Stains and Oak Floors – How to Prevent a Mess

Nothing is more frustrating for homeowners than getting stains on their beautiful new hardwood oak flooring. Stains are not only unattractive but can lower the value of your home. Luckily for you, there are a number of things you can do to prevent stains from forming. Here are the top techniques for making sure stains don’t set.

Preventing Oak Flooring Stains
Using a high-quality sealant can prevent stains on hardwood surfaces.

What causes stains?
The first weapon in your battle against oak flooring stains is knowledge. Knowing how stains form will help you change your behavior and prevent stains from forming in the first place.
Stains are caused when liquid, usually dark, viscous or oily, sits on a hardwood floor for a length of time. The fluid seeps into the grain and heartwood and dyes it, causing a stain. If the floor has been treated with a sealant, the stain will take longer to set. Floors that aren’t treated are most vulnerable to stains – a dark discoloration can set in a matter of minutes.

How can I prevent stains?
The best way to prevent stains is to use good judgement. Don’t run around the house with a full glass of wine. Don’t let you kids carry open jars of jelly from room to room. You get the idea.
Apart from good judgment, the next best way to prevent stains is to use a good sealer or finish. A good finish will help protect oak flooring from most types of liquid stains by preventing the liquid from reaching the heartwood.
The third best way to prevent stains is to act fast. Wiping or mopping up the spill within a few minutes will prevent the majority of stains from setting.

Yes, stains can ruin any attractive oak flooring and cause a lot of disappointment. However, with a little knowledge and the right preventative measures, you can stop stains before they start. Turn in next time when we explore the best ways to remove pre-existing stains. See you then!

Under the Microscope – Water and Oak Flooring

If you’ve ever wondered about the science of hardwood flooring, you’re in luck. Hardwood Flooring Magazine has an interesting and informative article series about how the scientific properties of hardwood affect the installation and maintenance of wood flooring. The following are some highlights from the article, “Installation – Under the Microscope”, in which the author examines how water affects the installation of such products and white oak flooring or red oak flooring.

Oak Flooring
Oak flooring's water absorption rate has everything to do with chemistry.

“Under the Microscope”
The variations in cell type are the cause of differing visual characteristics of hardwood. The authore elaborates:

“Cells formed early in the growing season—earlywood—usually have larger diameters and thinner walls. Cells growing later in the year—latewood—have smaller diameters and thicker walls. Several layers comprise the cell wall, but most of the structural properties are dominated by the thickest layer, called S2.”

“Where the Water Goes”
Water occurs naturally in the hollow center of living wood cells. After wood dies, the water leaves the cells and the wood is vulnerable to changes in humidity:

“Along the sides of the cellulose molecules there are locations where water molecules can attach with a chemical bond. When relative humidity (RH) increases, more water molecules adhere to the sides of the cellulose—it gets fatter but not longer. The result is that the cell walls get thicker, causing the boards to expand. However, there is almost no change in cell length, so there is almost no change in the length of the board. When the humidity goes down, the process reverses: Water leaves the cell walls to go into the air and the wood shrinks.”

Curious about other ways water affects the chemical make-up of oak flooring? Read the full article here.


Estimating Materials – The Best Ways to Figure Out How Much Flooring You Will Need

Determining how much hardwood flooring material you may need for a project can be tricky. On one hand, you don’t want to purchase too much material and be left with a ton of useless extra pieces. On the other hand, buying too little will slow down the installation process once you run out of materials. So how can you accurately estimate the amount of hardwood flooring you will need? That’s easy. Follow the following simple steps and your flooring estimate should be as accurate as you could possibly get it.

White Oak Flooring
Proper estimating techniques, like the ones used on this white oak floor, will help you reduce waste and cut costs.

Use Precise Measurements
You’d be surprised by how many people don’t accurately measure the rooms in which they are planning to install hardwood floors. “Guesstimating” or not getting precise measurements may not seem like a big deal at the time of measurement, but even an inaccuracy of a few inches can lead to the wrong total square footage. Get it right the first time.

Account For Variables
Does your room have a window nook? An extended wall? A closet? Then you’ve got square footage variables. The best way to approach a room with a number of variables is take the total square footage, measure each variable individually and either add or subtract it from the total.

Anticipate Waste
It’s a good idea to add an additional 10% of your room’s total square footage to the order. This covers waste factors that naturally occur during hardwood installation, such as the start and finish runs of flooring and the occasional piece you simply don’t want to use.

Use a Flooring Calculator
It may seem like cheating, but using an online flooring calculator can really help you determine how much building material you’ll need. Most calculator tools are simple and easy to use, so don’t be afraid to get online and try them out.

Red Oak vs. White Oak: What’s the Difference?

We talk a lot about different types of hardwood flooring on this blog, and sometimes we refer to species and terminology as if all of our readers were industry professionals. For that, we apologize. We understand that sometimes terms can be used without any explanation, and that can be confusing.

White Oak Flooring
Engineered White Oak Flooring

For instance, we often refer to oak flooring on this blog. It’s dependable, attractive, and relatively inexpensive. But there are two main types of oak flooring – red oak flooring and white oak flooring – and we often talk about them without discussing the differences between the two.

Well, no more. There are many noticeable differences between red oak flooring and white oak flooring, as well as similarities. These differences include areas such as strength and durability, appearance, movement in service, and maintenance. Check out “Red Oak Flooring VS White Oak Flooring – What’s The Difference?” for more information on these two amazing hardwood species.

Hardwood Mechanical Properties – What Do They Really Mean?

Do you get confused when hardwood flooring professionals start talking about Janka hardness or the modulus of expansion? That’s okay. Unless you are a hardwood professional yourself you probably don’t know the technical jargon. Well, here are a few key technical terms and what they mean. Enjoy!

Hardness: This specification measures how resistant a wood species is to indentation. The higher then number, the harder the wood.

Modulus of Rupture: This is a measure of the wood’s “strength”. In other words, the MOR measures how much force is required to break the wood. This measurement will tell you how much weight the wood can carry.

Modulus of Expansion: Also called “stiffness”, the MOE is a measure of the wood’s resistance to bending. A high MOE means the wood is less likely to buckle or bend over time.

Density: Measured in KG per cubic meter, a wood’s density tells you how much weight and damage a hardwood floor can take before breaking or bending. A very dense wood will also be less likely to experience rot or insect infestations.

If you’d like more detailed information on hardwood mechanical properties, check out this useful article: “Hardwood Mechanical Properties – What Do They Really Mean?”

Online Flooring Tools – What They Are and How to Use Them

It’s a great age we live in! Advances in technology have made almost every part of life easier, and picking new hardwood floors is no exception. There are many useful virtual tools online that can help you decide on a specific type of hardwood floor, match it to your house’s current color scheme, and determine how much flooring you will need.

Room Design Tools
Room design tools allow you to choose from a number of different room features and mix-and-match them until you come across a combination you like. The latest and most advanced room design tools feature 3D technology and allow you to take a virtual tool through your newly designed room. Choose from features such as hardwood flooring, counter tile, furnishings and appliances. Most virtual room designers also allow you to save your designs and compare different feature combinations.

A well-designed room featuring engineered Bacana-Copaiba floors
A well-designed room featuring engineered Bacana-Copaiba floors

Color Design Tools
A virtual color design tool is a simpler version of the room design tools. If you aren’t designing a whole room and only want to match wood floor types to paint colors or molding types, color design tools are the way to go. Most effective color design tools feature specific panels representing different parts of a room, such as flooring, molding, cabinets and wall paint. Simply pick the color and style of the room features you want to match and then compare and choose a complementary flooring type.

Materials Calculator
A good online materials calculator can be an invaluable tool for any hardwood flooring project. Flooring calculators help you determine the square footage of the area you are working on so you know exactly how much materials you will need. It’s important to remember that exact square footage isn’t always available at hardwood flooring retail outlets. Some retailers sell by the bundle, so make sure to purchase more square footage than you actually need. It’s always better to have materials left over than to not have enough to finish the project.

The Best Hardwoods to Install Over Radiant Heat Systems

Radiant heat systems are great, but they can really do damage to solid hardwood floors. Hardwood flooring can dry out much faster when installed over a radiant heat system, but understanding radiant heat systems and knowing which wood species work best with them can help reduce the amount of damage the system will do to your floors. Here are the top types of hardwood flooring that work best with radiant heat systems.

Oak Flooring

Natural Red Oak Flooring
Natural Red Oak Flooring

Domestic Oak flooring is a great choice for installing over a radiant heat system. Both Red Oak flooring and White Oak flooring have a natural dimensional stability and a lower density, two great features to have when pairing wood flooring with radiant heat. Species with higher densities, such as Brazilian Cherry and Maple, are less stable and thus more likely to warp or bend due to temperature fluctuations.

Narrow Boards
Wide boards are less dimensionally stable than narrow boards and don’t work so well with radiant heat systems. The general rule of thumb with width is any board under 3” works well. The preferred width is 2 1/4”, especially in solid flooring.

Engineered Flooring
Engineered flooring is often preferred over solid hardwood flooring simply because it is very versatile, can be installed in any room of the home (including below grade), and can be installed using a number of different methods. Engineered flooring is the preferred choice when it comes to radiant heat systems, too. The dimensional stability of engineered flooring makes it a perfect pairing with radiant heat.

Quartersawn Flooring
Again, dimensional stability is the key factor here, and quartersawn and rift-sawn floors are simply more stable than their plain sawn counterparts.

These are just a few things to consider before installing hardwood flooring over a radiant heat system. For more information on radiant heat installation of hardwood flooring, check with the National Wood Flooring Association – they have some great tips.

Aiming For That NWFA Seal of Approval

Think all hardwood flooring distributors are the same? Think again! According to a recent press release, the National Wood Flooring Association has started offering what’s called the Accepted Product Seal Program. This completely voluntary program will help manufacturers and distributors earn recognition for meeting certain industry performance standards. It will also help consumers identify companies that meet these standards and, most likely, offer high quality hardwood products.

Prefinished Natural Acacia Flooring
Prefinished Natural Acacia Flooring

So what is involved in the Accepted Product Seal Program? Well, the program tests standards for six unique product categories, including abrasives, adhesives, engineered wood flooring, fasteners, finishes/stains/sealers, and underlayment. The tests are performed by independent, third-party testing facilities. Testing requirements are created by ASTM/ANSI, two of the leading organizations in industry-specific international standardization.

The NWFA has been around since 1986 and currently boasts over 3,500 members, including architects, designers, specifiers, builders and consumers. Members receive high-quality educational training, technical resources, and industry networking opportunities. For more information about NWFA practices or if you’re interested in joining the group, call 800-422-4556 or visit the NWFA website.

Spotlight On: Oak

Welcome to a brand new series here on Engineered Flooring called Spotlight On:. This week we’re aiming our Spotlight On: Oak! Domestic Oak is a very versatile type of hardwood and has been used for years to add distinction and sophistication to homes across the US. Here are two of the most popular types of Oak, their features and how much you should expect to pay for them.

White Oak
The crisp, light tones featured in White Oak gives any room a bright, airy feel. The dark gray heartwood is nicely contrasted by hints of white and a tight grain pattern. White Oak is a very versatile wood, as well – it can be easily stained or treated to match pre-existing floors, fixtures or furniture. Here are the specs:

Hardness: 1,360 pounds
Strength: 15,200 psi
Stiffness: 1,780 1000 psi
Density: 900 KG/m3
Tangential Shrinkage: 7.2%
Radial Shrinkage: 4.2%
Price: Depending on variety, expect anywhere from $3.75/SF to $6.50/SF.

Finished Natural White Oak

Red Oak
Slightly more distinct-looking than its White counterpart, Red Oak has a red-tinged brown heartwood and a more open, fluid grain pattern. Like White Oak, Red Oak is versatile enough to work in almost any room with almost any décor, and has been an American favorite for years. The specs:

Hardness: 1,290 pounds
Strength: 14,300 psi
Stiffness: 1,850 1000 psi
Density: 780 KG/m3
Tangential Shrinkage: 8.6%
Radial Shrinkage: 4%
Price: Depending on variety, expect anywhere from $3.99/SF to $6.75/SF

Finished Natural Red Oak

Oak has been a hardwood flooring standard in America for years. Isn’t it time you joined the club?

The Best Protection for Your Hardwood Floors

You’re no fool – you know that in order to protect your newly installed engineered flooring you’re going to need some sort of sealant, stain or varnish. But which should you choose? What’s the best protection for your floors? Here are the main types of wood protection, what types of floors they work best on, and how to use each.

Wood sealant is a great choice if you’re concerned about uneven grain or stain patterns. Most often used on soft woods, wood sealant will penetrate your floors and harden, helping slow stain absorbency and giving your floors a more even color distribution. Sealants help protect wood from the elements and are most often used in decking projects, but they can be used on floors in high-traffic or extremely open rooms. Softwoods such as spruce, white pine and Douglas fir (sometimes referred to as SPF lumber) take very well to sealants and are common flooring and decking choices in the US.

Used for centuries as a wood finish, shellac is a natural resin produced by tree-dwelling insects. Shellac isn’t as commonly used as it once was, but it can still be found at hardwood supply stores and is a great choice for DIY-ers because it doesn’t produce a lot of fumes. Shellac is very compatible with most other finishes, and when used as a primer can help protect wood from stain blotching or resin bleeding. It also acts as a sealant. It isn’t the most durable wood protectant, so if you only use shellac plan on doing touch-ups as scratches happen.

Varnishes offer great protection to wood floors, but are a little trickier to apply than stains and sealants. Made up of a combination of resins and oils, varnishes must be applied in a completely dust- and dirt-free area as the wet varnish surface is very susceptible to damage. Polyurethane varnishes offer the best protection, making them perfect for indoor use.
The downside to varnishes is that they add a plastic appearance to the floors, which some people find unappealing. Varnishes also tend to yellow and crack with age, so they require a bit more maintenance in the long run. They can be applied to any type of wood, however, and many people find the versatility and protection worth the plastic appearance and down-the-road maintenance.

Stained Tigerwood floors

Very popular in hardwood flooring projects, stains accent and emphasize wood grain while offering moderate protection. Stains are the most versatile wood protectant, coming in a variety of transparencies and colors, and are generally either oil-, latex- or water-based. Stains are great on woods with striking or exotic wood grain patterns, such as Acacia, Cumaru, and Tigerwood. The downside? Stains don’t offer great protection, so be prepared to reapply more often than you would a varnish or shellac.