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Douglas Fir Flooring Blog

  • Finish that Douglas Fir

    Posted on May 19, 2011 by Nicole

    Never mind the aesthetics, a wood’s finish protects it from premature, well, everything. We’re talking aging, shading, cracking, warping, and everything else life throws its way. We’ve said it before and we’re happy to say it again: the finish is essential to the lifetime of your wood, like how putting on pants in the morning is essential to keeping your job. But, any pair won’t do – you’ve got to know before you go. You wouldn’t wear Wranglers to the boss’ black-tie event or tailored-trousers to Saturday’s team-building in the backwoods. The same goes for how you finish your Douglas fir.

    We’d like to point out that Douglas fir is a fine timber product. CVG Doug fir is the strongest ‘softwood’ around because of its tight-grain properties, making it more resistant to the elements and more durable for both interior and exterior projects. You’ll get the best of both beauty and brawn with Douglas fir. The weather’s nice, so we’re inclined to start with outdoor applications as you think about firing up that grill.

    Outdoor Projects
    Exterior projects include siding, decking, porch soffits, board & batt, and even patio furniture. Any outside wood needs to be made into a force-to-be-reckoned-with because it’ll be up against Mother Nature and she too, has her bad days. So, when you’re shopping for a finish, look for exterior on the label. Once you find that, consider your climate type.

    outdoor wood finish

    Whatever your wood finishing project, it cannot be as difficult as this one.

    Moist climates + Finishes
    Opt for a label that has a water-repellent preservative or WRP. Your wood will thank you by avoiding mildew growth, a nasty combination with wood. It’s also less likely to swell, split, and warp from water exposure. Choose a penetrating finish for wood that will be hard hit with H2O – these finishes stop water absorption.

    And, after the rainy season, be sure to “test” your wood. If water beads and runs off, the finish is still good. If water soaks in, it’s time to reapply the finish – generally every 12 to 24 months.

    Dry climates + Finishes
    The sun and dry climates go hand in hand as does wood that cracks, spots, and yellows when left untreated in dry places. So, choose an exterior finish that contains UV blockers. Some water-repellent preservatives (WRPs) protect against UV radiation, but double check, especially if you’re living la vida loca in Arizona, which has 300 days of pure sunshine per year.

    Keep in mind that in drier climates, wood loses moisture. Hence, the cracking and shrinking. You may see both WRP and WR – water-repellent – on labels. What’s the difference? WRPs contain mildewcides and fungicides stopping spores that thrive in moist climates. However, we recommend using a WRP with a pigment commonly referred to as semi-transparent stain for wood in sunny places. The pigment adds another layer of protection from the sun, prolonging its life.

    • Always pre-treat bare wood with a finish or preservative before painting.
    • If using pre-existing wood, be sure to check for timber rot (dry or wet) before refinishing. Rot decays wood.
    • Take care applying that first finish to new wood. If done poorly, your wood will tell you so later down the line (and there’s really little that can be done to remedy future problems).
    • Always stick with the same type of finish – penetrating or surface – when it’s time to reapply.
    • Test different types of finishes using small blocks from your wood project to help you decide the best finishing product for your Douglas fir and your needs.

  • Douglas Fir Flooring Installation Tips

    Posted on May 10, 2011 by Jennifer

    Good things take time. Like growing a beautiful garden or painting a great picture, installing a Douglas fir floor is not a snap process. But when it’s done well, a Douglas fir floor is something that will add beauty and value to your home for generations to come. Here are some tips from an expert to help you through the wood flooring installation process.

    First, get the tools you need. Andy Burley, owner of Mr. Sandman Hardwood Floorsin Portland, recommends the following:

    Be sure to use a tape measure.

    1. A rubber mallet, for gently pounding boards into place without damaging them
    2. A carpentry pencil for marking boards
    3. A tape measure
    4. A floor level, for making sure the sub-floor is even
    5. A chalk line, to make sure you’re installing the boards in a straight line
    6. A miter saw with a finishing blade, for cutting the boards to the right length
    7. A pneumatic nailer or stapler, for quickly fastening boards into place
    8. A smaller hand-held finish nailer for fastening down the rows of boards around the edges of the room
    9. A moisture barrier, such as Kraft paper or roofing felt, to lay down between the subfloor and the flooring
    10. Small pieces of wood called shims to hold the flooring in place

    Once you’ve gathered everything you need, take things one step at a time.

    1. When your Douglas fir flooring is delivered, give it time to acclimate to the climate and moisture level in the room where it will be installed. This can take up to a week. This prevents the wood from swelling or shrinking, post-installation, and will allow for the truest fit. “Douglas fir is quite porous, but it dries and acclimates very well,” Burley says. Make sure you’ve ordered enough wood to cover your whole room, as well as extra to account for waste.

    2. Prepare the subfloor. Use your level to make sure it’s even. If there are major ridges or bumps, sand them down. Walk around and feel for any spongy areas—nail them down to prevent squeaking later. Make sure you know which direction the support joists underneath the flooring run. You want to install your flooring perpendicular to the joists, for better structural stability. Lay down your chosen moisture barrier.

    3. Starting at an outside wall, use the chalk line to create a straight edge to line up your first row of flooring. “Usually an outside wall is the straightest in the house, but especially in an older house, you can’t assume everything’s going to be straight,” Burley says. Don’t put the first row of flooring (each complete row of boards is called a “course”) flush up against the wall—you want to leave a quarter-inch to half-inch gap on all sides to allow for natural expansion and contraction of the wood. “People forget that just because the tree has been cut down, it doesn’t mean the wood isn’t still alive. It’s porous, and it will expand,” Burley says. Use shims between the wall and the flooring to keep the flooring where you want it. Eventually, baseboards will cover the gap.

    Installed Douglas fir floor

    4. Cut your boards using a miter saw with a finishing blade, not a ripping blade. “The finer the blade you use, the less likely the wood is to splinter,” Burley says. If your flooring is end-matched, then there will be tongue-and-groove pieces at the end of the boards to fit together. If it’s not, use your saw to create flat butt joints that sit flush against each other. Make sure you’re not cutting each board to the exact same length. You don’t want the ends of boards in adjacent courses to be lined up with each other—as you’re laying down the boards, try to visualize the way the finished floor will appear, and keep the lengths varied.

    5. For your first few courses, use a finish nailer to fasten down the boards—this is less powerful than a pneumatic nailer, and won’t jar the boards out of the straight line you’ve laid down. As you lay down subsequent courses, and you’re a few rows out from the wall, you can switch to a pneumatic nailer or stapler.

    6. After you’ve gone partway across the room, snap out another chalk line and make sure your courses are still straight. If you need to fit the boards together a little more tightly to make them square, use your mallet to drive the courses together tighter. If you need a little more give, don’t pound the following rows so tightly. “It’s amazing how just a little bit of space adds up when you’re going all the way across a room,” Burley says.

    7. Once you’ve done the entire room, it needs to sit before it’s finished. Burley recommends allowing at least three days for the wood to relax before the final staining and finishing process.

    Burley says the entire hardwood floor installation process can take more than a week, by the time you count in acclimatizing, installation, letting the floor rest, sanding, and staining. If you are in the market for radiant heated subfloors, more time is needed to finish the process. That’s a long time for impatient home-owners. But a perfect Douglas fir floor can’t be created overnight. If you take your time and take the process step by step, you’ll be rewarded with a stable, gorgeous floor underfoot.

    - Jennifer Rouse

    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Flooring, Care & Maintenance and was tagged with Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir floors, flooring installation, wood flooring installation

  • Douglas Fir in California Vacation Homes

    Posted on May 3, 2011 by Jennifer

    With summer on the horizon we’re thinking about how Douglas fir is put to use in vacation homes old and new. We’re traveling to California -- in this post and future posts -- to start our adventure. As part of the Douglas-fir’s native habitat, how has its lumber been used in California homes?

    The California landscape, from its majestic mountains to its sandy beaches, has long beckoned vacationers as a perfect getaway destination. And when it comes to building a vacation home, Douglas fir has been a material of choice for California cabins. A native West Coast species that’s both attractive and durable, Douglas fir echoes the best qualities of the California landscape and brings them into the home.

    From the Douglas Fir Plywood Association vacation home catalog.

    For much of America’s history, having two homes—one for daily life and the other solely for vacationing—was feasible only for the wealthy. It wasn’t until the middle of the twentieth century that average Americans began thinking about owning a second home. According to a 2004 article in Old House Journal, “The mid-20th century was the era of the ‘second everything,’ when postwar prosperity made second televisions, second bathrooms, and second cars the just desserts of middle-class American life. Signs at hardware stores and ads in popular magazines took the idea to the next step, declaring, ‘Every family needs two homes!...one for the work-week, one for pure pleasure.’”

    When the idea that vacation homes could be affordable and accessible caught on, Douglas fir was the material many Americans turned to in order to build them. The Douglas Fir Plywood Association was one of the first trade groups to tap into the growing market. In 1958 it issued a book called “Leisure-Time Homes of Fir Plywood” that included plans for five different models of vacation house. The plans relied extensively on use of pre-formed Douglas fir beams and panels, for a streamlined construction method that owners could do themselves. The publisher promised that the simple Douglas fir panels would age well, weathering the home “into a glistening castle of driftwood.”

    Douglas Fir Plywood Association beach house model.

    Author Chad Randi, in an article written for the Society of Architectural Historians, said that these early, modest vacation homes, with their reliance on natural materials like Douglas fir, “exhibited a harmony with nature and blurring of the distinction between interior and exterior through the creative use of glazing and natural, unfinished materials.”

    As the ‘50s moved into the ‘60s, California vacation homes began to get more elaborate. The Sea Ranch, in Sonoma, Calif., is a planned vacation community developed in 1960s by architects Lawrence Halperin, Charles Moore, William Turnbull and Joseph Esherick. The houses were intentionally designed to reflect the natural surroundings of the Northern California coast. They used local lumber mills to supply Douglas-fir and Redwood as the main building materials, and the homes feature unpainted or muted stains on the exterior, allowing the natural materials to blend with the beauty of the landscape. Interiors of the many of the homes also feature floor-to-ceiling vertical Douglas floor paneling as a way to bring the natural world inside. A 2008 article in the New York Times described a visit to the Sea Ranch, calling a Turnbull-designed house featuring Douglas fir interiors “poetry in wood.”

    Now, contemporary Californians are restoring the beauty of some of the mid-century vacation homes that have been neglected over the years. In Encinitas, Calif., stucco and sheetrock had covered up the original Douglas fir of a beach house overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The new owner stripped away the decades of neglect and the house now features exposed Douglas-fir beams and soaring ceilings. The cabinets and walls also feature Douglas-fir, in a deliberate effort to use as many of the original natural building materials as possible, according to a 2010 article in California Home & Design.

    Designers of new vacation homes as well seek to mimic earlier generations’ use of Douglas-fir in new construction, while using reclaimed wood when possible to create a sense of history. A vacation house in Stinson Beach constructed in 2007 features reclaimed Douglas fir on the ceilings—boards that were originally part of the gymnasium at Stanford University, built in 1914 and deconstructed in 2004.

    In 2011, the California Home and Design award for residential architecture went to a mountain home in the Sugar Bowl, one of the oldest of California’s Lake Tahoe Ski Resorts. Hearkening back to early vacation home plans, designer John Maniscalco went for a simple, geometric design with extensive use of native materials—although this modern 3,000-plus square foot house is a far cry from those early do-it-yourself vacation homes. Narrow-planked Douglas fir covers the ceiling and huge windows frame the snowy, pine-dotted hillside surroundings.

    From tiny mountain A-frames to luxurious beachside getaways, Douglas fir continues to be prized by Californians as a material to make vacation homes as beautiful inside as the landscape outside.

    - Jennifer Rouse

    This post was posted in All Entries, History and Interest and was tagged with Douglas-fir, Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir floors, California vacation homes, douglas fir paneling

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