Knots, checks, coloration in rustic wood

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Q: Our new engineered hardwood has open cracks and small knots. We are replacing our floors with a rustic grade white oak engineered hardwood. We noticed issues in the work he has done so far and have an opportunity to bring the issues to his attention before we proceed to the next floor.

We are seeing some boards with slim but deep cracks along the grain. They aren’t sealed. Similarly, the large knots are sealed, but some of the smaller knots are not and crumbled slightly when I ran my fingernail along one. This doesn’t appear to be all boards.

I’m not sure if it is representative of the cheaper off brand product our installer recommended, or a sign of him rushing his work. It only took a crew of three two days to remove 400 square feet of existing hardwood, screw in the old 1920s subfloor into the joists, add new plywood for levelling, and install the new product. He claimed he didn’t need to leave the product on site for more than a day because they kept it in an acclimatised facility.

Any advice for my upcoming discussion with him would be helpful.

A: This is a product issue or more specifically because it is rustic. Lumber and flooring has grading representing it’s quality. For example best is clear, then select and better, then common 1,2,3. Then you have mill run. Each grade has specifications on what is allowed in regard to knots, checks, coloration such as dark mineral streaks, etc. You won’t get ‘rustic’ from wood that is clear or select and better. You get it from a lower grade of material containing such imperfections. Each box should have come with a paper explaining the product. It may or may not state what you are getting. Did you understand what rustic was?

Follow-up Q: Thank you for your response. We did not understand what rustic was. We did however ask for a Lauzon product that I have since learned was select. Our installer said he could get us a similar quality product at a lower price, showed us a couple of planks from that product and we went with it.

I guess we just buy putty to seal and fill the open cracks and knots?

Thanks!

A: You could do that. Wow, maybe they should have done a better job of making sure you understood what rustic is. Did the select product have the same issues as the one you went with?

If you can find it, there is a filler in a tube called ColorRite. It comes in hundreds of colors. It’s easy to use and to clean up.

Follow-up: Thanks for the follow up!

The select product we looked at had small knots. The planks he showed us from the product we agreed to had smaller knots and less colour variation than what we got.

None of it had the sort of issues we are seeing in some boards. I have attached some photos of those issues (cracks along grain, jagged edges, and splintering that we cannot figure out the cause of). He still has half the job to go so I’m trying to determing whether to keep going, change the product, or change the flooring company.

Thanks again.

A: Why can’t the installer pick boards like that out and not install them? If a large part of the flooring shipment has these defects send it back.

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