Frequently Asked Questions
Hardwood flooring is a 100% natural product and is available in many different species with different colors and characteristics. Most complaints and concerns are related to changes in the moisture content of flooring and surrounding wood products. The purpose of this FAQ is to identify potential problems before they occur and take the correct steps that prevent problems in the future. The following information is taken from nofma.org (National Oak Flooring Manufactures Association) and nwfa.com (National Wood Flooring Association); these two organizations set the standards for all USA hardwood installing companies.
1) How long will it take to install and finish a new floor?
The size and complexity of the job will determine the time from beginning to end. For example, our installers will install more square feet of hardwood in a large square living room, than a narrow hall with several closets. Custom work such as medallions or border wraps take more time.
Below are the steps that our in house installers will take to complete your job. The time per step will tell us the total time needed to complete your job.
Step 1 = Prep
It may be necessary to remove existing carpet or under layment before we can start the install: we may need to re-screw your sub floor back to the joists for squeak prevention.. Baseboards may need to be removed and plastic may need to be hung. The time for this depends on the job and could last from ½ to 2 days. Fixtures that are connected to a water source (I.e.: toilets, refrigerators, etc) may need to be moved by the homeowner or a plumber. We are excellent flooring installers, but bad plumbers.
Step 2 = Install
On the average, our installers will install approx 500 square feet of hardwood per day. Factors such as tight kitchens, halls, small bathrooms, and closets will change the time needed. We have looked at your job and calculated the number of square feet; this information gives us a good idea of the number of days need to complete your job.
Step 3 = Acclimation
After we install your hardwood, we wait (and wait), NOFMA instructs us to wait from 10 to 20 days before we start our sanding, this allows the wood time to adjust to the surrounding conditions. Some exotic hardwoods may require additional time to acclimate.
Step 4 = Sanding and coating
Once again, our installers sand aprox 500 square feet per day, more in open areas and less in tight areas. After the sanding is completed, we apply the 1st coat (oil or water sealer, or possibly a stain), the following day the 2nd coat, (Durable polyurethane or Swedish finish), and in most cases we return the following day for a 3rd coat of same.
Step 5 = Moving in
Under normal conditions, you can walk (in your stocking feet) on the floor in 5 to 6 hours after a fresh coat has been applied. If you chose to use Swedish finish, the toxic smell will keep you from wanting to go anywhere near the floor for several days. Your furniture can carefully be replaced in 48 to 72 hours (no area rugs yet), your floor is now 90 to 95% cured. It will take and additional 2 to 3 weeks for your floor to reach 100% cured. During that curing time extra precaution is advised, water and food spills on the floor could leave a permanent spot, items dragged across the floor could leave permanent scratches and dog claws could be a problem. This does not mean that you can not live a normal life, just use caution and common sense. At the end of the 2 to 3 week curing process, you can bring in the area rugs and enjoy your new floor.
2) Which direction should I run the wood?
NOFMA’s recommendation is that we go the opposite direction as the joists.
3) Can I use particle board as a sub floor material?
The correct answer is NO. Solid hardwood flooring needs a sub floor material that will hold the nails intact. Plywood or solid wood is recommended. Particle board, a panel product made of sawdust and/or small wood chips, does not hold fasteners properly and could allow your flooring to loosen over time.
Our installers will need to remove the particle board before installation.
4) What is vapor barrier?
Vapor barrier is a moisture retardant used to slow down moisture from coming through the sub floor and into your hardwood.
The presence of a vapor barrier in itself does not guarantee that your wood will perform perfectly or fail. It will slow down moisture and enhance the performance of the floor.
5) How do you measure the hardness of different woods?
The JANKA SCALE DETERMINES HARDNESS. Red oak has a hardness rating of 1260 / lbs per sq inch. In the simplest of terms, it would take 1260 pounds of pressure to push a b-b ½ of the way into the board. Exotic hardwoods such as Brazilian cherry are typically harder than oak, for example; Brazilian cherry has a JANKA rating of 2400.
Exotic hardwoods come in very unique colors and vary in hardness.
As a side note, the denser (or hardness) of the wood, the less opportunity there is to apply a stain color. The color of the wood is so dominate that the stain has very little effect and the wood is so dense that the stain does not penetrate. As a rule of thumb, anything harder than oak can not be stained.
6) What about the stability of hardwood?
Stability of the wood is determined by how it will react to changes in temperature and relative humidity. We have already talked about cupping caused by excessive moisture and cracks between the boards caused by conditions being to dry. All woods react to these changes, however, some hardwoods will react at a greater extent than others. A good example of this is a hardwood called IPE; this wood has a JANKA rating of over 4500 but is extremely unstable. Most homeowners only consider the hardness; we suggest you also put a value on stability.
7) What is the difference between “Swedish” finish & “Polyurethane?
Swedish finish has been around for many years and is widely promoted in the northwest.
This product is an acid cured product with a formaldehyde base. It is environmentally
unfriendly and extremely toxic, requiring evacuation of the home for several days. Years ago it was considered the most durable product you could apply. Times have changed, some dangerous hardening solvents have been removed, even so, it still has the highest VOC rating of any finish causing many state’s, to ban it all together. Swedish finish will darken your floor and cause light woods to yellow (or orange) over time.
Polyurethane (water base) finishes contain significantly lower levels of dangerous solvents, and do not require evacuation. Polyurethane finish retains more of the color of the natural wood with less darkening over time. Commercial (two component) polyurethanes are extremely durable are the choice of many business owners who own facilities that receive a high level of foot traffic. Both finishes are available in different sheens.
8) Why does my floor look different than the sample board I picked?
We already mentioned that wood is a product of nature, and unlike tile, or bricks,
NO TWO FLOORS ARE THE SAME!!!
Samples are a close representation of how the finished product will look. Variables such as; the rain when the tree grew, the elevation, the climate, and the soils all play a part. The grading of the hardwood differs from mill to mill. Price is a factor, as low quality hardwoods will not have the same richness as a more expensive wood.
9) How many times can I sand my hardwood floors?
A definite answer can not be given as no two people will sand a floor in the same manner. When we sand a good quality hardwood that has been milled properly, and a floor with very little over wood, our installers will only remove 1/32”. Using this formula, your floor could be sanded 6 or more times. On the other hand, it is common for a do-it-yourself enthusiast to remove up to as much as ¼” of hardwood, reducing the number of sanding’s to 2 or 3.
10) Will my floor darken over time?
All woods will darken or change color over time. The speed that it darkens depends on the amount of ultraviolet light, the type of wood and the finish that was used.
Swedish finish for example will darken more quickly than Polyurethane. Area rugs restrict darkening, If you cover your newly finished floor with a nice area rug and move it a few months later, a footprint of the rug will appear.
Note: a newly sanded floor reacts more rapidly than a floor that was finished several years ago.
11) How do I inspect my hardwood floor?
NOFMA sets the standards: “ Inspection should be done from a standing position with normal lighting. Glare, particularly from large windows, magnifies any irregularity in the floor and should not determine acceptance. A finish similar to that found on fine furniture should not be expected. Trash in the finish, a wavy look along strips, deep swirl or sander marks, and splotchy areas can be indications of inadequate finishing or cleaning. The quality of the finish can be acceptable and still include some of these problems, but they should not appear over the entire floor. The perimeter and hard to reach area (ie: under radiators, around cabinets and cabinet cut outs, closets, corners, etc) are most likely to contain these irregularities”
Again, when inspecting from a standing position these irregularities may be present but should not be prominent.
12) How do I clean my hardwood floor?
Wood floors, properly finished, are the easiest of all floor surfaces to keep clean and new, unlike other floors that show wear regardless of care.
When cleaning, remember that the enemy of wood is water, never pour water or use a wet mop on your floor. You can sweep or vacuum, then using a recommended floor cleaner, mist a small area from a spray bottle and wipe clean with a micro fiber pad, changing pads as they get dirty. After you are finished, wash the pads in the washing machine and re-use them. Do not use any products that contain oil or wax. The build up of wax will damage the floor and makes future re coating impossible as the new finish will not adhere to the wax. Vinegar is not recommended, the acid in the vinegar will, over a period of time, will dull the sheen and cause the floor to look dull. We recommend the Bona-Kemi products. These kits, extra pads and cleaning solution are available at our showroom.
13) Our floors are squeaky and noisy, what can we do?
Floors squeak for several reasons, Inadequate nailing or gluing of the sub floor, Inadequate nailing of the hardwood, excessive moisture or dryness.
If the hardwood has already been installed, we can add face nails, the homeowner can try to strengthen the sub floor from below, lubricate squeaks with graphite, wax, or baby powder or try to wedge the sub floor from below.
If the hardwood has not been installed yet, your installer needs to take the necessary steps to prevent the squeaks. Normal precautions include, re-screw the sub-floor to the joist’s, walk the sub-floor and listen, establish a nail pattern when installing the hardwood of 6’ to 8’ apart. Check the moisture content of the sub-floor and the hardwood. Following these steps strengthens the opportunity for a squeak free floor.
14) What can I do for a cupped floor?
This is the complaint that keeps the local flooring inspector busy. Per the NOFMA guidelines book (Problems, Causes, and Cures) the answer is very clear.
MOISTURE IMBALANCE THROUGH THE THICKNESS IS THE ONLY CAUSE!
The material was manufactured flat and was flat when install. The cure is a full re-sand and coating, if your installer did not follow the NOFMA guidelines list below then he or she is responsible for the repair, in all other cases, the expense goes to the homeowner.
Our responsibility as installers:
(a) We measure the moisture level in the sub-floor prior to install, a normal reading will be 9% to 11% moisture content. If the moisture content is higher than this, we wait for the sub floor to dry to the accepted level. (b) The moisture content of the hardwood from the supplier will be 7 to 9%. The difference in moisture between the sub-floor and the hardwood can be no higher than 4%. (ie: sub-floor = 11%, Wood = 7%, difference is 4%). ( c ) Make sure the house has been acclimated to normal living conditions, The furnace is working and turned on, all doors and windows are in place. & ( d ) Do a standing site inspection, Look to see if the crawl space is dry and has adequate ventilation.
Once these guidelines are met, we can install the floor.
Your responsibility as a homeowner or contractor:
(a) If this is new construction, consider bringing in a de-humidifier and some fans. You will be surprised at the amount of water it will distract. The wood used to build your house, the texture on the walls, the paint, all disperse a tremendous amount of moisture into your home. Using the de-humidifier should remove enough of this moisture to prevent damage to not only the hardwood floors, but also the cabinets, doors and trim. (b) If your project is a remodel, control the relative humidity. A normal reading should be between 35- 50%.
If the humidity is two high, cupping could occur. If your furnace has been equipped with a dehumidifier you will avoid this problem. If the humidity is to low, your hardwood will dry and shrink causing small gaps between the boards. Normally, but not always, these conditions will correct themselves once conditions get back to normal.
Cupping (and shrinking) are not normal problems. If your Hardwood Company and contractor work together, you should be fine. The conditions listed above are the result of not complying with the rules and trying to fool Mother Nature. Wood is a product of nature and has a personality. Your flooring installer should understand this and provide a beautiful, long lasting floor for you to enjoy for years.
15) We have a new house with hardwood throughout, and this winter, we had numerous cracks. What can I do? What is the standard?
There is no industry standard for determining if a crack of a particular size is not acceptable or excessive. Cracks are considered “normal cracks” if they close during the humid season. As moisture caused the problem in question #2, the loss of moisture is what causes problem #3. If the floor was exposed to moisture in the early stages and expanded, the cracks will be larger as it dries out. The wider the board, the wider the crack. As a homeowner, you can add moisture to the air by opening the dishwasher door after the drying, boil a pan of water, turn off bathroom fan, and hang damp laundry in house, what ever it takes to keep the relative humidity above 35%. Sub contractors will often turn off the heat while working. To the contrary, we request that the house be acclimated to normal living conditions at least one week before the floor is installed, and remain that way. Turning the heat off will increase moisture and cause the wood to swell, later, when the house is at normal living conditions, the wood will dry and shrink. You will need to check the house daily to assure that the heat is turned back on.
16) How long will my floors last before I need to refinish?
Every family’s life style is different which makes it impossible to give an exact answer; we have refinished floors in 5 years and have looked at floors that are in good shape after 20 years. Re-coating is a popular option when you only need to put the life back into your floor and give it a fresh look.
Preventative maintenance can not be over - emphasized, and will lengthen the intervals between a major renovation operation such as re-coating or re-sanding (See question 14).
Keep grit off floor, grit is your floors #2 enemy (water takes the 1st spot), use walk off mats at exterior doors, clean under the mats regularly as dirt can get trapped under your mat.
Put fabric glides on the legs of your chairs. (Glides that nail into the chair leg work better than the sticky back, which usually slid off exposing the unprotected chair leg to the floor).
Keep your shoes clean.
The refrigerator and stove WILL damage your floor if you roll or slide them out without some protection between the floor and the appliance. Thin plywood strips (beveled at the
end) seem to work well.
17) Can solid hardwood be installed over radiant heat?
YES, Old Town Hardwood has successfully installed several floors over radiant heat, In fact our showroom and design center has such a system. We installed over 30 species of hardwood’s in the showroom and to date they are in great shape. Extra precaution needs to be taken for this type of install.
18) Answers to silly questions that we have received over the years.
No, you can not walk on a freshly finished floor. It takes 5 - 7 hours before you can walk across a floor finished with polyurethane (in your stocking feet), the toxic odor from a floor finished with “Swedish” finish will keep you out of the house for 24 hours from the last fresh coat.
Yes, your cat or small animal will walk on your freshly coated floor. The noise from the sanding equipment will keep your cat away, once the noise has stopped, curiosity will set in and they will come to investigate.
No, you can not move your furniture across your floor on a piece of up side down carpet.
Yes, we can stain and change the color of certain wood such as Oak and Fir, We can not stain or change the color of dense woods such as Brazilian Cherry or Maple, the stain does not penetrate into the wood. We no longer offer whitewash as an option. Talk to your sales rep for more detail.
Yes, we do cash deals. We also take checks and credit cards. All sales are subject to the appropriate state taxes.
No, we can not sign a waiver that says we will not be held liable if the floor is installed incorrectly. As floor professionals, we a responsible, even if you instruct otherwise.
Summary & Warranty
The above information was taken from the NWFA (National Wood Flooring Association) and NOFMA (National Oak Flooring Manufactures of America) guidelines book, these guideline represent our warrantee. If we install or sand your floor outside of these guidelines, we will gladly repair our mistake and offer compensation. If a problem occurs that is not related to the install or sanding, and therefore out of our control, we will gladly give the necessary advice for repair and make the repairs at a reasonable price.