Timber flooring is available in many colours of single or mixed species and the floor that you are installing will be unique in character and appearance because there are no two trees the same. Although others may have similar floors, no one else will have a floor with the same natural beauty and atmosphere that is created by your timber floor. For this reason, timber floors are so valued and the feature of many homes. Another charm of timber floors is that they are totally natural and with this comes variability. When you walk down the street, do you see anybody who looks and acts like you? No. Well it is the same with a timber floor. Due to this there are some things you, the owner, need to consider about purchasing the floor and understand about laying, sanding and finishing. Knowing these things will enable you to enjoy your floor throughout the years ahead.
What do I need to understand when I am purchasing a timber floor?
When you purchase a floor, you will need to consider aspects such as colour, grade, board width and the finish to be applied. Photos and samples do not always provide a good representation of colour or grade and it is important to realise that floors of the same species can differ markedly in both colour and appearance. Grading rules do not cover either colour or colour variation, but do significantly influence the appearance, with some grades including the character of the trees history with larger gum veins, knots and other features present. This more rusticated appearance, full of character is prized by many owners. In other grades the cleaner natural lines and figure of the timber will dominant with fewer and smaller features present and with a subdued finish you can almost see inside the board. You have many choices to make, so spend time with MYM or your installer to know and understand your new floor.
What should I expect when my floor is being installed?
Your timber floor may be installed over a concrete slab, on joists or over a structural sheet floor of particleboard or plywood. What are their moisture contents and is a slab vapour barrier needed? You may live in a drier location, on farmland or up in the moist tropics. You may have air-conditioning, heating systems or large expanses of glass with a lot of direct sunlight. Well, to accommodate all these variables different methods of installation are going to be appropriate to different homes and therefore practices will differ with your installation, compared to others you may know. Again MYM will be able to advise you on what is most appropriate for your home and how the desired flooring product is likely to perform in your house. So what are some of the things that the installer has to take account of at the time of installation?
*Firstly, a few checks are necessary on the product supplied. This includes checking pack labels for size and grade, damage that may have occurred in transit, that moisture content readings are within the expected range, that board widths are close to their manufactured width and that boards are a snug fit and not too loose.
*Next the site and installation environment is considered. Are we in a moist location where the flooring is likely to swell after installation or is it a dry location where some shrinkage after installation can be expected? What is the condition of the sub-floor, be it particleboard, plywood or a concrete slab? Is the sub-floor space beneath the floor dry and appropriate for laying the floor?
*The installer will then consider the likely movement of the floor after it is installed. In addition to the location, the time of year and seasonal conditions need to be assessed. The board width, whether the floor is elevated or in bushy surroundings and possible influences of air-conditioning and heating systems all affect floor movement.
*After taking all these things into consideration, the need to pre-condition the flooring through acclimatisation, the amount of expansion allowance necessary, fixing method that is suited and appropriateness of particular finish systems can be determined.
And now it is time to sand and polish the floor...
The sanding and finishing is an exciting time as all the rich beauty and character of the floor is truly revealed. During this time the sander and finisher may have to contend with conditions that are prone to dust or which can affect the curing of the finish system, and also timbers that may prefer some types of finish more than others. The width of the boards, movement that may have already occurred in the floor, as well as the overall condition of the floor, all influence the most appropriate finish to be applied. Again it is important to listen to your sander and finisher as a different finish system may be recommended at this stage. Sanders and finishers will also make their own assessment that the floor is suitable for sanding and finishing., in order to achieve a high appearance. This may include assessment of moisture content, presence of cupping or movement at board joints. It must be recognised that the floor is not being sanded and finished in a factory and therefore it is unrealistic to expect a similar finish to that line of furniture. Although timber floors are very beautiful, we need to remember it is a floor and its purpose is to be walked on. A high standard of appearance can be expected but the fact is that some finishing imperfections do occur in all floors. Down lights often used in today’s house will highlight the very fine sanding marks through a finish and some dust can be present in the finish, even when appropriate precautions are taken. Although you may be tempted to comment on a floor before the final coat is applied, it is generally better to wait and allow the finisher to present the floor to you when the job is complete. Also make sure that you do not walk on the floor between coats and as this can affect the coating system.
And now the floor is complete...
The installation and finishing should not be rushed as the condition of the timber, climate and house environment all need to be assessed, possible issues rectified before installation and sometimes we just have to wait for the timber itself or sub-floor to get themselves ready for installation. Remember some of the things that your installer and finisher may have told you. “you may not think so but your floor is still alive. Don’t be surprised to see small shrinkage gaps at board edges during dry times and the gaps closing during wet periods”. “In the next few months if you crank up that wood fire, don’t be surprised to see a few gaps appear at board edges”. “Well, we are in moist area here, so watch these expansion gaps and I reckon you will see them start to close.” “Yeah, there is a bit of dust in the finish near that doorway, but I reckon it should wear away in the next few months-if not, give us a call”. Your floor with all its character and beauty is not a man-made product, it can tell you the history of a forest, it can tell you about past inhabitants that may have foraged through its cells and it can also tell you how dry or moist the climate is. Know your floor, understand your floor and most of all enjoy your floor.
Just one last thing...
You now have another important role to play. Although your floor can be walked on, full curing and hardening will occur over the next few weeks after finishing and it is recommended that rigs are not laid until this time. Similarly, it should be ensured that the feet of chairs and tables etc have felt pads or protectors applied. Heavy items of furniture need to be carefully positioned without dragging them. Curtains or similar should be used to protect floor areas from intense sunlight and mats both inside and out are an effective means of trapping grit which can scratch floor surfaces. It should also be noted that overtime, both floor finish and the timber that is exposed to light will darken and therefore floors will often be of a lighter tone under rugs. You should also consider a regular cleaning program to ensure that your floor remains in pristine condition. Antistatic mops are effective for collecting dust and grit, and vacuum cleaners, provided the brushes are not worn, are also effective. Damp mopping on say a monthly basis provides and effective deep clean and when carried out with mild cleaners as recommended by the coating manufacturers, it will not harm the floor. Well that’s it, enjoy the beauty of your natural timber floor.