If you’ve ever walked through an historic home, you’ll discover that the hardwood floors are oftentimes made of much wider planks than oak or other hardwood flooring in more recent construction. The rustic and beautiful look of wide planks can be replicated in a new log home, but there are some things you should know before selecting this option. We spoke with Brett Vaughn, owner of Vonderosa Wide Plank Flooring in Merrimack, NH, to understand the challenges wide plank flooring can present.
Pick your style. Establish the style you are looking for before selecting the wood for the wide plank floors. Vaughn suggests that it’s a real personal preference as to the species of wood. For a rustic heirloom look, many of his customers opt for wood with more character, including color variations, knots and burls, and interesting grains. Hickory, cherry and certain oaks can provide and be graded to reflect this search for character. For those seeking a more sophisticated look wide clear ash can provide a uniform flow and clean appearance. “It really is a personal preference,” Vaughn said.
Pay the extra for quarter-sawn planks. Though quarter-sawn planks are fashioned from a section of wood that is more costly, the benefits in the way your plank flooring responds to changes in humidity will be well worth it. A quarter-sawn plank is sawn radially from the center of a log, so that the structure of the plank is more stable and resistant to changes from humidity. (See image at left.) Vaughn explained that a flat-sawed board (or cut horizontally across the thickness of the log) will experience twice as much expansion and contraction along the width or face as compared to a quarter-sawn plank. When it comes to flooring, any but the most minimal expansion will result in uneven floorboards, cupping or gapping.
Verify the low moisture content. The moisture content of the wide planks should be equivalent to a woodworker’s standard of 6-8% moisture. This will stabilize better in the climate controlled conditions in the interior of the home. Ensuring a low moisture content through thorough kiln drying can keep floors in optimum condition throughout the life of the home. Vaughn’s company employs a solar kiln and exacting stickering between drying planks to ensure a low moisture content and beautiful floors. “This solar kiln method stresses the wood much less than a high heat kiln using fossil fuels,” Vaughn said. It also allows him to offer a greener option than other hardwood sources.
Proper installation. A carpenter experienced with wide plank floors is your best bet. For planking that is over nine inches wide, Vaughn face nails the planks to prevent any cupping of the planks. For the rustic look, he drills wood pegging over the nails to add a decorative finish to the flooring.