Handscraped hardwood being installed with gaps!

travelsfoDecember 30, 2010

Our GC has a subcontractor who is installing our handscraped 3/4" thickness hardwood floors (4,3/4" wide planks) and we are noticing gaps. This is concerning as we paid for a professional installation and I think that the installer should be able to adjust the planks so that there is no gapping. I saw several issues during the installation process like, none of the boxes were opened for acclimation - they were opened one at a time while the floor is installed and they made some minor attempt to match boards for good fit but only as long as the boards were within the same box (we ordered almost 70 boxes, 1500 sf of boards!).

How big of a problem is gapping in NEW INSTALLATION. How difficult would it be for them to take up the floor and redo it without damaging the boards? We pointed out several unacceptable gaps and they blamed the quality of the boards but at the same time, none of the other boxes were opened so they didn't make a good enough effort, IMO.

The gaps are not huge but they are noticeable and in a new installation, I expect no gapping. Yes, I understand these are handscraped floors with imperfections but they are straight and should fit together flush. The gaps are big enough for grains of rice to fall in and get stuck in -- and we paid a lot of money for the floors and their installation.

They are not yet done with the install but it is so infuriating because it seems like they have ignored our complaint and decided to continue with the installation as if we are idiots. Maybe we are but I don't think so.

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Lets look at it this way. Your running the heater now that it is winter time. Wood shrinks and swells with a loss or gain of moisture. The wood has most likely been acclimated to the drier environment. When spring summer arrives and humidity levels increase, the wood will swell/expand. The gaps may disappear.

If you acclimate during winter heating season and then install tight, chances are come spring/summer, the floor swells, compression cupping or worse buckling the wood floor.

It could be a badly kiln dried flooring, before milling.

Boards milled at different moisture contents to the same dimensions, will be different widths when all the wood comes to moisture content equilibrium after acclimation.

This would not be a Bellawood, by chance??

    Bookmark   December 30, 2010 at 7:35AM
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Hi floorguy,

The only possible upside I can think of is that it is winter (the coldest time of the year around here) and there is no heat in the home, and they did lay down a moisture barrier. So, from here, it can only get warmer (when the remodel is done and we move back in).

It's not Bellawood (don't they only produce Engineered wood?) The company is called USC and I'm concerned about the quality. I called the distributor and sent a few photos but he replied that the gaps he saw in the photos are to be expected due to the "handscraped" aspect of the boards. I call BS on that because the boards fit flush everywhere else in but for about 10 spots where it appears the installer just did not make the effort to find boards that fit correctly.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2010 at 10:50AM
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Wood expands and contracts throughout the year as we change from heating season (dry air, wood shrinks) to cooling season (higher humidity, wood expands).

Lay the wood to tight now and it may swell enough to buckle later.

The wider the strips the more each one moves.

Chapter 3 of the Wood Engineering Handbook covers wood movement.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wood Handbook, Chapter 3

    Bookmark   December 31, 2010 at 1:36PM
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Thanks for the reference, brickeyee.

We stopped by today to check on work progress (they aren't working today on a National Holiday) and discovered that they'd filled in all the cracks with some kind of wood filler. Not sure how this will affect expansion and contraction of the wood now.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2011 at 7:56PM
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"Not sure how this will affect expansion and contraction of the wood now."

Any significant expansion can cause buckling of the filler is solid.

Strip wood floors move.

Even cross grain (plywood style) wood moves (less than solid wood, but in every direction instead of just two).

    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 4:14PM
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