Wide Plank Hardwood Flooring
Wood Flooring Species
Flooring that is considered wide plank, by definition, is any wood flooring board or plank that exceeds 3½ inches in width, but really, an installed floor, to be considered wide plank flooring, has to include a board that spans at least 7 inches in width. Many floors will have random widths of 2½, 5½ and 7½ inches in width, which would be considered wide plank.
When anything gets bigger, as in wide plank flooring, where the boards span up to 18 inches wide and 18 feet in length, it's important that this thing is better, as large boards become individually more apparent. In order to get the best out of nature for these individual beautiful boards, there is a process that needs to be followed. The most important factor is of coarse time, which costs money, it is the way of nature and it always equals quality.
A wide plank flooring board comes from a tree, so that is where it starts. Where a tree is grown, how it is milled, and how it is dried is integral to the durability and finished look that a wide plank floor can offer. Where a tree is grown, determines the speed in which it grows, the slower a tree grows, the tighter the growth rings, the denser the growth structure and of course, as long as you're waiting for it to grow slowly, you might as well wait for maturity.
Next is the milling, and the only way to achieve esthetic dimensional grain balance is by center cutting the tree, which is mostly done in Europe and for good reason, they like quality and things done right. This milling approach also provides the most vertical grain, smaller knots and a richer color that is consistent from board to board. The last step in this process is to dry the wood, for stability. All mills dry their boards in a kiln, because it's fast, but very few also give the wood unforced time to dry naturally, which makes all the difference in the world, as it makes the fibers more pliable so they don't splinter, lessens cracks in knots and takes stain more evenly, which makes my job so much more enjoyable.
Another note on milling, more as it applies to the installation. Big boards aren't easy to mill, so they rarely are, I work with a company "Carlisle Wide Plank floors", where their tolerances for milling is as tight as it gets, which makes my job as an installer more enjoyable. The problem that arises with loose milling tolerances, is that wide plank flooring, for most applications shouldn't be sanded, because you lose some of the natural feel of a not perfectly sanded flat floor, so if you want a square edge floor, you have to be sure the milling tolerances will allow. The only time you really want a sanded wide plank floor, is when you're going for a totally flat, clean, contemporary look.
Personally, out of all the different floors that I install, it's wide plank flooring that I love, as there is so much individuality in each board, and after experiencing the over-all floor, one can appreciate the timeless quality and class it offers. I just like looking down as I walk, and feel the wood when bare foot, the best.
The species Acacia has strikingly dynamic grain and knots. Some say these attributes contribute to a home full of positive energy, exuberant flow and optimistic attitude. As one of the hardest woods in the world, Acacia's dynamic looks adds exciting spirit to a home with long-lasting durability as well as an elegant look.
Alder is a soft but stable wood, with uniform color and grain. There is no clear delineation between heart- and sap-wood, remaining a warm, honey color throughout.
From an aesthetic standpoint, Ash is prized for its interesting grain patterns and striking hues, from the cream-colored and light almond outer portions of the tree to the rich nutty brown heartwood. Natural or unstained, Ash offers a very sophisticated look with high impact resistance. Plank Face Width: 3 to 12" and lengths up to 14 ft. and averaging 8ft.
Birch is almost as hard as Red Oak, and relatively stable. It has beautiful graining, which sometimes contains curly figure. Each board has an intriguing combination of blonde outer edges and warm cherry-like center portions. Its varying grain patterns range from subtle swirls to highly figured flames. It is a unique floor indeed.
American Cherry is a fine-grained wood with reddish-brown heartwood, interspersed with cream-colored sapwood. It is about 25% softer than Red Oak, but also about 30% more stable. As a flooring material, Cherry is also unique in that as it ages, its lustrous hues will darken a bit more than will other hardwoods and will ultimately mature to a rich, burnished auburn color. The subtle but yet distinctive flowing grain patterns and uniquely inviting warmth, make Cherry a very popular floor.
Eastern white pine
This wood is cherished for its simple grains, subtle knots and exceptional widths and lengths. It is also unique in that, while extremely durable, it is a floor that "wears in" over the years to create an ongoing journal that reflects each family's history and lifestyle.
Wire brushed, vertical grain Douglas fir is some of the coolest flooring I've worked with. As it naturally distresses with time it turns into a floor that you just can't buy, and add some dyeing and staining techniques and you get an amazingly unique and beautifully accentuated natural looking floor. So uncommon, it's a hidden treasure.
Hickory is an extremely hard flooring material, although less moisture stable than the oaks. Cabinetmakers in particular have long admired its striking contrasting patterns of clear yellow and rich brown heartwood. These same qualities also make a natural Hickory floor nothing short of breathtaking. I like to describe Hickory as a beach with driftwood. Hickory is readily available from 3 to 12 inches in width and up to 14 ft. in length, with an average of 8 ft.
Maple has been a favorite of flooring manufacturers since the early Colonial Days. Maple has a delicate, uniform texture, which adds elegance into your room. It is usually straight-grained, but it can also occur as "curly," and "birds-eye" figure. Its clear flowing grains and occasional swirls make it quite a fashionable choice in a variety of traditional and contemporary settings, it offers a very clean look.
Brown Maple's rich contrasting grains are quite unique, and it is a shame that this outer cut of the tree is rarely used. While not technically heartwood, it still shares White Maple's hardness, yet encompasses a completely different look.
Most of today's cheaper Red Oak strip flooring comes from warmer climates, where it grows too fast and produces an unattractive grain. This is truly unfortunate, because Red Oak that has been allowed to slowly mature in cooler climates produces a striking floor that can be as rustic or modern as you wish to make it. So if you think of Red Oak as being a bit "too common," think again. Many people who have natural red oak flooring, and from the 50's, through 2000, 85% of all wood flooring installed was red oak, want to modernize the look. Rest assured, there is an answer, and it doesn't just have to be a darker stain to hide the red. With the use of lye or bleach, combine with colored dyes and pigments, you would be amazed as to the looks that can be achieved, with less effort than one may think.
Southern Yellow Pine
This wood is from stock that is slow growing, creating a floor rich in color. The tight growth rings make our Pine flooring considerably more stable than flooring made from faster growing material, and also lend a better wear surface. Both tremendously strong and widely available in much of the Southeast, yellow or "Heart" Pine was the building material of choice for burgeoning factories, bridges, ship masts and flooring. Today, it has been rediscovered and can be seen in a variety of formal, traditional and rustic settings from coast to coast.
Walnut is a moderately dense and very stable wood. Compared to Red Oak, it is about 25% more moisture stable and about 20% softer. Its rich chocolate brown color with subtle veins of varying intensities of brown add to the depth and soft appearance and with complex swirling grain patterns and slivers of blond sapwood, this species of wood is a spectacular flooring choice whether left natural, bleached or stained. The fluid nature of Walnut's grain makes a dynamic statement that seems to be ever-changing. There are a few effects offered by which saw marks are left on parts on the flooring plank, which creates a different feel with walnut than any other species, as the warmth of walnut takes the harshness out of the cuts and creates a warm, sculpted floor with character. Words and images fail to translate this look and feel.
White Oak is a very durable flooring material and is even harder than red oak. With consistent light tan - yellow to grayish charcoal hues reminiscent of old European castle flooring, natural White Oak has long been a popular American flooring choice. White oak just has that wood plank feel, real wood - wood, and more can be done with white oak using different coloring techniques than any other species. My favorite alteration to white oak is to wire brush it, making the wood even more durable, because the soft grain has been taken out which also adds to the grip of the wood to your feet by which you also feel the wood more which provides a daily living experience of being on real wood, rather than having a totally flat, evenly coated floor, separating you from this experience. With aging and staining techniques, I can create amazing old world rich flooring for a very reasonable price compared to the cost of reclaimed wood.
White Oak, Quarter sawn/Rift sawn
Quarter sawn/Rift sawn White Oak is a very durable flooring material. It is derived from lumber which is cut with the grain oriented at a 30-90 degree angle to the face of the plank. Not only does the quarter sawing process produce an attractive appearance in the wood, but also results in improved durability, surface smoothness, and stability (it is about 50% more stable than plain-sawn White Oak). Many planks contain interesting medullary rays or "fleck." This beautiful wood, when dyed and stained, makes the white fleck, pop, and wow! This cut of oak was used in making furniture, which are now antiques, almost exclusively for years. With color, I can achieve the most classic, craftsman look to a very modern contemporary style.
Reclaimed wood is one my absolute favorite materials to use as wood flooring. The natural patinas, weather cracks, insect traces, and with the varying colors and grains that are present, it is the art of nature and time, presented as a flooring surface. The species of wood commonly used are, White oak, Red oak, Chestnut, fir and pine. The most common barn wood is Red oak and White oak, and usually together, as the trees used to face the barn were the trees in close proximity to the barn. I once installed a stair tread that had a knife carved design on it, with the homeowner's approval of course. Every reclaimed wood floor that I have installed has been completely different from the others, completely unique to the barn and the climate it resided for so many years. Reclaimed wood flooring doesn't have to be as rustic as most assume, so this style of flooring can suit the designed scheme for most interiors.