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Douglas Fir Facts

  • Bringing Out the Best in Douglas Fir: Quarter-Sawing

    Posted on March 16, 2011 by nell

    When we think of quality Douglas fir flooring, we often consider only what’s on the surface – the finish, the stain, the arrangement of boards. However, the most important step in ensuring the ideal product is the first one: cutting the boards from the log itself. Which method you choose will have a profound result on the quality of the wood.

    vertical grain douglas fir

    Douglas fir logs that are quarter-sawn yield clear vertical grain boards.

    The two most common methods for cutting lumber are quarter-sawing and flat-sawing. Quarter-sawn wood products are typically more expensive, and with good reason: they are of a much higher quality, and are more labor-intensive to produce. A flat-sawn log is run through the blade repeatedly at the same angle, while quarter-sawn logs are split into four pieces (thus the name) and cut from multiple angles. The method of cutting dramatically changes the orientation and amount of grain in the boards. A quick look at the different end grains (what you see at the smallest end of the board) can illustrate the difference. Because of the uniformity of cuts into the log, flat-sawn boards have a range of grain patterns. However, most end up with a horizontal, curved end grain. This can be problematic, as seasoned wood expands and contracts with variations in climate. The curved, sparse end grain can result in cupping when the wood swells. When wood curves as a result of this process, it never returns to its original shape. Quarter-sawn boards, on the other hand, have a dense vertical end grain. This way, when the wood shrinks or swells it nonetheless retains its integrity.

    mixed grain douglas fir

    Flat-sawn Douglas fir yields a wavy, or "cathedral" grain.

    Aside from structural considerations, quarter-sawn wood products also display a superior surface grain. Whereas flat-sawn boards tend to show a cathedral-grain pattern, the quarter-sawn wood results in beautiful vertical-grain designs. Furthermore, because the wood is cut perpendicular to the growth rings of the log, quarter-sawn boards often capture the medullary rays (or pith rays) that run vertically through the tree. These worming ribbons can add beautiful figures to the surface of the boards, such as silver grain or pith flecks.

    The vertical grain and dimensional stability of quarter-sawn wood makes for the best flooring products. Flat-grain wood is more commonly used for paneling, siding and framing lumber, though some people admire the grain variation enough to use it for flooring. Combined with a quality lumber variety, the quarter-sawn method guarantees a long-lasting, attractive result. Douglas fir is an ideal wood for flooring, as it is one of the most dimensionally stable. The quarter-sawn process increases that stability, in addition to bringing out the beautiful vertical grains in the wood – a flawless choice for the majestic Douglas fir.

    - Ian Friedman

    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Flooring, Douglas Fir Trim and was tagged with Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir floors, quarter-sawn, flat-sawn, clear vertical grain, appearance grade

  • Mellowing the Squeak in Your Douglas Fir Floors

    Posted on March 11, 2011 by nell

    Krrrr…Creak! Krrrrr…Crack! Krrr… Crunch! We’ve all heard the noises Douglas fir wood flooring can make and like most homeowners with a sixth sense, can point to the spot where they happen – near the front door, by the bed, or on your way to the kitchen. If you’re really good, you can anticipate the precise moment it will happen and lip sync along. So what do you do? Live and let be or go nuts? Either way, we’d like to help set your squeaky floorboards straight and go over the causes and cures for those pesky squeaks.

    The cause behind the squeaks
    Home flooring is usually made up of three layers: the floor, the subfloor or decking, and the joists. Squeaks tend to happen when the subfloor is loose and not flush against the joists. Every time you step on that spot, it slides along the nails that are supposed to be holding it in place, pushing it down and up from the weight of your step. Voilà! You’re making music, though not exactly your favorite. Those other creaks, cracks, and crunches come from the friction between boards still in place and the one that’s loose and floor joists shrinking over time.

    Although Douglas fir is a durable product, it’s susceptible to the same wear and tear as other parts of your home – more so if not properly cared for. You might think an older home wouldn’t be as charming without its occasional grunts and groans. We all know age defies gravity and an old home is no exception. So, let’s start off easy.

    The cures behind the squeaks
    There are some simple tricks you can try before calling a specialist. You’ll end up saving yourself a chunk of change and have a greater appreciation of your home’s, shall we say, temperament. It may make you feel a sense of accomplishment too. Besides, most squeaks can be silenced with stuff already in your home and a bit o’ brawn. Your method of action is part preference and part squeak. IF you ever feel the project is too much to handle, contact a professional.

    Quick – I’ll do it later – Fix: Furniture
    1. Rearrange furniture to hide squeaky floorboard.

    2. Place furniture coasters beneath fixtures before sliding and pulling across the floor.

    3. Position furniture over squeak and forget about it.

    Rubbing floorboards: Talcum Powder + Broom
    1. Locate the squeak on the floorboard.

    2. Spread talcum powder in between the seams of the squeaky and non-squeaky boards. Powdered graphite is a messier alternative, but keep the liquid form away from floors.

    3. Brush the powder into the seam along the board.

    4. Step on the boards to work in the talcum powder.

    5. Repeat a few times until squeak is gone.

    6. Please note this is temporary fix.

    Loose subfloor: Hammer + Nails

    1. Get flooring nails in 6d or 8d finishing size.

    2. Locate the loose floorboard.

    3. Predrill a hole using a bit slightly smaller than the nail shank - this prevents premature splitting. Do not hit the subfloor.

    4. Put nail in new hole and hold down the floorboard.

    5. Drive the nail in at an angle toward the center of the board and down into the subfloor, keeping pressure on the floorboard.

    6. Repeat a couple of times until the squeak softens or is gone.

    Basement access: Screwdriver + Screws

    1. Get square headed screws 1 ½ to 2” long.

    2. Get someone to stand on the loose spot above pressing it against the subfloor and joist.

    3. Drive the screw in at an angle.

    4. Make sure it passes through the joist up into the subfloor (but not the floor itself).

    5. Repeat until squeak softens or is gone.

    Basement access: Bridging + Joists

    1. Get a small square of 3/4” plywood and construction adhesive.

    2. Put adhesive on one side of plywood.

    3. Get someone to stand on the squeaky spot.

    4. Place plywood over squeaky seam – glue side up.

    5. Screw 4 or 6 screws through plywood and into the subfloor.

    Basement access: Blocking + Joists

    1. Get a 2x3 block of wood and construction adhesive.

    2. Get someone to stand on the loose spot to press it down.

    3. Put adhesive on two sides of the 2x3 block.

    4. Place the block along the joist just below the squeaky spot – the block should be touching the joist and the subfloor.

    5. Screw the block to the joist.

    6. Screw the block to the subfloor.

    To shim or not to shim?
    Shims, those thin wedges of wood, are best left for leveling furniture on an uneven floor. We do not recommend the advice given in your dusty home improvement book to hammer a shim or two into your Douglas fir floorboards or through the joists below. Doing this is like your 5-year-old squeezing an extra crayon into an 8-pack box. Another area of your flooring will creep up and Voilà! -- more music.

    If all else fails, poorly installed flooring, water damage, an uneven subfloor, or joist damage is likely to blame. Do your best to pinpoint the problem and then, call up a contractor. We suggest calling at least three to get a variety of quotes. And, don’t shy away from requesting recent references. As with squeaks, it’s wise to be thorough in your search.

    - Nicole Morales

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

  • Keep it Green: Is Douglas fir flooring eco-friendly?

    Posted on March 9, 2011 by nell

    Dilemma: you love the look of Douglas fir flooring, but you want to be sure you’re picking a product that’s not harmful to the environment. Do Douglas fir floors fit the bill? Isn’t cutting down trees bad for the planet?

    In truth, there are a lot of factors that go into determining how environmentally-friendly any product is. There are a few things to consider regarding flooring. To start, where does the flooring come from? Carpet, vinyl flooring or engineered wood products might be made of components produced in various locations, shipped to China, assembled in a factory, and then shipped back across the ocean to the U.S. There are a lot of miles built into that product.

    Douglas-fir is native to the Pacific Northwest, where it’s the state tree of Oregon. If you’ve hiked a trail anywhere west of the Rockies, chances are you’ve seen Douglas-fir growing in its native environment.

    Douglas fir trees

    Douglas-fir trees in a native forest.

    Knowing where your wood comes from is important—according to the Forestry Stewardship Council, wood that comes from certain regions—especially Eastern Europe, Latin America, China and Southeast Asia—is often logged illegally, then processed and exported to North America as products like plywood and decking.

    Bamboo and cork, often praised as eco-friendly choices because the plants they come from replenish much more quickly than trees used for other wood floors, lose out to Douglas fir flooring when it comes to the energy used to transport them from their tropical origins to the homes of U.S. consumers.

    Douglas fir flooring sold on this site comes from trees grown in the Northwest, then processed and milled near Portland. There’s very little shipping and manufacturing involved in creating Douglas fir floors—during the whole process, from tree to log to plank, the wood stays within the same region where it was grown.

    When you’re weighing out the environmental pros and cons of a purchase, you also need to think about how long what you’re buying is going to last. You don’t have to be an environmental scientist to realize that a floor that endures for a lifetime is a more sustainable choice than one that needs to be replaced every 1 or 2 decades. Every time a floor is replaced, resources are used in manufacturing, shipping and installation. The average synthetic-fiber carpet will last about 15 years, while a higher-quality wool carpet could last 20-30. A vinyl floor, depending on the quality, can last anywhere from 10-30 years. A Douglas fir floor will last up to 100 years, sometimes more.

    When you buy wood flooring, you know you’ve got a product that will most likely last the lifetime of your house. That one-time purchase is a more economical buy, both for your pocketbook and the environment.

    If at some point a homeowner decides to replace their wood flooring, those boards can then be recycled and used again, sold as reclaimed wood flooring, where they’ll find new life in a new home. Reclaimed wood has seen a huge surge in popularity in recent years, both from folks who love the unique patina of aged wood, and for people who enjoy purchasing wood knowing that no new trees were cut down. Reclaimed Douglas fir floors and timbers are available for homeowners looking for that blend of history and green living that comes with reclaimed wood.

    And if, someday, the boards of a wood floor are simply too worn out to serve any more useful purpose, they will break down naturally over time. If stripped of chemical finishes, boards can be turned into wood chips and toss them into your compost pile.

    Indoor Air Quality
    Many household products contain volatile organic compounds, commonly known as VOCs. A VOC is any substance that contains carbon and readily “off-gases”—or turns into a vapor—at room temperature. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, VOCs can have both long and short-term health effects, and VOC levels are often two to five times higher indoors than outdoors. Carpets, vinyl flooring, and other building materials are among the many substances that emit VOCs. Carpet fibers are often coated in chemicals to repel stains or moisture, and the carpet pads they rest on and the adhesives used during installation emit VOCs as well.

    While wood does naturally emit small amounts of formaldehyde, it does so at very low levels. Environmentally-friendly, low-VOC stains and finishes are available for your wood floor, to further reduce the amount of indoor air pollution.

    Carpets are also known to trap dust, dirt, and allergens within their fibers—with a wood floor, a quick sweeping and cleaning removes the dust and allergens from the home. For people with allergies or asthma, having a floor that you know isn’t emitting chemicals or storing pollutants is a literal breath of fresh air.

    Wood, by its very nature, is a green material. It’s non-toxic, recyclable, grows naturally, and it doesn’t take any extra energy to manufacture. While illegal logging and deforestation is a concern worldwide, Douglas fir flooring comes from legally-logged forests that are managed for long-term forest renewability.

    So if making the perfect choice for a green home is weighing on your mind, fret no more. You can have beautiful Douglas fir floors and peace of mind too: they are a responsible choice for maintaining a healthy planet.

    - Jennifer Rouse

    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Flooring, History and Interest and was tagged with Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir floors, fir flooring, eco-friendly flooring

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