Welcome to NWFA Hardwood Dossier, a new column that will appear on a recurring basis in National Floor Trends. I thought I'd start things off with some answers to frequently asked wood floor-related questions. If you have any other such questions, please send them to me in care of NFT or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. Are there any special procedures I need to follow after wood flooring is delivered to the job site?
A. You need to be conscientious about job site conditions after the wood is delivered. Make sure that you allow adequate time for the wood to acclimate to the job site before installation begins.
You will need to consider geographic location (check the NWFA's technical manual "Water and Wood" for guidelines), moisture test results on the wood, whether the homeowner uses an HVAC, humidifier or dehumidifier, and even if the home will be shut and unoccupied for long periods of time during the year. And, of course, proper ventilation will be necessary to avoid problems down the road. All of these variables can impact the quality of the installation.
The bottom line is that you want the climate on the job site to be as close to living conditions as possible before any installation begins.
Q. Why is proper ventilation so important?
A. Improper ventilation during the installation process can have many negative impacts on wood flooring. Without proper ventilation, moisture could accumulate and, in turn, damage the wood.
However, the most common ventilation problem will occur when applying the finish. Without proper ventilation, the finish will not have an opportunity to dry adequately and the result could be a hazy or excessively shiny appearance. In some cases, an unpleasant odor could result as well. These problems are completely avoidable provided that adequate ventilation is maintained during all stages of the installation, sanding and finishing processes.
Q. Are there any special considerations for installing distressed floors?
A. Distressed floors are in high demand right now and they continue to gain popularity. Their unique, antiqued appearance appeals to many homeowners and businesses who seek that one-of-a-kind floor. Distressed floors require no special installation techniques, but achieving the distressed look is a time-consuming and labor-intensive art.
Hand scraping is the most common distressing technique. It gives the installer the most control over how the floor will look when completed.
Walnut, oak, hickory/pecan and pine are species that adapt well to hand distressing. Other distressing techniques can include use of wire brushes, chains, hammers, chisels, awls and saw blades. Drills, ice picks and wire often are used to create the look of worm holes. Burning is another technique that is used to create a weathered look.
As with all installations, having a clear understanding of the client's expectations will determine how you distress the wood, and how it ultimately is installed.
Q. How do different finishes impact the final product?
A. Determining which type of finish to use on each job will depend greatly on your client's expectations. Surface finishes are very popular today because they are durable, water resistant and require minimal maintenance. Surface finishes are blends of synthetic resins. Most are referred to as "urethanes" or "polyurethanes." They are formulated to remain on the wood surface as a protective coating. Generally speaking, such products are available in high-gloss, semi-gloss, satin and matte finishes.
Wax finishes, on the other hand, soak into the pores of the wood and harden to form a protective penetrating seal. The wax gives the floor a low-gloss satin sheen. These finishes are maintained with additional thin applications of wax. Only solvent-based waxes, buffing pastes or cleaning liquids made specifically for wax-finished wood floors should be used.
Acrylic-impregnated finishes are injected into the wood to create a super-hard, extremely durable floor. Acrylic-impregnated finishes are rarely used in residential applications. Rather, they most often are used in areas subject to very heavy foot traffic, particularly in commercial settings such as malls and restaurants.
Any type of finish will help protect the wood flooring from normal wear and tear. Deciding which finish to use will depend greatly on the needs and expectations of the client.
Q. Are there any special considerations for repairing finishes?
A. How you approach a finish repair will be determined by the cause of the problem, and the type of wood you are repairing. First, you will need to look at the finish imperfection to determine its cause. If it is a simple wear problem, a simple pad and recoat may be possible.
However, if the wear is completely through the finish and down to the wood, you may need to sand and refinish the area. Each imperfection on each job site likely will require a different approach. The NWFA's "Problems, Causes and Cures" technical manual can help you identify many different finish problems, and make recommendations of their repair.
Editor's note. The NWFA offers a comprehensive selection of technical information available for wood flooring professionals, including technical manuals, instructional videos, and a dedicated members-only Web site. Visit www.nwfa.org on the Internet or telephone the NWFA at (800) 422-4556 to obtain more information.