail gun and watching a few YouTube videos.

That may work for some, but true craftsmanship is born out of a commitment to excellence and not taking shortcuts. Doing things “the right way” isn’t always the easiest or fastest, but it’s what turns hard work into real workmanship.

As your hardwood flooring supplier, we are committed to give you the tools, training and materials you need to do work that you are proud of.

We are hosting an Advanced Sand & Finish school at our location in Kansas City.

This is not a class for beginners! It’s a full-on, high quality, hands-on professional development course. Most people aren’t willing to invest this much time into training and certification. It takes a real commitment to excellence and craftsmanship.

Bob Goldstein and Greg Mihaich will be leading this course. Bob works for Vermont Natural Coatings and Greg works for Norton Abrasives. Both are extremely well qualified to walk you through all phases of the sanding and finishing process.

Here are some of the highlights of the course:

  1. Advanced sanding techniques for achieving flawless finishes.
  2. Hands-on instruction using the complete line of Norton Abrasives and Vermont Natural Coatings products.
  3. Techniques for sanding different species of wood.
  4. Tips for applying a perfect water based finish and how to avoid common problems like lap marks, stop marks, and streaks.
  5. Learn different finish application techniques with roller and T-bar.
  6. Blending in repairs to finish and stain.
  7. Receive two credits towards your NWFA degree.

You’ll also be able to talk with Bob and Greg about equipment use and maintenance. These guys know their stuff, and there will be plenty of time to ask questions.

Like I said, this isn’t a small commitment. This advanced course is three days, February 14-16th, 2017 at our location in Overland Park, KS (map). We’ll start at 8:30am and go till 5pm. Here is the outline for each day:

Tuesday, Feb. 14:

  • Overview of Norton Abrasive and Vermont Natural Coatings products and how they can help you do quality work.
  • Why the mineral you use in your abrasives is important.
  • Choosing the right abrasive and proper sanding sequence.
  • Sanding and prepping panels for staining.
  • How to sand parquet and pattern floors.
  • Edging techniques.
  • Hard plating with the buffer.
  • Techniques for eliminating swirl marks with the buffer.
  • Water popping your floor.

Wednesday, Feb. 15:

  • Discussion on proper preparation and conditions for finishing.
  • Applying sealer and finish coats.
  • Techniques for rolling and T-bar application of finish.
  • How to fix common finish problems.
  • How to blend in repairs on stained floors.

Thursday, Feb 16:
This day is dedicated to machine repair, setup and maintenance. Your equipment is at the very core of your business and profitability. Learn how to properly maintain it so that you don’t get stuck on a job with a broken machine.

Lunch will be provided each day, and on Tuesday night we’ll all go out for dinner on Norton and Vermont Natural Coatings.

If you are ready to take your sanding and finishing skills to the next level and invest the time, effort and energy to become an expert and grow your business, then don’t miss out on this training.

The cost for this instruction is $275, and advanced registration is required.
We are limiting the class size to about a dozen people to make sure everyone gets good hands-on time to learn and ask questions.

  • Lunches and one dinner are provided.
  • Each company that registers will also receive $100 in free products.
  • You’ll also receive two credits towards your NWFA degree.
  • We have a $96/night corporate rate at a nearby Holiday Inn if you are traveling.

Download the course flyer/outline here.

Register today by calling or e-mailing Audrey Hix:
(802) 473-3292
ahix@vermontnaturalcoatings.com

Expanding on the 4 Types of Gaps

It’s a fact of life that things expand and contract… water, wood, and waistlines after the holidays. Your floor is no different and may have decreased in size this month creating a few gaps. Don’t worry, most gaps are a result of wood’s tendency to shrink in size as it dries out and those gaps will likely disappear come spring. Here’s a run-down on what may be going on.

Environmental Gaps

Outside air in, inside air out. This is a typical air exchange cycle that goes on about 8-12 times each day in your home. During winter, the air that comes inside your house is usually much drier which takes out the moisture in the air that your floor thrives on. That air is also cold, and so you crank up the heater. That adds more dry air to your home and so your relative humidity (RH) plummets. Despite our best efforts to minimize air exchange with quality windows and sealing our homes, the exchange still happens.

Wood of all kinds, not only flooring, reacts to dryness by shrinking. The moisture is pulled out of the wood’s capillaries, causing it to shrink like a dry sponge. To fix this you need to add back the moisture in the air by running a humidifier – preferably a whole home humidifier.

So the more extreme the outside condition, the more you will need to be diligent about controlling the relative humidity within your home. Most manufacturers recommend that it stay between 35-55%. A simple, inexpensive hygrometer can help you measure how much moisture is in the air inside your home.

Jobsite Gaps

The environment shouldn’t take all the blame for gappy floors. Jobsite conditions, and decisions made before the floor is installed can also cause problems.

Let’s start off with acclimation. All wood products need a chance to adjust to their new home with the climate control system up and running. This is not a time for shortcuts. Acclimation takes time, but it is the installer’s responsibility to make sure that the manufacturer’s guidelines are followed properly.

Acclimation is not limited only to the flooring product. Subfloors also need to be checked for proper moisture content, and acclimated if necessary. The gold standard for prepping the subfloor is that they must be clean, dry, sound and flat (level). Checking these things are a must before you lay the first board.

Proper job site preparation and following the manufacturer’s or industry’s recommended installation instructions are the best kind of insurance against problems down the road.

Installation Gaps

It is important to pay attention to details during installation. Here are three areas to watch closely.

Start things out straight and you’ll be good to go. Improper alignment of the wood floor will create gaps at the ends and sides of the flooring.

If you are gluing down the floor, pay attention to the trowel you are using. Too much or too little adhesive can have adverse effects. Check with your glue manufacturer for the trowel that achieves the right spread rate and avoids potential for gapping, and be sure to change your trowel regularly – they will wear down quickly which will cause a change in your spread rate..

If you are nailing or stapling down the floor, be sure to use the correct pressure for the fastener you are nailing. Too low of pressure could leave the fasteners seated too and high, and too high of pressure could split the tongues. Both of these issues may not allow the following boards to sit flush.

Manufacturing Gaps

This last area can be tricky, and not a common reason for gaps, but here’s a couple things to be aware of. Flooring should be same size down the length of the strip or plank, otherwise the product may have been mis-milled or not acclimated properly. Also keep the flooring grade in mind.. Some lower grades such as #2 common, #3 common, rustic, tavern, or utility can have an acceptable amount of variation and gapping.

Bowed boards can also be a problem. They keep the floor from being installed as tight as it should be resulting in, you guessed it, gaps!

January = Gaps

Don’t forget that some seasonal gapping is expected with all wood floors, and is considered normal. This type of gapping appears when it is very dry, and usually goes away when more normal relative humidity returns.

No matter if you sell, buy, install, or own a wood floor, knowing the behavior of wood and best industry practices keeps everyone happy and loving wood floors for many years. We certainly do, and we’re here to help you with your shrinking wood floors. Expanded waistlines, not so much.

Surfaces 2017

You don’t have to run yourself ragged on the trade show floor to find a great deal at Surfaces.

Join us at our private house just off the strip where we have created a comfortable space for you to enjoy great food and take advantage of some incredible offers on prefinished wood flooring.

We want to set aside quality time just for you.

  1. Book your appointment and we will send you a quick reminder the day before. Don’t worry, you can easily reschedule.
  2. We’ll send one of our drivers to pick you up right outside the Surfaces Registration area.
  3. Take your time at our place and we’ll be ready to drive you back at your convenience.

We do things a little differently at Surfaces. It’s about quality rather than quantity. Spend some time with us at Surfaces and find out how we can help your wood flooring business grow in 2017.

The Following Items are gifts we will be giving to those who purchase this year at surfaces.

Dallas Market 2017

If you are coming to Dallas Market to find the most competitive deals on prefinished wood flooring, then you can’t miss out on what we have to offer.

You will find us just inside the lobby of the Hilton DFW Lakes hotel. Just look for our banner upstairs as you walk in the front door.

You won’t want to miss out on the most aggressive prices of the year on all our prefinished flooring lines. And, some very special offers on select items. Quantities are limited, and we don’t want you to miss out.

Find us upstairs in Cap Rock II at the Hilton DFW Lakes!

 

The Floorman

thefloorman

If you look at someone’s hands, it tells you a lot about the work they do. You’ll come across hands that are lean and strong, with grease and dirt, and even a scar or two. It may be that they are the hands of a floorman. The hands that push the sander, swing the mallet, and grip the nailer. Those hands do the work that transforms a room.

Many floors lose their glory with the grime and hazards that people bring to its surface. All that is stripped away with each pass of the sander as the floorman uncovers the bare wood. If there are repairs, he replaces boards and fills in hollow spots with putty. There is more sanding to prepare the wood for stain and finish so the floor looks brand new. The work is telling of the floorman’s skill.

There’s another floorman who’s craft is transformative. You see, there is a corrosive force in life that leaves our hearts scratched, broken, and dirty. It takes this floorman to strip, repair, and clean up the mess that has been made. Everyone of us needs this restorative work and the only one who can do the repair and restoration of a heart scarred with sin has to be a master at His craft.

When you look at this Floorman’s hands, you’ll see that they touched the hurting and brought healing. You will see scars where the nails were driven through to accomplish His ultimate work. The hands of the Master Floorman bring about the most important kind of repair, healing, and restoration…not to a floor, but to our hearts. This season we celebrate the birth of this “Master Floorman” – Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas to you and yours from The Master’s Craft Flooring Company.

9 Things Your Floor will Thank You For

title

It’s the season to pause and reflect on what we’re thankful for… family, food, clothing, a roof over our heads and a wood floor beneath our feet. But if a floor could talk, what are the things it would be gushing with thankfulness for?

rh

Correct RH

Relative humidity is the perfect mashup of warmth and moisture in the air, 35-55% RH to be exact. No one wants to be cold or have chapped lips in the wintertime, but that is exactly what your floor is feeling when the humidifier isn’t running on a cold winter day. Keep that floor blissfully content with the right relative humidity.

floorprotectors

Floor protectors

Burrs, needles, cacti… when you touch those items they are scratchy or downright painful. The same goes for a floor, if you’re dragging furniture or metal across the surface, it will get scuffed and scratched. You’d wear shoes to walk through a patch of burrs, so give your floor the same protection with felt pads. It will sing with joy.

floorcleaner

Manufacturer recommended cleaners

You will see and hear the accolades of a well-maintained floor for decades. That means being picky about what cleaner touches its surface. The manufacturer knows what chemicals and formulations play nicely and don’t oversaturate the wood, cloud the finish, or leave an oily residue.

microfibermop

A new microfiber mop

I love the emergence of super soft fabric, jersey knits, plush fleece. Your floor loves soft fabrics as well, and microfiber is the go-to fiber to keep it clean and happy. Considering the traffic and abuse it puts up with each day, all it wants is a little pampering with a new microfiber mop.

mat

New mats / boot brush at the door

Any of us appreciate a nice shower after working in the yard and getting rid of all that dirt and grime. Floors don’t like being dirty either and you should hear their cheers when you make the extra effort to not drag in the extra grime and debris on your shoes.

pets

Trimming your pet’s nails

The sound of a pet walking across a wood floor is unmistakable! The clack of their nails on the surface and sometimes digging in to gain better traction. Yeah, just think about that a second and picture the scratches. Keeping their nails groomed will make your floor sing with thanksgiving. Not to mention your pet will be able to get around a little better.

spill

Wiping up spills when they happen

If there is one thing a floor loves, it is to not be overly saturated with liquid. Wood tends to swell up and act ugly, so if something spills, don’t ignore it but clean it up immediately. Your floor will thank you by staying beautifully intact.

 

steam-nope

Not steam cleaning it

A balmy atmosphere makes it so happy, but when it comes to steam cleaning, it is too much. In fact, steam will do damage to a floor and strip away finish and compromise the composition of the wooden plank. Your floor will not just thank you but breathe a sigh of relief if you keep the steam away.

sock

Going around in socks or no shoes

We’ve got a theme here, your floor likes soft fibers. This goes for the foot traffic too. Heels distribute weight to very small area and may even dent your floor. The grime of street shoes can be ground into the finish of your floor making it appear cloudy and dirty. Socks and bare feet are your floor’s favorite.

thankfulfloor

Gratefulness all around

You invested time and money into a beautiful wood floor. Just a little investment in care and maintenance of a wood surface will result in years of beauty and quality. That is something both you and your floor will be grateful for this Thanksgiving.

Squeaks Can be Scary

squeaksscaryhorizontal

It is a given in life that if you’re going to do something, do it right the first time and it will save you a lot of time and trouble. Many a horror story has been told by flooring inspectors of someone cutting corners, not following industry best practices, or who didn’t bother to read the manufacturer’s instruction. We’ve been talking about the why and how of a squeaky floor, but we’ve saved the scariest type of squeak for last, the squeaks from cutting corners on the job.

The Horror of Hiring Unqualified People

We don’t ever want you to experience the horror of hiring someone unqualified. Wood floors are a top of the line flooring option and are a substantial investment for your home. It also means you need a professional installer who knows the ins and outs of hardwood flooring. When you’re looking for a pro make sure they are checking moisture levels, acclimating the wood before installation, and properly preparing the subfloor. Oh and for the pros out there, are you keeping up with your training and industry best practices? You don’t want to be “that contractor.”

The Haunting of an Out of Control Environment

We’ve said it once, we’ll say it again: the first thing you do when your floor starts to squeak is check the environment. The home and homeowner has a big part in keeping the environment correct. A properly controlled environment (which is 60-80 degrees and 35-55% relative humidity) helps to keep the scary squeaks away. On the other hand, with an out-of-control environment, you may think your house is haunted!

Shudder about A Bad Foundation

Before the boards are nailed or glued in place, your subfloor must be clean, sound, dry, and flat. If not, you may shudder in terror at the ramifications. Unfortunately, moisture testing a concrete slab subfloor is often skipped prior to installation. This can lead to excess moisture in the concrete being transferred to your wood flooring.

Subfloor joists need to be straight, and plywood panels need to be flat. If your subfloor squeaks before your flooring is installed, it will continue to squeak after installation.

Product in the Wrong Area that is Hair Raising

There are so many different types of hardwood floors. However the wrong type of floor in the wrong space is hair raising. The type of floor you choose depends on what subfloor and on which level of your home you are installing in. Engineered flooring is normally recommended for on or below grade, whereas above grade floors can be engineered or solid hardwood. But a solid floor in a basement may be the decision you regret.

The Nightmare of a Bad Installation

A bad installation is the stuff of nightmares. Boards that aren’t acclimated prior to installation will later settle into their new space and fit too tightly or too loosely causing problems. There’s also the problems with sloppy workmanship where boards are moving around or are so snug there is no room to expand with seasonal changes. Then there may be problems with the wrong nailing pattern: too many or too few nails can result in the product breaking and causing extreme squeaks.

The Shock of Bad Milling / Bad Product

This should be caught by the installer before it goes down, but once a floor is installed, most manufacturers will say that installation is acceptance of the material. It’s why picking a contractor with correct qualifications is so important. You need someone who can spot a problem with a product before it becomes a floor and you are shocked by the incessant squeaking.

What is Even Scarier…

One more thing to remember is that most flooring manufacturers don’t warranty squeaks. Squeaks are almost always job site, installation, or environment related and usually show up after installation. The manufacturer has little to no control of what happens between the installation and the squeak starting. It makes it all the more critical to have the right wood for your space and for the floor to be installed correctly per the manufacturer’s instructions. Scary as all this seems, we’re always here to help you make the right hardwood flooring decision for your home.