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  • Writer's pictureMatt Weber

Pro Tips for Hardwood Flooring Installation

(guest post by John McGlocklin)

Naturally beautiful hardwoods have graced the floors of homes and businesses for centuries.

Even the most stunning wood floors require the proper preparation, materials and installation. In the world of flooring, this means carefully considering the jobsite’s environmental conditions, subflooring, fastening procedures, board sizes and wood species to achieve the best possible results.

Moisture & humidity. Real wood has a cell structure similar to that of a sponge and will expand and contract when taking on or giving off moisture. Higher and lower relative humidity (RH) in a home, over time, can result in floor board movement which is why all wood flooring warranties, solid or engineered, are conditioned on RH being controlled between 30 and 55% RH. Large swings in temperature also influence RH and flooring performance over time. Accurate moisture measurements of flooring and subfloor and RH environmental controls are critical to every wood flooring installation.

Board Size: In solid strip and plank flooring, the simple physics of wood expansion/contraction means that a narrower 2-1/4” wide board will move less than a wider 5” board. Difficult environments with potential for larger seasonal RH swings and/or limited environmental RH controls are best served by the installation of narrower boards for stability reasons. Engineered wood flooring may be an option, but in very dry conditions engineered boards run the risk of catastrophic failure in the form of face checking and delamination – issues that commonly void warranties when excessively dry conditions (below 35% RH) are determined.

Wood Species: Every individual wood species has a unique “dimensional change coefficient” which indicates the widely variable natural stability of a particular wood species. In wider solid wood flooring boards, it is always important to consider the natural stability of the wood together with the expected environmental conditions of the site. Species like Black Mesquite/Algarrobo, Santos Mahogany, Canarywood, Merbau and Tarara Colorada/Bolivian Santos are all naturally stable woods that have lower dimensional change coefficients than domestic woods like oak, hickory and walnut; making them far better alternatives for regions with potential;y higher seasonal variations in RH and/or temperatures.

Black Mesquite

Proper installation techniques. In addition to carefully considering the aforementioned conditions, installers should also ensure the:

· Subflooring is sound, clean and flat per the latest NWFA specifications

· Moisture readings of the flooring and subflooring are within 2% MC of each other

· Secure fastening of harder exotic wood floors through the use of 18-gauge cleats that will also lessen the risk of broken floor board tongues

· Proper glue assist is recommended with cleats for boards 4” or wider to help reduce the chance of future board movements, creaks and crackles

Choose hardwoods wisely. Some hardwoods are more stable than others. Many contractors are unaware that some of the imported woods like Black Mesquite, Canarywood, and Santos Mahogany are notably more stable than the domestic woods they are more accustomed to working with. Such woods are generally better for stability options and will generate fewer call-backs on wood floor installs in climate challenging regions and environments, while also providing gorgeous natural look alternatives to the more common domestic woods.

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John McGlocklin is the owner, founder and president of Elemental Hardwoods. The company was founded in 2000 to provide flooring specialists, distributors and their customers with an exotic mix of beautiful imported hardwoods, some of which are not available anywhere else in the country. For more information, please visit, email or call 504-756-8876.


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