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Unfinished Wood Flooring

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What to consider with unfinished wood flooring?
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What to consider with unfinished wood flooring?

Think of unfinished wood flooring like a blank canvas. You can make it look any way you want.

Using unfinished hardwood in a home or commercial project will give you the ultimate flexibility to make your floor unique and fit your exact specifications.

We have put together a master list of the things to consider when choosing unfinished hardwood flooring.

While this list is comprehensive and covers most of the typical options people consider, there is always the ability to go even further to create something truly custom.

When it comes to unfinished flooring, we can work with you to source just about any floor you can dream up. 

Solid vs. Engineered Wood Flooring

True wood floors can either be made from one solid piece of lumber or engineered with a true hardwood veneer on top of a plywood core. There are benefits to both formats.

Solid

Traditionally, wood floors are made from a solid piece of lumber. Lumber is harvested from trees and is kiln dried to somewhere between 6-9% moisture content.

The lumber is then milled with a tongue and groove, resulting in a flooring plank that is usually ¾” thick. Other thickness options include ½” or ⅝”, but ¾” is the standard thickness for most unfinished flooring.

Solid wood floors are ideal for homes where conditions can get dry, homes with plywood subfloors, and jobs that require custom work (more options are usually available with solid wood flooring than engineered).

Engineered

Recently, engineered unfinished floors have become more popular and the quality of these floors is truly amazing. Instead of using one solid piece of lumber for each plank, lumber is cut into thinner veneers. These can range from 2mm to 5mm.

Veneers are then bonded with a plywood core which gives the floor exceptional stability. The thickness of each plank can be ½”, ⅝”, or ¾”. Many times, engineered unfinished floors are pre-sanded so that only minimal final sanding is required once the planks are installed. This can speed up installation time and result in a very high quality floor once installed.

Width

One of the most important choices to make when considering an unfinished wood floor is how wide the planks will be. Unlike the thickness or construction type of the floor, this is a choice you will be reminded of when you look at your floor every day. This is largely a matter of taste and what you want your floor to look like.

One thing to consider is that the wider the floor, the more significant the movement of the plank can be when it is exposed to either a very dry or very moist environment. Wider planks can gap more significantly in dry weather, or swell and cup more noticeably in very moist conditions.

For nail down installation of planks that are 5” and wider, we recommend that a glue assist method be used in addition to the nails to keep the boards from moving. As always, it is important to keep the humidity in the home controlled between 35-55% RH.

Select & Better

This is actually a combination of Select and Clear grades, and is typically the cleanest grade available from most mills. There will be minimal small knots and character marks, very consistent color appearance and natural characteristics.

No. 1 Common

This grade will have light and dark color variation, some knots, mineral streaks, and occasional pin holes (these are usually filled during the sanding and finishing process).

No. 2 Common

This grade has a great amount of character and color variation, and will include all the different aspects of the species including knots, color, pin holes and mineral streaks.

Rustic / Tavern / No. 3 Common

This grade can be referred to by several names, but it is actually not a specific grade. It refers to anything that cannot fit into the other grades, and is usually accumulated over time at the mill from the leftovers of the other grades.

Rustic floors can have an unlimited amount of defects, but if installed and finished correctly, can result in a stunning floor that is full of beautiful natural wood character.

It is important to understand that a “rustic” floor can have any number of defects, and include un-installable boards. It takes an experienced installer to know which boards need to be discarded, and which can be installed.

The sanding & finishing process will eventually create a smooth floor, but some rustic boards will be too defective to work with. Remember what we talked about in our waste factor section: it is recommended to plan up to a 15-20% waste factor for rustic flooring.

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