Working with wide wood plank flooring brings its own unique set of challenges. Still, when done correctly, it can accentuate the look of the homes it is installed in dramatically, as a recent installation by Ethan Abrudeanu, owner of Broadleaf Hardwoods Co. in Chicago, Illinois, demonstrates.
“I had the opportunity to install floors in the personal home of a general contractor and great friend. While not the most complicated floor, it holds a special place in my heart, and if I were going to redo my floors, it’s what I would do,” explains Abrudeanu. “It originally was going to be 3,000 square feet of 4” white oak, but I ended up getting access to 8” rift and quarter character grade flooring in 10-foot lengths.”
Abrudeanu’s reasoning for selecting the wide plank flooring was that the home’s layout was narrow and long.
“Flooring is a great way to create a good flow in the home, and when you
put in a wider width floor in a narrow home, it opens everything up, and paints the direction of how the house flows,” says Abrudeanu.
Abrudeanu says that while wide plank floors can impact a project positively, there are lessons worth noting before using them.
“It can make a statement, but it is important not to get carried away and go too wide in too small of a room, as it can make the room look smaller,” says Abrudeanu. “While wider floors have advantages, you need to know when to use them and understand there are some things you’ll need to do differently when working with them.”
Prior to installation, Abrudeanu kept the wide plank flooring in climate-controlled storage, as delays pushed back the eventual installation date.
“Being mindful of the environment the wider planks are in, and that proper acclimation is done is important, as wood expands and contracts proportional to width,” explains Abrudeanu. “With wider wood, it is more important to control temperature and humidity in the space.”
“Flooring is a great way to create a good flow in the home, and when you put in a wider width floor in a narrow home, it opens everything up, and paints the direction of how the house flows.”
— Ethan Abrudeanu
First, Abrudeanu stresses working with wider planks can be slightly more work than with narrow boards, which might sound counterintuitive.
“Some like the idea of using wider boards, thinking they will make a job go more quickly, as they cover more square footage. However, I’ve learned that installing wider planks ends up being a lot more overall work,” explains Abrudeanu. “For example, a wider board requires a lot more force to move it into place.”
Abrudeanu also emphasizes the importance of being precise with your lines. He notes that if you’re slightly off, you can’t easily bend the boards straight like you might with a narrower width board.
“You have to be mindful of lines, but you also have to be mindful that butt ends and end joints are spaced out so that the floor flows well,” explains Abrudeanu. “Remember, the floor is less busy due to fewer boards, and your eye will see everything.”
NFWA guidelines indicate end joint staggering should be at least twice the width of the flooring, although this can be challenging to maintain due to board widths and lengths.
“In addition to making sure you’re properly staggering, you also need to make extra sure that you are mixing and matching from different bundles,” says Abrudeanu. “As with any flooring project, you want it to appear random, but that involves planning, and I find this is even more critical when working with wider planks.”
Once work began on the project, Abrudeanu approached the installation by screwing down an initial starter row, then gluing and nailing the rest around them. NWFA guidelines indicate that any boards wider than five inches should be glue-assisted. The nailing schedule also is closer together than it is for strip flooring, every six to eight inches and one to three inches from each end.
Moving on to the sand and finishing process, Abrudeanu says paying careful attention to the condition of the boards before installation can save a lot of time and frustration with the sanding process.
“Due diligence is crucial on the front end,” explains Abrudeanu. “My advice is to make sure you get the best milling possible, especially on wider flooring; otherwise, sanding the floor can be a nightmare.”
Abrudeanu says he’s always on the lookout for shake in the wood he’s using. “To look for issues, we sand the floor, water pop it, leave it for a day and then go over the floor with an LED light to look for anything that pops up,” he explains. “While you might lose a day, you don’t end up having to re-sand jobs due to shake. If we do find something, we use two-part glue or super glue to fix it.”
With a final sanding completed, Abrudeanu finished the floor using hard wax oils, which he feels accentuates the grain of the wood.
“I love working with hard wax oils, especially on wide plank flooring. It brings out the beauty and detail of the wood,” explains Abrudeanu. “If they are done properly, they are very durable finishes, and they are truly spectacular floors when done right. The key is just taking your time and understanding the basics of working with them.”