Sunday, August 19, 2007

Bellawood Hardwood Floor Installation - Rustic Maple

Bostitch Floor NailerThis post will cover the installation of Bellawood "rustic maple" hardwood flooring from Lumber Liquidators; per Bellawood and the way it was actually installed. The flooring is 3/4 " thick solid, tongue and groove, prefinished hardwood strip flooring that comes in random lengths (from 10 to 82 inches). The flooring is nailed down with blind-nails (cleats), set with a specialized hardwood flooring nailing machine over a wood subfloor. The product I used to nail down the floor is the Bostitch MFN200 Manual Flooring Cleat Nailer.

The subfloor should be contructed of 5/8 inch or thicker plywood, when installed over 16 inch center joists. My subfloor was 3/4 inch on 16 inch centered joists

Bellawood states the following;
The relative humidity level in your home must be maintained at 45% (40-50%) throughout the year. Hardwood flooring reacts to changes of relative humidity. It absorbs or releases humidity with the seasons. Consequently, its dimension changes.

In the summer, when humidity is at its highest, it is absorbed by the wood which then expands. The expansion causes the strips of wood to push against one another. This could result in "cupping". These variations can be minimized with proper ventilation, dehumidifying or heating.

In the winter, when the heating system is on, the relative humidity level in the house is much lower. The wood releases its humidity and contracts or shrinks. It is recommended to use a humidifier in order to minimize shrinkage effects.

For new construction or remodeling, the heating system must be operational, and the house must have been heated for a week at 71 degrees F. Plastering and concrete work must be completely dry (45 to 90 days old). Check basements and underfloor crawl space to be sure they are dry and well ventilated, in order to avoid damage caused by moisture. Flooring should be left to acclimate at house temperature for a period of at least 24 hours at the recommended relative humidity level.

Using a moisture meter, available from Bellawood , check the plywood (subfloor) moisture content. Moisture content should not exceed 12%. If the moisture content is too high, delay the installation and turn up the heating system, increase ventillation, or open the basement windows slightly.

Temperatures were 90F and above with Relative Humidity as low as 8%, with no central air or humidifiers I decided to deviate from the instructions. The house conditions were steady for months with inside temperatures in the high 70's, the hardwood flooring was left to acclimate for 2 weeks. I took no moisture readings, this place is a desert.
undercut saw I removed the baseboards but not the door sills (as Bellawood instructions state) and then I removed the old carpet, carpet pad, and tac strip were removed. Inspection of the subfloor revealed little defect and was lightly scraped to identify raised nails and other anomalies. Nails were hammered down and old paint and stuck on debris was removed. A 4ft level was laid on the floor and using a sweeping / rotating motion the floor was checked for level to reveal that the floor was level within an 1/8 of an inch at most. Using a "jamb" or "undercut" saw, the door frames were cut 3/4 inch above the subfloor to allow the hardwood floor to slide underneath. The room was now swept and vacuumed.

Next Bellawood recommends creating a sketch of the installation, I have installed a laminate flooring before so I did not feel the need to sketch. Bellawood recommends that the planks are laid parallel to the longest length wall of the room to avoid the 'ladder effect'. This room is approximately 12x13 and contains a 3ft x 3ft (approx) entryway. It is also recommended that the flooring is installed perpendicular to the floor joists to increase the stability of the flooring (joists, subfloor, hardwood floor). I decided to lay the plans perpendicular to the floor joists although this created the ladder effect in the entryway to the room.

Bellawood recommends installing a #15 felt floor liner or construction paper and this is where my creativity continues. I decided to use trafficmaster 3 in 1 underlayment for both laminate and hardwood floors. This underlayment provides sound, temp, and moisture insulation. The underlayment itself had instructions which I did not follow, time was short and the instructions said something about unrolling the underlayment and letting it sit for 40-70 hours or something. Instead the underlayment was unrolled and the planks were immediately laid.

Bellawood states;
Using a chalk line, draw a guide line parallel at 3-inch (7.5 cm) of the starting wall for the strips of 2 1/4-inch (5.7cm) wide, or 4-inch (10cm) for strips of 3 1/4-inch (8.2cm) wide, considering the 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) minimum expansion space between the wall and the first strip, and another 1/4 inch (6mm) for the tongue. This guide line must be at a 90 degree angle to the adjacent wall. It is very important to start straight and square.

Spacing was considered but I didn't draw a chalk line nor did I measure, why? Lets see the end result before you ask.

Next I selected the strips to lay for the first row, the planks must be inspected prior to installation to ensure quality. Some planks do have manufacturing defects with finish or milling and some planks do get damaged in shipping. All in all, defects and damage are minimal, maybe 3 planks per box should be put aside, these pieces shouldn't go to waste though, they can be cut and used at the end of a row. The first row can not be nailed with the floor nailer due to the clearance the nailer requires so instead of using finishing nails I used 3 and 1/2 inch deck mate premium all purpose exterior screws. Laying planks down with the groove edge towards the wall, screws were counter sank at least every 8 inches with screws securing the planks into every joist, depending on the size of the plank screw spacing could be closer. At the end of the row, a 1/4 inch gap is left between the last plank and the wall (expansion), ensuring that the last plank on every row is at least 10 inches long and the last plank is secured at most 3 inches from the wall.

The second row of planks has the clearance for the floor nailer and this is where the fun begins. Stagger the planks so that planks break as far as possible from where previous row's planks break. Make sense? When using the manual floor nailer DONT BE SCARED, you have to hit it and hit it hard, let the 5lb mallet do the work for you. cleatStill as hard as you try you will find scenarios where the nailer isn't hit hard enough. This occurred for me quite often when the wall was on my right (facing the unfinished part of the floor). When the cleat isn't driven all the way you have two options, continue to drive the cleat with a hammer and / or punch or you can remove the cleat, drill a hole and drive a cleat (by hand) into the hole. If the cleat is left extending too far out of the plank it can be tricky to drive it in by hand, one wrong move and the cleat will bend. Drilling a hole half the size of the cleat and then driving a cleat by hand works well. If the cleat protrudes 1/4 to 1/2 inch it will be easy to drive it in with a punch. Every cleat you drive with the floor nailer should be inspected to ensure it is at least flush, otherwise the cleat will push against the groove in the plank in the next row, creating a gap.

Bellawood recommends laying out the next 6 to 8 rows to ensure proper use of remaining planks. I didn't do this as I kept an eye on the stock I had to pull from ensuring a fairly equal amount of short and long planks remained throughout the installation. Next room I do I will follow this instruction as I see it more efficient to select planks, lay the floor and install it, rather than more frequent alternating between selecting, laying and installing, back and forth, back and forth ...

As you approach the end, the flooring nailer clearance issue presents itself for the last 4 to 5 rows. This is where I drilled a hole in the tongue so that I could manually drive cleats, until the last row where there was no clearance to drill or manually drive a cleat. For the last row I counter sunk the screws as I did on the first row.

Here are a few additional tips from Bellawood;
to make your job easier, should you decide to use a manual hardwood floor nailer:

1. Prevent any scratches and indentations of the surface of the board by keeping the nailer plate (base) clean, free from nicks and scratches at all times, and also by putting down the nailer on the plywood or on a piece of cardboard, not directly on the prefinished floor.

2. By adopting a standing position while using the manual nailer, you will deploy more strength when you drive the nails in. Nails that are nearly embedded can be driven in place by using the hammer and a nail punch.

3. Hold the nailer firmly in place and hit the head of the nailer with the rubber end of the mallet.

4. Make sure the nailer base is squared and sits well on the edge of the strip to avoid damaging the edges of the strips.

5. Verify regularly the hardwood floor nailer is in working condition to prevent damages to strips.

So what about that chalk line I never ran, and the spacing that wasn't measured? At the other end of the room where the hardwood floor meets the wall, one word; DEAD ON EVEN.

So far I am quite happy with the installation of this hardwood floor, if I had it to do over again (which I will with the next room) I might pay more attention and therefor be more selective with choosing planks. All in all though there are probably 3 or 4 planks in the whole room, if I could I might choose different pieces. Time will tell how my disregard for the directions plays out, but so far so good.

Lighting conditions in the room are less than favorable for photography so here are a couple to choose from;

floor floor floor floor floor

This post leaves quite a bit to the imagination such as working around doorways and installing transitions. Once I can get my thoughts together on describing working around doorways, and once I install the transitions I will post that information as well.

 Here are some pics showing how the rustic maple works with other grains and colors of wood;




Renata said...

Thanks for posting this it was very helpful! We are thinking about buying this same floor, but are worried about it being too busy or having too many knots, as opposed to the natural maple. So we thought we'd email you to ask for some advice. We are planning on putting the floor down on the downstairs of our little townhome. The downstairs is 500 sqft and its an open model with kitchen and living room. Our cabinets are mocha glaze color (American Woodmark). Any advice?

We will be installing them ourselves so thank you again for your post!

admin said...

I don't consider the floor to be too busy, but I think thats definitely a matter of opinion. You will find the pieces can have a wide variety of colors, one piece maybe mostly dark, one mostly light, some are busier than others. We were looking to get away from one blanket color and this does a good job. The room where we installed this has several wood types between the desk, bed, trim (doors and windows) and this rustic maple does a good job of tying all of them together. We are pleased with the wood and plan to do the other room soon, then when time permits, the rest of the upstairs.

** Let me add that there are some dark spots, very dark brown (almost black), but these are few and far between. The colors mainly range from maple to a darker brown, maybe like a bread crust darkness(?). I'm not sure what to compare it to.

Hope this helps?

Renata said...

Thanks so much. This is really helpful. We did love the floors when we went to lumbers liquidators. Its nice to hear that you are so happy with them. And again, we found your installation tips very helpful. Do you think that you could post a picture of the room that captures the floor so we can see it in the context of furniture?

Thank you again,
Renata & Joe

Renata said...

Thank you so much! These pictures are really helpful!

We enjoyed your site.

Thanks again for posting those!

Renata said...

PS: We love the floors!

the pets web » Installing Hardwood Floors, so easy a kid could do it. said...

[...] have now started remodeling the guest room with the same hardwood floor as Dylan’s flooring. To give myself a break I rented a pneumatic floor nailer, much easier than the manual nailer [...]

Craig said...

I rented a pneumatic floor nailer and the cleats aren't getting sunk deep enough. I have to go through each row and try to counter sink each one. Very frustrating. On top of that the Stanley Bostitch M111 is jammed already and I can't for the life of me figure out why? I don't see a cleat or anything. I'm not happy with the M111.. I feel like the floor isn't getting nailed into the floor enough. Frustating for sure...

admin said...

sorry to hear about that Craig, did you try cranking up the pressure on your air compressor? Just be careful that you don't turn it up too high and crack the wood.

I'd definitely bring up the jamming issue with the rental place. While jams do occur the tools should be maintained appropriately and come with instructions to assist with common problems like jamming.

Bruce said...

This is a great post. Just looked at the Bellawood Rustic Maple 3 1/4" plank, looks nothing like your pictures, may have to re-think the style. The "how-to" was excellent, thanks!

Susan Graham said...

Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.

C for Christina said...

After many years, do you have any issues? I'm thinking about installing a LL floor and I'm trying to do my research. The price is amazing but I want to make sure I'm not making a big mistake.

Joe PetJr said...

no issues what so ever.