Wide plank flooring can certainly offer a striking addition to your next build! Particularly suited to large rooms in today’s high-end residential and commercial construction and remodeling industry, planks topping 12 inches in width are becoming increasingly popular. However, any boards wider than 4 inches technically fall into the category of “wide plank,” since they’re still a bit wider than those used for traditional strip-style wood floors. The width of your flooring should be determined in large part by the size of the room; the more spacious the room, the wider the planks actually need to be in order to create the right appearance. Whether you choose new lumber or reclaimed wood for your wide plank flooring installation, you should be aware of some potential issues so you can plan for them and avoid common pitfalls unique to these boards.
Unlike manufactured products, lumber isn’t made to order. So when you limit yourself to wide planks — especially those on the larger side of the spectrum, ranging from 8 to 12 inches wide — you limit yourself to certain species. And the larger your order, the more limited your choices. Certain species are more limited than others, when it comes to size; Walnut offers a unique example. If a customer desires the appearance of Walnut for a wide-plank floor, you might suggest an alternative such as Wenge, which boasts the same rich, chocolate-brown color while allowing for a better chance of securing wider boards.
Even those species that do offer many extra-wide boards will create the issue of added difficulty, when it comes to trying to match color and grain. Being proactive by explaining this issue with your client ahead of time can reduce the chance of disappointment. If color matching is important, then planning to apply a stain might be a reasonable suggestion.
Another issue is tied to the reduced availability of wide boards that are also perfectly clear. One way to accommodate this reality is to recommend a rustic look that won’t require such rare (and costly) lumber. One more way to accommodate the limitations in securing extra-wide boards is to at least consider shorter boards.
Added Issues and Accommodations
Regardless of species, a wide plank will typically represent the cross section of a tree, allowing for maximum width yield. Flatsawn boards will accomplish this, as will boards cut from the center of the tree. However, this will necessarily include edges with stable grain surrounding a middle with a volatile central area. While quartersawn edges shift as moisture levels do along the board’s thickness, the pith will not; instead, the board may act as if it has a hinge in the middle, potentially causing cupping. Considering this potential issue, careful drying is a necessity, as is milling and re-milling in a slow and steady manner, in order to allow for these extra-wide boards to acclimate as much as possible.