Each year the speakers at Surfaces are furnished with evaluation forms that rate us on how we did. The results are a barometer of whether or not the attendees felt like they got value and for the most part you felt you did, which certainly inspires the speakers. However, we always want to give you as much value as we can and your suggestions give us direction. That said the overwhelming request was for more information on wood issues relative to installation. So let’s give you a brief overview of what could be the program for our Surfaces presentation for 2011.
Based on the number of complaints we get and their cause’s moisture issues are the number one factor affecting wood flooring materials and installations. For example, we just finished evaluating and determining a complaint in a number of brand new condos, not yet occupied, for the ends of the boards lifting. The builder was claiming the installation was faulty. The condos were built and finished and then remained empty; another casualty of the economy. The HVAC system was not operating within the range of heat and humidity necessary to keep the wood stable. As a result the wood distorted, not only lifting on the ends but also at the edges as well (cupping). Most of this was on the first floor which was on a concrete slab. In this case there are a number of factors affecting the floor none of them having to do with the installation. The concrete, with the change in environmental conditions will undergo moisture movement from high to low pressure areas. That is, moisture in the concrete, which is always present, will move from the concrete to the airspace and back. In the process wood will be caught in the middle of all of this and react. Wood flooring, which you must remember was once a tree, will gain and lose moisture, whether it’s hardwood or engineered wood. When it does it reacts in many different ways, it can cup, curl, lift, delaminate, expand, contract or stain. None of this would be the fault of installation unless the installation firm, be it retail dealer or commercial flooring contractor didn’t make sure the environment was conditioned and the wood flooring properly acclimated, before the installation.
If on a concrete slab moisture has to be checked and tests conducted for Relative Humidity and Moisture Vapor Emission Rate. If on a wood substrate over a dirt crawl space, a polyethylene barrier must be installed below the house to prevent moisture vapor from migrating up to the floor. Most importantly you have to comply completely with the National Wood Flooring Association guidelines and use common sense which is often the part that gets skipped. Moisture, in any form, is the enemy of wood floors.
Performance of the wood is also an issue. As mentioned earlier wood floors are still wood in a different form and traffic will affect them. High heel shoes will cause indentations. Dragging heavy furnishings over them can and will scratch them. Dogs’ nails will damage them especially if it’s a large dog. The properties of wood species vary; some are as hard as a rock and others soft as a sponge. Know what type of wood to use where.
Caring for wood has to be done without damaging it. Wood should never be cleaned with a wet mop. If mopped at all a lightly damp mop could be used but always make sure maintenance of the wood complies with the manufacturers instructions. Better yet there are products on the market specifically designed for use on wood floors and only premium products should be used that are recommended by the manufacturer. Another concern raised of late is the little steam mops seen on the shopping channels. These devices should not be used on wood floors as they can damage the finish, affect the surface, swell the wood and create physical changes. The consumer who uses these devices will be responsible for the damage caused. There’s no reason to use steam on a wood floor but get ready for the calls and complaints from consumers using them. The industry has not taken a stance on this yet but dealers have contacted us with concerns.
If you have specific questions on wood flooring issues let us know. We don’t want you to wonder about answers if their easy to get. Wood flooring is not as complex as you may think and there is plenty of information available to help you. You just have to know woods limitations and not oversell it. Are you in favor of a wood flooring seminar at Surfaces 2011? Let us know and we’ll make it happen.