Cracks in floorboards and between the bevel

Q imported from our old site, Face Lift Floors: I recently installed maple strip flooring (2 1/4 inch wide) and I am noticing that many of the boards seem to be developing cracks through the boards which are rough to the touch. The boards were placed in the room two weeks prior to installation. Any idea what’s happening?

A: Maple and many other harder kinds of wood are more touchy when it comes to humidity/moisture imbalance. Tiny cracks may be considered normal, and none would be perfect. You left your floor to acclimate plenty of time in the house before installing it.

However, during the storage time, were there any wet trades happening in the home which would increase humidity? It seems obvious that the floor is now drier than when first installed, and hence, has shrunk a bit.

If your furnace is now running, perhaps the addition of a humidifier would help.

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Q imported from our old site, Face Lift Floors:  The cracks between the bevels reveal the subfloor, and I can fit a nickel into the cracks in some areas, and roll the nickel on the subfloor. Other areas are only dime-size cracks, etc. There is one stretch of crack that appears across one entire line of the house, perhaps above one of the main supports of the home. I can put a quarter and penny side by side and roll them. As for the bevel, it is the very large intentional bevel that is there for looks. I just love it except that now the bevel serves as a funnel of sorts for dirt to go down to the subfloor. Obviously, this is especially a problem in the kitchen where lots of food dirt goes, and in the bathrooms where my four little boys tend to miss.

As for the cause, it appears that things were done as carefully as you could ask for. The home took 10 months to build so concrete work, etc, was long done, and the floor wood was on site (in the garage) for around 3 weeks before installation. The air conditioning was not running yet (and I don’t really recall the weather at the time). The floor install took place in mid to late August. Then they were sanded, stained, and finished on site approx two weeks later. And yes, the Glitza was awful. (Does it continue to emit lots of the toxins all the time or mostly during the application and when it is “stirred up” as in sanding? Would you recommend refinishing with another safer product and is it possible over top of the Glitza? We wanted a durable surface, but I certainly don’t want to put their health in danger.)

Lastly, our contractor was out yesterday to look at things and turned up the moisture on the main level furnace. Apparently the humidity control (which for some reason is on the furnace and not on the thermostat for that particular furnace, but IS on the thermostat for the 2nd level/lower level furnace) was on all the way but that happens to be a “test” mode which doesn’t deliver much moisture, so he turned the dial down a bit to the highest moisture level and we’ll see what happens. How long would it take for the wood to respond to the increased moisture, and is it reasonable to expect the cracks to close completely? I’m concerned that there is no “seal” there any longer and things can still seep to the subfloor and cause odors/problems over time.

One final question, what is the recommended thing to fill these cracks? Wood putty, etc.? And does the entire floor have to be refinished to properly get us back to where we should be? Our builder is a high-end and experienced (and very honest) guy, but hasn’t run across this before and was going to talk again with the floor refinishers about options. Honestly, you have helped us and our builder very much!

A: I am happy for you that you have an honest builder. I do know that every once in a while, a worker can do everything the right way, and something still goes wrong. You are asking some really hard questions, I must say. For example, I have not worked with Glitza in years. It is an extremely durable finish, but really nasty to work with. Does it emit vapors when it is cured and dry? I am not a chemist and have no idea. This question falls into the same category as some bamboo flooring that uses a urea femeldahyde adhesive.

They don’t all use such an adhesive. One company in Toronto markets bamboo floors that use this adhesive. From what I have learned so far, it seems it does emit such vapors, but according to the government of Canada is within acceptable limits. I don’t know what that means, and I don’t know if I can trust it. Glitza also contains urea formaldehyde.

On coating over top of it with another product, I would suggest you contact the manufacturer. You may also try a test patch in a corner. Abrading the surface coat is always a must to ensure adhesion. So, buff a small spot and apply a finish of choice. Give it a day or 2 and see if it is going to peel off, or if you have achieved a bond.

Dura Seal (Min Wax Corp.) sells wood putty in jars which are color matched. This may be your answer to the few spots that have large gaps. I doubt the gaps larger than a dime will close over. Give it a month and see.

The one thing I am sure about is that such shrinkage is due to moisture instability in the wood planks. Whether that resulted at the factory, warehouse or job site, I don’t know. It has been a long winter this year. The furnace has been blowing in my house since November when we first got snow, that has remained until now. Last year, I installed a birch floor in my kitchen. I have a few gaps appearing, but nothing like what you describe. I have no humidifier attached to my furnace. I also have noticed a few small gaps in my existing oak strip floors that have been down 70 years. If such gaps were not there on installation but developed later, it is always environmental.

I don’t know that I have helped much in this. I would suggest that you give the floors a month to adapt to suggested environmental recommendations (45 % relative humidity). After that, you can use a floor putty such as I suggested or have the floors refinished.

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Boards that are cracking

Q imported from our old site, Face Lift Floors: I have boards that are cracking and I was told it was the humidity. I was wondering what is the proper humidity for hardwood floors.

A: 30-45% Relative humidity in the home is about ideal. Mind you, it is difficult to have it at much over 40% in the winter without having condensed water streaming down your windows or walls.

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