Always use a moisture meter to test for excessive moisture in the substrate before selecting solid hardwood flooring. Be sure to acclimate the wood planks before installation, and follow the manufacturer's recommended installation procedures.
Today's solid hardwood floors are still much like the solid wood flooring of ages ago, except we now have more wood species to choose from, more widths, more thicknesses and whether we want a prefinished hardwood floor or an unfinished solid hardwood floor. Even the finishes have dramatically improved for both factory-finished as well as job-site finished wood flooring. Many hardwood species from far off lands are now available in solid hardwood planks as well as the more common red oak, white oak, ash, American cherry, and maple hardwoods.
Solid hardwood flooring is cut as one solid piece with the tongue and grooves milled on all four sides of each plank. Due to the nature of solid wood these planks are more sensitive to changes in moisture and humidity than engineered hardwood flooring. Changes in humidity will cause the wood planks to expand and contract. This is why solid wood floors are NOT recommended to be installed below ground level, in any wet areas, or directly over concrete slabs. Also, all solid wood flooring has to be nailed-down to an approved wood sub-floor.
One of the benefits of a solid wood floor is they can be refinished several times, which adds to their appeal and to their long life. There are many old solid wood floors that are several centuries old and are still in good, useable condition today.
All solid wood floors will react to the presence of moisture. In the winter heating months, moisture leaves the wood causing the floor to contract which leaves unsightly gaps between each plank. In the summer months when the humidity is higher the wood will expand and the gaps will disappear. If there is too much moisture it may cause the wood planks to cup, or buckle. This is why it's so important when installing a solid wood floor to leave the proper expansion gap around the perimeter and to acclimate the wood to the room prior to installation. Also, keeping the humidity and temperature in the room constant all year long will help prevent the planks from expanding and contracting.
Unfinished solid wood floors come in several different qualities. These qualities are clear, select and better, #1 common, and #2 common.
When buying an unfinished solid oak floor make sure you know which quality you are buying.
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