Splits on edges of board due to wear

Q: We recently had some oak engineered flooring installed and have noticed two small splits at the very edge of one of the boards. I think they have steadily gotten worse as they sit right near a door threshold, which is a high trodden area. Can it be repaired or will we need to replace it? Thanks.

A: You could use some colour matched wood putty to simply mask the cracks. A good product is Color Rite. Comes in tubes. Dozens of choices and easy to work with. If the split get serious then of course the board will have to be replaced.

Glue down hardwood floor separating at joints

Q: My parents had hardwood floors installed in their home a little over a year ago. They live in a home that is about 8 years old and the 3 rooms that had the flooring put in all had carpet in them previously, which was properly removed. Then the floor was levelled. This weekend the flooring started separating at the joints, in random parts of all 3 rooms, which are in different parts of the house. The installer is a friend of mine and he had never seen or heard of such a thing. The flooring was purchased from my work, and when I spoke to the decorator here she said that it has to be an installation problem. The installer knows he used the correct type of glue, but have you ever heard of a floor doing this after being down long? The house has no structural issues.

A: This floor is glue down? It sounds like the sub floor is shrinking and the glued down floor is separating at the sub floor seams. I’ve seen it only a few times in 40 years, even on very old floors. It stands to reason, the finished floor will react to what the sub floor is doing. I would put a moisture meter on both the finished floor and sub floor if you have access to that. They should be within 4% of each other. You may also check the humidity level by placing a hygrometer on the floor for a short time, say 15 minutes. I feel fairly confident the issue is the sub floor itself. What was used to level the floor? If water was added to the sub floor along the joints (I assume it is sheets of something) it may have expanded and then as it dried it shrunk.

Filling large gaps in wood floor

Q: I live in a 200 year old house that was nicely restored about 40 years ago. Our living room has a pine plank floor, which was finished in shellac (I think). The boards have separated over the years and there are large gaps ranging from 1/16″ to 3/4″ of an inch. Since the boards go under the walls there is no way to lift and move them. I also don’t want to refinish the floor, as it is rather striking as it is. What was in the gaps previous seemed to be a mixture of clay, sawdust, hair, and maybe glue (very old-timey). I have cleaned all of this out.

My current strategy is to fill the large (3/4″) gaps with a strip of wood (dyed and finished to match), and use dyed hemp rope in the medium sized gaps. I might use dyed hemp rope for the bigger gaps as well. If you have any other suggestions, I’d be grateful. I also wonder if there is something to put in the smaller gaps that won’t require refinishing the boards.

A: It sounds to me you’ve got a good grasp of how to take care of these gaps. As for the small ones, there are numerous coloured fillers in jars and tubes you can search out. Push it into the tiny gaps and wipe the residue off the surface with a damp cloth.

New wood floor splitting

Q: We moved into a new home. Our oak floors are only 1 year old. In their first year there have been dozens of splits in several areas of the main floor. What causes new wood floor splitting? We have an HRV that runs all the time and the humidity is 40%, constant.

A: I would say your humidity levels are near perfect as can be. However, you say this is a new home. To me this is a clue. I’ve worked in houses being built. It isn’t pretty! The structure is suppose to be dry and the floors acclimated before installation but often that is not the case. And so, everything is rushed and over months the sub floor and finished floor continue to shed moisture and shrink. Certain cuts of flooring are more prone to getting splits such as quartered and rift sawn. It may be the cracks were present in the boards at installation but were not noticed. As the floor dries and shrinks they appear! Ideal at installations is 7-9% moisture in hardwood and not more than 4% difference between it and the sub floor.

Follow-up Q: Thank you for taking the time to respond. That’s what my wife and I thought. It may be because the builder isn’t owning up and said it’s on us. We’re just trying to find as much info as possible. Is there any else that could cause this? Thanks again.

A: Well, wood and wood products will react to environmental conditions. I don’t see a thing wrong with the humidity levels you hold. I live in a fairly cold climate and in winter 40% would be the upper level I would recommend in a house without creating condensation issues. When I lived in —— I was asked to look at pre finished floors in a sub division in Welland. The floors were all cupped. Clearly the structure was not dry when the floors were installed. Terrion, the warranty company and the builder said this condition was acceptable within their standards! It’s a load of crap in my view but how can you fight it without it costing more than the floors and enough stress to bring on cardiac arrest? I suspect the system is set up that way. Kind of like getting a ticket and to fight it will cost more than the price of the ticket. When it comes to new construction, builders usually have different price packages. I would tell someone go for the cheapest and do upgrades with private, personally chosen contractors after you move in. That way you avoid the huge builder mark ups and get personalized service. I know that is too late in this case.

Related Q: Hi. We built a house last year and had wood flooring fitted on top of UFH. Within the last 6 months the solid floor has started to split. We currently have 70-75% of the floor showing cracks, some of the cracks are quite large. The UFH was all fitted correctly with no problems. Any ideas why this might be? I’m not having much luck with the company who fitted it. Thanks.

A: Possibly the flooring or the milled wood used to make the flooring was not properly dried. Are you also getting gaps between boards? I would definitely press the installation company to come back and have a look. I would also find out who the manufacturer of the floor is and contact them.

Follow-up Q: Hi, thanks for getting back to me. I have tried contacting the supplier, but they don’t deal directly with the public. I have got gaps but nothing substantial.

A: Wood will always react to it’s environment. I think your floor is drying and is thus presenting some cracks. Honest business practice would say somebody should come back and at least look at it and take some moisture readings and give advice. I will suggest you contact the National Wood Flooring Association as a last resort. They have a lot of expert advice and have trained people who may be in your area to come in and evaluate this problem.

Poplar floors have cracked, gapped, and some planks slightly cupped

Q: Problem- Floors have cracked, gapped, and some planks slightly cupped.

Floor Description: 3/4″ Thick, 5″ wide new poplar floors, installed fall/2008.

Finish: A water-based polyurethane finish was applied to unfinished boards after installation.

There is a full size, unheated basement below the floors.

Humidity readings we started taking in late winter of 2009 have run consistently between 40 to 50 percent.

Our contractor has contacted the poplar flooring supplier who said he does not guarantee his lumber. I was not told this when I bought the planks.

Our contractor has said there is nothing he can do. He explained (which we already knew) what would have to be done to replace the floors: moving furniture, ripping out baseboards, damage to dry wall, etc. Needless to say we are talking about a huge expense. Additionally, he said he couldn’t replace the cracked/split planks, as they are tongue and groove. He also stated the cracking may happen again with any new planks. We are not willing to accept this non-solution as it has greatly decreased the value of our home, not to mention how it looks. Last year when I talked to him about the floors again, he said the cracks just make the floor look old.

I need to know what I should do to pursue this issue, as my contractor is not interested in seeking further information in helping solve our problem.

I was 3 hours away taking care of sick parents the majority of time the contractor was installing our floors, so I do not know how they installed the floors. I do think they placed paper on the subfloor. The contractor said they protected the planks prior to installation. I do know they cut the planks outside as they installed the floor and I know they did not take lumber back to the basement at the end of the day. I also do not know if they allowed time for planks to acclimate to the environment. I do not know if they checked the moisture level of the planks or the sub-flooring prior to installation. How should they have installed the floors? Adhesive? Should floors have been nailed or stapled?

The contractor has stated he thinks this would not have happened had I used an oil-based polyurethane finish. I question this, as the supplier I purchased my finish product from is reliable and has not had this problem occur.

Another interesting observation: The floors installed in the first two rooms have not cracked.

Bottom line, our contractor has basically walked away from the problem (both literally and figuratively). We have had a leak in our ceiling originating from the bathroom vent, and he has not returned to fix it since we revisited the floor problem.

Should we, the homeowners, be financially responsible for this problem? What steps should we take to investigate the problem? Call in a floor specialist to look at the floors?

We live in a very small community. Finding resource people is difficult, as we live 2 to 3 hours away from a major city. We do not want to get into litigation.


Many thanks for responding to this problem.

A: I’ve never worked with poplar flooring. It isn’t very common, at least not in Canada. I have read however that it is subject to checking and splitting during drying. These boards probably already had splits in them which went unnoticed during installation but opened up after finishing which is a common occurrence. Everything you have described to me is a moisture related issue. Gapping? Given the readings for RH in your basement this would tend to suggest the flooring may not have been acclimated to the room it was installed in. One of your comments suggest the flooring was stacked in this unheated basement. I would suggest perhaps running a dehumidifier year round in the basement to keep the RH between 40-45%. I doubt using a water borne coating had anything to do with any of this. While they are called water borne, there really is only a minute amount of water in modern coatings of this nature.

It doesn’t matter that the floors are tongue and groove regarding board replacement. Make 2 saw cuts down the center of the cracked planks and remove that center piece of plank between the cuts. Then remove the lengths on each side with hammer and chisel. Remove the bottom edge on the groove side of the new plank, apply glue and tap the new plank in place with the tongue being the leading edge. That isn’t all that difficult really.

You could see if you have an inspector from the National Wood Flooring Association who would be willing to come and give a report.

I understand not wanting to go to court. That drags it out, doesn’t fix the problem and just causes everyone a lot of pain.

Large slivers of wood have broken off leaving big gaps

Q: We purchased a foreclosed home and it had water damage on the hardwood floors. We have been here 5 years and within that time large wood slivers have broken off leaving big gaps. We were told that nothing could really be done because of the heat expanding it, that it will continue to get worse. Before we go ahead and tile I would like to try and save these floors. I love hardwoods, but can’t afford to put in all new flooring.

A: I suspect the edges are breaking because the floor has been sanded too many times and the stress of the water damage (which does swell the wood) was just too much for the floor. If there is a lot of flex between the oak and the sub floor that would put even more pressure on these thin edges when you walk over those areas. It depends how many areas have splintered as to weather it is worth trying to keep. I have used a polyurethane adhesive in such gaps. It does hold the 2 boards quite well, but expands as it cures. So you would be wise to tape the floor along and around the gap first. This adhesive is in bottles from Home Depot. It’s not the thick adhesive in cartridges. This is moisture cure polyurethane adhesive. Also, you will have to cut the excess away flush to the floor with a sharp knife when dry and spread some wood filler over top of it to try to colour it and fill the air pockets it has a tendency to leave.

Repairing a split/crack in one of the boards

Q: We just recently bought a new house that has hardwoods throughout. In one of our rooms we noticed a split/crack in one of the boards. Can we replace that piece or repair it in some way? It seems like it could get worse, like someone could catch their socks on it. Any suggestions?

A: Of course, a piece can be dropped in after cutting the old piece out. You will need a matching board, a circular saw, hammer, chisel and some adhesive.

Similar Q: I recently installed hardwood flooring in my living room. One of the boards has a crack in it. It was not there when I installed it. What would cause this? Is there a way to repair it?

A: It was there when you installed it. You just didn’t see it. Now, with shifting of moisture levels it has opened up a bit. Replace the board.

What causes cracking in wood boards

Q: What would cause cracking in wood floors, board ends and the centre of the boards 6 months after installation?

A: What species of wood is it? Some very hard exotics seem prone to splitting. Likewise, sometimes a piece of oak can have a crack in it but not be noticed during installation; it can appear later as the floor shifts with humidity change.

A couple cracks and scratches on newly installed floor

Q: I have recently installed hardwood flooring. I have noticed that, on some strips of wood there are scratches and in 2 strips of hardwood there is a crack about 3 inches long. Please advice as to how I could fix this, how to repair cracked floor boards. The hardwood used in this case is cherry kempas.

A: You will have to replace the cracked board, and probably the scratched ones also. You could try hand sanding the scratched boards and applying a water borne coating to the entire strip in the appropriate sheen but I don’t think you will get a match.

Filler that won’t crack?

Q: I was wondering if you could help me with a flooring wood filler cracking / polyurethane issue. My floor was professionally refinished 1 year ago and was to have a ‘worn’ look to it. We left many gaps and wanted only to fill the gaping holes and to make the entire house seem uniform in its’ ‘old world’ floor appearance.

One year later, however, the filler has separated in several areas, causing an open space for debris and dirt to land. The floor had 2 coats of Poly, but these gaps do not appear to have any poly stopping dirt from entering into the cracks.

My question: The floors still look great and we like them to look old and worn, but we wonder if these gaps are going to soon cause problems or if this is a refinishing issue that should not have appeared so soon. Is there something we need to do, like apply more poly, or is this just typical wear for wood flooring?

A: The only wood filler (I know of) which makes boasts about not cracking out is Timbermate. As robust as this product is, it also can separate if there is shrinkage of the floor, which is what it sounds like has happened to your floors. This has nothing to do with the sanding-finishing job that was done. You might want to buy a colour match tube of Color-rite filler/caulking to try. Polyurethane is not a gap filler.

How do you fills gaps in laminate floor?

Q: How do you fills gaps in laminate floor? There are gaps between the boards in my laminated floors.

A: There really should not be any gaps between laminate if it is a decent product to begin with. There are all sorts of wood filler on the market to choose from. It probably won’t look great. But you can fill gaps in laminate flooring with them. If there are not many gaps, consider a tube filler product such as Color Rite. www.colorriteinc.com

Filling gaps in pine floors and planks

Q: We have pine plank floors in our century home and they all seem to have developed gaps up to 1/4′. What do you suggest to filling gaps in pine floors, so all the misc. floor things (dust, etc.) don’t buildup?

A: You might consider a product such as this: www.timbermate.com
You no doubt will have to tint it to get it to a close enough colour to match the pine floors.

Similar Q: Is there a product that will fill gaps between the long planks for a polyurethane covered floor, that can be applied to a large area? Using wax sticks seems like it could take days to apply. I’m wondering if a colored paste wax might do the trick? Any help appreciated.

A: You could apply a product such as from Final Touch with a putty knife or trowel. You would have to wipe off the residue from the finish before it dries with a damp cloth, and you would have to apply stain or finish to the gaps after it dries.

Gaps developing between some boards

Q: I have hardwood installed throughout my home (maple 3 inch). Lately, I noticed some gaps between some boards. Maybe 1/8 inch or less. I have air exchanger installed. What could be the cause of these gaps? Our home is 1-1/2 years old.

A: The humidity levels are too low. Common problem in winter. In cold climates I would try to keep the RH in the home near 40% RH.

Similar Q: Unfinished oak flooring was installed in our home a few years ago. Sanded and finished on site. It now shows cracks at the end of boards (not down the side). Is this from a lack of humidity?

A: Difficult to say, because wood flooring usually expands and contracts side to side, across the width of the floor. Though in the case of quarter sawn, it expands and contracts up and down. Shrinkage and hence gapping does indicate a lower moisture content in the wood compared to when it was first installed. If the shrinkage is more severe the top coat finish may stretch and fracture making the gap more obvious.

What is “checking”?

Q: I hear our new engineered hardwood floors are ‘checking’ everywhere. Though I’m not sure what checking is — please describe and is this normal?

A: I wouldn’t have expected an engineered floor to do this. Woodfloorsonline.com Has a glossary of terms under their FAQ section which explains what ‘checking’ is. What species of wood is this? Another related site mentions some exotic species and the need to make sure the wood if properly dried or checking could occur: Exoticwoodfloors.com.

Further, I have a wood dictionary which defines ‘checking’ this way: a lumber defect caused by uneven shrinking of the wood during drying. A checked board has splits which develop lengthwise across the growth rings.

Is it possible that this product was purchased from some far off place such as…let me see….China? Did the installers take moisture readings of the product before they started installing? If it had abnormal readings for whatever reason and then started drying out after installation perhaps this may have caused the problem. However, in that severe scenario, I would also have expected separation between the boards themselves. I think the manufacturer should send a representative to have a look.

Crack along a board in kitchen

Q: I have a new crack along the line of one board in the kitchen (along the seem- between boards). It’s uneven and seems to be getting worse. What would cause this?

A: Perhaps there was a spill there and water got between the boards, curling or cupping slightly the edge of at least one of the boards. Just a guess.

Follow-up Q: Thanks for getting back to me. I considered this as well. How would I go about fixing?

A: I would let it sit for a while and see if it corrects itself.

Gaps between hardwood planks

Q: I had my 30 year old oak floors redone. There were some areas were we had removed a fireplace mantle where the wood was put in new. They sanded and applied 3 coats of the Glista (scary after reading about it on your site, and to boot, they used no respirators!) I just noticed today that there are small cracks between the planks where the has now separated, gaps between hardwood planks. Can this be repaired by reapplication? Will they have to redo the floor completely? The old coating sure didn’t show separation before so what’s up with it pulling apart now? Was it the flooring guys not knowing what they were doing?

A: I think you need to add some moisture to your home climate. That is why the repaired areas are shrinking.

Follow-up Q: Would that be true for the boards that weren’t replaced? We are in Hawaii, so I didn’t think about the moisture…

A: I may have misunderstood your comments. I hope not. I thought you were saying the entire floor was developing gaps. Am I correct to assume it is just the new wood which was used for repairs? If that is the case, the guys should have checked it’s moisture content before using it to be sure it was close to that of your existing floor. If it was above normal, 7-9% it would shrink as it starts to shed the excess moisture.

Second follow-up Q: Well, yes it is by where it was repaired, but then it is in places where the floor wasn’t repaired too… that’s why I thought it was weird. It’s just some places in the middle of the floor away from the repairs. It has been somewhat dry, so do I just wait for the expansion to fill the hole or do I need to reseal?

A: I would try to increase the humidity a bit but not apply more finish. That really won’t solve anything. Come to think of it, I need to get a humidifier myself. My hygrometer has been showing me readings of less that 30% RH, even down to 27%. Far too dry.

Related Q: We purchased an 8 year old waterfront home in April 2012. It had approximately 1000 sq ft of hardwood floors, which were cupping in places, finish worn off or thin in others. There were some spaces/cracks between some boards in the worn areas. We live in an area of high humidity in the winter. In the fall, just before the rains started, we had the floors sanded and finished with three coats of swedish finish. During the last month, there have been increasing loud snapping or popping noises from the floor (we think), like someone dropping a number of heavy magazines or large books flat on the floor. In addition, large cracks (less than a dime width?) are appearing between a number of the boards. The noises appear to be more at night. We have the HVAC set at 70 during the day and 68 at night. We assume this is a humidity problem, but too little humidity in the middle of rainy season is curious? We have no humidifiers or dehumidifiers. Is there anything we could do?

A: Being a waterfront home, my guess is the floor cupped because it wasn’t properly acclimated before installation. It does sound to me like the popping sounds are from the boards shrinking during periods of low humidity. Swedish finish is a very hard coating. I don’t know how much it stretches but likely some of it has seeped between boards and dried on top of the tongue. If the boards shrink (a gap as thick as a dime would be considered normal, not large) something has to give and I think it is the sound of the finish breaking it’s bond between 2 boards. I would suggest buying a hygrometer to monitor the humidity levels in the
home. They are fairly inexpensive. Other than trying to control humidity levels within a range, I think you really are just looking at time to solve the issue unless cupping returns. In that case you are looking at another problem and another cause.

Follow-up: No cupping evident since we had them refinished two months ago. We will watch the cracks expand and shrink for a year and then decide what to do! We will learn to sleep through the pops I am sure! Humidity hovers around 40% + or – depending on outside temp and the furnace activity.

Edges raising in centers of laminate boards

Q: We had a laminate floor fitted 6 months ago, and some edges in the center are raising slightly. Also, there are slight divisions becoming apparent in some areas. Is this expected or should I complain to the fitters?

A: This type of flooring is supposed to be more stable than solid wood. Not all are created equal. what you describe is usually a symptom of excess humidity swings. During installation, a gap should have been left along walls to allow for any expansion. That may be an issue here as well as the product you had installed. I wouldn’t consider it normal or desirable.

Fill gaps with fiberglass?

Q: I live in Singapore and my house has hardwood floor strips (Balau wood from Malaysia). One year after installation there are visible gaps between the floor strips (tongue and grove) and the putty used to cover them keeps coming out when vacuuming the floor.

The contractor suggested we fill the gaps with fiberglass and re-sand after staining: is this practical? I’ve see you suggest a different kind of wood filler, but not fiberglass. Would fiberglass be a good solution? Another contractor suggested to use the same filler as I have today (probably just sawdust and glue), as he says the wood has already shrunk to the max, and it won’t come out… Can I trust him?

A: If you are sure these gaps will not close up with increased humidity, then you need something that will fill the gaps and also accept stain. I don’t see fiber glass doing that. You would be better off using a product such as I found here. A moisture cure adhesive in a bottle which accepts stain, or take a look at Timbermate: www.timbermate.com