Sanding Wood Parquet Flooring

Sanding wood parquet flooring is more difficult than it may seem at first.  Think about it…

When sanding conventional solid wood flooring, you need to be aware of the direction of the grain of the wood.  But because parquet wood flooring has wood grain going in all sorts of different directions, the concept of sanding with or against the grain of the wood goes out the window.

Remember, that is how parquet is constructed; that’s the very point of parquet, in fact. It’s a crazy quilt of little pieces of wood set in different directions.

So, to avoid the problem of extensive cross-grain scratching you need to follow a prescribed sanding procedure:

Step 1 – Sand at 15 Degree Angle

Sand Parquet Flooring Step 1

Begin at the wall, moving the sander in a 15° direction towards the center of the room.  Stop at sanding when you get to the center.

Step 2 – Sand at Opposite 15 Degree Angle

Sand Parquet Flooring Step 2

Do the same thing on the opposite wall but be sure to stagger your sanding passes.  Next, begin from the side as you did before, except flip-flop the 15° angle of your sanding direction and keep going towards the center of the room.

Step 3 – Sand Perpendicular to Walls

Sand Parquet Flooring Step 3

Finally, stand towards the center of the room from the walls, but sanding at a 90° direction from the wall.

Parquet Sanding Tips

Finally, you’re going to want to avoid using extensively abrasive grits with your sandpaper and drum sanders.  They coarsest grits you should have would be in the 50 to 80 grit range, following up with grits in the 80 to 100 range.  Remember, the higher the number, the finer the grits.

Wood Parquet Tile Flooring

Wood parquet tile flooring is a sort of like a combination between hardwood flooring and vinyl tile squares; in a way, it is the best of both worlds.  So it is kind of interesting that wood parquet tile flooring is not more popular, but there are some design issue involved here mentioned at the end of this article that may contribute to this.

Types of Wood Parquet Tile Flooring

There are two types of wood parquet tile flooring.  The first type is solid wood, in which, as the name implies, the wood runs all the way from top to bottom.  The other kind is a laminated wood parquet tile flooring, much like engineered flooring.  This type has a stable plywood base upon which a finish veneer has been placed.  Whether solid wood or engineered wood, both are available as unfinished or pre-finished products.

Still, it is a misnomer to call solid hardwood parquet truly solid.  The reason for this is that parquet is composed of small pieces of wood and they must be combined together one way or another.  So even this solid hardwood parquet does have a poly mesh or paper layer on the back.  The reason manufacturers use a mesh is so that the tile will adhere to the adhesive better, much like the mesh on the back of mosaic tile.

Wood parquet tile is still an unusual flooring choice, so be careful if you expect to be selling the house anytime soon.

Newer types of wood parquet tile flooring have an attached underlayment of foam cushion, eliminating the need for you or the installer to put down separate underlayment.  Not only does this underlayment act as a cushion, it is also self adhesive.  Pull off the protecting paper, press down, and the parquet tile is stuck in place.

Of course, laminated wood flooring being what it is, there is also a parquet version of this, too.  Since laminate is not wood, it really doesn’t even enter into this discussion about wood parquet tile.

Wood Parquet Tile Flooring

Parquet Tile’s Tongue and Groove

One obvious advantage of parquet tile over something like vinyl or linoleum or other types of resilient tiling is that it comes with a tongue and groove system.  All four edges of parquet  tiles have either a tongue or groove, allowing them to be fit into place to the adjoining tile.  This gives your new flooring greater stability.  Otherwise, the floor would move around too much with foot traffic, adhesive or not.

Wood Parquet Tile Sizes

You can find parquet tiles in two typical sizes: 6″ x 6″ or 12″ x 12″.  The 12 inch square parquet tile tends to be the most popular.  Parquet tile comes rather thin, ranging from 5/16 of an inch to as much as three quarters of an inch, though this thicker size is rare.

Parquet Tile Design

Flooring designers recommend that you go easy with parquet tiling because it does tend to have a rather “busy” look about it.  Using a solid decorative inlay border either along the perimeter of the floor or closer in towards the center of the floor is one way to cut this “busy” appearance.  Parquet tiling may be appropriate for a room or two, but rarely do you find parquet installed throughout an entire house.

Red Rosin Paper for Installing Floors

After you’ve got a good, smooth, stable subfloor and underlayment, the last step before installing the finish flooring–red rosin paper.

This stuff mystified me the first time I saw it installed.  I thought:  Isn’t there anything better to lay down as a moisture barrier?  Well, for one thing, you don’t want an absolutely impermeable moisture block–otherwise, you could just lay down sheet plastic, right?

If you don’t want to read the rest of this article, the upshot is this:  red rosin paper is a perfectly acceptable type of protective layer to use for installing wood floors.  But for some details, read on:

Is Red Rosin Paper Waterproof?

Red Rosin Paper
No, and it doesn’t pretend to be waterproof.

Red rosin paper has certain “breathability” attributes that you need for wood flooring, because wood flooring needs to breathe, too.  If you’re worried that red rosin paper is just plain old paper, it’s not.  Rosin, after all, is derived from resin, the pitch that comes from pine trees and has long been used as a waterproofing material.

What About Builder’s Felt?

Still, why use it?  Even some professional floor installers question whether red rosin paper is the best protective surface to us, many preferring instead to use good old 15 lb. builder’s felt.  Since floor installers bear the costs of the protective layer, it’s in their best interest to use something that is cost-effective, and red rosin paper certainly is.  The 15 lb. builder’s felt isn’t much more expensive, though installers say that it’s not much more of a moisture barrier than the red rosin.

The consensus is that whether red rosin paper or builder’s felt, the purpose is to slow the passage of moisture.  After all, you’re peppering the subfloor with about 9 million nails, how can you truly make it waterproof anyway?

Ready for Wide Plank Flooring?

So, is wide plank flooring in or not?

Fashions in wood flooring come and go, and one of the biggest stars in recent years has been wide plank flooring.  Imagine flooring that come in widths between 3.5 inches and 8 inches (or even up to 10 inches and sometimes even wider), and you’ve got a good picture of wood wide-plank flooring.  We’re also talking thicker planks, on the whole, with 3/4 inch being a standard thickness.

Plain-Sawn Only

Now, if you’re shopping for that denser, better-quality quarter-sawn plank flooring…well, you won’t find it.  Plain-sawn is the only variety of plank flooring, and if you look at a diagram of quarter sawn vs. plain sawn, you’ll see why:  you simply cannot accommodate the needed width of wide-plank flooring in these quarter sections.

Wide Plank Flooring

Very Wide-Planks are Face-Screwed

You’ll also find that wide plank flooring is often (but not always) fastened on the face, with planks in the five inches or greater range needing to be screwed into the subfloor.  These screws are then covered over with wood plugs.

Wide plank flooring has grown up and met the 21st century.  There was a time that the only kind of wood plank flooring you could find was salvaged wood from barns and old factories.  While this kind of wide-plank is still valuable and sought-after, you now find flooring manufacturers producing wide plank for the general market with some consumer-friendly attributes as:

  • Pre-finished
  • Tongue-and-groove nailable
  • Shorter wide plank boards for easier installation

Pros and Cons of Wide Plank Flooring

Well, nothing is perfect, and especially not wide plank flooring.  In my humble opinion, wide plank flooring has a few good points, but more bad points that out weigh the good.

Good

  1. Very cool and distinctive.
  2. Fewer seams than narrower-strip wood flooring.
  3. A “green” building product–can use salvaged wood.

Bad

  1. Expensive; terribly expensive.
  2. The face-nailing problem mentioned above.
  3. Hard to obtain.
  4. Many floor installers don’t want to deal with real wide-plank flooring.
  5. Gaps develop over time.

Can You Install Solid Wood Flooring on Concrete Slab?

Concrete is an entirely appropriate base for solid wood (and engineered wood) flooring, provided you have a separating layer between the finish flooring and the concrete.  If you have any kind of known “issues” with the concrete slab (moisture, out of level, etc.), you’ll probably want to install a system of sleepers that separate your underlayment from the concrete.  But first we have to ask…

Does Your Concrete Slab Have a Vapor Barrier?

Moisture is a problem with any kind of concrete slab.  While concrete may seem impermeable and fortress-like, moisture does wick upward and can ruin your flooring.  If poured correctly, you will have a vapor barrier above the sand/gravel bed and below the concrete slab, like so:

Vapor Barrier in Concrete Slab

Install Buffer System

A better bet than solid hardwood is engineered wood flooring.  This has better dimensional stability in case of moisture problems.

If your slab has a vapor barrier, then bond down 1″x2″ buffers (sleepers or whatever you like to call them) directly on the concrete.

Make sure that your concrete is absolutely dry before trying to bond the buffer boards down.

These buffer/sleepers essentially are another system of “joists” for your underlayment to rest on.  Since you’ve got concrete slab–and not a wooden raised foundation–these become your “joists.”  Install the sleepers in a network so that they are no more than 12 inches apart.  Make sure that they rest perpendicular to your intended finish flooring direction.

Extra Moisture Protection

Whether or not your slab has a vapor barrier, it’s a good idea to give yourself a vapor barrier of 6-mil or greater poly plastic.  You can lay this vapor barrier over the sleepers, installing the underlayment on top.  Or you can install the vapor barrier below the sleepers, bonding it directly to the concrete.

Quarter-Sawn Wood Flooring

Q: I have been looking at quarter-sawn wood flooring vs. plain sawn wood flooring. The quarter-sawn is more expensive, but I’ve heard it’s better. Should I buy it?

A: Yes, if your budget allows for it. Quarter-sawn wood flooring is considered a big deal (vs. plain-sawn wood).

Quarter-sawn wood flooring is superior to plain-sawn because of the way the saw bites into the wood.  Instead of sawing tangentially to the rings in the wood, the saw blade approaches perpendicular to the wood rings.

This is a big deal, because sawing tangentially to the rings gives your wood flooring planks more of the really soft wood that the tree produces between the rings.  And the tree rings are the hard part.

Sawing off quarter sections produces less usable planks, so the price is higher.

In this image, the plain-sawn boards are on the right-hand side.

Quarter Sawn Boards
Quarter Sawn Boards

Wood Flooring Materials – Hardwoods and Softwoods

Whether you’re dealing with solid hardwood or engineered wood flooring, there are a few common basics that all wood floors share.

Solid hardwood is just that–solid from top to bottom. Engineered wood is a thin layer (a veneer) of hardwood laid atop a sandwich of other, lesser types of woods. So, when comparing solid hardwood to engineered, we’re just talking about engineered wood’s very top layer.

One interesting thing to note:  some hardwoods are “softer” than softwoods, and the other way around.  So “hard” and “soft” are very general terms.

Wood Flooring – Softwoods

And that brings us to softwoods.  Conversely, softwoods are cheaper, softer and more prone to scratching.

  • Pine
  • Spruce
  • Redwood

Softwoods come from coniferous trees (that is, trees that have cones).  Unfinished softwood flooring is almost impossible to maintain.  But with the application of a good polyurethene coating, it can be harder and easier to maintain (though never approaching the hardness of a true hardwood).

Wood Flooring – Hardwoods

Red Oak Flooring - One of the Most Popular Types of Hardwood Flooring Around
Red Oak Flooring - One of the Most Popular Types of Hardwood Flooring Around

Species is the first term you encounter. Don’t worry about the botanical names such as Quercus rubra, Quercus alba, Juglans nigra, and so on. Those are just the Latin for these terms you have certainly heard of before:

  • Red Oak
  • White Oak
  • Black Walnut

Other types of hardwood (and yes, these are hard woods, contrasted with something we’ll discuss in just a minute, which are the softwoods), include:

  • Hickory
  • Yellow Birch
  • Ash
  • Maple
  • Teak

The reason people choose hardwoods, even though they are more expensive, is because they are harder (obviously), more dense, and more scratch-resistant.

What is Chain of Custody Certification for Wood Flooring?

Recently I was looking at Carlisle wide-plank flooring and noted that they offered chain of custody certification for their products.  What is chain of custody?

It’s a voluntary certification offered by The Forest Stewardship Council that basically certifies that every stage in the wood flooring’s life has been documented.  In other words, no monkeyshines are going on.  This can be a costly enterprise for wood flooring manufacturers, since they need to bear the costs of on-site visits for certification.
Carlisle Wide Plank Floors

According to the FSC, monkeyshines they want to avoid are wood that has been:

  1. Illegally harvested
  2. Harvested in violation of traditional and civil rights
  3. Harvested in forests that have been identified to be of particular biological and/or cultural value
  4. Harvested from conversion of natural forest (or other natural habitat)
  5. Harvested from genetically modified trees

Lumber Liquidators Restocking Fee

You’ve probably heard the term “restocking fee” when it comes to electronic products, toys, clothes, etc.  But why should you care about a restocking fee for wood (and other) flooring?  Because you are required to buy in excess of your necessary amount of flooring.

You must figure in about 10% wastage into the amount of flooring you buy.  Cut ends and bad pieces account for the wastage.  With most types of flooring, it’s just the cut ends you have to worry about.

But with Lumber Liquidators, you definitely have to worry about bad pieces, because they are known for poor materials.  Professional floor installers routinely complain about split boards from Lumber Liquidators (especially the Lumber Liquidators house brand, Bellawood).

The Lumber Liquidators restocking fee policy states:

Returns must be made within 30 days of receipt. Approved returns are subject to a 20% restocking fee. No returns on open bundles, close-outs, odd-lots, laminates or items no longer in stock.

Now, keep in mind, that’s just for full returns.  The policy is a bit more lenient if you’re interested in a mere exchange, stating that “Exchanges will be permitted for products of equal or greater value, within 30 days of receipt, without a restocking fee.”

Like the saying goes, caveat emptor!

Lumber Liquidators Logo

Wood Floor Hardness Rating

Not all wood flooring is created equally.  Wood hardness, as measured by the Janka scale, tells you whether a species of wood is appropriate for a house with 4 year-olds and elephants…or for slippered old folks!

In any case, you should protect your wood floor by laying down area rugs, keeping long-clawed animals out, and asking people to remove their shoes.

It’s interesting to note that some hardwoods are softer than so-called softwoods!

WOOD SPECIES RATING UNIT*
Douglas Fir 660
S. Yellow Pine, Shortleaf 690
S. Yellow Pine, Longleaf 890
Black Cherry 950
Teak 1000
Black Walnut 1010
Heartpine 1225
Yellow Birch 1260
Oak, Red Northern 1290
Beech, American 1300
Ash, White 1320
Oak, White 1360
Cypress, Australian 1375
Hard Maple 1450
Wenge 1620
Bamboo, Timbergrass 1642
African Pedauk 1725
Hickory 1820
Pecan 1820
Purpleheart 1860
Jarrah 1910
Merbau 1925
Santos Mahogany 2200
Mesquite 2345
Brazilian Cherry 2350
Brazilian Walnut 3800

*The rating unit is determined by firing a .444 inch steel ball halfway into the wood being tested.  A higher number means harder wood; lower number, softer wood.

Damaged Wood Floor