Birch wood floors durability, dents and scratches

Q: We recently purchased a house. I noticed that the birch wood flooring has dents from sliding wheels on stools, and it has quite a few noticeable scratches in some areas. What do you recommend? Is birch wood floors durability below par? I don’t know if the floor is waxed or treated. We are the third owners so we don’t know much about the flooring except that it’s birch.

A: If the floor is thick enough to take it, I would completely re-sand and finish it. I have a birch floor in my kitchen. It’s very nice to look at, but not the best choice for that room because it is a bit softer than oak and does tend to get banged up.

Note from Webmaster: for more info, see Janka hardness test from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Best wood and finish to tolerate urine/pee

Q: I’ve got 2 small dogs and a son with autism who pee on my carpets. I am sure by now that everything underneath the carpets are soaked in urine and need to be removed, even though I’ve had the carpet cleaned over and over again. What kind of wood floor and what kind of finish would you suggest? Scratching and denting are not even a concern – just the urine.

A: I think I would suggest quarter sawn white oak, site finished with either a top quality polyurethane such as Poloplaz Primero (using their Fast Dry Sealer as a base coat) or a penetrating tung oil finish such as Waterlox. I did a water test on 2 boards, one finished with polyurethane and one with Waterlox. A spoonful of water on the board surface. Hours later the water had not penetrated past the surface on either sample. The bigger problem will be seepage between the boards. White oak, quarter sawn is more dimensionally stable though. Maybe that is why they make wine barrels out of it.

http://www.poloplaz.com
http://www.waterlox.com

I prefer Maple; but is Black Cherry, Maple or Walnut better? How to Choose Wood Species for Flooring

Q: I am purchasing a home and don’t know which is the best, most durable wood to choose. I worry about wear and tear over the years. What is the best way to maintain wood floors before you have to change it, or not? I don’t love too much grain in the floor, that is why I prefer maple; but is Black Cherry, Maple or Walnut better? If I have to choose oak due to cost, should 3/4″ size or more be better? What about staining the oak? I was told that staining is not good. I thought that all wood had to be stained to achieve all the various colors that are available. What then is “natural hardwood” without staining, but in a darker color? How to choose wood species for flooring?

A: You are asking me to write a book, which I won’t do. 3/4″ Thick is the way to go. The species is determined by your likes and life style. If you have pets, a harder wood may be better. Maple is harder than oak. However, because of lack of grain definition, it tends to show marks or claw impressions more than an oak floor. You don’t like heavy grain. Maybe quarter sawn white oak is for you? Or beech? Perhaps hickory. Some woods don’t need staining, since they have so much natural color to offer, such as cherry, and walnut. Staining is a matter of taste in the long run.

Hickory has greater resistance to denting than red oak

Q: My hardwood floor is constantly having to endure things being dropped on it, creating dents. Is there some sort of finish that better protects floors from damage?

A: No. The finish itself has nothing to do with preventing dents. That is determined in part, by the hardness or density of the wood. Hickory has greater resistance to denting than red oak.

Durability is key

Q: I am interested in getting hardwood flooring for the main floor of our house. This is the main walkway through the house, so durability is key. We also have a large dog! Any suggestions?

A: I would definitely suggest site finished. Pre finished, aluminium oxide coatings are very hard, but that actually becomes a problem if the floor starts to look beaten up, since these coatings resist abrasion, which is exactly what needs to be done to a finish to create a mechanical bond and adhesion of a refresher coat. A large dog will leave marks and nail impressions in just about any wood, regardless of how hard it might be. It is important to keep their nails clipped and filed smooth. I would stay away from any tight grained woods such as maple, since many scratches are hidden by heavy grain (such as oak), which maple doesn’t have. A good choice for you might be Hickory. Quite hard, yet a grain similar to oak. Ash and oak would be other good choices.

I will also suggest an alternate finish to urethane top coats. I have been working with a tung oil based finish recently. Excellent penetration into the wood. It does build similar to polyurethane, though it is a more elastic type finish rather than a hard top coat. It is very easy to touch up and re coat with no adhesion issues or the possibility of swirl marks from Inter coat buffing, since this product co adheres. No buffing is needed. You can check this out at www.waterlox.com.

What type of hardwood to purchase

Q: I am trying to decide on what type of hardwood to purchase. In a previous home I installed dark cherry-stained oak. I have a dog and of course the scratches were very visible and after only a few months looked terrible. I also found it very hard to keep clean.

I have been shopping around and have been considering natural stain oak. I have a chance to purchase a Grade 2 at 2.99 sq. foot (Canadian). I was also advised Brazilian cherry (Jatoba) would be a good choice for me since the wood does not scratch as easy and scratches would be less evident since the colour is natural and throughout the wood. I can get this for 4.99 sq. foot (Canadian) which I’m told is “a deal”…

A: Under the circumstance, I would consider any pre finished floor to be a poor choice. Especially if this is Jatoba. Woods such as oak, with a heavier grain pattern will do a better job of hiding claw marks, especially with a satin finish. Maple is harder than oak, but given the tight grain tends to show every mark. Another good choice might be ash.

Beech on the hardness table

Q: We are remodelling our kitchen and considering putting a Beech floor down. Is this a good wood for wear and tear? We have two grandchildren and they tend to play in the kitchen. Will the beech show all the dents and scratches easily? What would be the best wood to use? The flooring person said that beech is just as hard as red oak- Is this true?

A: These are comments I found regarding Beech and it’s position on the hardness table:

Properties: Hardness:
1300% Janka Table, 1% harder than Northern red oak Durability:
Elastic, hard; excellent shock resistance. Wears wells, stays smooth when subjected to friction – popular for factory floors.

However, since it has a rather tight grain it might show marks like maple does, rather than hide them like oak and ash do. I would not recommend a pre finished floor for a kitchen. Site finished is the way to go.

Hardwood floors in bath and laundry rooms

Q: We are currently remodelling our home and plan on putting wood flooring in both our master bath as well as our laundry room. I know wood floors are generally not recommended for these areas because of water, moisture, etc. However, we are unable to be perfectly happy with any other flooring. Is there any particular species that would be able to hold up better than the others? Also, we are planning on painting both floors? Any suggestions?

A: I would suggest, if this is the way you intend to go, to install quarter sawn white oak. A bit harder than regular oak but more stable as far as side to side expansion/contraction. I don’t know why you would paint rather than have multiple coats of a top quality polyurethane applied. Maple would be good for painting because it is so smooth with tight grain, but it gets a little cranky if subject to fluctuations in humidity.

Durability ratings

Q: Would you please advise me of the ratings for hardwoods as far as durability is concerned?

A: www.woodfloorsonline.com has a hardness table whereby you can compare the relative hardness of a number of species.
http://www.woodfloorsonline.com/techtalk/hardns.html

However, when asking about “durability” then hardness is only one factor to consider. For example, maple is harder than red or white oak. However, it is very tight grained, and therefore is prone to showing scratches or indents/ impressions much more so than oak, which has a much heavier grain.

Some exotics coming on the market are extremely hard and dense and may contain a lot of resins. How well a finish will remain on such a hard surface before it gets ripped off the surface is yet to be seen. Pre finished floors in most if not all cases are coating with aluminum oxide or ceramic coatings. These are very abrasion resistant, but not indestructible. Serious issues can arise when it comes time to recoat these floors.

To answer your question requires more than a simple answer. I don’t think a person can go wrong when they stick to North American species such as various oaks, ash (which has a very similar oak type grain, except more so) which is a little harder than red oak, and even hickory which is harder than maple. All 3 stain and finish well.

Floors and wheelchairs

Q: My son is in a power wheelchair. To get to his room he needs to cross the den and I would like to replace it with wood. I’m understanding that the laminating would be easier to keep from getting damaged. Please let me know if a laminated one would work better than a hardwood one. It will get a lot of wear and tear.

A: What is your sub floor made of? Are you in a house or condominium/apartment with concrete? If it is concrete, a good quality laminate would be ideal. I just installed one for a man in the same situation. Laminates are not a floor that would last a lifetime. However, in a condominium setting, they should give you years of trouble free service.

In a private home, where you can nail a floor down, but where the sub floors are often not dead flat and level (a must for a laminate installation), a floor 3/4 thick, and properly finished with 3 coats of polyurethane and no cheap sealers used as a base coat will also take a lot of abuse. With real hardwood, if it suffers surface scratches and scuffs, it can later be lightly buffed and a fresh coat of finish applied. With laminate, there really is no fix.

Wide boards

Q: I am building a new house and I am interested in wider boards of about 5 inches but I have heard these can have problems with cupping? Is this true and if it is, is there a way to avoid the problem?

A: The wider the board, the greater is the chance of cupping. Having said that, the only thing which causes this to happen is excess moisture in the wood itself, either from poor climate control in the house, from installing over a crawl space that has not had steps taken to prevent moisture from rising up under the floor, and such things as this. Make sure you leave at least a 1/2 gap along the walls to allow for any expansion that may occur. The wider the board, the more mass to expand. I believe quarter sawn is much less likely to be affected by this problem at all, though it may be more expensive.

Make sure when this floor is installed that you let it acclimate to the rooms for at least a week. All wet trades must be completed with the heating/air-conditioning in place and functional. Make sure the sub floor is within 4% of the wood flooring as far as moisture content. 7-9% is considered normal range for wood such as oak. If the plywood is reading 20% don’t install the floor.

American Cherry in a high traffic kitchen

Q: Would American Cherry hold up in a high traffic kitchen area? Would this be a good choice?

A: It depends. Cherry is a bit softer than red oak. I installed a birch floor in my kitchen on a gamble, because I was bored and wanted something different. My little Boston Terrier has marked it up pretty badly. If there were no pets it would likely do OK. I would not use factory finished. Finish on site with at least 3 coats of oil based polyurethane. Cherry is more dimensionally stable than some harder woods such as maple, to give one example.