Wormholes in #1 common red oak hardwood flooring

Q: Is the presence of multiple wormholes acceptable in #1 common red oak hardwood flooring (up to 39 holes in one 47” plank)?

A: It is a lower grade of wood. The lower the grade, the more (character) marks are permitted, including knots, worm holes, wide colour variations and black mineral streaks. I don’t recall ever reading of a specific number of worm holes being aloud. If they are tiny holes they could be filled or just set that board aside. If it has already been installed it can still be removed and replaced.

Acacia wood smells?

Q: I have boxes of both Bellawood Ash and Short Leaf Acacia, both 3/4″ prefinished hardwood. The ash, from the US, has virtually no aroma. The acacia, an exotic hardwood, prefinished in China, has a strong aroma which I am attempting to vent. What is the aroma? Could it be just the wood scent, the poly, the aluminum oxide? Or something else?

By the way, the acacia is carefully packaged, with foam between the layers of boards and the whole is wrapped in plastic inside the wooden box. The ash has no foam or plastic packaging.

A: I’m not aware of any strong odour from this wood. Even if one could be smelled for example when cutting as can be the case with some woods, products made and finished in China are coated on all sides. So I don’t see how a wood odor could be the cause of this. I don’t know what finish they used either. But they typically will receive an order with the required specs which they must fulfill. After such a long trip across the ocean the finish is long dried. My suspicion will fall to the packaging. That foam wrap they used.

Is walnut durable?

Q: I am going to put hard wood in my entrance way and kitchen. I do not like the grain in oak. I do like walnut. Will it be durable enough for a hallway and kitchen?

We are a small family with one small cat, no heavy usage, but I am concerned with denting it if I drop something.

A: Walnut of course is very beautiful wood but like any natural wood product it will dent to one degree or another depending on the weight of the item dropped. Walnut is somewhat soft. If it is finished with a good product the finish itself will hold up well, but it won’t prevent denting. Hickory is much harder but is prone to gapping with large swings in humidity.

Your cat won’t hurt your floor but I think you need to realize that it is a floor to be walked on. it isn’t a dining room table top. Otherwise, you will always be stressed out about every little dent or mark and will end up becoming a slave to what you are walking on. This is probably why some have chosen to distress their floors such as pine from the start so other dings aren’t a big deal.

Bad product or bad installer?

Q: Is there any reason I should expect (or accept) a floor that’s been installed (HW oak prefinished) with dings so that it needs to be filled in and stained by myself? Also it has a micro-bevelled edges and I see pieces that do not line up (or fit correctly). One of the pieces I’ve found so far has a three-inch slice missing along the fitting and you can see the subfloor.

A: That depends if these marks and defects are part of the product you purchased at reduced cost or are the result of rough handling during installation. I’ve seen some very poorly manufactured floors along the way where there was significant variation in the width of the boards. It’s an installers nightmare. So, it really depends whether the problem is the product itself or the result of what the installer did or didn’t do.

Contractor used white oak instead of red oak for repairs

Q: We recently had some remodeling done in a house that we just bought. The entire house has beautiful wood floors with walnut inlays dating from the late 30’s. In building the master suite, some new wood was needed to cover areas that had been carpeted in a previously-built addition. The color does not match very well, and the contractor simply claims to be surprised that it did not work out as well as he planned.

I asked a flooring specialist to take a look, and he claims that the contractor used white oak instead of red. Can I assume that any flooring pro could tell the difference upon inspection, and that it’s fair to say that I can confront the contractor with those facts?

A: An age difference of 70 or more years is bound to show a difference in colour, with the older boards generally darkening.

White oak and red oak are simply not the same colour and a flooring professional would or should know that. A lot of older homes also had white oak, quarter sawn, which may or may not be your old floor. This ‘cut’ shows ‘tiger stripes’ as the grain pattern rather than the heavy, sweeping grain so typical in plain sawn red oak.

If the contractor used the wrong species for the repairs or even the incorrect grade, (#1 common is a lot darker generally than select and better or clear grade) then I think it is fair to say he should be made aware of it and make the correction. Especially if the floor is a natural, not stained floor.

Don’t expect a perfect colour match.

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.

Related Q: I did a DIY install of hickory hardwood flooring and found several boards had what is called checking. I was able to remove them OK, but time was against me and I had to wait a week to try and reinstall the new pieces. Now they don’t fit, the space has shrunk? Is there anything I can do to reshrink the wood.

A: It could also be the board you tried to fit is not milled perfectly or has itself swelled. If you have a number of boards, check if any of them fit. It not, you will have to run the board through a table saw to cut it down to fit. Usually, when I am replacing a board in the middle of the floor, I remove the bottom edge of the groove side, leaving the tongue in place.

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.

Knots, checks, coloration in rustic wood

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?


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.

Flaws in lower priced, lower grade of flooring

Q: We recently had hardwood (unfinished, common #1 red oak) installed in our living room. Upon inspection after the finishing (natural stain and 3 coats of tongue oil), we noticed many marks on many of the planks (2 1/4 in.) which range from 1/4- 1 inch long, 1/16″ wide to 1/16″ deep. They are almost black in color and go directly against the grain of the wood. They have been explained as wormholes.

Also, during the installation many nails were placed too closed to the edges and caused some small cracks, most but not all will be hidden by the base. Lastly, there are gaps between the majority planks.

Should I have the flooring company come back and re-fill, sand and refinish?

A: It sounds to me that these are things one has to expect when buying a lower priced, lower grade of flooring. Defects such as the dark pits, dark mineral streaks, etc. are all part of that grade, as are a lot more short lengths. It sounds like the gaps could be caused by poor milling. Again, a low grade product at low cost means less attention to the quality of the end product.

If the splits will be covered by base, I wouldn’t worry about them. The guys perhaps could have done a better job on filling gaps. The NWFA lists gaps as thick as a dime to be “normal”. I don’t see that a complete sanding is needed. The gaps could be filled, the last coat buffed and then another coat applied.

Is it possible to purchase wide pine flooring that’s pre-finished?

Q: Is it possible to purchase wide pine flooring that’s pre-finished? We’re going to be installing wide pine in several rooms (over existing, 160 year old floor w/lead paint). I’d love not to have to move out entirely to have the floors finished!

A: I’m afraid I don’t really know. I’ve never seen wide pine pre-finished. I would suggest you contact or email Timberline hardwood Dimensions in New York State and speak to Steve Crain.

New heart pine doesn’t match old heart pine

Q: I recently had a room converted to hardwood floors and asked that the floors match the existing wood in the house. I’d like to send you pictures to get your opinion. Apparently the existing wood is “heart pine”, possibly antique. The company that installed the new floor is telling I got “heart pine”, but it doesn’t look the same.

A second professional came out and told me the problem was the floors were a different type of wood, but from what I’ve found out online there seems to be no set definition of heart pine and that it comes in different %. Any advice on how to not be taken advantage of by the company that did the install?

A: My view is that I would never tell a home owner I can exactly match a new floor with an older one. Wood changes over time, certainly in colour.

Dry Wood Heat and Hardwood Floors

Q: We’ve been wanting to put solid wood floors down in our home, when it is time to replace the carpet we laid after building our home. Recently, we had some water damage on the second floor which damaged our 1st floor master bedroom and on down to the basement. Well, instead of carpet in our bedroom we want to install a hardwood floor. Originally, we liked hickory for the strength. Since the damage, we are researching wood flooring and since we heat our home with a wood furnace in the basement, we aren’t too sure about hickory in our bedroom. The house gets very warm in the winter and our bedroom can range in the 80’s in the winter. Very warm. What type of hardwood floor should we install in our bedroom? We’re thinking Mesquite might do better in our bedroom, since it is the hottest room in the winter and coolest in the summer. In the next few days, we will have to make a decision. The restoration company will begin remodeling all the damaged areas. So we need to decide on a wood species for the floor and we are finding it difficult to make a decision because of the dry wood heat.

A: Mesquite isn’t a common species here in Canada, so I don’t really have any experience with it. It is fairly hard and I have noted that the harder, denser woods such as Hickory, Maple, Jatoba also tend to be more unstable with changes in climate, exhibiting greater shrinkage and gapping. Have you considered quarter sawn white oak? It is harder than red oak, has a unique tiger stripe sort of grain and stains well.

Best wood floor acoustics

Q: I am about do up my 14*11 penthouse room, and I want a wooden floor. I am definitely not going for a laminate. Should I go for softwood or hardwood, and how should I lay it? Considering I am a musician, it would be nice if it helps in the acoustics of the room. Which species has the best wood floor acoustics? Also, what are your thoughts on deodar cedar?

A: I’m not an expert on acoustics and don’t know how soft or hard wood affects that. I do know that concrete buildings generally require a sound absorbing barrier under a wood or engineered floor. That could be cork or a synthetic material. Keep in mind, the softer the wood, the easier it will dent.

Note from webmaster: Below are some related links I’ve digged up.

“My experience has been that wood flooring increases volume…” This forum has a thread on the issue in relation to various flooring effects on acoustics:

“Hardwood is better than carpet for acoustics…” a similar thread only in relation to hardwood:

“Wood and acoustics in buildings” and “Wood in concert halls” are some of the topics covered in this article:

Here is an article entitled “Sound Tranmission and Flooring Types”:

And this post hints at the complexity of the issue not just by species, but subspecies:

Good luck!

What type of wood floor is it that has this wavy, raised texture sort of look?

Q: We recently were in a home while house hunting that had very interesting “wood” floors and I am interested in finding out what they were. I want to have this installed in our new home. I am assuming that they were a manufactured product as they had a raised grain appearance. That really does not explain them correctly… it was more wavy, on purpose though. Not cupping. Rather, the individual boards had a wavy raised texture that was pronounced. Textured wood flooring. Does that explain it well enough?

A: Yes, that is manufactured. It is called “hand scraped”.

Sand on site maple is more unstable than oak?

Q: I have read and been told sand on site maple is more unstable than oak. We are renovating our house which, will have spray foam insulation, and a new furnace with HRV unit. Should we be concerned we installing maple floors? Which is okay re: maple vs oak wood flooring?

A: No, I wouldn’t be concerned. Make sure the flooring is well acclimated before installation and try to avoid very high humidity in summer and very dry conditions in winter. Sounds like you have it covered. But don’t be concerned if you get an occasional little gap here or there. All wood will expand and contract a little. Make sure the floor has an expansion gap along the outside walls.

White spots/gum deposits develop in Brazilian cherry and rosewood?

Q: Have you seen white spots, gum deposits develop in Brazilian cherry and rosewood? What is behind the white spots? Is it a natural occurrence?

A: It is a natural occurrence. Certain compounds in the wood can react with the solvents in our finishes and turn white. I have heard that it is hit and miss, so you never know which batch of wood is going to have this reaction, much like issues with tannin in white oak with some water borne finishes. I have attached a short article from Poloplaz regarding how to deal with this.

What is “R&Q” flooring?

Q: We are looking to install wood flooring over radiant heat. The term “R&Q flooring” has come up. What does this mean? Are we limited to engineered wood flooring?

A: Rift and Quarter sawn is more of a vertical angle with the grain rather than plain or flat sawn and is more stable in side to side movement than plain sawn. It is also more expensive because less of it can be cut from a log. Here is an article regarding radiant heat from woodfloorsonline.com.