I installed some hardwood flooring several years ago in the foyer and now it has gaps between the pieces. I want to install it in the kitchen now. What should I do this time to avoid gaps?
– Larry M.
Hardwood flooring can be very beautiful and totally transform the decor of a room, but it can also look bad if installed improperly. Gaps between the individuals pieces, as you experienced in your foyer, are the most common problem with hardwood floors. Particularly when lighter colored hardwood is used, the gaps are much more apparent.
There typically two reasons you likely had the hardwood flooring problems in your foyer. They are both caused by not letting the hardwood rest in the room for a week or so before installing it on the floor. It generally takes a week for the moisture content of the hardwood to stabilize to that of the room.
If the hardwood was delivered from a dry warehouse and you installed it immediately, it will gradually swell as it absorbs moisture from the air in your home. People often do home improvement projects during spring and summer when the air inside homes has the highest humidity level.
The edges of hardwood flooring look square, but they are actually tapered slightly for a tight edge fit on the surface. It probably swelled initially and crushed the tapered edges. If it shrinks at all during the drier winter weather, the gaps will be apparent.
The other possible moisture-related possibility is the hardwood was overly moist when it was delivered to your home. After it was installed, it gradually lost moisture and shrunk resulting in the gaps between the pieces. Even after the hardwood top surface is finished with urethane, the other surfaces of the wood will continue to gain and lose moisture.
With proper installation techniques, you can avoid this problem when you install the hardwood flooring in your kitchen. Give the hardwood pieces time to allow their moisture content to stabilize. Stack it loosely so air can flow around all the pieces.
If you are making other improvements to your kitchen, such as new cabinets, painting, etc., wait several weeks to have your hardwood delivered. All these other improvements may release additional moisture into the air in the kitchen for a while. If the hardwood was delivered immediately, it would stabilize to the incorrect moisture level.
The type of subflooring is important when installing hardwood. It must be a stable subfloor so the hardwood does not have to provide the rigidity and support. If the hardwood is located over a furnace or water heater in the basement, insulate below it. Warmer areas will create isolated drier areas in the wood and impact it stability.
The following organization has excellent hardwood flooring installation guides which you can request: National Wood Flooring Association, (800) 422-4556; and Oak Flooring Institute, (901) 526-5016, www.nwfa.org.
Once your hardwood floor is installed and finished with several coats of glossy floor urethane (more durable than standard urethane), never wash it with lots of water or other cleaners. Just vacuum it regularly to pick up grit. If you have to wash a spot, wipe it with a slightly damp washcloth and then immediately dry it with a towel. Don’t use wax on it because it will make it more difficult to ever refinish.•
Send your questions to Here’s How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.
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