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Flooring 101 Home Solid Hardwood Flooring Tips Wide Plank Flooring Installation Tips

Wide Plank Flooring Installation Tips


            Wide Plank Installation Tips             

(1)    ACCLIMATION; moisture control - radiant heat

(2)    Plank Placements random widths - Lengths

(3)    FASTENING SYSTEMS - customer expectations; blind nailing - face nailing, nail types - screw and plug


(1) Acclimation. Although milled planks undergo strenuous moisture requirements, it is recognized that many factors and conditions can cause wood to expand or contract in different homes. Wood is a hydroscopic material, it is subject to both temperature and moisture gain or loss fluctuations resulting in board width variances. The jobsite for example should be fully enclosed and interior climate controls operational for at least one week prior to installation. Do not store planks in a garage or sheds that are not climate controlled. It may be a good idea to run a dehumidifier during the acclimation period depending on ambient moisture. It is also necessary that your sub-floors be completely dry before installation. If the sub-flooring is not totally free of moisture your finished floors may experience "cupping" or "buckling". Bellawood  requires that the homeowner/installer ensure that the home environment is dry, as we cannot be held responsible for job site or moisture-related issues. Additionally, ensure that all "wet work", drywall, cement-board, and masonry work be installed and completely dry. These steps will limit ambient moisture and lessen the risk of moisture-related issues after the floors are installed. Acclimation of your wood is without a doubt the most important part of installation. The National Wood Floor Association recommends that wood flooring acclimate to the "normal living condition" of your home. Let your planks season in your home for at least 5-7 days or longer until the flooring is stable with its surroundings. It may be necessary for the homeowner to install a humidity control system in the home to maintain a recommended relative humidity (RH) level of 30-50%. This provides a stable indoor environment and minimizes any dramatic expansion and contraction of the planks. Seasonal changes of humidity and temperatures are normal. However, to minimize such changes, we recommend the homeowner purchase a moisture control system which can be installed to their HVAC system prior to installation. Please find out more from your HVAC dealer. The use of a humidity control system in the home will maintain year-around consistent moisture. Make sure that your flooring contractor uses a moisture meter to test both the subfloor (not to exceed 12%) and the planks to ensure that the moisture is within 2% of each other prior to installation.

Even with kiln drying and proper installation, you will most likely see a slight change in floor board width seasonally. The width of the floor board or orientation of the grain within each piece, is often dependent upon how dry or moist the air is within the home. This seasonal expansion and contraction can be expected and occurs in all interior woodwork. Usually, the flooring planks will be the fullest in the humid summer months. In the winter heating months however the flooring planks will often shrink slightly, depending upon how dry the air is within the home.        

Wide planks can be used for Radiant heated floors provided they are within 6-9% moisture content . Run the Radiant system at least one full week prior to your installation date, this will further dry out any hidden sub-floor or building moisture. When installing in drier regions of the country or during a very dry season, install square edge planks with a 1/16" side gap between all the surrounding planks, this will allow planks to grow or settle in when moisture levels fluctuate to around 9-12%.Both nail and back glue. (Fig 5)

(2)    Plank placements; As with strip hardwood floors it is recommended that your planks be installed opposite (perpendicular) to floor joists. Our flooring is sold by the net square foot or full box. We carry many styles widths, and lengths. Typical orders require 5-10% additional wood for cuttings and individual defect replacement.

Depending on the look the customer/installer wants, (un-finished) long planks can be installed in two ways, long boards staggered or they can be further cut down to achieve a more random length look. For example, long 10' non-tongue and grooved square edge planks can be trimmed down to sizes of 8', 6', and 4' for a more random length installation. Board lengths and widths vary and are laid randomly to create an authentic, staggered and alternating look. We typically work with lengths of 6', 8' and 10' in length and can have planks longer from time-to-time. Planks of all one width size can be installed, or some installers utilize two widths (specified by the customer) and then alternate these different width planks throughout the entire job. Start your flooring with the longer, wider planks then alternate randomly with the narrow boards, do not form a pattern. Additionally, all planks are individually backed glued with urethane to the sub-floor. Each plank is then face-nailed with old-fashioned, square nails, nail holes are first piloted to minimize splitting.

*The customer and installer must communicate together the actual plank style placement and overall floor appearance that is desired before the wide plank installation.

(3)    Fastening systems; There are three basic options when it comes to fastening hardwood floors. Most common by today's standards is blind nailing , often used with 2-1/2-inch, tongue-and-groove strip flooring. Wide plank flooring can also be blind nailed and face nailed or faced screwed and plugs . When completed, both blind nailing and top screws and plugs hide the fasteners from view. Face nailing, leaves the fasteners visible on the finished floor, this is seen in older, rustic homes and can be used to accent a period floor.

*As you will see, with the variety of fastening styles available, the customer and installer must *communicate together which fastener type, placement and overall floor appearance is desired before the actual wide plank installation.

Whatever the fastening method chosen, it is important to secure the floor properly. For wide plank installation, many installers will apply waterless urethane adhesive applied in a "snake-like" pattern on the back of each wide plank as it is installed (Fig 5) This will bond the planks directly to the sub-floor and minimize any squeaks or movement in the future as well as limit the risk of cupping or buckling. Large tubes of this type adhesive should cover approximately 50-70 square feet of planking per tube. When  back gluing omit the paper felt liner.

Blind nailing is often used on 2 1/4" strip to 3"-8" wide boards milled from various species of hardwood. This method works best with hardwoods as only half of the thickness is being used for structural integrity. With this method of fastening the nails are concealed in the tongue and groove joint. The tongue part is used to fasten the material to the subfloor. The work is quickly accomplished with a pneumatic flooring nailer, although air-powered tools are not necessary for a quality installation. Flooring nailers, which both force boards tightly together and drive a fastener called a cleat, are often used in blind nailing applications. When using a flooring nailer, the nose of the tool is set down on the top inside corner of the board's tongue while the nail is driven at an angle through the flooring material and into the subfloor. The tool establishes the angle at which the nail is driven, so there is no guesswork when the tool is operated properly. A heavy blow hammer strikes the pad on top of the nailer. This drives the material down and back into the neighboring piece, creating a tight joint between the two. Since the tool moves the wood as it sets the nails, it is important to face nail the first two courses completely so that the subsequent boards do not go off line.

Typical installations use 2-inch barbed cleat flooring nails spaced no more than 8-10" inches along the length of each board. It's best to check the length of the flooring nail against the subfloor conditions. If, for example, there is radiant tubing beneath the subfloor, the nail must be short enough to not puncture any of the water lines. The length of the nail and the depth of penetration determine how securely and safely the floor is fastened. Even if the location of the radiant tubing is known, it is best never to risk a puncture. At the same time, there must be enough depth to hold the floor securely to the substrate. It is always best to drive a few nails into a test piece of flooring to check the finish depth of the nail and the angle of the tool. Alternatively, to achieve a more formal look "blind-nail" your planks in place to create a less antique appearance. This method of installation still requires plank gluing.

Cleat style

Cut-nails have blunt ends, there's a bit more work and time involved in putting them in. While no particular type of hammer is needed, installation of cut nails must be done manually. With no pneumatic nailers, the cost of the project adds up if you're using an installer. Installers should be experienced in cut-nail installation. It's very important to nail with the grain to avoid splitting the wood. The wider side should always go with the grain. To drive a cut nail, start with short, tapping strokes until the nail is securely in place. It's important to be careful with the heavier, driving blows that follow because a cut nail is more brittle than common round nails. If it does become bent it must be straightened carefully. If it snaps, a cut nail leaves a pointed tip in the wood that's difficult to remove. Pre-drilling pilot holes can help ward off problems, especially at the butt ends of boards where splitting is most likely to occur. On flooring, which makes up over 50 percent of cut nail use, nailing is the same as with round nails.      

For tongue and groove flooring a slim shank is used to avoid splitting the groove. Nails should be spaced 6- 8 inches apart on 3/8-inch thick material and 8-12 inches apart on 3/4-inch flooring. To retain an older look there are short decorative nails that are pounded down to the desired height but that don't go into the sub-flooring.

Face nailing ; Face nailing is another method for 8" and wider plank flooring. Ring shank common nails are the best choice for structural integrity. For the best installation, nails should be aligned with the previous nails, and evenly spaced. The floor can also be back-glued to the subfloor, a wide selection of nails may be used. Copper, square-headed cut nails, and other decorative nail heads add accent and authenticity to wood floors.

A smooth-face hammer should be used when face nailing floors. Any stray hit will leave a dent in the surface of the flooring. While some older floors actually look better with a few dents and nicks, unwanted hammer dents should be removed. To do so on pine, place a damp cloth on the spot and apply pressure with a hot iron.

This will raise the damaged surface of the wood back to the common surface.

On 8" wide boards you may choose either 2 or 3 nails per row. On 10" and 12" wide planks use 3 nails per row. Regardless, of how many nails you choose to use per row, you are replicating the method of using hand-forged nails hundreds of years ago. The main purpose of face nailing is to minimize a cupping appearance with wide plank floors.

It maybe necessary to run or space face nails approximately every 30" per plank, throughout the entire job. Pilot holes can be drilled on plank ends 1" from end edge to reduce the risk of splitting. Some splitting is unavoidable and this happens to any installer, so write this off to charm and character-once stained it looks great regardless. However; to minimize this simply use a bit that is similar in diameter to the body of the nail being used. Be sure when drilling pilot holes to only pass the drill bit through the plank and not into the subfloor-this is where you want to allow the nail to be sunk into virgin plywood for maximum nail grip. Cut type nails are more than 200 years old in their design and were developed to allow the wood to swell back around the twisted nail body and clinch heads, making the nails stay set.

Nail types; A wide planked wood floor or wood-paneled wall distinguishes itself with hand nailing using square cut nails. A machine cut nail can look just as authentic as the old hand cut nails when properly installed and cared for.

Cut-nails  With their heads showing on or above the surface of the wood, cut nails provide the look of early American construction. Granted it may cost one-third more to finish a floor with cut nails, but they are the ideal accent for a period home or decor.

Like nails made during the 19th century, cut nails are sheared by machine from steel plate, producing a nail with a distinctive wedge shape that ends in a blunt point. It is this particular profile that gives the nail its authenticity. Cut on all sides to produce four edges, they're often called "square nails." The characteristic square head looks distinctive on a wood floor.

Beyond this, the differences between nails are minor. Nail design varies mostly in the length of the shank and the size and shape of the head, which is proportionate to the shank. Shanks measure from 1 to 4 inches on up to 8 inches for post and beam. Nail heads are determined by the type of nail (finishing, flooring etc), and style. Nail heads can be domed, flat, hammered for an authentic look, or have a bump for decorative purposes. Wider heads are used for face nailing floors.

True handmade nails provide the greatest authenticity and an even greater holding power than a machined cut nail because the surface is irregular. With flat spots and rounded areas, hand cut nails tend to rip and grip the wood. Unfortunately, they are prohibitively expensive when it comes to the number of nails needed for a floor installation. As a compromise, it is possible to get a slightly more expensive decorative wrought-head nail with a three-sided head and black oxide coating. These nails are designed to simulate the nails hand-forged by farmers in their backyards during the 1700's.

Machine-cut nails also provide superior grip because they tear through wood fibers instead of splitting the wood. A slight variation on the straight-edged nail is the belly nail that bows out in the center. As the nail is driven into the wood, the broad middle rips a path that gets closed up around the head as it's pounded in. Its irregular shape keeps it from pulling out.

Caring for Cut-Nail Floors
Sometimes authenticity takes a back seat to practicality. In damp or coastal regions, and for exterior work, the biggest enemy to traditional cut nails is rust. While simple maintenance can protect the nails indoors, this can become difficult outdoors. Polyurethane or tongue oil will protect indoor floors from a busy family, wet dogs, damp mopping, and spills. If water hits the floor, it need only be wiped up. Outdoors, however, most people opt out of the extra maintenance by having the nails galvanized. While this does prevent rusting, it should be noted that a galvanized nail could stain wood due to the chemical reaction between the wood and zinc. This is particularly common with cedar and redwood.

Screwed and Plugged
Screws and plugs work best with unfinished 10" and wider plank floorings that are milled square at the edges, pre-finished are usually top nailed only. Screwing down the floor can be time consuming, so it's best to have a system for drilling countersink holes, setting the boards with screws, and then plugging. A good method is where one person measures and cuts the material, while two others set the boards, counter sink, and screw them down. For best results, make a jig that will line up the nails in each new board with those in the last and give an even space between them. A common jig is simply a piece of scrap plywood cut to a length equal to the width of two boards. A small strip of wood nailed along one edge, like a lip, lets it rest against the tongue of the board being installed.

The location of the screws is then marked on the jig. The jig covers the board to be set and the previous board, so it helps align the screws from one board to another. Using a plug-cutting bit, a 3/8 or 1 / 2 "-inch diameter hole is bored into the top face of the flooring. Square-drive screws are set into the hole bored into the flooring material securing it in place. Once the screw is in place, plugs are coated with glue and tapped into the holes. Excess plug material is sheared off with a Japanese-style (Tong) saw or a sharp chisel. Sanding the unfinished floor before finishing it removes any additional plug material. The subfloor is often used as an anchor when screwing down the floor and closing the gaps. You can work against it to hold the boards tight while you work. For example, hand-driven nails can be set at an angle to hold the new board tight against the previous board until the screws are secured.

For boards with a stubborn curve to them, two wedges can be cut out of flooring scraps to hold a board tight while securing it in place. Screw one wedge to the subfloor and drive the other wedge between the secured piece and the tongue edge of the new flooring piece. Since one wedge is temporarily fastened to the subfloor and the other wedge is driven between the new piece and the fixed wedge, this closes the gap between flooring boards while the screws or nails are set. Once the board is secure, the wedges can be removed and used again.

For the best results, use Phillips head, or square drive, screws. They are much easier to drive tight and resist stripping. Plugs should be milled from the same material as the flooring, so that shrinking and swelling occur at the same rate. The Plugs and floor grain should run in the same direction. A 3/8-inch (plug-cutting) bit can be purchased at most hardware stores. Damaged or split flooring pieces are good material source for cutting plugs.

(4) un-finished floorings

Sanding. When sanding a floor with cut nails, keep in mind that sanding will abrade nail heads. Countersink the nail to avoid shaving off the decorative head. A one-eighth-inch depth is enough. Pre-sanding the floor to allow for a nail head at floor level or slightly above is another option. To do this the floor must first be secured with blind nailing or glue, and sanded. Then the cut nail can be hammered in as part of the finish process. This is very time consuming. While it's possible to buy pre-sanded wood, it will still require some sanding. Wood shrinkage can cause nails to work themselves out, but this is usually because the nails were too short. Should this occur, the nail can be tapped down.

You may want to contract with a floor sander in your area for this work if you do not have extensive experience in sanding wood flooring. You can use both Silicon Carbide Resin cloth and Aluminum Oxide Resin cloth based sandpapers.

Edge sand the entire perimeter of the house with an edge-sander using 80 or 100 grit sandpaper. This is done first so as to hide any rear wheel marks that may be left by edger.

Then, make one cut with 80 or 100 grit paper using a drum sander, making sure to cut the planner marks out of the wood. Some prefer the look of occasional planner marks, since this gives the appearance of an older floor. This is your choice, but, regardless, be sure to sand enough to remove any unevenness where planks match up.

Scrape your inside corners with a razor-sharp hand scraper.

Blend edger and drum sanding points with electric square hand sander using paper cut from the drum sanding paper. This is extremely important in order to hide the "start-n-stop" marks.

Vacuum using a back-pack vacuum since plastic wheels will leave a residue on planks. Be sure to use a soft bristle head on the vacuum nozzle to also minimize the risk of "marking" the floor with plastic residue from cheap plastic vacuum attachments.

Clean the wood grain throughout the floor by tacking the entire floor with plain warm water and a damp cloth. This step is extremely important, especially if you plan on staining.

Finishing Process. Be sure to take precautions and have proper ventilation and breathing apparatus at all times. Make sure your stain and polyurethane are the same temperature as the home prior to installation (70 degrees F is most desired). You should try to keep your house at 70 degrees F during the finishing process to allow the solvents to properly "gas-out" during the drying process. Apply your stain and poly with the temperature control system turned off. One hour after applications, turn the system back on to ensure air movement. Proper ventilation can be reached by cracking a few windows about 1 inch (making sure that it is not raining, snowing, etc.). This allows the solvents to escape from your home.

Stain. Choose the stain of your choice; Using a "rag-on, rag-off" method of application, be sure to always apply stain with the span of the planking. NEVER STAIN ACROSS THE GRAIN as it will reveal "lap marks". It is always a good idea to keep a "cut-in" brush handy for hard to reach places. Allow your stained floors to dry overnight or up to 12 hours at 70 degrees. Be sure stain is completely dry before moving to the polyurethane process!

Polyurethane Finish examples.          

For best application results use a /" synthetic mo-hair roller to apply your polyurethane, you can have success with the application using a mo-hair applicator pad on a "T-Bar" as well. Keep a cut-in brush handy for hard-to-reach places, but avoid brush marks anywhere accept in inconspicuous places. You must allow your first coat of polyurethane to finish drying over night. Buff lightly between coats with a Maroon Pad, being sure not to buff into the stain. Also, be sure to buff across the grain and not with the grain, as you may fracture some of the arching grain peaks in the wood fibers. Vacuum and tack after each sanding. Apply 2 coats, but you may apply as many coats as desired as long as you lightly buff between coats. Please allow your final coat of polyurethane to completely dry (12 hours is best) before the client is allowed to move back in. Remember, no rugs for 30 days and we recommend felt pads on all furniture, etc.

Please consult your finish product labeling instructions for further details.

Finish moldings available


Cut nail styles

Typical old style face nail                         Typical Blind/Hidden nail -

*See WEB SITE for Wide plank nail styles http://www.vorstor.eom/

These guidelines are for informational purposes

As a courtesy, Lumber Liquidators, Inc. ("LLI") provides information to its customers concerning the installation of products sold by LLI and related issues. Such information is not exhaustive and does not take the place of an installer's expertise , due care and informed judgment.  LLI disclaims any liability arising from or relating to the information provided herein including, but not limited to, improper installation, site conditions, inappropriate installation location or improper care and maintenance of the flooring.

Enjoy your floors! 02/2016

Flooring 101 Home Solid Hardwood Flooring Tips Wide Plank Flooring Installation Tips