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Douglas Fir Facts

  • Douglas Fir Flooring: Getting acclimated

    Posted on March 5, 2011 by nell

    Installed douglas fir flooring

    Freshly installed and finished Douglas fir flooring.

    Behold the Douglas-fir: A truly magnificent tree that yields stunning and durable vertical-grained wood. It’s our go-to wood in the Pacific Northwest and has been since before English Captain John Meares sailed along the coast looking for the Columbia River. He missed it to his utter disappointment, but noted the region’s wealth in timber back in the 1780’s. Fast forward past an English tiff with the Spaniards, the arrival of the great explorers Lewis & Clark, and the California gold rush. By the mid 1800's the Pacific Northwest had turned into sawmill-country. So, we like to think ourselves acclimated to the wood we produce. And, we’re glad to help you do the same before installing your Douglas fir flooring.

    Douglas-fir, as with other wood species, is a natural material familiar with the earth’s elements. It adjusts to its surroundings regardless of form, whether it be furniture, interior framework, or flooring. It’s important that no matter how the Douglas fir is being used, that it be preconditioned to the temperature and humidity level of the place where it will live. Skipping the preconditioning means poor performance - and a shorter lifespan on your investment. We’ll cover how long you should wait before installing your flooring in the section about acclimatizing. But first, if you’ve got the time, we feel it’s important to tell you about Douglas fir’s stability, especially as compared to other wood species like standard pine.

    The Douglas fir proves to be quite stable in what many see as an unstable world. That’s because it’s refractory – it naturally resists getting soaked compared to other species like pine (Radiata Pine). This resistance or repellency is based on the Douglas-fir’s wood properties. In “wood tests,” the Douglas-fir shows better dimensional stability over pine because it’s more uniform in its makeup and density, making it a more stable wood. In other words, it retains its shape better in wet or dry conditions. Some may say it’s stubborn, but we prefer to say the Douglas-fir is headstrong – its particular stability means it does a darn good job at withstanding decay over time.

    It’s important to not take your wood for granted. What do we mean, exactly? Well, it’s likely your flooring has traveled far and wide to get to your door. It’s common to simply take pleasure in the beauty of wood flooring without thinking about all the steps that occur between felling a tree and flooring delivery. Raw wood picks up moisture in transit and in storage. Remember, wood is porous and contracts and expands, going with the flow of its surroundings. The last thing you want is to install “swollen” Douglas fir flooring, or any kind of flooring that’s been exposed to moisture in transit. Without proper acclimatization, this wood would be “swollen” when installed. Next thing you know, your family is walking on ill-fitted flooring and you’re thinking, it was fine when I installed it.

    Conversely, wood shrinks in drier environments when traveling through regions like the Southwest. Without a period of acclimatization, this “dry” wood would expand, warp, and perhaps buckle from exposure to moisture in a more humid home environment. If it expands after installation, the floor will be uneven and unattractive.

    All in all, your Douglas fir needs time to settle into its surroundings; mainly, your home’s in-use temperature and humidity levels. Here’s what we recommend for proper acclimatization:

    1. Stack wood boards in the same room where they will be installed
    2. Use plastic separators between layers (if possible)
    3. Wait at least a week for the wood to settle before installation
    4. Wood designated for high moisture areas – bathrooms, basements, kitchens, and porches – needs to be treated with a sealer on all sides prior to installation.

    A little patience goes a long way in preventing disappointment. We’d hate for you to pull a Captain Meares and miss out on discovering the working wonders of Douglas fir.

    - Nicole Morales

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

  • The Spic ‘n’ Span of Douglas Fir Floors

    Posted on March 3, 2011 by nell

    They say a messy desk is the sign of a genius, but when it comes to your Douglas fir flooring that thinking will wreak havoc. Follow the conventional wisdom when considering your floors and keep ‘em clean.

    How? We’ll tell you. And with your help, your Douglas fir flooring will last, well, more than your lifetime. Read on for our list of preventative measures for maintaining both new and existing fir floors.

    Dents & Dings

    Though durable, Douglas fir floors are not indestructible. They can dent and ding, especially in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Be careful when moving your sofa or that exquisite clawfoot dining table. We recommend using furniture coasters or moving pads before trading spaces. And taking the time to put felt floor protectors on the ends of furniture legs is well worth it.

    When it comes to the family’s feisty pup, be sure to keep your pooch’s paws clean and nails trimmed – for every one of your legs that walk across the floor, Fido’s got two. And loving dog owners, before you go blaming the dog for every dent and ding, take a look at your own feet – those 3” pencil thin heels are like two tiny daggers repeatedly hammering your fir floors. If you relieve your feet when you walk into the house, you will save your floors in the process. Actually, we recommend that everyone take their shoes off when they enter the house to prevent troublesome street stuff – gum, gunk, goo, and rocks too – from getting anywhere near your floors. Not gonna happen? Then the next best thing is to place a doormat or entry rug to stop the street stuff from coming indoors.

    Sun damage to a wood table.

    Tykes and Toys

    When playtime spills out from the kid’s room into the living room, be ready for dropped toys and rambunctious play. Today’s toys are marvels of invention with their sensors, buttons, and detachable parts. Invest in a large durable rubber-lined play mat, or two, to contain and soften the blows from little Tessa’s make-believe rocket launch and Billy’s block-building.

    Fading and Shading

    You can’t judge a fir by its floor. That’s because no two firs are exactly the same, though there are similarities, such as its rosy hue and exquisite grain pattern. Most notable is the wood’s natural tendency to deepen to a warm orange almost rust-like color over time. But, there’s a difference between natural shading and premature aging from the sun’s rays, causing discoloration and fading. You can help prolong your wood’s youthful glow by closing curtains and blinds on those bright days. Also be sure to periodically rearrange that large area rug. Leaving it in one place too long can cause uneven shading over time. And, don’t forget to place a rubber rug liner underneath to catch fine dirt that falls through the rug.

    Cleaning Dos & Don’ts

    It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it. Just make sure that someone knows what they’re doing when it comes to cleaning your fir floors. Although dents and dings do happen, this is one maintenance measure you can control. Here’s what we recommend.

    1. To prevent dirt buildup from scratching and dulling your floors, sweep or vacuum regularly. Once a week should do it. Use a fine bristle broom or a lightweight vacuum. If you do vacuum, check to make sure it’s not scratching your floors.

    2. Quickly wipe up spills to prevent staining. Use a clean towel or rag and allow the area to thoroughly dry. Wet spills and water exposure will damage your floors if left untreated.

    3. To “wash” the wood, use a neutral wood cleaner and a quality mop. Microfiber pads work best because they attract dirt while “washing,” though it’s best to sweep and vacuum just before using the wood cleaner. Your choice of wood cleaners are plenty, but be sure to read the label. Many inexpensive shelf brands are soap or wax-based and leave residue, streaks, and stickiness behind. Bona produces a high-end line of floor care products including a non-toxic cleaner.

    Home-remedies like vinegar and water will leave your floors looking dull over time, even cloudy. And, definitely don’t steam clean. Concentrated heat, steam, and water droplets, not to mention the motion of heavy machinery, all pose a threat to wood.

    We’d like to think this next tip a no-brainer, but never scrub your fir floors with harsh powders or concentrated cleaners, and save your steal wool pads for pots and pans.

    4. Read and follow directions on the labels of everything: cleaning products, complete wood care kits, and cleaning supplies. They’re there for a reason, so don’t skimp on the prep time unless you want problems.

    A Note on Existing Floors
    If you’ve been fortunate enough to inherit fir floors, you may have already spent a weekend’s worth of time examining every scratch and splotch wondering whodunit. As we all know, this mystery is likely to go unsolved. Look at those scratches and splotches this way, your floors have character. With a bit of elbow grease – buffing & waxing to restore luster or re-sanding & finishing to erase severe scratches – they will appear aged to perfection.

    Following our preventative measures for maintenance will help you prolong the life of your Douglas fir flooring. After all, a clean floor is a happy floor.

    - Nicole Morales

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

  • The Lowdown on Stains and Finishes: Use on Douglas Fir and other Woods

    Posted on February 25, 2011 by nell

    Let’s discuss the application of stains and finishes on your Douglas fir. Unlike the stain on your best button-up or the frayed finish on your go-to denim, the stains and finishes we’ll be talking about beautify and protect your wood. But, researching stains and finishes can be about as much fun as deciding where to take the family for dinner when your mother-in-law is gluten intolerant. This is one headache we hope to relieve by reviewing the function of stains and finishes, how that applies to your project, and recommended uses. And we’ll throw in a little bit of extra information that we hope is useful to you.


    So, what function do stains and finishes serve? That answer is simple. A stain’s job is to accentuate the wood grain. Let’s say you’ve just installed your Douglas fir flooring and you feel a different tint will really show it off. Stain it. When it comes to a finish, it will protect wood from damage and deterioration and should be the last step in your DIY project. Think of it this way, a stain is like an accessory; it’s not required, but it looks nice. As for the finish, it is essential to extending the lifetime of your wood, like putting on your pants in the morning is essential to keeping your job.

    Your Project

    What are you working on? Are you replacing the siding on the sunny side of your house or installing wainscoting in the bathroom? It matters if your project is indoors or outdoors. Or if it's in the bathroom or kitchen, which have different conditions from the living room or your bedroom, for example.

    prefinished douglas fir

    Pre-finished, un-stained, CVG Douglas Fir Flooring.

    Also, what do you want the finished product to look like? Do you want a natural finish or would you like to add color without painting? The answers to these questions make a difference, especially if you want to save yourself from making multiple trips to the home improvement store. So, know before you go.

    Recommended Uses

    Let’s start with stains. Use an exterior stain for siding, shingles, decks, and patio furniture. To protect against mildew, decay, and warping choose a water-repellent stain that protects the wood against weather. Indoor woodwork, furniture, and flooring should get an interior stain. An oil-based interior stain offers smoother application with longer drying time, while a water-based stain dries more quickly, is less odorous, and makes for easier cleanup.

    Know your colors, too. Are you into au naturel or do you prefer bold and bright? If you want to accentuate the natural grains in your wood, a dye-based stain will penetrate the pores. Dye-based stains are ideal for very fine or close-grained woods like CVG Douglas fir. Pigment-based stains tend to hide the natural grain because they sit on the surface, but they do leave your wood with an impressive color effect. They work best on less dense woods.

    Wood finishes are generally referred to as either penetrating or surface. Penetrating finishes “soak” into the wood and leave you with a more natural look. They are also easy to apply, but can be messy. If looking to finish your log cabin, consider Linseed oil. Tung oil is food-friendly so use it for butcher-block countertops. To create a look of luster on your indoor trim and paneling, try Danish oil.

    Surface or topcoat finishes form a film around the wood and shield it from most everything. For woods that are bound to take a beating – siding, trim, patio furniture – use a surface finish. Expect to see shellac, lacquer, and polyurethane on labels while walking down the wood finish aisle. Again, save yourself the guesswork and frustration by knowing what you need before you go. For instance, decorative wood items get a glossy-shine from shellac. Lacquer also leaves a gloss, but it’s tougher than shellac and comes in multiple colors. It’s typically recommended for furniture.

    Two other popular finishes are polyurethane and spar urethane. Both are clear surface finishes, but spar urethane is recommended for wood in climates with extreme temperature changes. It has a higher oil-to-resin ratio that helps it work harder and longer to protect your wood from sun damage and water exposure. Although there are polyurethane finishes for exterior woods, its oil-to-resin content is lower than spar urethane. This results in reduced breathing room for your wood as it expands and contracts during seasonal changes, and it may be more prone to yellowing from the sun’s rays. Look for UV-resistant and water clear on the label to prevent this from happening. Polyurethanes are recommended as a finish for floors and cabinetry because they resist scuffing. As for choosing an oil or water-based finish, consider the item you are finishing and your preferences as the qualities found in finishes are similar in oil or water-based stains.

    Additional information to consider
    For DIY-ers looking for greener home improvement options, there are environmentally preferable products. Water-based stains and water-based finishes tend to be more earth-friendly, as are finishes made from plant oils and waxes. Other products boast low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) common in cleaning supplies, paints, and lacquers, which is certainly a breath of fresh air. Ask your home improvement specialist for greener products, or shop online.

    Now that we’ve helped to pinpoint your project needs, you can be in and out of that home improvement store with plenty of time leftover to take your mother-in-law to dinner.

    - Nicole Morales

    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Flooring, Douglas Fir Trim and was tagged with Douglas fir flooring, fir flooring, flooring stains, flooring finishes, stains, finishes

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