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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
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    19

    Default Cracking hardwood floor

    We bought our hickory flooring about 6 months before we were able to install it. Once installed, it looked great! I sanded it and then applied a semi-gloss clear coat polyurethane(3 coats).
    Everything was going just fine until winter came. Now I have cracks inbetween some of the boards and there are a couple of the boards that are cracking. The cracking seems to be happening where the hickory is nailed to the subfloor. I am assuming this is due to the really dry atmosphere. We had the flooring long enough to acclimate ( it was even kept in the room next to the one we installed it in). How do I stop/ prevent/ reverse this cracking? It is starting to lead to creeking and I would like to nip this before is gets too bad.
    Thanks for the help.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    the real Northern California
    Posts
    48

    Default Re: Cracking hardwood floor

    Acclimation is not storing your hardwood in a room that it WON'T be installed in. Maybe you can get around that if the room is on the same floor and has all the same temperature and humidity.

    What was the moisture reading of the subfloor? What was the reading for the wood? Have you maintained the temperature and humidity at levels within the parameters dictated by the flooring manufacturer?

    Is there an expansion gap around all vertical surfaces? Was there any flex in the subfloor before installation? If the subfloor is wood, what was the floor joist spacing and span?

    How did you fasten the flooring - nailing pattern and spacing? Did you happen to put any nails or staples in the end grain or closer than 2" from the end of the board? Are the boards installed perpendicular to the joists?

    Wood is not all the same. Just like a car, electronic device or appliance, you must supply the manufacturer name and other details.

    There are a lot of wood flooring pros who like to help with problems like this at www.TheFloorPro.com/community/

    R'gards,

    Jim

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    nova scotia, canada
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    1,522

    Default Re: Cracking hardwood floor

    all extremely good points jim.
    another question is where was the flooring made, we see it quite often here with hardwood flooring that was made in china. they dont control the environment where its made, then the product gets put into a container where it can take on a higher moisture content.. from there it can sit for a couple months both on the ship and at a outdoor yard. then when it comes to your house it may only be there for a few days which is far too short for product like this.
    fire up the saw and make some dust

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Posts
    19

    Default Re: Cracking hardwood floor

    Thanks for the reply. That's a lot of questions, I'll try to answer what I can.

    The house has an open concept, so storing the wood in the room next to the room it was installed was basically the same room, just called a different name.

    The wood was purchased from Olde Wood ( reclaimed lumber) in Ohio. We followed the directions for installation, and we did not nail too close to the end of the board. We tried to stay about 5-6" from the end of the board.
    There are expansion gaps around the entire perimeter, and all boards are perpendicular to the joists.

    You asked about humidity and I wonder if that could be part of the problem. Half of the floor is over a crawl space while the other half is over our basement ( unfinished). I imagine there is a difference in the humidity between the 2 subfloors and the floor itself. How do I check the humidity level of the floor vs. the subfloor?

    Finally, the floor was installed at the end of July. We had a dry summer so I did not think the wood contained much, if any, moisture. Could it be that the floor was installed at the wrong time and now the dry winter weather is REALLY drying the wood?

    Thanks for the help.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    the real Northern California
    Posts
    48

    Default Re: Cracking hardwood floor

    Quote Originally Posted by Suzie02 View Post
    The house has an open concept, so storing the wood in the room next to the room it was installed was basically the same room, just called a different name.
    That's good.

    The wood was purchased from Olde Wood ( reclaimed lumber) in Ohio. We followed the directions for installation, and we did not nail too close to the end of the board. We tried to stay about 5-6" from the end of the board.
    There are expansion gaps around the entire perimeter, and all boards are perpendicular to the joists.
    Where you bought it is not as important as who the manufacturer/mill was. Whose name is on the instructions? Most instructions I've read indicate acceptable moisture, temperature and humidity levels. You should have used a moisture meter to determine the moisture content of the hardwood flooring and the subfloor you were installing over. They have to be within a certain number of percentage points (maybe 2-4%). And nailing too far from the end of the board isn't much better than nailing too close. Instructions usually indicate the distance for that too - usually about 2". Too close and you risk splitting the wood, too far and you risk board movement.

    It sounds to me like either your instructions were bad, or you didn't actually read and follow them.

    You asked about humidity and I wonder if that could be part of the problem. Half of the floor is over a crawl space while the other half is over our basement ( unfinished). I imagine there is a difference in the humidity between the 2 subfloors and the floor itself. How do I check the humidity level of the floor vs. the subfloor?
    You check the hardwood and the subfloor for moisture, not humidity. You check the room for humidity. There are meters and gauges for both. The humidity of an open concept room should be the same throughout. But the moisture levels of the subfloor could very well be different from one part of the room to another. The hardwood moisture level will be affected by the acclimation that has taken place in the area of the room it was stored in.

    Finally, the floor was installed at the end of July. We had a dry summer so I did not think the wood contained much, if any, moisture. Could it be that the floor was installed at the wrong time and now the dry winter weather is REALLY drying the wood?
    Most people only guess at humidity levels or make assumptions about it based on folk lore or news reports. Humidity levels are determined by actual readings from devices made to measure it. There is very little "guess work" involved in hardwood flooring installation.

    Again, I am just one guy who has pro experience installing hardwood flooring. Most all of that is with engineered hardwood, not solids. If you want the benefit of many hardwood flooring installers, inspectors and other pros, visit the site I linked to in my first post. You can ask a question without joining, but if you want to participate beyond that, join. It uses the same software this forum does.

    Good luck,

    Jim

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    MN
    Posts
    455

    Default Re: Cracking hardwood floor

    Just to point out that it's wood and it will move with humidity and moisture changes.
    I have an older home with wood floors and there will be gaps during the winter and will close when the humidty raises in the summer. It's normal for that to happen.
    Squeaky floors is also a trait with wood floors as the nails loosen or the subfloor is not fastened down securely.

    Question : is the area above the crawl space where you are experiencing the most issues?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    the real Northern California
    Posts
    48

    Default Re: Cracking hardwood floor

    Quote Originally Posted by bsum1 View Post
    Just to point out that it's wood and it will move with humidity and moisture changes.
    That's true.
    I have an older home with wood floors and there will be gaps during the winter and will close when the humidty raises in the summer. It's normal for that to happen.
    Squeaky floors is also a trait with wood floors as the nails loosen or the subfloor is not fastened down securely.
    That is NOT true. You might have heard that from an uneducated or under-skilled flooring retailer or installer, but it is not normal for hardwood flooring to develop gaps or cause squeaks. If installed properly, the floor will move as a unit to expand or contract with the changes in temperature and humidity. It should not gap and should not make noises, unless it was improperly installed and inadequately fastened.

    Jim

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Posts
    19

    Default Re: Cracking hardwood floor

    Sorry for getting back to the discussion so late.

    The manufac/ mill is Olde Woode Inc. They reclaim the lumber from old barns and make the flooring planks from that. I think the directions were of " generic" nature.

    Yes, I suppose we guessed at the humidity/ moisture and thought we were good to go. I'll chalk that up as " lesson learned". We seem to be having the largest gap where the floor goes from the crawl space, over a cinder block and then to being over the basement ( hope that makes sense). The cinder block transition is where it seems to be happening. We were very careful and made sure everything was level prior to installing the hardwood so I don't think it has to do with the floor being not level in that spot. After the holidays we'll look into having someone out to look at the installed floor and maybe install our new floor, which leads me to my next question.

    We want to add more hardwood to an connecting room. That room has parquet flooring that we need to remove. I have removed a few of tiles to see how they would come up and they were glued to the subfloor. I could remove all of the tiles and then try sanding the glue down, or use some sort of glue remover, but this seems like a lot of work. I am thinking it would be easier to pull up the subfloor and replace it. This will give us a nice smooth solid floor to attach the hardwood to.
    Here's the question: plywood or OSB for the new subfloor?
    I am handy enough to not have to pay someone to pull up a floor and install a subfloor. BUT, which is the best way to go?

    thanks.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    the real Northern California
    Posts
    48

    Default Re: Cracking hardwood floor

    Quote Originally Posted by Suzie02 View Post
    The manufac/ mill is Olde Woode Inc. They reclaim the lumber from old barns and make the flooring planks from that. I think the directions were of " generic" nature.
    All bets are off when using reclaimed wood. I don't have much experience with that type of product, but I suspect it is susceptible to characteristics not common to other hardwood products. I'm an old guy and have cracks and creeks I shouldn't have - if I was 30 years younger.

    We seem to be having the largest gap where the floor goes from the crawl space, over a cinder block and then to being over the basement ( hope that makes sense). The cinder block transition is where it seems to be happening. We were very careful and made sure everything was level prior to installing the hardwood so I don't think it has to do with the floor being not level in that spot.
    You mean flat, right? It should be flat - no variance over 3/16" within 10'. I'm just one pro. You would be much better off asking about these issues where a number of pros with a variety of experience could discuss the situation and come up with answers and solutions that serve you best: www.thefloorpro.com/community/

    We want to add more hardwood to an connecting room. That room has parquet flooring that we need to remove. I have removed a few of tiles to see how they would come up and they were glued to the subfloor. I could remove all of the tiles and then try sanding the glue down, or use some sort of glue remover, but this seems like a lot of work. I am thinking it would be easier to pull up the subfloor and replace it. This will give us a nice smooth solid floor to attach the hardwood to.
    I think this is a bad idea, unless there is no other way. I would not sand adhesive either. Sc**** (rediculous swear filter won't let me say ) it. Get as much off as possible (when you think you've done all you can, some more). Then use a Portland Cement based patching/leveling compound to make the floor smooth. Others may differ. Again, see the link above. I guarantee you will not be disappointed in the response.

    Jim

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    1

    Default Re: Cracking hardwood floor

    I think You might have heard that from an uneducated or under-skilled flooring retailer or installer, but it is not normal for hardwood flooring to develop gaps or cause squeaks. If installed properly, the floor will move as a unit to expand or contract with the changes in temperature and humidity. It should not gap and should not make noises, unless it was improperly installed and inadequately fastened.

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