Transition or staggering to join wood floor in two rooms

Q: We want to replace the tile in our foyer to match the wood in the family room. Our wood floors are glued down since we have concrete floors. How do we match the wood in the foyer to the family room, since the end of the wood is a rough cut and covered by a threshold?

A: Well, if the hardwood is running into the tiled foyer you have 2 choices. Remove the tile, install matching hardwood and use a dome cap or T cap to cover the rough cut ends or stagger back each row of existing hardwood and knit in new wood then have the entire thing sanded.

Install baseboards above floor or push them into gap?

Q: I recently purchased my first home and am beginning to prep to paint some rooms. I was happy to know that the hardwood floors throughout were just refinished before I moved in. When I began to take out the baseboards I was surprised to find out that the baseboards were installed first and the floor butts up against the baseboards.

I will be replacing the baseboards with new ones.

My question is, should I use larger baseboards and install them above the floor or should I push the new ones back into the gap? I assume I should put them on above the floor that way there is the necessary expansion gap for the floors.

A: I would install the base above the floor, as you mentioned and then install quarter round, either paint grade, primed or the wood species (oak) of your floor. If the base is painted, best to go with primed paint grade.

Bamboo flooring a bad choice for a family with large dogs?

Q: Is bamboo flooring a bad choice for a family with 4 large dogs (60 – 80 lb.)?

A: There is no wood or grass floor which will be unmarked by large dogs. The problem I have with bamboo is the use of adhesives to bond the strips together which emit a urea Formaldehyde vapour. Also, every sample I have seen exhibits large gaps between the planks indicating it shrinks quite a bit.

I think you would be best to go with a heavy grained wood to hide the scratches or go with a wood that you intend to look distressed. In that case, the scratches will just be part of the floor and add to it’s distressed look.

Related Q: I’m looking to replace carpet with wood floor. We have 4 dogs and accidents happen. What style or manufacturer would you recommend for a living room/family room that has high traffic from both people and pets?

A: I would go with site finished, not factory finished. Oak is good with pets because the heavy grain helps to hide the nail impressions. If you want to go with a very hard wood I’d probably suggest Hickory. You have to know in advance that unless a real tight environmental program is followed, Hickory will tend to expand and shrink a lot. A site finished floor has the coatings applied over the entire floor surface rather than individual boards and is much easier to deal with as far as applying a refresher coat of finish down the road.

Brazilian Teak good choice of wood floor for someone with dogs?

Q: I was wondering what you think of Brazilian Teak as a choice for wood floor for someone with dogs.

I have an American cherry floor all through my house that has been destroyed by the dog’s nails (I have two dogs).

I want to replace the floor and really like the look of the teak, but I don’t want to invest all this money if the floor is going to end up like the cherry. We had a refinisher look at our cherry floor and he told us the wood is so soft that in three months after he refinished it, it would look the same, so we didn’t want to invest in refinishing it.

A: Well, the cherry is quite soft. Brazilian teak is harder, but it isn’t as hard as Hickory which is the hardest native species. A large enough dog applying his weight to the tips of his claws would probably be able to mark any wood, regardless of hardness.

Aside from needing to keep the dogs nails well trimmed and filed, have you ever considered having them wear dog boots in the house? It may sound silly, but it’s worth taking a look at.

Hickory floor susceptible to environmental changes

Q: We had a hickory hardwood floor put in our living room, dining room and kitchen, on the main level of our house. We have a finished basement and the humidity is 46%. It was installed in September by the flooring contractor in one day and started showing splits and cracks in 5-6 boards. They repaired a few of the boards by replacing them. A few days later and one of those boards in the kitchen now sits slightly lower on one side along its length. Now I have 39 boards with splits and cracks in the boards themselves with some of them getting larger. The installer did not have the flooring acclimate to the house, he installed it the day they came with it. What should I expect to be done to correct this? I am concerned if they try to replace all of these boards and they sink it will be worse and I’m worried about continuing splits in the floor. Thank you for any information or help you can offer.

A: Clearly you have a real problem with this floor. That is a lot of boards. We don’t have much hickory in Canada used as flooring. But I do know it is susceptible to environmental changes, more so than a lot of other wood species. In other words it tends to be unstable. So it would be very important to allow the flooring time to adjust to that environment before installing. The one board that was replaced and has sunk along the one edge sounds more like a milling issue with that board. I would contact the manufacturer immediately over this issue. You could also contact the National Wood Flooring Association who may be able to send out an inspector.

Q: My sister had all new hickory hardwood flooring installed a few months ago. The hickory seasoned in the house about three weeks before installation, and it was nailed down. Now she’s hearing popping sounds. And joints have split open all over it. A couple of individual planks have even split. Reasons?

A: Hickory is a very hard wood which tends to over react to environmental changes much more than a species such as oak, for example. I think it will need to go through a couple of complete seasonal cycles before it really becomes settled. Did the installer check moisture readings in the flooring before installing? It clearly is shrinking which indicates it is now shedding moisture content. In summer it may expand a bit too.

Acceptable percentage difference of moisture between the plywood and the wood?

Q: I am a wood flooring contractor. About seven months ago we install a 4 inch red oak select floor with strip glue. We made sure before installing that the home was cool with air conditioning. However they are experiencing some buckling. I had one of my guys remove a few pieces and the plywood is reading 15% moisture. I was wondering what is the acceptable percentage difference of moisture between the plywood and the wood?

A: The recommendation is no more than 4% difference. I wouldn’t worry if the plywood showed moisture content of more than 4% less than the oak but 15% is high. If this is a new house the entire structure may not yet have dried out. You know how through framing the place it an get rained on or filled with snow, etc. So it is a good idea to always check everything with a meter before you start. If it is an older home perhaps the plywood was stored out in the lumber yard not properly protected from the rain? A lot of people don’t realize how difficult our work really is.

Follow-up: Agreed, thank you for your response.

Tongue and groove separated on the edges

Q: I had engineered oak floors installed in October. They are tongue and groove, and were laid as a floating floor in my condo. Now, some of the boards have separated on the edges. The separation is around 3mm or so. What could be the cause? Thank you for your time.

A: I wouldn’t have expected this with an engineered floor. They are constructed similarly to plywood so the boards are very stable. I can’t imagine that the top, hardwood layer would be able to shrink independent of the other layers. And I assume this is a click type of joint. Generally this type of joint required inserting the next board on an angle and then pushing down to click them together. It shouldn’t just pull apart. Changes in moisture content are generally the cause of wood shrinking or expanding. I think I would contact both the installer and the manufacturer. If this was a solid hardwood floor, nailed down these gaps would be very minor and normal. I’m not so sure I can say the same for an engineered floor.

Follow-up Q: Thanks for your answer.

This is actually a tongue and groove system, and the boards are glued to each other on the edges. This is not click. This floor was installed as a floating floor. Does this change your opinion? I don’t know if this was an effect of moisture, but the moisture is not affecting any other area. Maybe the glue gave up?

A: Okay, interesting. I said ‘click’ because in the early days of laminate flooring, before click joints each panel was glued together, squirting the manufacturers recommended adhesive into the groove. Then they invented the various joints that snap together and the glue joint went away. But those floors, as laminates still are, are rather thin. Some engineered floors are not thin but rather 1/2″ to 5/8″ thick. I would be doing some research before relying on a glue joint install with a floor that thick. Here is what I would do. Go to the web site of the manufacturer, unless you have the directions that generally come with each box of flooring. Find out if they recommend this type of installation for that product. It sounds like the floor may have shrunk a tiny bit and it has pulled away. If this were severe shrinkage It could potentially start breaking either the tongue or bottom edge of the groove side. That hasn’t happened which is good. Find out from the manufacturer if they recommend this type of installation.

Can prefinished hardwood be sealed?

Q: I read the question about the differences between laminate, hardwood and pre-finished. As noted, the prefinished allows for the possibility of spills going through the slats. Can prefinished hardwood be sealed to avoid this problem?

A: No. Prefinished floors offer serious challenges to re coating because of the type of finish and the bevel edges. If you want a floor that is coated over the entire surface, have a site finished floor.

How far apart should sleepers be for subfloor over concrete?

Q: I am installing a new hardwood floor. I leveled a low spot on the concrete, put 15 lb. tar paper, and I am putting 1 by 4 strips of wood for a subfloor.

How far apart should these pieces be?

And do I need to adhere them to the concrete or even nail them or not?

A: I would install the sleepers as if they were joists, 12 or 16′ centers. I think I would fasten them to the concrete. Otherwise, you may end up with some bounce. You may have to do some shimming if the floor is not level.

Can the hardwood be installed over top of staples in plywood?

Q: I just removed all the carpet in my house, and plan on installing hardwood. Do I need to remove all the staples from the carpet cushion? Can the hardwood go over top of the staples in the plywood?

If I have to remove the staples, what is the best way to do so? Can I hammer them into the plywood?

A: You can knock them down if you can get them flush. You don’t want to install your new floor over hundreds of little bumps. I usually use a side cutter and flat blade screw driver to remove them.

Vaguely Related Q: We’re considering buying a pre-war apartment that had water damage 5 years ago. The owner fixed the damage and installed new floors, including herringbone in the dining/living room. To give some visual separation to the dining/living areas, there are about 6 or 8 straight strips between the herringbone. In those strips and in much of the contiguous herringbone, we see what look like sunk staples. We see these marks elsewhere as well, and not just along edge pieces. Could there be something structurally wrong or is this just a cosmetic issue?

A: If I understand you correctly, it sounds like the floor had been carpeted with under-pad that was stapled to the floor. If that is the case, it is cosmetic.

Best way to refinish the trim?

Q: I have an old, small Victorian style house. It has beautiful, old, wide trim around the doors and windows.

The trim around the kitchen door that leads to a small side entryway to the outside and the trim around the window and door in the entryway both have many coats of paint on them. The paint has deep cracks but is not really peeling off.

What is the best way to refinish the trim? Do I need to take all the paint off? I live in the Northeast and will be working on this project over my December vacation but can open a window if needed for ventilation.

A: I think I would use paint stripper on it. You want to avoid sanding because their is high likelihood of lead in these coatings. Remove as much of the paint by chemical stripping to get down to or near the bare wood, then prime it with a good primer such as Zinsser 1 2 3 or Bin.

Correct floor nailer and gauges

Q: I’m installing Patagonia Rosewood, which is listed as having a 3840 Janka Rating. I can’t find nailers that go up that high in terms of what they will handle, but it appears 20-gauge goes the highest in terms of what it will handle on hardness end. Problem is, flooring is 3/4″. Sub-flooring is also 3/4″. That would be okay, except to level the floor we had to add roofing felt in places, and will still have to level out some spots with roofing shingles. This can add up to 1/4-1/2″ of depth.

I can only seem to find 18-gauge nails in 1.75″ lengths, and 20-gauge in 1.5″ lengths.

Neither seem long enough, but I guess my question is what nail and nailer to use given I can’t pull everything up and start over leveling from the joists at this point (glued and screwed sub-floor). Better to go 18-gauge, even though more likely to cause splits, to gain that extra .25″ of length? Or better to go 20-gauge, so fewer splits, but only getting 19/32″ penetration into sub-floor where no leveling material exists, and as little as 3/32″ penetration into subfloor in some places? Help?

A: You should be using a proper floor nailer-Primatech, Powernail etc which fire cleats, two inches long and 15 gauge. 18 gauge and up? These are pins for trim work, not a 3/4″ very hard wood floor. that shimming is also excessive. You would be better to try to also grind down some of the humps because the 2″ long cleat will only extend beyond the bottom of the board, maybe 1 1/4″. Best to get, even if you have to rent it, such a nailer that runs off a compressor and air pressure.

Incidentally, a floor nailer, not a trim gun, sits on the edge of each board and fires the cleat flush, through the top of the tongue on the board edge.

A final suggestion. Strap on the knee pads, pre drill each hole, going on an angle through the top of the tongue and use 2″ long, spiral finishing nails. Tap them down with a nail set flush with the top of the tongue, spaced every 7″. I’d be surprised this floor stays down the way it sounds you have been proceeding.

Cat urine smell in plywood subfloor

Q: We are putting down a Pergo laminate floor in a den which had carpeting. The carpet and pad was wet with cat urine for a number of months and it soaked into the plywood. The wood has dark spots, but appears to be fairly dry.

We used baking soda and an odor digester to remove most of the smell at this point. You can only smell it if you get very close to the wood. This is a first floor room over a basement, where the washer and dryer are located.

My question is: should we install a vapor barrier, paint the floor, or take some other action before installing the floor?

A: I would coat it with shellac. Zinsser makes a couple of products like this which are excellent ‘blockers’. They dry fast too.

I want to install salvaged 0.25′ x 1.75′ oak flooring strips

Q: I want to install salvaged 0.25′ x 1.75′ oak flooring strips over existing 0.75′ fir flooring. What procedures should I follow?

A: Not highly recommended. These old strip floors don’t offer much of a wear surface. They can usually be safely sanded 2 times. 3 If you are lucky. The floor you are looking at is recycled. After you install it, it won’t be flat and will need to be sanded again. I don’t think there would be enough left of it to make it worth your while.

Related Q: Is it possible to remove old linoleum from original hardwood and still be able to salvage the floor? I’ve peeled a few spots and the adhesive is remaining stuck to the original hardwood. I’m wondering if there is a product that can be used to help peel off the old adhesive?

A: You might be able to hire a floor refinisher who could sand off the adhesive. The floor would have to be in fairly good shape to take a sanding like this. If it is 3/8 strip, it may not be worth it.

Should I install my hardwood right against stairway or leave an expansion gap?

Q: I’m currently installing 3/4′ hardwood in our living room. I understand that we require an expansion joint around the perimeter of the room. My question is: We have a wood stairway railing in this room, on an oak trimmed base. Can I butt my hardwood right against this structure? Or should I leave a expansion joint? This would require moulding and wouldn’t look as good.

A: I would butt up to the rail but leave an expansion gap on the other side of the room or hallway.

Is Koa acceptable to use in the kitchen?

Q: My interior designer suggested I do the kitchen and breakfast room floor in Koa because I’m doing the entryway in Koa with a maple border. Is Koa acceptable to use in the kitchen?

A: I’ve never heard of the wood until your question. My wood dictionary, as no surprise says it is rare and grows only in Hawaii. It is mostly used in veneers and for musical instruments, but no mention of it being used for flooring. The reason may be because it is rare. It does sound fairly hard and stable though, and is also used in gun stocks.

If it is good enough for your entryway, I think it should be fine in the kitchen too. Like any wood, if you drop something heavy on it, expect it to dent.

Can we sand, stain and poly unfinished hardwood floors before installing?

Q: Can we sand, stain and poly unfinished hardwood floors (tongue and groove) before installing? We are trying to match our site finished floors but don’t want to have to move out for 3 days to have the new area site finished. We know the wood type (red oak) and the exact stain (Minwax Provincial).

A: No. The floor will not install perfectly flat. First install, then sand and stain.