Wide Plank Hardwood Flooring – When Wide is Not Wise?

Wide plank hardwood flooring looks wonderful. It oozes the feel of country living. It reminds us of the scent of wood burning in the fireplace, of oil rubbed finishes and rich amber colours. It lulls you into the belief that wide plank flooring would be the perfect answer for all your decorating needs, but is it?

As sales staff we are always sitting on the proverbial fence. Do we only build the decorating dream in a customer’s mind; wide planks, rich colours and long lengths? These are all the lollipops of the hardwood flooring market.

Or do we somewhere along the line let our experience and knowledge of wood kick in? Do we think about all the horror stories of installations gone wrong? I hope so! Our belief is that a wood floor must look beautiful today AND in 10 years, so we must in some small way share the functional and performance related issues with our customers. After all, a wood floor is used daily.

Wood is a living and breathing species. Our homes are also living and breathing. They must reconcile! If your home is dry, your flooring is as well. If the showers have been running all day, and the windows sweating we know the humidity in the home is rising, so also with your floor.

Wide plank hardwood flooring will expand and contract to reflect these changes, shrinking on the dry days and expanding on the wet ones. A wide 6″ plank will expand and contract twice as much as a 3″ board for any given change in humidity. This puts a great amount of stress on the nails that are used to hold it down, and a 6″ wide plank floor has only half as many nails to hold it in place, as a 3″ floor.

Thus when the wood wants to move, wide plank flooring will react significantly more than narrow;

wider boards = less nails + humidity changes = more problems.

So what’s the answer? There are really only two options:

1. Control your humidity with air conditioners and humidifiers to limit the seasonal variations (ie.. in N.Ontario typically 35% – 55% RH) OR

2. Choose a narrower floor, more nails and less able to cup = less trouble

3. I know, I said only 2 options… but for homes that are sitting on the border there are two other flooring design options that may let you consider wide plank hardwood flooring, and yet still address some of the seasonal humidity fluctuation issues.

Get the full story on wide plank flooring and make sure your investment looks beautiful for years to come.