The biggest trend in hardwood flooring is currently wide plank flooring. The trend has been shifting this way for many years now and we have seen a change in some installation guidelines from manufacturers of solid and engineered wood flooring as well as adhesive manufacturers. There has also been a recent trend of installing these types of floors directly over concrete which presents a different mindset in the installation process.
Wide plank floors will expand and contract more during the change of seasons than typical strip flooring and presents a few challenges to the installers that need to be addressed and understood during the planning and quoting process. The milling of the wood must be within tighter tolerances, so using a quality mill, usually a bit more expensive, is critical to have a floor that will perform properly and last for decades. The use of moisture barriers and vapor retarders becomes more critical as well, since most of these installations will include some type of adhesive in order to help stabilize the wood flooring during changing conditions within the building and environment.
Moisture is the number one cause of failures in the flooring industry. Controlling moisture from below the flooring, as well as above, is crucial for a long-lasting, successful floor. Not only is keeping moisture in balance good for wood floors, it turns out it’s actually very good for the overall well-being of humans. Bacteria and viruses thrive in extremes… low and high moisture and temperatures. Humidification in the winter and de-humidification in the summer, becomes more important to stay within acceptable ranges. Getting the space ready for hardwood flooring is just as important as getting the wood ready for the space. These two are inseparable. The National Wood Flooring Association has guidelines for flooring and subfloors on acceptable moisture content ranges depending on what part of the country you live in. This is very valuable information when planning a project or writing a specification. Extra time allotted for the installation of hardwood floors should be integrated into every project.
Since wide plank flooring is more sensitive to changes in temperature and moisture, following proper installation guidelines is more critical as well as choosing the proper adhesives and moisture barriers that are compatible with each other and the flooring being installed. A big trend within wide plank flooring is to install prefinished flooring as it can speed up the timeframe of the project. Specifying a glue that’s easy to spread, has 0 VOC’s, and doesn’t chemically damaged a prefinished hardwood floor surface is recommended, as it makes the installation process easier and in turn, saves time and money. Prefinished flooring is available in both solid and engineered and both have their place in the wide plank flooring trend.
Solid wood flooring is generally installed over wooden subfloors using a nail down method or a glue and nail assist for wider planks. Solid floors can also be installed over concrete, just keep in mind that the milling of a solid hardwood for a glue-only installation needs to have smaller tolerances in variation, so this usually means a higher price for that product. Also, solid wood floors are typically only used on and above grade.
This is where engineered flooring has an advantage. It can be installed below, on and above grade and near wet areas (ocean, lake, river-front) since it is a more dimensionally stable product. Engineered wood flooring comes in more thicknesses than solid flooring, so it can be used more widely in high-rises where there are usually more height restrictions than in residential homes.
Be it an engineered or solid wide plank wood floor, the trend seems to be going in this direction more and more from a design standpoint. These wide plank floors are being installed in different patterns, and really help make spaces seem larger. Flooring mills are accommodating this by increasing the overall lengths of the planks as well, in order to create a more pleasing look and design. We have also seen a big trend in using flooring as wall covering materials to accent the floors. Newer, greener coatings, such as natural oils and low VOC water-based finishes, have been the finishing trend with these wide plank floors and provide the end users with a product that will last for decades.