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.

Is it OK to install different hardwoods/species in different rooms/areas of house?

Q: Could you please settle a quandary. We have oak floors downstairs in our home. We would like to install hardwood flooring ourselves upstairs. The thing is that we would like to put in something more interesting than oak. Is it OK to install a different hardwood species upstairs? Does this lessen the homes value, turn potential buyers off? The current golden oak is older so we wouldn’t be able to match it exactly. we were thinking of a light hickory (no dark boards, it’s really pretty) upstairs.

A: I (personally) don’t see any issues in using a different species upstairs because it is a different living space altogether. It might be risky installing some exotic that that is so foreign in it’s appearance. For example, Purple Heart. Not all buyers would want a purple floor. Hickory is native to North America and our hardest species. I’ve never seen a hickory sample that didn’t have dark boards in the mix. Where are you getting yours from? I’ve never worked with Hickory in 36 years, though I think it has become more available in recent years. One day I want to remove the 70 year old oak strip in the front of my house and replace it either with quarter sawn white oak or Hickory.

Note: It may be best to ask a realtor to find out how fussy people can be about this.

Where does “pumpkin pine” come from and what other names do they call it?

Q: I have recently installed 672 square feet of pumpkin pine floors in our home and 1×12 white pine upstairs. The reason for this is I found the pumpkin to be somewhat harder than the white, thus a little better to stand up to foot traffic. My problem is I need to install stair treads and cant seem to locate pumpkin pine in a stander 1×12. It all seems to come as the floors did w/groves on the underside. If I use this to make my treads you will see the underside above eye level with the overhang. I can’t plane them off as I will still have to sand them and then they will be too thin. I also don’t want to add a 3rd species of wood into the house. what do I do?

2nd Question: Where does pumpkin pine wood come from and what other names do they call it. I have called several lumber yards and they never heard of it. I have read that it is eastern white pine, is that correct? I installed white pine on the 2nd floor and it is not nearly as hard as the pumpkin.

A: There are private mills all over the place. Any of them would likely make you treads for the right price. Another option could be to have stair nosings made of white pine and after cutting back the over hang on the existing tread (I don’t know what you have in place currently) flush with the riser below it, install the nosing and then fill in the rest of the tread with your white pine flooring.

I’ve never heard of pumpkin pine either. I do however have an encyclopedia called Wood Explorer and according to it, Pumpkin and eastern white are the same.

Will Wenge solid wood flooring become lighter or darker over time?

Q: I am wanting to purchase Wenge solid wood flooring. Can you confirm whether overtime the wood will become lighter or darker? I found the Black American Walnut I laid in my old house became very pale and light over a period of 3 years and I want to avoid this happening with the Wenge.

A: One resource I have says wenge wood flooring will become lighter with exposure.

A depression where the grain shows

Q: We just had our oak hardwood floor refinished and are not happy with the finish. It looks like the polyurethane is uneven. You can especially notice it when squatting down and looking forward. Wherever the wood grain is showing it looks like there is a bit of a depression. Overall instead of getting a flat smooth looking floor it seems to have undulations. We also had a new section of floor which looks the same. Our installer says its the nature of the wood, but it didn’t look that way before we had it refinished. Any idea what is causing this and how to fix it?

A: It is the nature of the wood actually. That heavy grain in plain sawn oak is quite a bit softer than the surrounding material. When it is sanded more wood is removed from the heavy grain in what is called dish-out. This softer grain also tends to absorb the finish to a greater degree than the rest of the wood. Though not as pronounced as it is after sanding, you can look closely at such a board straight from the mill and never sanded. The heavy grain is slightly depressed on those boards too. If you don’t like this natural look of plain sawn oak, perhaps you should have selected quartered and rift sawn…

Staining fir floors

Q: We are refinishing our fir floors. We have used a dark stain called jacobean. The color looks great. Now we have put a satin polyurethane on, and it has appeared to make the tone more of a red color. The stain was a darker brown with a slighty grey/charcoal tone. is there a reson for this? It is a clear coat. Will it take time to get back to the color, or will it still have red tones now? This is after one coat. Will it get further away from the color the more you put on? Also, do you have to put polyurethane on?

A: Apparently fir can be a fussy wood to stain. I did some steps not long ago and none of the stains I tried looked as I would have expected if I had used them on another wood.

Why this didn’t become apparent before the poly was applied, I do not know. I think what you now see is what you will have. There is another “better” way to stain soft woods. Mix the stain into a tung oil based product called Waterlox at a ratio of 4:1 and mop on. Don’t wipe off. Let dry and continue to apply 3 more coats of Waterlox or apply the finish of your choice. www.waterlox.com

This won’t work now that you have applied a coat of polyurethane. As a real “old timer” often says: test test test.

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.

Any wood species that won’t fade much?

Q: I am installing a new kitchen. I would like to use hardwood floors throughout the great room which includes the kitchen. I also live on the water with a lot of windows and skylights. What kind of wood do you recommend, keeping in mind the fade factor? I am looking at a Brazilian Teak or Brazilian Oak at the moment. Any thoughts?

A: I’m not yet familiar with the species you mention. It has only been in the last 10 years or so that so many exotics have started to appear in this area. Most woods will change colour from exposure to sunlight, as most items do. Some are quite rapid and extreme, such as Jatoba. It is my understanding that Cabreuva (Santos Mahogany) tends not to change nearly as much though will get darker. It offers excellent stability and durability. I personally love the look of the wood. Or you could go with a domestic species such as quarter sawn white oak.

White Oak

Q: I’d like to put in White Oak throughout 3 bedrooms, a dining room, a hall and foyer. What would that cost, in Toronto? I want HARD wood that’s dog friendly. If something cheaper is actually better, that would be nice.

A: White oak is fairly pricey. Especially quarter sawn, which is more than $5.00 sq. ft. (in Toronto) + labour, delivery, etc. It is slightly harder than red oak. It’s real advantage is that it doesn’t expand/contract from side to side, so you should expect little to no gapping. Flat sawn red oak offers decent hardness with a heavy grain pattern that tends to hide dog scratches. Hickory is quite hard, but I don’t have a current price on it.

Color variation in Brazilian walnut

Q: I just bought unfinished Brazilian Walnut, 5″ wide. How much color variation should Brazilian walnut have? Should there be greens and yellows and red, along with the browns? Is it customary to stain it darker if there are too many color variations?

A: According to one excellent resource, www.woodfloorsonline.com this is what to expect from this type of wood:

“Color Range: Brazilian Walnut”
Click for in depth info.!

I haven’t worked with this product yet. It isn’t actually walnut, but looks something like American walnut. American has quite a range of colour in it from light and creamy, with yellow to quite dark red, brown and orange. If you don’t like the colour range, or if some of the colours you don’t like are so prevalent as to make picking those boards out and not installing them, then you really have the wrong species of wood. I can’t yet grasp why I might install a floor like this and then not want to enjoy the rich colours it offers. As the above resource indicates, like some other exotic species, the colours will change rather rapidly with exposure to light, and become more muted.

What is the difference between folk grade and provincial grade?

Q: What is the difference between folk grade and provincial grade?

A: I have to tell you the truth: I’ve never heard of those expressions before. It used to be: clear, select and better, #1 common etc. Now, manufacturers are making up new names for some of their products. None the less, it should be possible from their web site to discern which type of quality they are referring to for each product.

Webmasters note: As I added this Q&A, I found pictures of folk grade and provincial grade flooring on ebay, from a company called Beauchêne.

Quote from an ebay sales page:

“Beauchene Provincial Grade Stained Maple hardwood flooring features no knots, allows natural color variations for hard maple, and comes in random lengths from 36 to 40 inches.”

While not including a comparable text description, Folk grade pictures look like they might have more character, markings and knots.

I could not find and official website, but there are discussions/comments you can google about Beauchene. It would be best to perhaps go to a wood flooring store and see the differences for yourself, or request samples.

Large dogs and hardwood floors, best species and coatings

Q: I want to put down hardwood floors in the living room and dining room, but we have a 100 lb. Golden Retriever. What type of wood flooring would be our best bet against scratches on the floor? He gets excited and prances around about 5 min. when someone comes over…

A: Any wood will get “impressions” from dog nails if enough pressure is applied. Plain sawn oak (red or white) with heavy grain pattern will do a decent job of hiding these. Maple, though harder, doesn’t really work because of it’s pencil line grain and light colour. White oak is harder than red, as is ash. Hickory might also be a good choice.

Similar Q: Can you recommend a high quality polyurethane varnish, regarding large dogs and hardwood floors? I have two large dogs at home and I am looking for something that would have a resistant finish to scratches.

A: Any finish can and eventually will scratch. However, I have used Poloplaz Primero with great success over the last 5 years or more and it is a very tough coating.