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Wide Plank Flooring:
Engineered, Strip or Floating Options

Wide plank wood flooring is the name given to a traditional strip flooring that is typically over 3 1/4" in width. Contrary to public opinion, there is nothing special about it other then its wider width. Most often you find it in 4" and 5" widths for traditional hardwoods like solid red oak plank flooring, and as wide as 8 or 10" for reclaimed pine wood flooring.

It does create a wonderful ambiance, harking back to years gone by, when all floors were wide plank. Floors were hard to find in any other fashion. Trees were larger. Sawyers left the wood planks in 10" and 12" widths to make the installer's job a little easier. Boards were often 14 and 16 feet long.

So what has changed today?

The obvious change has been in the lumber supply. I certainly don't need to tell any readers that the log dimensions are significantly smaller today than 30 years ago. That has led to reduced inventories and increased costs to create a wide plank flooring.

But more important that this, has been the shift in house construction standards. If you visited a local museum with old wide timber floors the first thing you'll notice is the gapping between boards. Do you care? Of course not, but what if this was your home?

As a general rule, customers do not want to see any gaps between the individual strips of hardwood. But wood lives and breaths. As the house changes in humidity, dry or wet, so does the wood flooring.

Wide plank wood flooring will react significantly more per board, than a narrower cousin. To make the matter worse a wide plank flooring has less nails holding it in place. As seasonal fluctuations move the humidity up and down your floor reacts.

In moist seasons wide planks will cup, popping the nails and leave a floor uneven. In dry seasons they will shrink and leave obvious between-board gaps.

3" Standard Hardwood Floor

6" Wide Wood Plank Floor

So What's the Solution:

  1. Regulate your humidity year round to move in a narrower band. For Northern Ontario this would realistically be between 35 and 55% relative humidity.
  2. If you can't regulate your humidity, consider a narrower floor option. Wide plank flooring is not for you... at least if you want to install it without problems.
  3. Look at some alternate types of construction. Consider a plywood based wide plank engineered flooring. The plywood offers greater dimensional stability. ... but this doesn't get you off the hook for regulating the humidity. Engineered floors still expand and contract, just less easily than their solid cousin.
  4. With a wide plank engineered flooring consider a glue down application. This will offer you 100% adhesion to the base floor, not just one nail every 6".
  5. Consider using an hardwood wide plank floating floors. If it is a well made product, with a good interlocking joint, it will move as a unit if adequate expansion space has been left around the perimeter.

Thus if you are going to consider a wide plank wood floor, I'd check out a few of the flooring options online and inquire about the recommended installation methods and the band of humidity fluctuations that any one particular flooring brand is able to tolerate without usability issues popping their ugly head.

Solid wide plank flooring is not for every house.

Installation:Solid hardwood flooring, either standard strip or wide plank flooring can only be installed by nailing it down to a wooden subfloor. See our section for Hardwood Floor Installation Tips
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Further Information:
Hardwood Flooring

 

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