Wide plank flooring is a hot commodity in the high-end remodeling and construction industry presently. Planks a foot or more wide are often needed in larger rooms in order to appear in proper proportion to the area — unless your room happens to be a bowling alley, that is! Of course, the trend toward rustic or reclaimed flooring coordinates nicely with the wide plank look.
While wide plank flooring may be stunning, builders need to be aware of some special considerations when planning for and installing these specialty wood floors.
Not every species lends itself to producing a proliferation of wide boards — especially if your job requires clear, defect-free wide boards. While a rustic look that allows for character markings certainly broadens your selection, some species simply don’t lend themselves to being used for wide plank flooring.
One example is Walnut. Its popular chocolate hues and interesting grain patterns make this domestic species a long-time favorite, but its growth limitations make it difficult to source for such a purpose. Even when enough wide planks of Walnut can be secured, they will be sourced from numerous trees, presenting the issue of inconsistency and making a color-blending finishing technique important.
Quality and Price Issues
Whatever species you choose for wide plank flooring, you can expect to factor in added work and cost in sourcing your lumber. Not only are wider boards more difficult to come by in any species, but they’re also in high demand right now. Flooring isn’t the only arena in which wide boards are trending.
Especially since they’re currently popular, wide boards tend to come with an equally high price tag. One way to attain high-quality wide boards without breaking the bank is to opt for shorter boards. Since grading is largely a percentage game, the shorter the boards, the higher the quality may be, even among boards that are not top grade.
Regardless of the species, wide planks typically involve an entire cross-section of a tree. Like large timbers, they include both the pith, or center of the tree — which is highly volatile — as well as the more stable edges. Because wide boards are flatsawn, the edges will include quartersawn grain. The quartersawn areas will easily move to absorb and shed moisture across the thickness, while the center will expand across the width. The typical but unfortunate result is cupping around the center, and the only way to completely avoid it is to use narrower boards.
Alternatively, you can reduce the instability by including as much quartersawn area as possible and employing careful drying techniques, along with using tongue and groove joining. Since the groove essentially traps the tongue of a neighboring board, even with normal movement, lifting and unevenness can be avoided. By modifying the joint, some movement can ensure that all boards remain along the same plane.
Sourcing the right boards and providing proper milling are only part of the equation. Installation is also a key component.