Category Archives: Learning

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What Is a Subfloor?

When it’s time to have a new floor installed in your home, it’s easy to get caught up in the portions that you’ll be seeing. The appearance of a new floor is often the most exciting aspect of having it installed, but there is more to getting a new floor than just what’s on the surface. As you begin this process, you’ll quickly learn that there are often a few crucial layers underneath your new floor top, and one of those layers is a subfloor.

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How Does Laminate Flooring Compare to Hardwood Flooring in Portland?

If you’re considering a home remodel or update, you’re probably looking into redoing your floors. Upgrading flooring can make all the difference in the feel of a home, and it adds a significant amount of value. In fact, if you choose hardwood floors, you can increase your home’s value by as much as 10 percent. No other flooring type matches the financial value of hardwood floors. But how does hardwood compare to laminate floors?

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What Are the Layers of Hardwood Floor Installation?

Hardwood floors have a long history as one of the most durable and attractive flooring options available. A well-cared-for hardwood floor can last a lifetime, but to get there, there are some things to think about. The durability and life span will depend on several factors, such as the type and quality of the finish, the periodic maintenance, and most importantly, the supporting structures of the hardwood floor.

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3 Hardwood Floor Problems You Can DIY and 3 You Probably Shouldn’t

Many homeowners dream of having hardwood floors. Whether new floors were laid down some years back or original hardwood was discovered under carpeting, these floors will require maintenance or repair at some stage. Depending on their condition, you may or may not be able to tackle some of these hardwood floor problems yourself.

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5 Tips for Caring for Your Wood Floors in Winter

Winter is a welcomed season for many in Oregon because it brings with it a glut of snow sports, a handful of blustery nights spent cozy at home, and plenty of busy days filled with holiday traditions old and new. The change of season is felt distinctly. We are starting to see the coming rain that will wash us in shades of emerald next spring. The crispness in the air indicates it’s time to pull out the winter gear: hats, gloves, scarves, base-layers, and boots. It’s also time to tackle the household winterizing too. Here are five tips for caring for your wood floors in winter.

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How Does a Contractor Install Heated Floors with Hardwood?

 

Heated floors have been around since the Romans fanned wood-burning fires under elevated marble floors. Fortunately for us, technology has come a long way, and heated floors are now available to anyone for much less hassle. With a new build, it’s easy to heat an entire house with a radiant heat system.

Certain types of heated floors are better as a supplemental heat source in your home, most commonly used in rooms such as bathrooms, basements, kitchens, and bedrooms—especially when the bedroom is above a garage or other unheated space. Whether using heated floors for the whole house or just certain rooms, they could arguably be one of the most luxurious additions you add and can be installed under many different types of wood floors.

If you have never experienced walking around barefoot in the cold of winter on a cozy, warm floor, you are indeed missing out! Take a look at what exactly heated floors are, how they work, and if adding them to a renovation or to your new build is right for you.

How Do Heated Floors Work?

Heated floors are an incredible heating system for your home, but how do they actually work? It’s a very simple concept, with the heat starting under the floors and rising, it feels warmer than heat being pushed in through the walls or ceiling. In more detail, since hot air rises, when you have heat, the air around the heat expands. When the heated air expands, it becomes less dense than the cooler air around it and then rises. When the heating system starts from under the floors, we get the benefit of feeling all of the heat rising, and there will be no cold drafts.

This can be seen with water as well. When there’s a less dense object, such as a log, the log then floats up to the denser water. When you heat under your floor, the hot air rises, thus helping to create a cozy warm home for you. This page offers a great visual of why heated floors work so well.

Typically, floor temperatures are set between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit but can be set as high as 104 degrees. Radiant floor heating systems often feel similar to the heat from the sun. Even when the air in the room is cooler, the warmth from the floor will help make you feel warmer. It’s similar to standing in the shade versus standing in the sun. It’s the same temperature, but you’re much warmer when you’re standing in the sun versus in the shade on a brisk day.

Pros and Cons of Radiant Heating

Pros

  •       Even heating—radiant floor heating systems heat the entire floor so there will always be an even temperature throughout the room or house, and no more cold drafts.
  •       Quiet—because there’s no air being forced through a duct system and no furnace that kicks on, radiant heating systems are very quiet.
  •       Fewer allergens—without a forced-air system, there are less dust and allergens being blown through the home.
  •       No maintenance—once your heated floors are installed, they don’t require a lot of maintenance.
  •       Energy-efficient—because the heated air from the radiant heat system rises up from under the floors, the heat is felt right away. There’s nowhere for the heat to escape. Even on a very cold day, having the heat right under your feet will keep you from needing to constantly raise the temperature.

Cons

  •       Replace Flooring—if you haven’t installed a radiant heat system during construction, your flooring will need to be replaced. Both hydronic and electric systems will require the current flooring to be removed before installation.
  •       Elevated floor—there are some thin systems available, as thin as ⅛ inch thick, but typically, a radiant heat system will raise your floor about a ½ inch. This can cause some issues when only some rooms of the house are being heated using this method.
  •       Cost—radiant heating systems are an investment up-front, but they do save in the long run, especially if you live in an area where the cost of electricity is high. Taking into consideration the cost of electricity versus the cost of installation will help determine if heated floors will be beneficial in your home and budget.

Electric vs. Hydronic

There are two popular options for radiant floor heating systems—electric, which is typically supplemental, and hydronic, which is usually designed to heat the whole house.

Electric radiant heating systems aren’t meant to be the only heat source in a home and are installed over the subfloor in a bed of thin-set mortar. The cables that are the heat source are often pre-attached to puzzle-like mats to allow for easy installation. If you’re pretty handy, you could do an install yourself, but it’s an easy project for a contractor, and you’ll ensure a quality job. Electric radiant heating systems heat up in 30 to 60 minutes so homeowners can turn them on and off as they need to help keep their heat costs down.

Hydronic radiant heating systems are typically designed to heat the entire house. Plastic tubing that holds water is heated to a temperature between 100 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit and circulated through that tubing under the floors throughout the house.

The most popular way to install the tubing is over subflooring and covered in thin-set mortar or with specially designed panels that hold the tubing or cables in place. These panels are then covered in cement or mortar.

Hydronic radiant heating is ideal for whole-house heating and should be installed during construction, as it can be difficult to add to a renovation that doesn’t already have the proper equipment. Because the hydronic radiant heat system requires pump lines, gas lines, and a broiler, it usually costs more up-front. However, the cost of heating with this system is generally lower when heating the entire house with the hydronic radiant heat system, even though the system takes longer to heat up and is usually kept on around the clock.

How Is It Installed?What Can I Do About My Cold Hardwood Floors

In recent years, the installation of radiant heat flooring systems has been simplified. Some subflooring has become available with pre-fitted tubing channels. There are also pre-made panels with insulation, a vapor barrier, and a holding system for the tubing or cables. Your contractor will start by making sure the floor is level. They can then build up the floor with plywood and sleepers to the height needed.

Once the contractor installs the tubing or cables, a thin-set mortar is poured over the top to encapsulate the cables and help distribute the heat. When that has been leveled and dried, flooring can then be installed after acclimating to the conditions of the house.

Installing heated floors can be very rewarding for your day-to-day comfort. At Wall 2 Wall, we can help with construction or restoration needs. Please reach out to us with any questions you have about your hardwood floors. We are happy to help.

Help! My Hardwood Floor Is Splitting

No one wants to think about their hardwood floor splitting, but it is, unfortunately, more common than you may realize. Hardwood floor splitting occurs more commonly if your hardwood floors are on the newer side. Why is that? Well, hardwood floor splitting occurs due to water, typically excess moisture or humidity. And if your hardwood floors aren’t properly installed or sealed, that can lead to moisture getting into your floors and causing the hardwood to split.

Potential Causeswall-2-wall-help-my-hardwood-floor-is-splitting

For instance, if the wood was installed in an environment that wasn’t humidity controlled, extra moisture could have been trapped in the boards. An uncontrolled environment is one that’s outside the ideal humidity range used throughout the hardwood flooring industry, which is 35 to 55 percent.

Another way the installation could have been done improperly is if the wood wasn’t acclimated correctly before it was installed, which means your floorboards could have either been too wet or too dry during installation.

There are other reasons your hardwood floors could be splitting that have nothing to do with installation. The levels of humidity in your home could have increased or decreased significantly. This can also lead to splits. For example, if it’s an excessively humid summer and the humidity gets into your home, that could cause splitting. Additionally, moisture can seep through the subfloor, causing a damp crawlspace, which will, in turn, cause splitting. Your floor will take on the moisture and then release it to the rest of the room.

Now that you know why your hardwood floor could be splitting, what can be done to solve the problem?

Call a Professional

The first thing you should do is call a professional. Don’t attempt to fix the splitting on your own. Not only can it be dangerous, but it could lead to further damage to your floors if the repair isn’t done properly. Additionally, you’ll want to call a professional because they can fix, not only the problem, but also the source of the problem to help ensure that your hardwood floors stay fixed.

At Wall 2 Wall Hardwood Floors, we can do all of this for you (and more!). We’re pros when it comes to hardwood floor installation, hardwood floor repair, and hardwood floor restoration, just to name a few of our specialties. We’ll use our expertise to fix your splitting hardwood floor and get to the root of the problem to prevent it from happening again. For example, if there’s a damp subfloor under your flooring that’s causing the splitting, we’ll help you remedy that issue.

You should only take action on your own if you’re entirely sure the issue isn’t due to an underlying water or moisture issue and that it won’t reoccur. If this is the case and you know how to use the proper equipment safely, you can sand, fill, and refinish the floor if the splitting is getting extensive. If you’re at all hesitant, call for assistance.

Check the Humidity in Your Home

As we mentioned above, moisture in the air is a common reason hardwood floors split. Double-check the humidity of the room where the floor is splitting and of your home in general. You don’t want to fix your split hardwood floors only for it to happen again a short while later due to excessive moisture in the house.

Just as high levels of moisture in a room can cause the hardwood floors to split, low levels, resulting in it being too dry, can do the same. For instance, if it’s wintertime and you have the heat pumping throughout your home, check the humidity level in the room where the floor is splitting. It might be too low. If it is, you can get a humidifier and run it in the room. This humidifier will help to bring more moisture into the room. It’s all about finding that happy balance in the range we mentioned above (35 to 55 percent).

Don’t Feel Like You Need to Act Right Away

Of course, if you see a split in the flooring of your home and it’s right after installation, you should call the company who installed your floors. However, if the floors aren’t new, there’s no reason to call for help immediately. It’s good practice to wait a full season to see if there are any further changes in your flooring before you get the problem fixed. This is because, as the weather and humidity changes, it’s normal for hardwood floors to change somewhat. Sometimes, the splits can close by themselves when the humidity rises again. Wait a while and see—there’s no reason for you to spend excess money if you don’t have to.

Whereas moisture—whether there’s too much or too little of it—tends to be the main factor when it comes to hardwood floor splitting, if the floor is older and the finish on the floor is worn, the splits could simply be a sign of age. This is something that a professional can diagnose so you know for sure.

When the splitting is due solely to age and not because of a water problem, there’s no need to fix the splits—as long as you’re okay with them, of course. If they don’t cause a safety risk to anyone walking around, if they aren’t that big, and if you don’t mind the look of them, it’s okay to simply leave the splits as they are. When, however, the splitting is a concern or you suspect an underlying water or moisture issue, call in a hardwood floor professional to assess the situation.

If your hardwood floor is splitting and you’re in the Portland area, please give us a call. We can come to inspect and fix the problem for you.

5 Tips for Installing Hardwood Flooring Wall to Wall

A hardwood floor is one of the most elegant upgrades you can give your home. A wood floor brings benefits both aesthetic and practical. Compared to a carpet, it’s easier to clean and longer-lasting, and it won’t trap allergens and bad smells in the way that carpet will. What’s more, a hardwood floor can have a profound effect on your home’s value: up to 2.5 percent, depending upon other factors. Since a hardwood floor doesn’t need to be replaced every few years the way carpeting does, you’ll easily find that the initial cost of installation pays for itself over the lifetime of the house.

Of course, installing wall-to-wall flooring is an art and science unto itself. Below, we offer our top five tips to ensure your home has a floor that can last generations.

Tip #1: Know What’s Involved

Attempting to install a hardwood floor yourself is not a job for a beginner. You should have a solid background in carpentry and know your way around the tools of the trade. Because installing wall-to-wall flooring requires extremely precise measurements—even a minor error can lead to serious problems with your floor—you shouldn’t try to undertake this job on your own unless you’re confident of your skills. You’ll also want to be sure you have the patience to undertake a task of this size. It’s a long and difficult job.

If you’ve considered all the above factors and have decided that you can handle the installation process on your own, great! If, on the other hand, you’ve decided you need the help of a professional, there’s no shame in that either. Contact Portland’s top hardwood flooring professionals at Wall 2 Wall and ask them for a quote for the job.

Tip #2: Choose the Right Materials

So you’ve decided you want to install a hardwood floor. Of course, that’s only the first of a series of decisions you’ll have to make. “Hardwood” can mean many different types of material, and you’ll need to decide exactly what’s best in your situation. While most people imagine that hardwood floors are always made from solid planks of oak, cherry, or other similar materials, this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.

In fact, modern technology has led to advancement in the hardwood flooring world, just as it has in other areas of home design. For example, a popular and relatively new type of hardwood flooring is known as engineered flooring. These are planks covered with only a thin top layer of the hardwood of your choice, and it has a variety of advantages over other types of hardwood floors. In particular, engineered flooring can be installed directly onto concrete, without requiring the layers of plywood traditional floors have beneath them. This means that they can be installed essentially anywhere—and also that they can be installed over floors that have radiant heating systems.

Solid flooring still has advantages over other types, though. It can be sanded repeatedly and therefore can easily be refinished every few years, meaning it will stay in amazing shape for decades.

Besides these choices, you’ll have to make aesthetic choices as well. What type of wood do you prefer to have in your home? Oak, cherry, mahogany, or something else entirely? Oak is a popular choice, owing not only to its durability, but also to its ability to take stain well. If you prefer something with a darker finish, walnut is also an excellent choice, although it’s a little softer than oak.

Tip #3: Decide On the Size of the Wood Planks

As with any home improvement project, preparation is key when it comes to installing wall-to-wall flooring. You’ve settled on the material to use, but you have a few other important decisions to make. For example, what’s the width of the planks you want to use? Do you prefer wide planks or thin planks? Each has its own distinct advantages.

Thin planks—in the four- to six-inch range—are standard and a bit cheaper. Wide planks—seven inches or more—are considered to be a “luxury” feature that exudes a sense of elegance in the home. It’s more expensive than thin planks. Thinner planks also tend to warp less over time, although this can vary depending on other factors.

Tip #4: Consider How You’ll Install Your Floorwall-2-wall-5-tips-for-installing-hardwood-flooring-wall-to-wall

After you know all the details regarding what your floor will look like and what it will be constructed from, you’ll need to know how your floor will be installed. How the floor is installed depends a good bit on what it’s constructed from. Solid hardwood planks usually need to be nailed straight down onto the plywood beneath them. Engineered flooring can usually be glued down or even stapled into place.

Tip #5: Prepare Carefully Before You Begin

Once you’ve made all the decisions regarding installing your wall-to-wall flooring, you’ll need to actually begin ordering the materials. Begin with careful measurement of the rooms you’ll be installing the flooring in. Always order at least 5 percent more material than you actually need. This is to allow for cutting and a margin of error.

The next step you’ll have to take is rolling out your underlayment, should it be required, and then you’ll lay out the hardwood planks. Line the planks up parallel to the longest wall. If you’re nailing the floorboards down, you may have to drill holes in them first. With each step, take care that there are no large gaps between the planks of your floor, and then you can begin the job.

As with any massive building project, it helps if you have a few extra sets of hands to assist you. Ask friends or neighbors to help with the job. Of course, don’t be afraid to call a professional if you believe the job requires it.

Why is My Hardwood Floor Buckling?

Hardwood floors are a classic and timeless addition to a home and have grown to become an extremely popular flooring choice among owners. Apart from adding beauty and warmth to your space, it’s also easy to maintain and has a long shelf life compared to other alternatives.

However, given the wear and tear floors are subjected to on an everyday basis, one cannot escape from all of the common problems that could arise as even though hardwood floors are high on aesthetic appeal, remember that there will be times when you will notice abnormalities in the flooring, sometimes through no fault of your own.

One of the most common issues people with hardwood floors are faced with is buckling.

If you notice a portion of your hardwood floor is slightly raised, this is a sign of buckling and generally occurs due to increased exposure to moisture, which the wooden plank pulls away from the sub-floor, causing the raised appearance.

Image of Hardwood Floors Buckling - Hardwood Floor Buckling Blog

Buckling is often accompanied by cupping or crowning; when either the edges of the plank begin to rise and resemble a cup or the middle section begins to swell.

If you’re wondering why this annoying phenomenon can occur, here are the five most common causes behind this issue:

Leaks & Floods

If there is one enemy hardwood floors have, it has got to be moisture, and buckling is what you get when hardwood floors have been exposed to moisture for an extended period of time. This often arises after flooding, subfloor moisture buildup, drainage problems, or leaking pipes.

In spite of being processed into a flooring material, wood is living and is hygroscopic in nature, which means it reacts to the changes in the moisture content in the environment. Wood expands when it comes in contact with moisture and when the moisture is unable to spread
laterally, it leads to floor buckling.

So, the first step is to identify the source of moisture and tackle it before you repair the buckled floor. If it is a case of minor buckling, the affected portions can be dried and fixed. In extreme cases, you will need to get a professional to replace the damaged wooden planks.

Humidity

However, while water is a main cause of buckling, if you search and find no obvious water issue there are a few other culprits.

Another common reason for buckling is humidity. Yes, changing humidity levels can also impact your hardwood floors. While humidity levels are very low during winter, they rise in the summer months. Similar changes in the humidity levels are seen throughout the day which impacts hardwood floors.

High humidity levels are characterized by excess moisture content which causes the hardwood floor to swell, creating pressure between the planks. Prolonged periods of high humidity result in buckling.

It is this reason that the National Wood Floor Association (NWFA) recommends maintaining humidity levels between 30% and 50% to ensure proper maintenance of hardwood floors. How do you achieve that? Use humidifiers and air conditioners in your home to keep the levels in check.

Not Acclimated

As per NWFA, acclimation is referred to as “the process of adjusting (conditioning) the moisture content of wood flooring to the environment in which it is expected to perform”.

Most manufacturers recommend acclimating the wood to the new environment because wood is generally sourced from different regions and after being shipped and stored in various locations, it is best to give it some time to adjust to the new space.

However, when you fail to follow this process, the hardwood floor starts showing signs of distortion which can be hugely disappointing. Due to the difference in moisture content, it ends up swelling on absorbing moisture, leading to buckling.

So, don’t rush to install hardwood floors without acclimating. It is better to spend time going through this critical step rather than dealing with the consequences later.

Poor Installation

Imagine having to ask, “why is my hardwood floor buckling?” after spending all that time and money on getting hardwood floors installed. Infuriating, isn’t it?

Improper installation is another reason why your floor can show signs of buckling. There are many kinds of improper floor installation such as not preparing the surface well prior to installation, not attaching the floor properly to the subfloor, uneven underlying surface, inadequate or insufficient nailing, using poor quality products for installation, among others.

If the wood is not given adequate space to expand, it will lift up from the subfloor and appear buckled due to moisture retention. Hence, it is very important to outsource the installation to hardwood floor experts who use the right technique and equipment to get the installation done correctly.

Improper Care

Hardwood floors are not typically high on maintenance, but you must follow proper care instructions in order to ensure longevity.

For instance, you cannot be using soap and water to mop hardwood floors because they will cause buckling due to the absorption of moisture. Instead, shift to friendlier alternatives like a microfiber mop or cloth. Microfibers trap the dirt and dust particles, unlike brooms.

In case of spills, clean them up immediately to avoid further damage. It is also a good idea to use floor coverings meant for wood floors such as mats and rugs to minimize damage.

Repairing buckled hardwood floors depends on the extent of the damage. Quick fixes are not effective and you will need to get the entire buckled portion replaced or repaired. In many cases, buckled floors aren’t repairable and usually end with floor replacement anyway. What you can do is ensure you are cleaning the floors on a regular basis and proactively tackle repairs before they affect your beautiful hardwood floors.

The next time you wonder, “why is my hardwood floor buckling?”, contact us right away. At Wall 2 Wall Hardwood Floors, we are flooring experts offering unparalleled craftsmanship at incredible prices. Whatever your concern, from installation to refinishing, repair and replacement, we will gladly cater to all your flooring needs.