Meeting, Lining Up Hardwood Floors - Wrapping
Installing and meeting up with hardwood floors around stairs, or other large areas can be a daunting task, even for professionals. Strip nail down flooring will be the most difficult because of their narrow width. In other words, there will be more play between every single board that meets on one side to another side.
You may think the boards are tight and match up on the other end, but let’s use an example of twelve feet. In that span, 64 boards measuring 2 ¼ inches wide will fit. Let’s also assume you’re a weekend warrior type and you’ve carefully installed the right side of the staircase and left the other to be done later.
It Never Works If You Don't Plan Ahead
You finally decide, hey I’m ready to handle the other side but I’m a little tired. I just want to get it done. You’re also not even thinking about it meeting up with the other side of the stairwell. It’s basic math you think. You’re refreshed and ready to have at it. Oopps, you forgot about acclimating the other bundles that are sitting in the garage. What harm will it do you’re asking yourself. My wife wants it done and that’s all there is to it.
In one months time that hardwood sitting in the garage could have more moisture content than the installed floor because the home has not been exposed to the same conditions. You are actually installing boards that are wider! It may not look like it on the tape measure unless you had a micrometer. Each individual board may have expanded by 1/124 th of one inch. Its doesn’t sound like much does it?
It doesn’t until you reach the other side. Now you’ve met up with the hardwood from the right side, but yikes! There’s a difference of almost ½ inch. What the devil do I do now? There are two ways to balance it out, besides removing and starting over. The simplest method is to settle with a threshold molding or saddle that will hide the mismatch. The other is rip cutting and installing a ½ inch wide board on the right side so it meets up with the left.
The Correct Method
Shown in our illustration installing around a staircase, control lines must be used. These are chalk lines that have been used from the start when squaring up the layout. Work from both sides and measure from the last board installed to the control line every six or eight boards (just a number). If one measurement is off a little, spacers can be used to offset the difference.
Spacers can be anything that can be removed easily after nailing. Some installers use washers, or the plastic wraps from cardboard boxes. Do not use anything that cannot be removed or easily ripped; it may become a permanent fixture to your floor. Spacers should not be removed until you move further ahead as adjacent nailing can close up the gaps if they’re removed too soon.
Another time your layout may run off is having two people nail from two different sides at the same time. With pneumatic staplers or nailers this rarely happens because the actual force used to fasten is the same, providing the air pressure is set at the same level. Conversely using manual nailers/staplers, the strength of one over the other may be different. The guy doing the right may be getting the boards tighter than the guy on the other side. Switch off every five or six rows so it becomes balanced.
Keep Your Rows Straight
Nailed or stapled floors are more susceptible to running out of alignment than others. Thinner strip products will be more noticeable due to their narrow width if the alignment runs out of square. You'll notice this when it comes to the last board at the opposing parallel wall if you haven't kept an eye on it. Use a string or chalk line and check row straightness of the installation from time to time.
Glue Down Floors
Glue down floors can also run out of line. Often what may happen is you've started and stopped the installation several times, taken a break, left it go for two weeks etc. Maybe an area was walked on too soon, boards separate and the adhesive cures; gaps open up.
Keeping a floating floor aligned while having a control line is not as easy. Don't cover any lines until you reach the areas with underlayment. It's necessary to keep the alignment square. Older style floating floors will be easier to keep straight because they are milled tightly and much wider, providing the first 3 or four rows are dead on straight. Put another way, they do not have much room for error. Boards have to go in perfect or additional boards installed will show gaps as you progress further into the job. They are not as flexible or forgiving as random length hardwoods.
When starting a floating installation it is sometimes difficult to keep the floor from not moving. Once more rows are in place, the overall weight of the floor will keep it from shifting. But get those wedges (against base or drywall) in place and make sure they stay there.
More About Spacers
Spacers are more difficult to use with engineered floors as the boards are more fragile before the installation. They should not be used with thinner prefinished engineered flooring unless you are extremely careful. Often when they are removed, some of the board edges get chipped. For solid hardwoods, spacers should only be placed above the tongue and groove area. If they are wedged below, you are likely to have permanent spacers.