We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Joni Rocco, one of the owners of Artistic Floors by Design, a Colorado-based company and recipient of the prestigious “Best Residential Hardwood Installation Award” in 2014 and the “Designer’s Choice Award” in 2012, both part of the Wood Floor of the Year competition sponsored by the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA).

During our conversation, we discussed a hot trend in the hardwood industry, one that has everyone talking about wide plank flooring. We asked the folks at Artistic Floors by Design if they could share any guidelines or tips with us when consumers are considering a project with this type of flooring.

Joni said, “Wide plank flooring is a hot topic lately. It’s getting more common and people love it because it really is beautiful. We’re seeing it spread from the coast into the Midwest, and our region as well. I think it’s becoming more common because people are seeing it on [social media] sites like Houzz and they’re becoming more familiar with it.”

Even though homeowners are becoming more educated with what’s available on the market today, most people in the industry—especially installers—realize the challenges of a wide plank floor installation. Because wood is hygroscopic—meaning it easily absorbs moisture, including from in the air—wide boards tend to react and move more with fluctuations in humidity than narrower boards.

With over 20 years of experience, Joe Rocco, owner of Artistic Floors by Design and a member of NWFA’s board of directors, remains up-to-date with technical issues and understands that moisture is a major component when considering wide plank flooring.

During our conversation he wanted to make sure to point out, “Moisture content is a challenge. It’s necessary to ensure that the planks to be installed are within 2% of the substrate’s moisture level.”

Another point he wanted to make is the importance of acclimating wide planks and monitoring their moisture levels.

Environmental Controls

Because it’s often difficult to manage the environmental conditions of a client’s home, Joe also stressed environmental controls should always be considered.

“The client’s home must have a relative humidity that remains between 30% and 50% at all times in order to minimize seasonal cracking,” he explained.

Joe takes this step of monitoring humidity seriously and goes the extra mile with his clients after the completion of a project. He provides them with a hygrometer that shows them exactly what their humidity levels are in their homes as the seasons change.

When asked about the best flooring materials to consider for wide plank flooring, Joe thinks a good dealer/contractor should be knowledgeable about what species of wood—regardless of plank size—is appropriate for the project’s climate.

He also thinks, “A reputable dealer/contractor should mitigate both moisture and environmental issues by carefully sourcing locally and regionally milled flooring and purchasing from a reputable distributor if the flooring choice is an exotic species.”

When installing wide plank flooring, Joe thinks attachment methods are very important. He stated that you have to glue andnail in order to achieve a good result. He also feels the best type of glue to use is elastomeric, because it allows the wood to remain in place while naturally expanding and contracting.

When asked about some of the challenges Artistic Floors by Design encounters on a regular basis, Joni responded: “When the humidity is extremely low during certain seasons, the biggest challenge is regulating relative humidity in a client’s home. Some homes don’t have full house humidification. Those homes can fluctuate anywhere from 10% relative humidity to 35% or even 45%, depending on the season.”

She also explained how the company protects itself while educating its customers. “We state in our contracts that a client must maintain a relative humidity between 30% and 50% in a home where hardwood flooring is installed. Our team finds that the information not only protects the flooring installation company, but that it also provides educational information for the customer—especially for those clients who don’t know what their relative humidity levels are.”

In response to moisture issues that play havoc with wide plank flooring and how important moisture meters are for the team at Artistic Floors by Design, Joni had this to say: “For us, moisture meters [like the ones from Wagner] are huge. I don’t think we would have a successful business if we weren’t using moisture meters. [A moisture meter] is as essential a tool as having a measuring tape; we wouldn’t be anywhere today if we didn’t have it.”

Discover why wood flooring professionals like the ones at Artistic Floors by Design rely on wood moisture meters for peace of mind by taking a look at what Wagner and other companies are offering today.

For more information, visit wagnermeters.com/flooring-moisture-meters/wood-flooring-moisture-meters.