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Pre finished solid strip flooring (C) Daniel Friedman Best Practices Guide to Solid Wood Floors, Strip Flooring & Plank Flooring Installation

  • FLOOR, WOOD SOLID STRIP, PLANK - CONTENTS: Flooring, solid wood strip & plank installation guide. Wood Species Choices & Properties for Wood Flooring. Hardwood vs. Softwood Options for Wood Floors. Strip vs. Plank Options for Wood Floors. Solid Wood Flooring Grades & Properties. Where to buy wood flooring & floor products for building interiors: manufacturers, industry associations.
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Solid wood flooring choices & installation:

This article contains details on the best methods for installing solid strip or plank wood flooring.

This article series discusses and provides a best construction practices guide to the selection and installation of building interior surface materials, carpeting, doors, drywall, trim, flooring, lighting, plaster, materials, finishes, and sound control materials.



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Guide to Selecting & Installing Wood Floors: Best Practices

As described in the book, Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction Chapter 5, Interior Finish:

Wood floors provide a natural warmth and beauty like no other flooring material. And new developments in finishes and engineered products have expanded their durability, versatility, and ease of installation. Still, control of moisture levels in the flooring and structure around it remains the biggest issue influencing the success of a wood flooring installation, particularly with unfinished strip flooring, but with many of the engineered products as well.

Solid Wood Strip and Plank Wood Floor Choices

Traditional unfinished 3 /4-inch hardwood strip flooring in oak or maple remains the most common wood flooring type and the best choice where heavy use and frequent refinishing are likely. While the most common species are still oak and maple, an amazing variety of domestic and imported woods have become available in recent years.

Wood Species Choices & Properties for Wood Flooring

Flooring species are rated for hardness and dimensional stability (see Table 5-4 and its continuation Table 5-4b provided just below). Wood Hardness is rated on the Janka scale, which measures the force required to push a small steel ball into the wood surface. The results are often compared to red oak, which is used as a benchmark. Unless a floor with lots of “character” caused by dents and wear marks is desired, avoid woods significantly softer than oak.

Also consider the wood’s dimensional stability. Less stable woods are likely to lead to gaps, cupping, or other problems with wider plank flooring and in regions like the Northeast, which has big seasonal swings in relative humidity. Other locations where moisture movement might be a problem include below-grade spaces, slabs-on-grade without vapor barriers, or rooms over crawlspaces. In these environments, choose a stable wood and a narrow profile to avoid problems. Laminated floors, discussed below, are often the best choice for these applications.

A number of exotic hardwood imports are also now available. Many of these are plantation-raised or logged with sustainable forestry practices, but some are not. To be sure, work with a reputable importer and look for third party certification of sustainable logging practices. For more information, contact the Forest Stewardship Council or the Smartwood program (see Buy Interior Finish Product Resources).

[Click any table or figure to see an enlarged, detailed version.]

Table 5-4:Domestic and Imported Wood Species and Properties (C) J Wiley, S Bliss

Table 5-4: (C) J Wiley, S Bliss

Hardwood vs. Softwood Options for Wood Floors

While hardwoods are harder and more durable than softwoods in general, this is not always the case. For example, heart-pine flooring, whether antique or new (cut from the centers of longleaf southern yellow pines) is nearly as hard as oak, while black cherry, a popular hardwood flooring, is 26% softer than oak.

Other traditional softwood choices are white pine, popular for Colonial reproductions in the Northeast, and fir flooring in the Northwest. While fir flooring is dimensionally stable, wide white pine boards can be expected to swell and shrink significantly, leaving gaps in the winter months. Both are relatively soft and easy to dent, creating a rustic appearance.

Strip vs. Plank Options for Wood Floors

Narrow flooring boards up to 3 1/4-inches wide are called strips and boards 4 inches and wider are called planks. The wider the board, the greater the seasonal movement will be and the fewer the number of fasteners to resist movement.

Plank flooring over 4 or 5 inches wide has a greater tendency to shrink and leave gaps, or to swell, causing the flooring to cup or curl over time. For that reason, some manufacturers recommend additional fasteners in the face of plank flooring, either nails or countersunk screws. Also the wider the board, the more critical it is to monitor and control moisture conditions of the flooring and structure.
See FLOOR, WOOD MOISTURE).

Solid Wood Flooring Grades & Properties

Figure 5-5: (C) J Wiley, S BlissThe best grades of wood flooring have longer pieces, fewer variations in color (more heartwood), and fewer knots and other defects. Quartersawn grades will have much better dimensional stability, with 30 to 50% less movement than plainsawn boards.


In better solid wood flooring grades, pieces are also likely to be straighter, making life easier for the installer.

With many species, however, the visual variations in lower grades can be attractive as well as economical.

A No. 2 or No. 3 maple or cherry floor can be distinctive and striking (Figure 5-5).

-- Adapted with permission from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction.

Prefinished Wood Flooring Manufacturers & Sources

Bamboo Flooring Producers & Sources

Cork Flooring Manufacturers & Sources

Industry & Trade Associations for Flooring and Floor Products

-- Adapted with permission from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction.

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