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.

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

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.

Related Q: We have birch hardwood throughout our hall, living/dining areas, that has been varnished. Would it look like a mishmash job if we were to put oak parquet floors (similar but not exact coloring to existing flooring) in the bedrooms off the hall? I am not sure if I would be able to get an exact match for the birch anyways, so I’m wondering if it’s okay to mix woods?

A: I don’t (personally) have a problem with using different species in a house provided the area that has the different species is a totally different type of living space or is isolated from the rest of the house. For example, I would consider the kitchen to be quite a different area compared to living room, dining room or den, so I wouldn’t have a problem with a different species in the kitchen. You might consider the bedrooms to be isolated somewhat from the rest of the house, generally separated by a hallway. (I’m not an interior decorator though!) I’m not so sure I would use parquet if the rest of the house is plank or long strip, though.

Related Q: I want hardwood in 3 bedrooms. I have oak, red, in great room. Bedrooms are separated from GR by a tile hallway. Do I need to match bedrooms to the great room?

A: In my opinion, no you don’t have to match the bedrooms to the living room. They are 3 separate rooms, somewhat isolated from the other. You might say they share no relationship to each other. Would you feel compelled to paint the bedroom walls the same as the great room? No, I didn’t think so either. 😉

Note from webmaster: 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.