American Black Cherry: Too Soft For Flooring?

cdigsApril 17, 2007

So my wife and I came across some gorgeous American Black Cherry flooring at an incredible deal.

From my research on this wood species, it seems like most informational sites peg it as being too soft for general purpose use for flooring at a Janka of ~950. Most sites mention that it's used for fine furniture, cabinets, finish detailing, and decorative accents (when used as flooring).

I'm kind of torn on this: on the one hand, I think it is beautiful wood (I actually have a sample and it looks just as good in person), on the other hand, I'm kind of worried about the wear and durability.

One redeeming quality about this wood is that it's sold in a "folk" grade that naturally has imperfections (which my wife and I actually like). I'm thinking that since the wood has natural pits and imperfections, even if it does scuff or dent a bit, it'll kind of look natural.

I'm wondering if anyone has worked with this wood and can comment on the durability and the photosensitivity before and after photos would be great). Am I nuts for considering using such soft wood for flooring?

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I can't comment on it's durability for flooring, other than what you have found -- it's slightly less dense than other commonly used flooring woods.

From your photo, there is evidence of mineral streaking and sapwood. These would normally be considered defects in furniture grade woods.

Cherry heartwood, upon exposure to light, will darken and redden considerably. The sapwood will not.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 9:12AM
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I dunno. Cherry is pretty hard. How much foot traffic - less than Grand Central Station?

There's brew pub near here that has cherry floors. I haven't been there in years, but it was a knockout when new.

I would be mostly concerned with color change based on sunlight, but more on installation.

Sounds like this are boards, not engineered stuff. Cherry is very brittle. The stuff will split pretty fast if you don't give it respect. Make sure you can install, or have an installer who is confident and familiar.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 10:36AM
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"How much foot traffic - less than Grand Central Station?"

Ha - definitely way less. It will be installed in our living/great room, dining room, bedrooms, and a second floor walkway. The heavier traffic areas (entrance, kitchen, breakfast room) will be done in a natural stone (but this is getting off topic).

"Sounds like this are boards, not engineered stuff. Cherry is very brittle. The stuff will split pretty fast if you don't give it respect. Make sure you can install, or have an installer who is confident and familiar."

That's an interesting point that I haven't see raised. When you mention Cherry being brittle and requiring extra care, do you mean on the initial install? Or do you mean over the lifetime of the flooring (as in it will start to split and crack fairly quickly).

I was planning on installing it myself :D but now this is a bit of a concern.

As for the color change, I know that Cherry darkens over time, but to be honest, I have no idea how much the variation is as I've never seen a comparison between the same stock, one exposed to sunlight and one that is I have no clue how much it will darken. Can you give an idea? Will it be as dark as say Brazilian walnut? Or more like kempas?

    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 12:41PM
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I have never installed flooring, but with cherry, all holes need to be predrilled. If you are going to use screws, I would get the countersink drills that are tapered (the drill bits are slightly tapered along the length). If needed, I can find you a link online.

That's the only problem that I am talking about. If it's not seasoned correctly, it can also split. Best to stack in the house for 1 month before installing (let it come to equilibrium)

Here's a black cherry coffee table that I made recently. Eventually, it will darken

    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 1:32PM
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I have been in homes with cherry floors, one was about 3 yrs. old and looked beautiful. The homeowners were extremely tidy and removed their shoes as soon as they entered the house. Of course, the floor was like new. Cherry is about 80% as hard as maple, which holds up well in floors. I think it would hold up well in the average home with moderate use.
I would say cherry heartwood darkens about 35% with age. The sapwood, the white colored wood from the outside of the tree, darkens little or none. In the view of many, the contrast adds to the beauty. In the cherry floors I viewed that was certainly the case. I don't think that all holes need to be predrilled. Using a floor nailer, the nails are driven into the tongue, you will get an occasional split, but as long as the proceeding groove will go over it it's not that big a deal. I think oak, the most common flooring material, is more prone to splitting and that's nailed with flooring nailers every day.
I am not a flooring expert, but have laid a few floors over the years.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2007 at 10:27AM
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That looks like #1 common black cherry in wide plank and pre-finished.

With over 3" wide, it is recommended to either:

1. Blind nail and/or face nail/face screw.
2. Blind nail and glue.
3. Glue with the use of clamps to hold the planks until set.

Note- glues mean you need a subfloor that is flat without correction by roofing paper or shingles. Because of the use of carpeting in many homes and it's forgiving nature, subfloors are often not flat.

The reason for face nails/screws or glue is because there is not sufficient holding ability from blind nailing alone when going over 3" wide. Blind nailing by itself will hold the floor down, but it will creak and pop slightly with seasonal humidity changes.

Black Cherry is fairly easy to dent, but since the floor you are choosing has a lot of character, the imperfections should be masked pretty well. Natural (unstained) is also best for floors that will be dented or scratched through the finish. It is hard to match a stain/surface finish to nearby undamaged wood.

To best hide surface finish scratches, make sure the finish sheen is either satin or matte. Also, the commercial aluminum oxide finishes are generally not easy to spot fix. Most people just have the whole floor refinished every 2-10 years, depending on wear.

Pre-drilling is not needed when blind nailing or face nailing a flooring cleat with most all N. American species (including black cherry). These cleats are tapered and pretty narrow in thickness. Pre-drilling is definitely needed with screws.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2007 at 9:39AM
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I am a pro carpenter an i have black cherry in my home. here are my two cents. cherry is a softer wood in comparison to oak or maple and is of course damaged more easily. but you can overcome this by having a thick finish. mine has 8 coats of polyurethane formulated for floors. the poly may scratch but can simply filled in with more poly. I would recommend avoiding prefinished flooring. the finish is applied in a factory and is more difficult to repair on site. and you cannot specify how much finish you want on it. you definately want to keep the floor clean. dirt and any other abrasive is the enemy of any wood floor.

one note about cherry- it does darken- sometimes considerably and it takes 5 -10 years to stabilize. the color only gets better with age. the drawback to cherry as i see it is this: you have to frequently move your furniture and rugs to make sure that the entire floor darkens evenly. this is especially true near windows where sunlight will strike the floor. if one area darkens too much the lighter areas may never darken enough to match.

that being said- i love my cherry floor and wouldnt trade it for the world- everyone who sees it falls in love with it.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 11:36PM
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the_roaming_gnome, do you have any pictures of your beautiful cherry floors? Does it get as dark as Brazilian Cherry? How does the cherry floors compare with the look of Brazilian Cherry. I had at first wanted Cherry floors due loving my cherry office furniture so much that has darkened with red and orange gorgeous coloring. But when I found out it was a soft floor, I started to look at other woods and Brazilian Cherry flooring.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2008 at 11:43PM
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