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General Flooring Info

  • Understanding Manufacturer & Contractor Warranties

    Saturday, December 10th, 2011

    Warranties can be a tricky thing for contractors. If you are installing a product, ordinarily the product manufacturer warrants the product as being free from defects. As the installer of that product, you are typically only responsible for your labor.

    However, warranties aren’t always that straightforward. Sometimes the project owner or the general contractor may require that you provide some additional warranty. Typically, these additional warranties are spelled out in the contract. The unwary flooring installer can sometimes be caught off guard by these additional warranties, which might even extend past the usual manufacturer’s warranty. So it is important to review the contract carefully to fully understand your responsibilities to the owner or GC prior to signing the contract.

    Manufacturer Warranties

    Of course, the problem becomes even more complex when the contractor is also the product manufacturer. For example, as a flooring contractor, perhaps you custom-cut, mill and install your own hardwood flooring, rather than order from a manufacturer. Now you are both the manufacturer, and provide a manufacturer’s warranty, and you are the installer, for which you owe an installer’s warranty. The warranties for each are different.

    Typically, a manufacturer warrants that the product will perform its function for a specified minimum time, and that the product will be free from certain defects. For a hardwood floor, the warranty against defects likely includes minimum tolerances for knots, uneven surfaces, warping, etc. But, as the manufacturer, you can decide (to some extent) the length of the warranty you want to give, and this warranty is called an express warranty. It is “express” because it is explicitly stated to the customer or end user and goes with the product. Also, many manufacturers consider the installer the “final grader,” so if the product is installed with a visible defect, it could be the installer’s responsibility.

    Implied Warranty

    Here is where the law comes into play again. Most states follow some form of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), which includes a set of uniform laws pertaining to the sale of goods. Included within that set of laws is a law that provides that goods are subject to an “implied” warranty of merchantability. This means that, whether expressly stated, there is a warranty implied in all contracts for the sale of goods that the goods will be of a typical quality for the particular trade, fit for ordinary purposes for which they are used, and within the normal variances of kind and quality. Additionally, there is an “implied” warranty of fitness for a particular use, which means that if the manufacturer knows of the particular intended purpose and sells the goods to the buyer (contractor or owner), and also knows that the buyer is relying upon the manufacturer’s skill or judgment to select and furnish such goods, then the manufacturer implies a warranty that the goods are suitable for the buyer’s particular purpose. Either of these warranties may run for the length of time that may be longer than a typical express warranty, and they vary by state. To find out which states use the UCC, see “Article 2: Sales” at this Cornell University Law School website.

    A manufacturer may contractually state that neither of these warranties applies. However, as to the warranty for fitness for a particular use, the manufacturer needs to be careful not to suggest, imply or outright state that the goods can be used for such purpose. For example, if you are a manufacturer of tongue and groove hardwood that is principally used for flooring, but you suggest or imply that it may be used in walls, you may expose yourself to a warranty claim if someone uses it for wall cladding and it fails.

    Installer Warranty

    As the installer, whether you manufacture your own goods or not, you are liable for and may give a warranty for the installation of the product. Such an installation warranty provides that you have installed the product correctly and that the product will be free from defects from incorrect installation. What happens frequently is that the owner will complain that there is a problem, and both the installer and the manufacturer will claim that the fault lies with the other. Typically, the installer claims that the product failed and advises the owner to contact the manufacturer; the manufacturer sends out a representative who will inspect the product, finding that it was not installed per the manufacturer’s instructions. As the flooring contractor, you want to protect yourself to the extent possible from such claims by knowing your product and only installing it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Aside from express and implied warranties, the owner usually retains a statutory right to sue for product liability.

    With all of these various warranties and potential liabilities, what should you do? Know what warranties you are willing to provide and what you are not willing to provide. Provide your express warranty in the contract, and to the extent permitted by law exclude any implied warranties you do not want to be responsible to provide. If you provide only a limited installation warranty, make sure the customer knows that. If the materials installed come with their own warranty, provide that warranty to the customer and ensure that the customer has good contact information in case of a claim.

    Beyond all of that, the final warranty that you give as a contractor is your business’s goodwill. Within reason, you want to give good service and keep the customer happy so that customer will become a testimonial source or reference. That may mean occasionally going beyond a stated warranty. It may also mean using only reliable products you know how to use.

    Reprinted from http://hardwoodfloorsmag.com

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  • Is Laminate Flooring Your Choice?

    Saturday, November 12th, 2011

    Laminate flooring is a material that is made to resemble wood flooring. This type of flooring has many advantages that other woods simply cannot provide you with. When you take a close look at it, you can not really tell that it isn’t a true hardwood either. This is one of the advantages. Let’s compare the two types to find out which is the right one for you.

    True hardwood flooring has many grain marks that are original and unique. Laminate flooring has many of the same markings and looks just like the real thing.

    Hardwood flooring needs continuous maintenance. You need to keep it clean, keep things that can scratch it off of it, and you will need to protect it with coatings when needed. It is expensive to maintain! Laminate flooring is much easier to take care of. You simply need a wet mop to clean it up and while you won’t use chemicals on it, you don’t have to take care not to scratch it as much. It is much more resistant to damage.

    Hardwood flooring that is laid correctly will last a lifetime. Laminate flooring will probably last just as long if not longer.

    Laminate flooring is much less expensive than hardwoods that can cost you ten times as much as laminates.

    Both can be stained in the colors that you want them to be. They can both be protected with special layers of protective coatings that will keep them looking beautiful and lasting a long time.

    Laminate flooring to be used regularly, as with true hardwood floors, you will need to take special precautions to make sure that they are not damaged. Water can even damage many hardwoods.

    When you are considering the purchase of laminates, make sure to look at the value that it offers to a home. Many love the look of hardwood and the no nonsense trouble that laminates afford. Which is your choice?

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  • What to look for when Shopping for new Floors

    Saturday, November 12th, 2011

    The decision to update floors in a home is a decision that many consumers make each year.  Whether their current floors are outdated or the homeowners are just ready for a change, each year millions of people hit the flooring stores in search of the perfect product for their homes.

    There are many factors to consider when you’re in the market for new floors.  One of the most important things to remember is that finding the right flooring material to meet your needs is vital if you want to be happy with the finished product.  While there are many different types of floors available to you, not all materials are going to provide you with what you’re looking for.

    Here are a few things to consider when you are shopping around for the perfect flooring product.

    Tip Number One: If you have kids, look for kid friendly floors

    If you have young children in your home, it is important to remember that, although they are adorable, they are going to make messes.  And lots of them.

    But just because you know your little angels are going to wreak havoc on your home doesn’t mean you can’t have the floors you really want.  There are many kid safe flooring materials out there that you can choose from.

    If carpet is at the top of your list (which is a great flooring choice to have in kids’ rooms since the majority of their play time is spent on the floor) look for a durable carpet that cleans easily.  Stainmaster carpets have always done well and are great for small children.

    If you would rather have wood floors but are afraid of the maintenance and possible damage from your kids spilling liquids, wood laminate floors may be the perfect alternative.  Laminate is available in many different colors and wood looks.  It is easy to maintain and a breeze to clean.

    If carpet and wood or wood laminate don’t seem like the right choice for your home, there are other materials available that work well with kids, including tile, vinyl and eco-friendly options like concrete and cork.  Tile is great for clean-ups and is fairly durable.  Although concrete can definitely jazz up a space and is extremely durable, it is obviously very hard and may not be a great choice if you have small children who tend to play a lot in the house.

    Tip Number Two: Do your homework

    Before you head out to the store to look for your new floors, spend a little time online doing your research.  Make a list of what you want in flooring materials and look for the best match.  New flooring options are emerging everyday and unconventional flooring products are becoming more and more popular in homes and businesses.

    Find out what your options are before you make a blind choice.  If you are well informed before you head out to make a purchase, you will be much happier with your overall finished product.

    Tip Number Three: Beware of maintenance

    If you aren’t the kind of person who likes to clean or who likes to maintain things, there are certain flooring products you just aren’t going to like.  Keep in mind that all floors require some type of maintenance, whether it is regular cleaning or sealing, but some floors require more treatment than others.  When you are researching flooring choices, be sure to look up what is required to maintain the floors once they are installed.

    Now that you are armed with facts and information, head out to the stores and find the right product for your home.  Remember, it’s not important what the sales associate, your neighbor or your mother-in-law wants you to get.  Choosing the right floors for you is what’s most important throughout the process.

    Reprinted from: http://www.flooringnews.com

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  • What are Engineered Hardwoods and are they Right for you?

    Saturday, November 12th, 2011

    When consumers are looking to update the floors in their homes, more and more buyers are turning to engineered hard woods.  Both durable and eco-friendly, engineered hardwoods are becoming a popular choice flooring choice for home owners.

    While this earth-friendly and aesthetically appealing material is growing in popularity, not all consumers are totally familiar with engineered hardwoods.

    So what are engineered hardwoods and how are they made?

    Engineered wood flooring is made up of layers of wood that are glued together and cross layered.  The layers are comprised of thin pieces of plywood and the top surface is a wooden veneer that is readily available in practically any wood type.

    And this is wear the eco-friendly aspect of engineered flooring comes in.

    Because the material is made up of layers, the top layer of fine wood is much thinner than standard wood floors.  For consumers who want hardwood floors made of luxurious, rare or exotic woods, choosing engineered wood floors will help conserve the source of the wood.  According to Hosking Hardwood, for each square foot of solid three-quarter-inch hardwood that is manufactured, approximately four times the amount of engineered hardwoods can be made.  Because the floors are made of layers, they are great choice for flooring in areas that are prone to high moisture and humidity.

    The manufacturing process of engineered hardwoods is usually done in one of two ways: sliced with a saw blade or rotary cut with a knife blade.  The finished product generally ranges between three and seven inch pieces and is sometimes available in thicker wear layer.  Contrary to popular belief, engineered hardwood floors can be resurfaced and have an average lifespan of 60-80 years.

    Aside from the great finished look of the floors, the installation process can be fairly simple.  Because of the layered ply pieces, engineered hardwoods can be installed over a dry concrete surface or even on top of some existing flooring materials such as wood laminates or tile.  When installing engineering wood floors, it is vital to ensure that the moisture content does not exceed four percent.

    Although it is made manufactured differently than hardwood flooring and the finished product is different, engineered hardwood floors adds the same value to your home as traditional hardwoods.  And, if you choose a rarer or exotic top layer, you may be adding more value than choosing a more common type of traditional hardwoods.

    If you decided that engineered hardwood flooring is the right material for your home, make sure you find a retailer that gives you a variety of finishes and woods to choose from.  Many retailers offer different woods and even different finishes, such as the newly-popular hand-scraped look.  Hand-scraped hardwoods provide a rustic finish that really showcases the different grains and textures of the wood.

    Before you decide on whether or not engineered hardwood floors are right for you, visit a flooring retailer and do some research.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Making an informed decision and purchase will result in you being much happier with your finished product.

    Reprinted from: http://www.flooringnews.com

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  • Earth Friendly: Bamboo flooring is beautiful, sustainable

    Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

    Bamboo is a versatile crop, chalking up more than 1,500 uses to its resume, including screens, fences, furniture, mats and even an alternative to traditional hardwood flooring. I have had my eye on bamboo flooring for a number of years now and am in the process of having some installed in my house. Verdict? Gorgeous. The color we chose, a deep, rich brown – could not be more beautiful.

    Though it may look somewhat like a tree, bamboo is actually a fast-growing grass. While traditional hardwoods, such as oak, maple and hickory, can take anywhere from 20 to more than 100 years to mature before they are ready to harvest, bamboo can be harvested after three to five years. In addition, since the root systems are not damaged during the harvesting process, there is no need to replant; the bamboo will regrow naturally. Most bamboo is grown without the need for irrigation and fertilizer, and because it has few insect predators, pesticides are not used in the cultivation. In addition, bamboo can be grown in soils that are unsuitable for other crops.

    Bamboo flooring is most often made by slicing individual bamboo poles, called culms, into strips and removing the outer layers. The bamboo is then boiled in either line or boric acid to remove the starches and sugars, then dried. The two most common colors are similar to beech and oak, but there are some beautiful darker color choices available, as well.

    Bamboo floors are moisture-resistant, easy to maintain, and often harder than regular hardwoods. Natural-colored bamboo is the hardest, as the carbonizing process used to darken the bamboo also makes it softer. Bamboo can also be sanded and refinished just like any other hardwood floor.

    Although bamboo is heralded for its sustainability and eco-friendliness, it is not without criticism. A low concentration of formaldehyde, lower than that used in other hardwoods, is used in an adhesive in the lamination process. There are some bamboo flooring products available that avoid formaldehyde.

    Bamboo, both hardwood and laminate, can be found locally at specialty flooring stores or big-box stores, and customers can elect to have it professionally installed or do it themselves. The floor comes in boxes of interlocking planks for easy installation.

    To care for your new bamboo floor, never use wax, steel wool or other scouring pads, oil soap, abrasive or ammonia-based cleaners or harsh detergents. Clean up any spills promptly so that liquids are not allowed to remain on the floor. A slightly damp mop may be used to loosen dried spills, but excessively wet mops and sponges can cause the floor to swell. Keep your pets’ nails trimmed to prevent them from scratching the floor.

    Reprinted from VictoriaAdvocate.com

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  • Understand the Three Main Wood Floor Adhesives

    Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

    In order to have a successful wood flooring installation, it helps to understand the types of wood flooring adhesives and how they work. This requires an understanding of both chemistry and bonding; here’s a short primer.

    Essentially there are three types of adhesive chemistries: modified silicone polymers, polyurethanes, and acrylics. Each has its place, and in order to understand how they work, you must first understand this: An adhesive can create a chemical or mechanical bond. A chemical bond is when molecule A combines with molecule B to form a new molecule, C. A mechanical bond consists of molecules interlocking but not chemically changing. Both types of bonds can be quite strong.

    MS+

    Modified silicone polymers (or MS+), which are relatively new, are considered hybrids. They create a mechanical bond with wood and thus penetrate into the cell structure of the wood. However, should adhesive end up on top of the finished wood, the outcome is much different. The MS+ will not bond well to this coated surface and will clean off easily. This gives MS+ adhesives excellent long-term cleanability.

    With concrete, MS+ products form a chemical bond. MS+ polymers are unaffected by water when cured. They are also typically zero-VOC and very ecologically friendly. In my opinion, they are the future of wood flooring adhesives (full disclosure: we sell all three adhesive types).

    Polyurethanes

    Polyurethanes combine with the lignin (complex chemical compounds found in wood that form parts of the cell structure) to create a chemical bond. Polyurethanes create a mechanical bond with the concrete. They are enormously strong and form an elastic bond that has allowed the industry to bond ¾-inch solid wood to concrete. These adhesives are unaffected by water when cured. The biggest drawback is that a polyurethane adhesive will form an incredibly strong chemical bond with the polyurethane finish on top of the wood flooring. This makes trying to clean that spot on top of the floor you didn’t notice during installation an absolute nightmare, so they must be cleaned when wet. Polyurethanes contain diisocyanates, are low-VOC and generally contain solvents.

    Acrylics

    Acrylic adhesives usually consist of polyvinyl acetate emulsions. (They are also sometimes called “latex,” which is a term for natural and synthetic rubber resin materials, so the correct term is “acrylic.”) Acrylic adhesives are highly filled polymer dispersions in water. The typical curing occurs when the water leaves the dispersion with the help of solvents. The polymers coalesce, or fuse, creating a particle entanglement or matrix. Acrylic adhesives are highly susceptible to moisture and usually require a flashing off period prior to floor installation. They clean off easily with water because of this, but will fail easily in a wet environment. When installed properly, they are an effective, proven option for engineered floors. Unlike the other two adhesives, which are waterproof at full cure, acrylic adhesives are always susceptible to dilution from water or water vapor. On the plus side, acrylics have a rebonding capacity: Contractors can weight a section of floor and have it bond after the rest of the floor was installed. Acrylic adhesives generally are low-VOC and contain solvents.

    You don’t need to be a chemist to understand how adhesives work, and understanding them is fundamental to any successful installation. One thing is clear: Demands for innovation and ecologically friendly or green adhesives will continue to drive the industry.

    Reprinted from NWFA

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  • What to Look for in Bamboo Flooring

    Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

    There are a lot of misconceptions about bamboo flooring and a plethora of choices on the market. There are different ages of bamboo maturity and subsequent different hardness ratings, different factory finishes and different manufacturing processes, making for a very confusing selection process. Many customers end up disappointed when they purchase a bamboo floor that is not high quality and scratches very easily—sometimes before installation is even complete.

    So what qualities should you look for? Most bamboo flooring is made from bamboo pieces glued together in alternating layers and then milled into flooring pieces. Ideally, the bamboo should be at least four to five years of age in maturity so that it achieves a hardness rating of at least 1,400 psi on a Janka scale (harder than most oak flooring); some flooring is being made out of only 2- to 3-year-old bamboo that is not fully mature and much softer on a hardness scale. Some customers have even blogged that they can easily sink their fingernails into the flooring!

    The moisture content (MC) should be 8 percent or less and consistent throughout the flooring boards. Consistency and even kiln drying is the key. There should be minimal color variation so that the installers don’t have to worry about drastic color patterning. The glues and finishes should be of high quality, contain at least one layer of a high-quality aluminum oxide for increased scratch resistance and durability, and have low to no VOCs or formaldehyde. Some flooring has only one or two layers of polyurethane, while others have five to six coats. Look for flooring that passes the strict CARB standards that California has set for indoor air quality.

    Stranded bamboo is more of a newcomer to bamboo flooring choices but is substantially stronger than traditional bamboo flooring. Made by compressing and binding together strips and pieces of bamboo, stranded bamboo is about twice as strong as regular bamboo flooring, with hardness ratings in the 2,500 to 3,000 psi range. There are different manufacturing processes used to make this type of bamboo flooring, so, again, there are different qualities to look for when purchasing it. MC is very important for this material and should, again, be consistent throughout the batch and at 8 percent standard. Most moisture meters aren’t set for bamboo flooring, not to mention stranded bamboo, so you will need to get a meter that can be set for these types of material to get an accurate reading. The same qualities that you should look for in regular bamboo should also be reviewed for the stranded bamboo: Hardness, glues, finishes and MC are the big items to ask about.

    As with any flooring, look for a good warranty in both the finish and structure of the flooring. Look for the documentation that shows FSC or another third-party certification to ensure Lacey Act compliance and look for CARB compliance. If you help do the homework, both you and your customer will be pleased with the results. The NWFA is working on a program to help standardize the qualities that are unique to bamboo flooring so that in the future you will be able to look for NWFA-certified bamboo flooring.

    Reprinted from NWFA

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  • How to Prevent Cupping and Worse in Summer Months

    Friday, September 16th, 2011

    During the summer, even the most carefully installed wood floors tend to expand and sometimes cup or even buckle. These events occur because of wood’s relationship with moisture in the air. Air with a high moisture content (MC) or high relative humidity (RH) causes wood to gain moisture. When wood gains moisture, it expands. The result can be distortion, cupping and buckling. What can we do about it?

    To control summer-related expansion of flooring and associated issues, we can deal with the wood itself, or in some cases deal with moisture. Wood flooring basics, like proper acclimation, narrow boards, stable species, quartersawn configuration and possibly engineered flooring can help prevent summer moisture issues. This article discusses options for the environmental control of summer moisture issues.

    Summer Moisture

    Some of the characteristics of air that we deal with every day are:

    1) Warming air lowers its RH

    2) Cooling air raises the RH

    3) Cooling air too much causes condensation

    4) Outside air contains moisture.

    Over the course of a typical day, mornings start out cool and humid. Sometimes mornings are cool enough to form dew on grass and car windshields. But by afternoon, the air warms, the RH drops and the dew has evaporated. At night, the air cools again, the humidity goes up and dew forms.

    The amount of water in the air over any given day stays relatively constant. But, because of the relationship between temperature and RH, as the temperature changes, the RH changes. The term “dew point” is an indicator of the amount of water in the air. Dew point is the temperature at which air at a specific temperature and RH will become saturated (100% RH) and condensation will form. On a typical summer day, the dew point may be near 45°F in the Southwest, 55°F in the Northwest, 65°F in the Northeast, and in the upper 70s along the Gulf Coast. (By contrast, winter dew point temperatures can be well below freezing.)

    Building Temperatures

    The next aspect of summer moisture involves the temperature of the building. Buildings are commonly cooled with air conditioning (AC), making the inside temperature lower than outside (at least in the afternoon). Over the years, indoor summer temperatures in air conditioned buildings have dropped from the mid to upper 70s to nearer 70°F. I’ve been in several buildings recently that have been cooled to 65°F or 68°F.

    Soil under a building is often cooler than the interior. This cool soil helps cool slabs, basements and crawl spaces. Ductwork in basements or crawl spaces also helps cool the basement or crawl space.

    So we now have warm, humid summer air and cool indoor surfaces. Then add some moisture entry through crawl space or basement foundation walls, from exposed soil in a crawl space, or from activities in a building. Combine that with the fact that cooling air raises its RH, and we have a significant potential for issues with our hardwood floors.

    Ventilation as a Moisture Source

    Our time-honored solution has been to ventilate these spaces to help control moisture levels. But there is a serious flaw in that thinking.

    When warm outside summer air enters a house and cools, the RH of that air increases. For example, air at 90°F and 50% RH, when cooled to 70°F, will be at 100% RH. (This air has a dew point of 70°F.) To get the RH of this air back down to something respectable, we would need to remove moisture. The more ventilation, the more moisture is getting into the house, and the more moisture we need to remove. So, reducing ventilation can be beneficial.

    Current building standards recommend home ventilation rates near 1/3 air changes per hour (ACH). Average homes have ventilation rates near 1-2 ACH, while some old, leaky homes are near 7-10 ACH. Weatherization and home energy audits typically measure ventilation rates, and can pinpoint leakage sites. Old windows are often major leakage sites, as are recessed lights and other holes in ceilings and floors.

    Using charts published by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), I created Table 1 showing how much moisture needs to be removed from a house with different air and different ventilation rates. According to this table, about 7.4 pints of water per hour needs to be removed from an 1,800-square-foot house to lower the inside RH to 50% when the outside air dew point is 70 degrees. If the ventilation rate is higher, even more water needs to be removed. If it is colder or warmer outside, the amount of water to be removed changes. This same house, if located in Duluth, Minn., may not need any moisture removed during the summer because of the cooler, drier summer air. A house in Las Vegas may even need to add moisture in the summer because of its hot, dry air.

    As you can see from Table 1, warmer outside air requires more moisture removal. Higher ventilation rates require more moisture removal, and lower target indoor RH levels require more moisture removal. Since the ventilation rate and moisture removal are related, an economical solution is to reduce ventilation rates before attempting to remove moisture.

    Removing Moisture

    Moisture is removed from indoor environments by two main mechanisms. First, ventilation with dry air can help dry out a house, but this air must be cold to be dry enough to be helpful. A dew point of near 60 degrees is about the cutoff where ventilation with outside air starts adding moisture to your house. In other words, if the dew point is below 60 degrees, venting will help dry your house. If the dew point is above 60 degrees, venting will add moisture to your house. So except for some arid or cool parts of the country, venting to dry a house in the summer is not a feasible solution. If you are lucky enough to live in one of these parts of the country, summer venting can help dry your house, but winter venting may really dry your house.

    The main option for removing moisture is to use a mechanical system. These systems can either be air conditioners or dehumidifiers. A typical air conditioner uses about 25% of its energy to remove water from the air. A 3-ton air conditioner can remove about 9 pints of water per hour, when it’s running wide open. But—and it’s a big but—an air conditioner only removes moisture when it is running. A properly sized AC runs wide open about 1% of the year. The rest of the time, it won’t remove 9 pints per hour.

    On a hot day, the AC may run 90% of the time in the afternoon, but only 10% of the time first thing in the morning. The outside dew point is the same, so the same amount of moisture needs to removed both morning and evening to maintain the same indoor RH. But in the morning we may only remove 1 pint per hour, because the AC isn’t running much. (Ever wonder why your house feels muggy in the morning, but fine in the afternoon?)

    I mentioned that a properly sized AC runs wide open only about 1% of the time. One problem common to an AC is oversizing (that is, installing one bigger than needed). An AC is controlled by temperature. Once the indoor temperature is good, the AC shuts off. But moisture is removed only when the AC runs. An oversized AC will cool the house quickly, but because it doesn’t run very long, moisture removal isn’t good.

    AC manufacturers have helped this situation by making variable-speed equipment that runs longer. More run time means more water removal, but in many situations in the Southeast, this extra removal still isn’t enough.

    Other Moisture Factors

    It isn’t enough to just think about the AC and the size of the unit. You also need to take these factors into consideration:

    AC fans: Another quirk with AC systems is that there are actually two parts: the fan, coils and ductwork that blow cold air throughout your house, and the outside unit that makes the cold. Typically, when the thermostat says “house needs cold,” the outside unit and the indoor fan turn on. As indoor air goes through the coil, the air is cooled to the dew point, and water condenses on the coils and drains out. This is how an AC controls humidity.

    Thermostats have a switch that lets you set the fan in the “ON” position. This keeps the fan running even when the outside unit is not making cold. When the outside unit stops making cold, the coils warm up. Condensation that is still on the coils evaporates back into the house air, rather than draining out. A bunch of your humidity control is lost, and RH levels can go up.

    Dehumidifiers: The best solution for real humidity control in many buildings is a central, or whole-house, dehumidifier. Good systems put close to 100% of their energy into removing moisture, and can handle up to around 6.5 pints per hour, every hour, regardless of mild weather or cool mornings when an AC won’t run much. They will also shut down when an AC can handle the moisture loads. And since dehumidifiers turn on and off because of humidity levels, oversizing an AC or even leaving the AC fan in the “ON” position becomes less of an issue.

    Portable dehumidifiers can also help, but they typically don’t remove much more than about 2 pints per hour, and they use more energy than a good whole-house dehumidifier. Since they are usually located in one room, humidity control in other rooms or the whole house may not be good.

    Basements: Since lots of surfaces in basements are cool, an AC won’t run much. Many times I can’t even find a small enough AC to get good run time in a basement. So basements are prime candidates for dehumidifiers.

    Crawl spaces: Crawl spaces are like short basements, only sometimes they have more ventilation. Venting very often makes a cool crawl space not just humid, but wet. Temperature doesn’t matter in a crawl space, so an unvented crawl space with a dehumidifier is a great, efficient way of controlling humidity levels below wood floors that are over a crawl space.

    Solutions

    Go back to the basics. Acclimate the flooring properly. Use narrower boards, more stable species of wood, quartersawn boards, or a combination of those features. Deal with concrete slab moisture by using appropriate flooring-approved vapor barrier membranes or systems.

    Accept some gaps. This takes consumer education by establishing proper customer expectations. Make sure you explain clearly, and hopefully in writing, that the 7-inch hickory flooring for a house in Florida will likely have seasonal gapping if you install it so that cupping does not occur in summer months.

    Use a product that can handle high-RH environments. Solid wood flooring has been used in variable environments for years while, based on warranties, much engineered flooring and some factory finished flooring apparently aren’t designed for those environments. Don’t set your client up for automatic failure, or an extra unknown expense.

    Deal with the building environment. These solutions (reducing ventilation, controlling water in crawl spaces or basements, adding dehumidifiers or modifying AC systems) aren’t up to flooring professionals. Building owners can take steps to reduce ventilation rates, reduce moisture intrusion and/or add mechanical dehumidification. But don’t expect them to install $20,000 worth of extra climate control or building modifications for $2,000 worth of flooring.

    Reprinted from NWFA

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  • Make Sure Your Underlayment is Working for You

    Friday, September 16th, 2011

    For wood floors, underlayment can be more than just padding, and understanding the features that offer benefits beyond cushioning can enable installers to recommend the best fit for their customers.

    First, consider the factors that play into your choice of underlayment: the type of floor (solid, engineered, or floating) and the performance goals for the underlayment as part of the floor assembly.

    The composition and characteristics of underlayment vary widely. Going beyond the basics, underlayment can include: sound abatement and reduction in sound transmission between floors; insulating qualities; compression resistance; the ability to smooth minor floor imperfections; moisture protection; and the ability to be installed over radiant heat. (Some underlayment actually incorporates radiant heating elements, eliminating an installation step). Also, some underlayment is made from environmentally safe recycled materials.

    There are jobs where you may want to take advantage of multiple attributes. For example, for an installation where a new floor is replacing old vinyl asbestos tile, it can be helpful to have underlayment with adequate compression resistance to properly support the floor while dispersing the impact energy of each footfall (lessening strain on knee and hip joints), and you also may want it to minimize small floor imperfections. As long as the VAT is secure, using this type of underlayment can eliminate the need for a potentially hazardous tear-out that could release dangerous fibers into the air. Or, the same type of underlayment can be glued directly over secure old vinyl composition tile, offering a smooth surface ready for the finish flooring without having to first remove the old tile and prepare the underlying subfloor.

    Sound absorbing, or acoustic, underlayment quiets impact sound and inhibits noise from traveling into the room below. Acoustic underlayment is available in various materials, including polyethylene or polystyrene film, cork, rubber, and fiber, and some acoustic underlayment enables engineered wood to sound more like solid wood. In multi-family housing units, acoustic underlayment must at least meet local code; exceeding the code can go further to help prevent complaints.

    Some underlayment has insulating properties. Insulating underlayment with an R-value of at least 0.50 acts as a thermal break, helping keep a room warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.

    Under engineered wood, underlayment with moisture management reduces the possibility of mold growth under the finished wood floor and can prevent subfloor or incidental perimeter moisture from marring the floor.

    For floor installations that are part of green building projects, eco-friendly underlayment without VOCs can be an easy upsell. You’ll want to choose underlayment that is third-party-certified for low emissions and is also manufactured substantially or totally from recycled fibers. Incorporating this type of underlayment may enable the flooring assembly to contribute to earning LEED credits.

    Electric radiant heat underlayment for under floating wood flooring can distribute quiet, clean hypoallergenic electric heat evenly throughout a room, providing supplement heating overall. This type of underlayment can also be adhered to the floor for glue-down wood.

    The next time you have a job that requires underlayment, make sure you and your customer are getting the most out of it.

    Reprinted from NWFA

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  • Useful Hardwood Flooring Links from Wisteria Lane and NWFA

    Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

    Thinking about installing wood flooring? These useful hardwood flooring information links from Wisteria Lane and NWFA will help you invest in beautiful wood floors with confidence.

    American Institute of Architects (AIA) – Good resource for finding architects whether it is for commercial, residential, or institutional architecture.

    American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) – Good resource for finding designers whether it is for commercial, residential, or institutional design.
    Canadian Lumbermen’s Association (CLA) – The membership of the CLA is divided into four bureaus primarily servicing the softwood and hardwood lumber manufacturing community.

    Hardwood Council, The – The Hardwood Council is a coalition of 11 hardwood lumber and product associations. The Council provides technical information on North American hardwood applications for builders, architects, interior designers and remodelers.

    Health House – Visit this site for suggestions on building a healthy home.

    International Standards and Training Alliance (INSTALL) – The NWFA is partnering with the Carpenters International Training Fund (CITF) to present a new joint certification for wood flooring installation called the International Standards and Training Alliance (INSTALL). INSTALL is based on a curriculum developed by the CITF and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBC), and is endorsed by 50 major mills and manufacturers. This partnership will allow UBC instructors to test INSTALL flooring professionals, and then award successful candidates a UBC/NWFA Wood Flooring Installation Certification.

    Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association (MFMA) – Since 1897 the Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association has established itself as the authoritative source of technical and general information on maple sports flooring and has attracted a membership of manufacturing mills, installation contractors, distributors and allied product manufacturers who subscribe to the high standards for which the association stands.

    National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) – NAHB has more than 182,000 members, including more than 50,000 who build more than 80 percent of all U.S. Homes.

    National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA) – NHLA is a non-profit trade association made up of more than 1,700 member firms who produce, sell and use hardwood lumber.

    Southern Pine Council (SPC) – The SPC is a joint promotional body coordinated and supported by manufacturers of southern pine lumber. These manufacturers are members of the Southern Forest Products Association (SFPA) and Southeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association (SLMA).

    Western Wood Products Association (WWPA) – WWPA is a trade association representing softwood lumber manufacturers in the 12 Western states.

    World Floor Covering Association – The World Floor Covering Association is a recognized industry leader in legislative advocacy, marketing research and education.

    Reprinted from NWFA

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