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.

Hickory making popping sounds

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 overreact 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.

Hickory checking

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.

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