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Douglas Fir Flooring Blog

  • Douglas Fir Flooring in Kitchens and Bathrooms: Is it “wet room” friendly?

    Posted on May 6, 2011 by Nicole

    Douglas fir flooring is no stranger to living rooms, dining rooms, corridors, and bedrooms. So you’re probably wondering if Douglas fir flooring works well in kitchens and bathrooms, two of the highest traffic areas in the home. The short answer is, Yes!

    In today’s post, we’ll expand on that definitive yes and list some things you should consider before installing Douglas fir flooring in what’s commonly called the “wet rooms” of the house: the kitchen and bathroom. You might be surprised to learn that many homes back in the day were built this way.

    A little history

    It’s not uncommon to find Douglas fir hiding under existing vinyl, tile, or even carpet. Actually, if you’re living in an older home, say a house constructed before the 1950s, you’re likely to find the tried ‘n’ true timber somewhere beneath your existing flooring. Home builders back then relied on Douglas fir for the flooring, acting as both the subfloor and top floor throughout the home.

    douglas fir in the kitchen

    Old time-y kitchen with wood flooring.

    Then came the 1950’s. Technologies and personal tastes changed, as did accessibility to new household materials like vinyl (which was invented in the 20’s, introduced in the 30’s, and sold in the late 40’s after WWII). Vinyl was a popular consumer choice and many hardwoods went into hiding.

    Today, though, that old Douglas fir is resurfacing as consumers are looking to restore their homes to their original conditions – what goes around comes around, and we couldn’t be happier about that. So, if you have an older home and are considering Douglas fir in the kitchen or bathroom, you might be surprised to learn that it’s already there.

    Are Douglas fir floors lurking below your top floor? Be careful before you check. Vinyl flooring manufactured and installed as late as the 1980’s contains asbestos. Please contact a flooring expert to remove, test, and determine if existing vinyl in your home harbors this harmful fiber.

    Existing Douglas fir flooring
    Douglas fir found in older homes is old growth wood or first generation fir. Old growth fir is some of the toughest timber around, which is why builders back in the day used it in their construction jobs. If you find fir in your kitchen and bathroom, let that be a testament to its durability and long-term performance in these two “wet” areas.

    prefinished douglas fir

    Are you ready for Douglas fir floors in the bathroom?

    With proper restoration and a little forgiveness on your part, the restored fir flooring in your kitchen and bathroom should be just fine. But, what about spills, running water, moisture, and humidity? We’ve got the answers below.

    New Douglas fir flooring
    Cooking, washing, leaky faucets, broken dishwashers, shower + tub humidity and the like do pose problems to all woods – some more than others. For instance, installing Douglas fir flooring in kitchens and half baths may be “safer” than installing them in a full bath. But, if you know what to watch out for and how to prevent damage to your wood flooring in these “wet rooms,” your floors should survive and continue to perform over the long haul.

    Here’s AltruFir’s list of eight things to do before, during, and after installing your beautiful Douglas fir flooring in the kitchen and bathroom. Some of these items can be applied to existing restored old growth Douglas fir floors.

    • Select a “quarter-sawn” CVG Douglas fir product over flat or mixed grain wood. The closer the grain, the better the durability and resistance to moisture damage. The tight fibers increase its water resistance; Douglas fir wood doesn’t absorb water as quickly as other wood species.

    • Choose kiln-dried treated lumber. Kiln-dried Douglas fir helps the wood acclimate properly because any excess moisture has already been removed during the kiln process.

    • Check plumbing pipes, hoses, washers, and appliance hookups for noticeable wear and leaks. Repair and replace old leaky hardware before the installation project. Caulk around pipe wall openings too.

    Acclimate the floor boards properly in the installation room. We recommend a week. Douglas fir adapts to its surrounding quite well, so be sure to give your floor boards enough time to acclimate. With proper acclimatization, your Douglas fir flooring does a better job at retaining its shape in moist and humid areas. In other words, it’s less likely to warp and cup in from a moisture imbalance after proper acclimatization.

    • There are two common methods to installation: nail-down and glue-down. Some people prefer the glue-down method for “wet rooms” because the wood is glued directly to the slab, leaving no space for water or moisture to sit and soak the flooring – there’s only two layers, the slab and the flooring. In the nail-down method, there can be three or four layers – slab, foam (sometimes), plywood underlayment, and flooring – leaving little pockets of space that can harbor water or moisture.

    • After installation, seal the flooring. Use a quality waterproof sealer and follow directions on the label for application. A properly sealed floor will not absorb water. Instead, any spilled water will bead on the floorboards.

    • Remove damp rugs and bathmats from hardwoods and allow the floor to thoroughly dry. Check that the rug and bathmat is also dry before placing on the floor. Wipe up spills immediately and don’t use wet mops or soaking rags for cleaning.

    • Keep an eye on your Douglas fir flooring in the kitchen and bathroom. If you see or feel something funny, check it out right away and take action, if needed. You may need to reseal flooring more often in these areas compared to areas like the living room.

    Anything is possible, including a Douglas fir floor in your kitchen and bathroom. You just need to take a little more precaution in these areas and keep an eye out for the wet stuff.

    - Nicole Morales

    This post was posted in Douglas Fir Flooring, Care & Maintenance and was tagged with Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir floors, kitchens and bathrooms

  • Facing Cupping and Warping in Douglas Fir

    Posted on April 13, 2011 by nell

    Douglas-fir gets along with just about everybody. Builders rely on Douglas fir lumber for its stability and performance. Homeowners love its warm glow and natural charm. Mother nature respects it for standing its ground. The Douglas-fir is a popular tree because it produces a super likeable product. But, as much as we boast about this treasured tree, we also know that the Douglas fir isn’t fail safe. No wood is. And, we’re okay with that. We want you to be too. So, bear with us as we confront the sometimes disagreeable side of Douglas fir: cupping and warping.

    What is it?

    Both cupping and warping are a distortion of wood. The difference, however, is in the type distortion. Cupping happens when the sides of the wood curve up or down. In this case, you’re left with wood that cups from side to side, or its width. Warping, on the other hand, is when the board bends from end to end and causing its length to bow.

    What causes it?

    Cupping is caused by a moisture imbalance which is common in wet humid environment like the Northwest. In other words, the moisture makes the wood expand. When wood is exposed to water it compresses and leaves it uneven over time. Basically, the wood is wetter in the center than on its edges.

    Warping is also caused from a moisture imbalance but usually happens when the wood is no longer attached to its structure. In other words, it’s no longer tied down, under the influence of H2O, and free to do whatever it wants.

    Cupping and warping happens more often on wide plank flooring. Basically, there’s more space and opportunity for the wood to move across a wide plank. With Douglas fir, or any wood flooring, the wider the plank, the less stable the wood.

    How to detect it?

    It’s not a pretty picture, but let’s say you’ve got a Douglas fir floor which has developed an unpleasant “smile” over time that catches your toes as you walk around the house. Is it intentional? Well, sort of. The floor has a moisture imbalance, and the wood just isn’t all there; it’s wetter at the bottom than on the top. Water somehow found its way through to its grain. Is it too late? Well, let’s take some steps to find out.

    Step 1 – Find the moisture source. It could be a leak from behind the bathroom sink. Or, if outside, it could be rainwater runoff hitting the deck steps from a faulty gutter.

    Step 2 – Get rid of the moisture source. Tighten up that tiny water hose behind the pedestal sink or replace it all together. Or you’ll need to replace that faulty gutter and keep on it.

    Step 3 – Now it’s up to your flooring. Once the moisture is gone or controlled, the wood may dry up on its own and go back to being more or less flat. We’d like to add that Douglas fir is great at doing this – it’s a reactive wood species and does a great job adapting to its environment. Either way, an air fan can help speed up the drying time.

    When the wood’s moisture content is stabilized, either through moisture-testing or naturally flattening out, decide on your next step. You can leave the wood be, refinish it, or replace it. With any of the above make a conscious effort to keep an eye on it just in case that moisture creeps back.

    How to prevent it the first time around?

    Acclimate the wood prior to installation. It’s true that Douglas fir does a darn good job of retaining its shape and size which helps against cupping and warping. But, acclimatization is essential – it’s the number one step to ensuring your wood is in harmony with its new environment.

    There are two more things that play a role in how your wood performs. Consider these when selecting the type and grade of your Douglas fir to minimize the likelihood of warping and cupping:

    Opt for kiln-dried lumber. This process quickly removes excess moisture evenly from the wood in a controlled environment whereas air-dried lumber takes much longer to dry. Kiln-dried Douglas fir is your best bet to ensure optimal acclimatization prior to installation – its moisture content is stabilized during the process and so you’re left with a wood ready to install in your home after a week of acclimatization.

    Vertical grain Douglas fir is harder and more stable than mixed grain. Not many types of wood present the beautiful tight vertical grain Douglas fir does. Over time, the tight grain will perform better than the mixed grain, but either grain will last for 50-100 years depending on how well the floor is maintained. Items such as paneling are typically sold in a mixed grain as it does not have to take the wear and tear that flooring does.

    Last words

    1. Use a dehumidifier to control humidity levels in your home.
    2. Use minimal to no water to clean wood, especially flooring.
    3. Use a floor care kit with products recommended for your wood species.
    4. We’ve heard through the grapevine that adding water to a distorted board or bending it back by force reverses the damage. Don’t believe the hype. You’ll end up more frustrated than before.

    - Nicole Morales

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

  • Kiln Drying Douglas Fir: An Essential Process

    Posted on April 5, 2011 by nell

    One of the greatest concerns in using Douglas fir for construction (and especially flooring) is the moisture content of the lumber. Wood can absorb and secrete moisture depending on its environment. For Douglas fir used in wood flooring, controlling the shrinking and expanding of planks is essential, which is why flooring should always be acclimatized before it is installed. If the planks swell too much, they can push up against each other or the walls, causing damage to the wood and moulding; if the planks shrivel up, the space between boards expands to the point of creating hazardous gaps in the floor.

    Each variety of lumber has a point of moisture equilibrium – the moisture level at which the wood is most stable (when the vapor pressure within the wood is equal to that of the ambient space above). When left to its own devices Douglas fir, or any lumber, will absorb or evaporate moisture until it reaches its equilibrium. To ensure the durability of the wood, planks should be at equilibrium before being installed.

    This can be problematic, however, when you consider that trees – especially Douglas-firs grown in the lush Pacific Northwest – have incredibly high moisture content at the point of being cut down. Something has to be done to the lumber before it is sold to ensure moisture equilibrium in the final product. Drying is an important step in the process of acclimating wood to a new environment (specifically, drier interior spaces). Drying reduces the moisture in lumber to replicate the future conditions to which the lumber will be exposed. This process can take place out in the open; this is known as air drying.

    There is also a faster, more precise alternative: kiln drying. Kilns for wood drying are typically large spaces with heated coils on the ceiling. Nearby fans redirect the flow of warm air evenly around the room. The heat greatly speeds up the drying process, and the stable environment allows for wind control (an important factor in effectively drying wood). Kiln drying can also be carried out in stages through environmental control, which is ideal for drying the wood at an optimal pace.

    There are other factors to consider in terms of kiln drying. One added benefit of the process is, for salvaged products, that the heat kills insects and their eggs. One drawback is the increased price of a product that has been kiln-dried. However, the benefit of kiln-dried wood is typically great enough to warrant the extra charge. The long-lasting effects of kiln drying – and the money you could save on avoiding frequent refurbishing or replacement of your Douglas fir floors – certainly make the process and the cost worth it in the long run. All of AltruFir’s Douglas fir products are kiln dried to ensure that a more stable product is made available to the consumer.

    - Ian Friedman

    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Flooring, Douglas Fir Trim, Care & Maintenance and was tagged with Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir floors, kiln dried lumber, kiln dried flooring, kiln drying

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