Troubleshooting Solid Wood and Engineered Flooring
We occasionally get calls from customers who are worried that there’s something wrong with their flooring. More often than not, though, it turns out to be just a natural feature of the wood, and something which can add charm to the floor.
Here we’ll go through some common concerns and explain whether it really is a problem.
My boards don't match
By its very nature, each piece of timber used for solid wood and engineered floors is unique, with variations in grain and colour. It’s one of the main charms of solid and engineered floors – the unpredictability of nature ensures that your floor is a one-of-a-kind.
If you’re after a more uniform appearance we recommend a stained floor, as the stains help mask the different shades. Prime grade floors also carry fewer features and less colour variation, so are great for a more regular look.
There's streaks in my boards
If you’re seeing pale strips across your oak flooring, they’re actually called Medullary Rays. These rays are natural structures which carry fluid from the outer parts to the core of the trunk. In all oak products, the Medullary Rays are an important part of the wood’s natural appearance and one of the charms of oak products.
My floor is gathering scratches and dents
Scratches and dents are normal and innevitable for all real wood floors. Unless you’re after a nice “distressed” look, it’ll be important for you to reduce scratches and dents on your floor as time goes on. For a quick and easy guide check out our maintenance pages here.
Even with all possible precautions, scratches and dents will build up over time. If you'd prefer to have a cleaner, newer looking floor you may want to consider recoating or even refinishing your floor. The guides for solid wood can be found here.
My floor has started squeaking
Floors can squeak if the boards are rubbing against each other, which can be caused by uneven subfloors or changing temperatures. For a flat and stable floor, your subfloor must be level, which means less than 3mm deviation over a 1m area. Changing temperatures, meanwhile, will adjust the moisture levels, which is what causes wooden floors to shrink or expand.
The best way to avoid squeaks is with a high-quality installation. All our installation guides can be found here. Always remember to acclimatise your floor before you install it, which is explained here. And finally, you must be sure to leave a 10mm expansion gap around the edges of the room.
Another cause of squeaking is a sudden increase in moisture. This can actually be caused by painting and plastering in the room, which is why we always recommend that installing your floor should be the last stage of any refurb project.
If it’s too late to prevent the squeaks, talcum powder makes for a quick fix as it reduces the friction between the boards. A more permanent solution involves removing the area of flooring. Then it’s either a case of cutting back the floor very slightly (to stop it pushing on nearby boards) and/or preparing the subfloor to the recommended guidelines before refitting. We’d highly recommend finding a professional for this.
Causes of lifting/warping/gaps (after installation)
Lifting, warping and gaps are all different symptoms of the same mistakes, so it’s good to be able to recognise them and prevent them. Lifting is where the board comes away from the subfloor. Warping is a term that refers to a plank “cupping” (where the edges of the board are high and the centre is low) or “crowning” (where the edges of the board are low and the centre is high). And gaps are the small spaces that can appear between boards after installation.
Firstly, it’s important to acclimatise your boards, as this massively reduces the chances of any of these effects. The details of this can be found here.
Secondly, always try to maintain a steady level of humidity. Moisture from below can cause cupping, moisture from above can cause bowing, and varying levels can cause gaps.
Thirdly, never neglect the expansion gap! This small gap (usually 10mm) around the edge of the room is vital for allowing the natural shift of the board to happen without causing any adverse effects.
Treating Lifting/warping/bowing/gaps (after installation)
If you notice any of these symptoms in your floor it is most likely a problem to do with moisture. Don’t panic though, there are various steps you can take to return your floor back to normal. Eliminating the moisture source should be your first choice. If it’s from above, then a vent, open window or dehumidifier may all be appropriate. If it’s from below, things may get a little complicated, and we recommend calling in a professional.
Once the source of moisture is dealt with, your floor should slowly return to its natural state (a dehumidifier might help speed this up). If it’s still a problem, however, there may be a need to lift part or all of your floor. Once the boards are up, there are various things you can do:
- Reduce board size very slightly to prevent them pushing on each other.
- Replace the boards altogether with fresh, straight boards
- If possible, and necessary, refit the entire floor with an expansion gaps.
My boards have arrived warped
When solid wood floors are exposed to a change in humidity, it’s possible for them to warp, this is just a natural and common feature of real wood. It's also one of the reasons that acclimatisation is so important, as this will reduce excessive bowing. In short, it’s actually perfectly fine to use a bowed floor without any worry of damage. Staggering the joints on installation is an important process to make sure that the floor holds its integrity, but a good fitter should have no trouble installing bowed boards.
My boards haven't arrived in perfect condition
We take every precaution to make sure that your floor arrives in the same condition we received it in, but sometimes poor handling along the way can lead to damaged floor. We’re not talking about anything as drastic as snapped boards here, just scuffed edges and dents, which are problems that can be overcome.
We understand that it’s natural to expect a perfect product, and we’re more than happy to replace damaged goods. However, in most cases, damages are something which can be overcome without having to arrange further deliveries, making it a quick and environmentally friendly choice. See below on how best to use any damaged boards.
My boards have damaged joints
If the damage has occurred during the delivery, or if the boxes get stored upright, the most likely damage will be to the joints of the boards; whilst this may look alarming, this is often not a problem at all! The joint systems we promote (both our laminate and engineered flooring) can work 100% efficiently with as much as 50% of the jointing system missing. Therefore, simply clean up the joint and you’ll be fine to install the floor without any side effects.
My boards have arrived damaged
In the unlikely event you have damaged boards, here’s a sneaky insider tip to get around it. When you lay your floor normally it’ll be necessary to trim any boards which are too long or wide for your room. If your boards are damaged, it’ll almost always be at the edges, which means you can put those boards in the place where you’d need to trim them anyway. Using damaged boards at the edge of the room means you can trim the excess and remove the damaged parts without any unnecessary waste.
The diagram below should help you visualise this: The red crosses signal where the damage has been done, and the rectangle is the edges of the room. Everything outside of the room needs to be cut off anyway, so you can see how the damaged areas have been easily disposed of without any waste.