Solid Timber Warranty
Based on Solid Timber Flooring Industry Standard for Australian Timber Flooring Association (ATFA), we ensure original purchaser 25-year structural limited and pre-finished limited warranty. All warranty conditions and claimers should comply with the guideline of ATFA as follow.
Understanding the basics-natural expansion and contraction of timber
Prior to discussing timber flooring products, it is important to have an understanding of the relationship between timber, humidity in the surrounding air and the dimensional changes that
occur as a result of changes in humidity. During weather conditions of consistently high humidity, timber will absorb moisture from the surrounding air causing it to swell or increase in size. Conversely, during drier times when humidity is low, timber will shrink, reducing in size.
Timber flooring, if not placed in a permanently controlled environment, will always move in response to changing environmental conditions.
In solid timber flooring, gaps between individual boards will occur as the floor shrinks in dry weather. Similarly, during either persistent wet weather or times of the year of naturally high humidity, solid timber floors will tend to be tighter and show fewer and smaller gaps.
Other flooring products such as parquetry, engineered and laminate flooring exhibit less seasonal movement than solid timber flooring products, however, even with these products some movement is experienced and needs to be accommodated in the installation process.
Timber decks experience greater movement due to firsthand exposure to the weather. It is why decking always has gaps between the boards and why tongue and groove flooring is not used externally. Ultimately consumers should understand that as a natural product, timber will continue to respond to its environment throughout its life.
Understanding your own home environment
Because timber is a natural product, and for the reasons outlined previously will react to its environment, it’s critical to speak with your contractor ahead of any installation and discuss the unique conditions of your home environment. The following key questions should be considered as part of that initial conversation:
Is your home in a high humidity area?
In areas of high humidity such as the tropics, or close to bodies of water, the atmospheric humidity in the air causes the floor to take up additional moisture. As such, care is needed to install timber flooring. This may necessitate acclimatization depending on the product and additional expansion allowance may be needed. It is not an option to instruct an installer that you do not want expansion allowance.
Is your home situated in thick bushland, lush, farmland or surrounded by dense gardens?
As with the previous point, dense bush, gardens or even thick grasses directly around a home may attract more moisture in or under your floor, particularly if watering systems are being used. As such, additional care may be required to protect your floor from greater moisture uptake – just what this involves for your location needs to be discussed with your contractor.
Do you have underfloor heating?
If your home has underfloor heating or in-slab heating, special considerations must be followed for the installation of a timber floor and it may impact on the types of timber flooring and related products that are suitable. Ensure the flooring contractor is well experienced with the installation of flooring over heated floors.
Do heating systems, refrigerative air conditioning and evaporative coolers alter the conditions in your home?
Any of these products can have an adverse effect on your floor if they are used for extended periods. You must advise the flooring contractor of your normal usage habits when choosing your timber floor and ahead of installation as these will dictate the product’s suitability and installation method.
Do you have a concrete slab home or joist construction home with ground beneath?
Timber floors are commonly laid in both circumstances, however, the build of your home will determine what preparation needs to occur prior to installation of the floor. A slab may need to be protected with a plastic moisture barrier or applied moisture vapour barrier. With joist construction, protection from ground moisture may be necessary. Note that floors are not to be laid over wet sub-floor conditions.
Do you have large expansive windows or skylights that face the sun for extended periods?
If a timber floor is constantly in direct sunlight this may cause unwanted shrinkage and even some cupping. All efforts should be made to protect timber floors from harsh direct sunlight using window coverings, window tinting or other shade methods.
Is your home in an area which experiences high winds?
If your home is in an area of constant high winds, it may have a drying effect on your timber floor and could cause excess shrinkage. Your flooring contractor should take this into account, though be sure to advise the contractor of the issue as it may not be noticable on the day they visit.
Does rain/storm water ever collect around your home or lie under it for days at a time?
As with earlier points, if water resulting from heavy rains or storms sits around or under your home, your floor may be vulnerable to moisture uptake. Suitable precautions should be taken to counteract this with additional moisture controls and improving drainage.
Does your home have suitable ventilation and drainage?
Airflow under and/or around a timber floor is essential, normally brick homes have suitable ventilation slots around the brickwork, but its important to ensure these have not been filled in over the years or become overgrown by garden beds. Preferably water should not be present beneath a dwelling at any time. Drainage is also essential to ensure water is not trapped around or under your home.
What you need to consider in choosing a timber floor for your home
Solid strip timber flooring (sometimes referred to as ‘tongue and groove’) is fixed to sheet subfloors of particleboard or plywood over joists or battens or direct onto a concrete slab. The traditional timber floor is renowned for its strength, durability and character.
Throughout its life, solid strip timber flooring can be rejuvenated to near new condition by sanding and refinishing. It is ideal for new houses or to match existing floors in renovations and can be top (face) nailed, secretly fixed or glued to concrete slabs.
Prefinished solid timber floors combine natural solid timber flooring with a factory finish. Similar to engineered products there is no sanding and finishing after installation. Boards may be square edged or may be arrised3 to a fine rounded edge. Prefinished solid timber floors are usually installed as an overlay floor.
Selecting your board colour/ species of timber
The choice of species influences the colour of a floor
The many timber species used in timber floors provide you with a rich array of colours and grain patterns to choose from. In some species, the natural colours will be fairly consistent while others can involve a blend of several colours and tones. This is particularly the case where the sapwood (the outer layer of timber beneath the bark) is often much lighter in colour than the heartwood. Even within a single species and within individual trees, large colour variations of the heartwood can occur. In addition, the age of the tree also has a significant bearing on the colour with timber from younger trees often being lighter in colour than more mature trees.
When choosing a timber species you therefore need to consider the following:
l Are you looking for a timber species or a timber colour? If you are more concerned with colour then ensure that you are accepting of the colour variations that may occur in that species. You may instead wish to consider another similar coloured species which is more consistent or whether mixed species of similar colour are available and would be more suited to the look you are seeking.
l Photos in magazines or off computer screens will not give you a realistic representation of species colour. Even a sample flooring board provides just one representation of the colour in that species. Due to this, larger panels in showrooms should be viewed although even these are unlikely to be able to cover the full range of potential colour variation.
l If you like the colours in a species from one supplier, should you expect that the colours in that species will be the same from another supplier? No, there is no assurance that this will be the case due to differences in growing region and tree age.
It is important to remember that when choosing a timber floor, no matter how large the showroom sample is that you have seen, it is only indicative of the species colour and natural variation that may be expected. Remember, you are choosing a natural product where each tree is unique and forms an intrinsic part of its beauty and character.
Australia is blessed with many colour variations and characteristics in its timbers, however, depending on harvesting schedules and milling, not all types are always available – be sure to check with your timber flooring professional to find out what’s available and the price variations.
Selecting the grade/ feature content of the timber
In addition to the colour of the timber, your choice of grade will also influence the character of a floor. Grading rules do not cover colour or colour variation but significantly influence the appearance of timber, with some grades including more of the character of the tree’s history with larger gum veins, knots and other features present. In other grades, the cleaner natural lines and figure of the timber will dominate with fewer and smaller features present.
When deciding on a timber grade ensure that you consider the following:
l All trees contain natural features such as gum veins, knots and past borer activity. For many species these features add to the character and charm of the fl oor so when choosing a grade, you are simply deciding on how much feature you desire.
l The grade has no influence on a floor’s fitness for purpose in terms of its manufactured moisture content range or machining tolerance. These aspects are the same for each grade.
l All grades permit some feature and even though it may be named ‘Select Grade’ some gum veins, knots and past borer activity is permitted.
l How the boards are mixed into the floor both in terms of colour and feature is up to the installer, so if you have any specific views on this, make sure you discuss these with your installer prior to installation.
l Because different features tend to dominate different species, two fl oors of the same grade may appear quite different.
l There are grade names associated with Australian Standards grading rules. In other instances, flooring manufacturers may have their own grades and grade names. Because a manufacturer’s grade of timber may not be exactly the same as that in an Australian Standard, be absolutely sure from the outset what grade you are getting.
If choosing an alternative species from the one originally considered, not only will the overall colour differ but the dominant type of feature may also change.
Select Grade — Contains features of a limited number and size. The features may include gum veins, past borer activity and small knots. The effect in a floor is that features are observable but they do not dominate the overall appearance.
Medium Feature/Standard Grade — The number, type and size of features present is greater than for Select Grade and the effect on the character of the floor is in many instances much more dominant. Gum veins that are present may extend across the face of the board, greater natural discolouration is also present. Knots and past borer activity can also be more pronounced. Such features add to the character of the floor. It should, however, be noted that the features present and resulting character is very much dependent on the species chosen.
High Feature Grade — Boards with a high degree of feature are permitted in this grade and this can add a lot of character to the floor creating a more rustic look. The number and size of features included are greater than for Medium Feature/ Standard Grade but again the choice of species will have an overriding influence on the character present.
Selecting the board widths of solid timber, prefinished floors
Solid timber board widths over 85mm and up to 135mm can be secret nailed5, though its recommended that a full bed adhesive is used in conjunction with this method. Board widths over 135mm should generally be top nailed to accommodate increased movement.
Protecting the timber flooring prior to installation
Selecting and purchasing the timber flooring is one aspect, the other considerations are its transport, delivery, onsite storage and the need (or not) for acclimatisation prior to installation will would be assessed by your floor installer.
Where possible, try to ensure your flooring is delivered in dry conditions as it is important that the flooring product does not get wet.
When delivered to your site, flooring must be stored in dry undercover storage.
If your flooring needs to be kept on site for any length of time (more than 2 days for example), it needs to be kept in a well ventilated area and the possible effects of slab moisture or moist condition beneath must be avoided (a hot garage or shed with no ventilation or insulation is not suitable).
The need to acclimatise internal flooring will be decided by the floor installer. The installer will take into consideration the product being used, manufacturer supplied moisture content of the flooring, the locality where the fl oor is being installed, any current or future heating or cooling systems and most importantly the current weather conditions. If the flooring is to be acclimatised then it needs to be stacked in layers to enable air movement past both surfaces of each board.
Acclimatisation periods of two weeks are common but can be longer.
Packs of timber flooring and related products will often contain a range of lengths from short to long and depending on the species, may also contain considerable colour variation. Your flooring contractor will blend in the varying lengths as well as any colour variations into the overall floor.
Methods of installing your timber floor
Several options exist for the installation of an internal timber floor. Your contractor should discuss the following options with you to identify the method that best suits your use and preferences, your budget and the property’s structure:
l Direct stick to concrete slabs
l On ply or particleboard
l Over joists
l On battens
l Over other surfaces (tiles or an existing timber floor)
Direct stick to concrete slabs
This method has been used for many years with parquetry. It’s also used with solid timber flooring and is becoming more commonly used with engineered flooring and bamboo. It is considered more cost effective than other methods, although due to greater requirements in assessing the concrete slab, it is more difficult and should be done by professional installers. The method requires the concrete slab to be relatively even, as unevenness (highs and lows) in the slab will show in the final floor and potentially cause other difficulties. Therefore concrete grinding or levelling may be necessary to make sure the slab is sufficiently level.
An applied moisture vapour barrier is also recommended. While not always required, a moisture barrier offers good insurance against the moisture found in concrete slabs, which if too high, can cause problems for the timber floor. Be aware that a moisture barrier is not totally waterproof, rather it prevents vapour transmission, which is ultimately what will react with the timber. IFollowing the application of the moisture vapour barrier, the flooring product is then laid using a full bed adhesive and may be weighted, temporarily nailed or permanently nailed to the slab to assist in good bonding of the boards to the slab.
On structural plywood or particleboard
Plywood can be utilised as a substrate8 over concrete or tiles and both structural plywood and particleboard are used as sub-fl oors9 on joists. This enables any timber or related flooring product to be installed on top. Substrates or sub-floors provide a better laying environment and an extra layer of protection from moisture uptake. In the case of installation over concrete, a plastic sheet moisture barrier is recommended or alternatively an applied moisture vapour barrier may be used. In the case of floor joists, the plywood or particleboard is glued and either nailed or screwed to the joists. Where there is space under the joists, suitable ventilation and drainage are necessary and the ground beneath must be dry. If ventilation is limited, plastic sheeting can also be used as a ground moisture barrier.
Installation of the flooring product is then laid using beads or a full bed adhesive and either secretly fixed or top nailed depending on product width and the desired look. Expansion allowance is required around the perimeter of the floor and with wider floors (usually exceeding 6 metres), intermediate expansion allowance is also required.
Installation direct to joists requires a structural floor and in some states, requires the installer to be licensed. This is the more traditional method generally used with solid timber flooring and is being performed less and less – the preference being for overlay floors. Solid timber flooring comes in mixed lengths with smaller lengths no shorter than 900mm so they can be supported by two joists. Flooring is generally endmatched which enables the boards to be joined at any point on the floor, not just over joists.
Installation of the flooring product is laid using adhesive and nailed (either top nailed or secret nailed depending on the product width) directly into the joists. The distance between the centre of joists is normally 450mm, wider spans than this may fi rst require a structural plywood or particleboard sub-floor. Expansion allowance is required at the perimeter of the fl oor and with wider floors, intermediate expansion allowance is also required.
Fixing solid timber flooring onto battens11 installed over a concrete slab is an option where there is sufficient ceiling height. This method gives the floor a softer feel than when installation is direct onto concrete or ply.
It also produces a floor that when walked on gives a sound similar to that of a timber floor laid onto joists. The battens will require mechanical fixings such as spikes or masonry anchors and it is recommended that plastic sheeting be laid or a moisture vapour barrier be applied to the concrete slab. Installation of the flooring product is laid using adhesive and nailed (either top nailed or secret nailed depending on the product width) directly into the battens. Batten size and spacing will depend on the product being used. Expansion allowance is required around the perimeter of the floor and with wider floors (usually exceeding 6 metres), intermediate expansion allowance is also required.
Over other surfaces
There is always some level of risk when installing new flooring over an existing flooring surface such as tiles or an old timber floor. This process does occur and is generally successful, however some factors need to be considered up front.
If the floor is tiled and the tiles are quite old, it’s likely that the adhesive used for the tiles has weakened over time. If the bond under the tiles is not secure, the forces holding down the floor will let go at the weakest point – the tile adhesive. Ideally, the tiles should be pulled up and the concrete surface should be cleaned of all possible contaminants and made sufficiently level. There are also risks with installing a new timber floor over a pre-existing timber floor. As previously outlined, timber floors move naturally in response to changes in the climate. If an old floor moves this can exacerbate any movement of the new floor installed over the top. Additional care is therefore required. Any issues such as squeaks must be eliminated from the old floor, levelness checked and the old floor rough sanded prior to the new floor being laid.
Solid flooring may rely solely on mechanical fixing or a combination of mechanical fixing and adhesives. The adhesive may be beaded beneath boards or a full bed may be used depending on the product. The polyurethane adhesives generally contain solvents, however formulations are continually being updated to reduce levels of solvent, and solvent free products are now being introduced. Adhesives are now used more extensively with timber flooring products than in the past. This is largely due to the fact that timber flooring is now often laid over a supporting surface like concrete, or sub-floor of plywood or particle board (rather than nailed directly on to timber joists). This allows options to use adhesives, or nails and adhesives together.
There are a number of types of adhesives:
Water based/wash-up adhesives – The biggest use is a special water resistant liquid PVA (white glue) to bond the edges of boards when laid as a floating floor. There are thicker water based types for spreading over surfaces and gluing down parquetry and cork floors.
Solvent based adhesives – The most common type now used are construction adhesives (paste
consistency in cartridges) which can be applied to the subfloor surface before nailing tongue and groove timber flooring. This approach reduces hollow sounds and squeaking in the nailed fl oor and can also be applied to the ‘groove’ of tongue and groove flooring during installation over joists to reduce squeaking. These adhesives are also applied to joists when nailing/screw fixing sheet flooring (particle board and plywood) onto joists.
Curing or reactive adhesives – These are now the most widely used for adhering tongue and groove timber, parquetry and bamboo to all types of fl at surfaces. They cure/change to form a tough rubbery material by (slowly) absorbing moisture from the timber and air. The most common type is polyurethane, though other types are becoming more widely available. These substances may contain solvents and some may contain hazardous chemicals so need to be handled with some care. Always consult the label and if necessary, the manufacturer if possible, and use the products safely.
What happens during installation, sanding and finishing
During the installation process
Regardless of product, it will mean spending some time out of the home. If only part of your home is having flooring installed, it’s still best to take some time out as the noise, dust and odour of products can be of concern for some people.
It is also recommended to have the installation of the floor occur after all other trades have completed their work (with the exception of cabinetmakers installing kitchen components on top of a finished floor). This is to avoid contamination of the flooring which creates potential problems for the coating process later or moisture from wet trades.
During the sanding and finishing process
For timber floors sanded and finished on site it will be necessary to be out of the home when this process occurs as you may inadvertently add to the possibility of contaminants getting on a wet floor. When solvent based coatings are being used, these can also have a strong odour and have been known to make some people feel unwell.
The need to be away from the home for finite period does not apply to prefinished products such as laminates, most bamboo products, most engineered flooring and prefinished solid flooring. These are generally factory finished and designed to minimise time away from the home. For solid strip timber flooring, parquetry, cork and engineered or bamboo products that are not factory coated, it is essential that the contractor be left to undertake the process without disruption or additional trades to prevent unwanted dust particles entering the area.During this process entry to the dwelling should ONLY occur with the consent of the floor sander and finisher.
ATFA has established a set of protocols (recommended guidelines and duty of care) when using coatings and adhesives, regardless if these are solvent or water based products, being mindful that some water and oil based products still contain harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). The operator(s) is the one most susceptible to the odours and emissions of VOCs.
l Operators should inform clients of the nature of solvent based products, that they release organic compounds into the air and will release strong unpleasant odours. Similarly, operators should ascertain if any householders have any allergy issues or protective conditions (such as pregnancy), which may necessitate the use of a water based or very low VOC products.
l Operators should advise clients to remove food stuffs (including in cupboards, pantries, fridges and/or freezers) from the vicinity of the gluing or coating work as well as any pets, fi sh, birds and the like.
l Operators should recommend occupiers of the coated space to fi nd alternate accommodation for a period of time prior to commencement and (dependent on the coating type used, ventilation of the home and sensitivity of the home occupants) after completion of the coating operation. This also aids the hardening of the coated surface.
l In the case of floor installation where solvent based adhesives are applied, the first two points above apply, however, when the floor is fully enclosed over the adhesive and odours are not recognizable occupancy is again viable in most cases. Some variables apply in this regard such as the thickness of the timber being installed and taking into account that some solvents are not necessarily able to be smelt – yet still present. Regardless it is advisable that people with chemical sensitivities should remain out of the environment for a longer period of time.
l Operators should work in a well ventilated area when using adhesives, opening doors, windows and the like.
l Operators, where practical, should also ventilate the working area when coating, noting this is not practical when applying final coats due to dust attraction.
l Operators should utilise respirator masks at all times when anywhere in the vicinity of the gluing or coating area and during the process of application. Organic respirator cartridges should be replaced daily and while isocyanates can breach the effect of the cartridge long before they can be smelt, obviously if they can be smelt before the day is up, replace the cartridges immediately. While wearing masks can become uncomfortable and hot, they are for the health and safety of the operator. Note: respirator cartridges are not 100% effective, for full protection use full air respiration systems.
l Operators should utilise full length clothing and enclosed footwear, VOCs may be transmittable through the skin. Again, in some circumstances (warmer climates for example) this may feel uncomfortable for a period of time.
l Operators should not eat or drink near the gluing or coating surfaces.
l The public and operators alike should avail themselves of the ATFA Coatings information sheet available at www.atfa.com.au
In the not too distant past the sanding and finishing of a timber floor was a relatively straight forward task with a three coat system of gloss polyurethane being used in most instances.
This approach still dominates the Australian market however, with the advent of new technologies, the choices of coating have greatly diversified. A search on the internet quickly reveals the wide range of coatings available with many manufacturers able to supply a full range of coating types. You will find brand names that are quite familiar to you and others that you may not have heard of before. While having such a choice is a positive, it can also be somewhat bewildering to those with limited knowledge about coatings and coating types.
With new products continuing to arrive on the market, not all contractors will be familiar with all the options available and may tend to favour the range of coatings they more frequently use and know. Today’s reputable coating contractors are constantly involved in updating their knowledge to keep abreast of the frequent changes in this developing industry. Most contractors will have the skills to use any coating type, however each coating will have its specific requirements and due to this some time in research and support from the product supplier may be necessary and is important. This is particularly so if the coating system to be used differs from that more commonly
used or recoating over an existing finish system is being requested. When choice is available for any product there is also varying quality and price differences between products. This too is true for floor finishes and due to the nature of some coating systems there can be a significant variation in overall project costs depending on the option chosen. Similarly, those products of lower quality can be more prone to problems at time of application or in ongoing performance.
In this section we are specifically concerned with the regular levels of confusion and potential disappointment expressed by flooring contractors, architects, building managers, and the general public alike, regarding issues that often stem from coating selection. This aspect should not be treated lightly. Although the process of preparing and coating a floor is relatively “inexpensive”, especially when compared to the purchase and installation costs of timber flooring, an unsuitable coating choice can result in expectations not being realized with short lived enjoyment of a new or rejuvenated timber floor. For the consumer, appearance, durability and cost are generally the key factors.
A poor choice of coating will ultimately result in disappointment and often additional expense in extra work necessitating possible re-sanding or recoating. It cannot be over emphasised that choosing the right coating for your requirements will greatly reduce the likelihood of any potential problem down the track. As the owner, specifier or recipient of a new floor, the most important fact to be recognised when considering the coating type is ‘does it fi t’ your project? All fl oor coating types are suitable for specific applications. The difficulty lies in balancing up the attributes of each coating type to ensure that you select one that is going to be highly suitable. Good coatings in wrong applications result in poor performance – not bad coatings! For the contractor, the most important information is provided by the product manufacturer. That information needs to be followed, enquired about, even debated, but never ignored. Coatings can be complex and you can be sure significant time has been spent in research and development before the product enters the market. The product information is what enables the contractor to both apply coatings correctly and advise clients accurately as to the suitability of a coating system for a particular project (appearance, durability, cost, application considerations and environmental considerations).
When researching products, always consider that with the variety of timber floor coating technologies available, each will have its benefits and limitations and that the balance of these will differ from project to project. It is also necessary to ensure that coating decisions relative to your requirements are made based on accurate and complete information.
It is generally the owner’s choice as to what coating or coating type is applied to the fl oor and the contractor is often called upon for advice. So what steps are involved in selecting a coating system that needs to be considered by both the recipient of the fl oor and the contractor for a particular project?
Firstly, a selection of suitable floor coating type alternatives should be presented that are most appropriate to the project. Considering the broad coating groups, the visual effects they provide should be considered and ones selected that fit preferences. The benefits and limitations of this selection should then be assessed for the type that will best meet the requirements of the project.
From this, particular manufacturer products within the range can be assessed and an informed choice made. However the basis for selection does not end there! Of equal or greater importance is what the recipient of the floor is prepared to do to keep the floor looking good! No matter what angle you take, ‘MAINTENANCE’ is the key aspect that ensures the ongoing appearance of a floor. It must be stressed that all coated timber floors will require some level of activity to keep them clean and to prolong their original aesthetic qualities for as long as possible.
l regular sweeping
l dust catching mats at external doorways
l prompt cleaning of spills
l occasional damp mopping with a recommended cleaning product
l felt pads on chair legs and other moving furniture
l sealing paved/concrete area’s abutting entrances
l regular monitoring of wear to plan for any remedial coating requirements
l not wearing street shoes on the floor where possible and avoiding leather soled shoes and stilettos as damage is accelerated by the combination of dust, grit, and aggressive foot traffic.
These tasks should be regarded as the minimum requirement of owning a timber floor. However, the frequency with which these tasks are carried out, as well as additional maintenance activities, is what sets different floor coating technologies apart. Put simply a lot depends on what the recipient of the floor is prepared to do ‘for their floor’. Aspects such as traffic type and level of traffic, flooring environment (e.g. residential or commercial) is what will greatly influence the coating decision.
If as an owner or specifier you are unable to determine a suitable coating using these considerations, then an industry professional should be consulted to assist. Though remember, although a contractor or similar professional can assist with technical information, the owner, or person specifying on behalf of the owner, should be the one choosing the finish, as they are the ones also determining the acceptable degree of ongoing maintenance.
Assuming as an owner that you have made your choice and ultimately, prolonging of the ‘original’ appearance of your floor is the ideal, maintenance is accepted as reality. Start with this understanding and it is more likely that you will be satisfied with your floor coating choice.
Coatings are made to protect and beautify timber flooring, but from day one the various degrees of foot traffic will begin the deterioration process that can only be managed and replenished by the “owner” or caretaker of the floor. If that happens to be you, then it is important that you make your coating choice carefully, as it is your floor and your choice that will be on display, now, in twelve months, in five years, a decade; so choose wisely.
Timber Floor Finishes
Timber floor finishes can be grouped into four main categories. Penetrating oils and waxes, curing oils and alkyds, oil modified urethanes, and polyurethane’s, the latter three categories being available in solvent borne and waterborne. Performance parameters such as durability or resistance to wear can vary significantly within a category as well as between categories. All categories can be recoated with refurbishment coats.
Penetrating Oils and Waxes
These are blends of natural oils and waxes which penetrate the timber surface to provide a rich colour, enhancing the timber grain and natural characteristics. It is the natural subdued look of the coated timber that is often the basis of selection and these finishes are generally recognised as the traditional or natural finishes. Curing in cold weather is slow and this may require consideration. Regular application of metallised acrylic polishes are used as part of the maintenance requirements to prolong an attractive appearance that darkens with age. Hard waxes differ in that they not only penetrate but also leave a hard fi lm of wax on the surface, thereby reducing maintenance requirements. Currently these types of finish do not form a large part of the floor finish market.
Oil-Based Finishes – Curing Oils and Alkyds
Curing oils such as ‘Tung’ or ‘linseed’ are usually selected because of their lower cost and ability to produce a rich timber colour. Gloss levels vary from high gloss to satin and they are not prone to edge bonding. Similar to penetrating oils these finishes are slow curing in cold weather, will darken with age and metallised acrylic polishes are a necessary part of ongoing maintenance activities. Alkyds are produced from reacting curing oils with a synthetic resin and this results in improved durability and reduced maintenance activities. Curing oils and alkyds are also not as frequently used as those outlined below.
Oil Modified Urethanes (UMO’s)
These spirit based solvent borne coatings combine an oil with a smaller amount of a urethane. The higher the urethane proportion, the less the oil properties such as fl exibility but the higher the durability. Gloss levels vary from high gloss to satin and in recent times higher cost waterborne UMO’s providing lower emissions have appeared on the market. All UMO’s darken with age and their slow curing in cold weather needs to be considered. These mid range cost coatings are often selected as they are of intermediate durability, are not prone to edge bonding and are isocyanate free. As such they hold a moderate share of the market.
Polyurethane – Solvent borne
This coating type in the 1 pack moisture cure and 2 pack varieties provide the highest durability and film build of all coating types as well as the highest gloss levels. Gloss levels range from ultra high gloss to matt and some darken less with age. However, there is a strong solvent smell on application and due to the isocyanates present additional precautions are necessary until the coating has cured. These intermediate cost coatings are often selected as they provide the best durability resulting in low maintenance, can provide a very high gloss and generally provide trouble free application. Care is however necessary regarding their edge bonding potential which can cause irregular gapping or split boards in floors. Currently, this type of finish is commonly used in Australia.
Polyurethane – Waterborne
This has the widest selection of sub-categories resulting in a spread of properties with durability from poor to arguably as good as solvent borne polyurethane. Greater care is therefore necessary in selection noting that those without acrylic provide higher durability. They are available in one and two pack options, provide a finish from matt through to gloss and generally darken little with age. These coatings are often selected due to the absence of any strong solvent smells on application and because they are not prone to edge bonding. Product cost is however high and they can provide a lighter timber appearance depending on the sealer and coating used. Rapid shrinkage can also result in light coloured lines at board joints. These finishes have developed significantly over recent years and as such their market share is moderate and increasing.
Performance expectations of sanded and finished solid timber floors
Although an imperfection free floor is the desire of any tradesperson, it is the process of installation and finishing where the environment and other conditions cannot be fully controlled, that moves the completed job to one that is ‘normal’ and of an industry accepted standard. This however, is not to say that the completed floor won’t be of a high standard and well suited to its purpose as a floor which is to be walked on, but it does acknowledge that the finished product will not be the same as fine furniture and that due to seasonal influences and heating and cooling, that some movement reflecting the nature of timber will occur.
Even board surface
There are some conditions that affect the surface of the boards and these should not generally occur in timber floors. However, floors exposed to heat sources after occupancy (e.g. no curtains, fireplaces, vents from appliances, houses closed up for extended periods) may cause movement in the flooring resulting in effects such as gapping. Similarly, changes that affect the conditions beneath a floor can also result in board movement and shape changes resulting in cupping. It should be noted that the actions or inaction of owners and builders can contribute or even cause these effects to occur. Therefore it is beneficial for flooring contractors to make builders and owners aware of aspects that could affect their floor and that any concerns that the builder or owner has, be brought to the attention of the flooring contractor at an early stage.
Product choice, particularly in terms of board width will also influence movement after installation, with wider or thin boards often being more prone to some cupping and gapping in a dry internal environment. The conditions defined below should however, not normally occur in a floor and if they do, remedial work is often necessary.
Cupping – boards with their edges higher than the centre of the board. Moist conditions beneath a floor can cause cupping and heat in a specific location or a very dry environment above the floor can also cause boards to cup. Cupping is more likely to be observed in overlay flooring and in wide standard thickness boards. To some degree a small amount of observable cupping may occur in some locations where these types of flooring are used (e.g. sun exposed floor).
Peaking – This has the appearance of cupping but is the result of expansion pressure in the floor. Again it is generally expected that a floor would be free of observable peaking.
Tenting – This is not acceptable and occurs when the adjoining edge of two boards has lifted above the level of the adjacent flooring. This is often associated with high moisture beneath the floor and can be from a number of other causes.
Buckling – This is not acceptable in a floor and occurs when a section of flooring containing a number of boards has risen above an adjacent section of floor.
Crowning – boards with their edges lower than the centre of the board. This is not acceptable and occurs when a cupped floor from moisture effects has been prematurely sanded. Crowning may not become apparent until some months after finishing.
Gapping at board edges
Gaps at board edges do not necessarily constitute a problem with a floor and simply reflect seasonal changes in weather conditions. Shrinkage gaps between boards may average 0.75 mm for an 80 mm wide board floor during drier times of the year or dry internal conditions. For wider boards, proportionally wider average gapping can be expected. Therefore owners of wider board floors need to be more accepting of gaps as this simply reflects the natural response of timber. Some gaps will be larger than the average and others smaller, however the appearance should generally indicate gapping between most boards. An appearance can be expected that is free
from irregularly spaced wide gaps across the floor associated with edge-bonding (the finish gluing groups of boards together). The provision of expansion gaps as part of the installation process and evident throughout the life of the floor is acceptable.
Vertical movement at tongue and groove joints
Flooring is manufactured with the board tongue narrower than the groove. This is necessary so that boards will fit together during installation. When floor boards are laid over joists or battens, some differential vertical movement may occur between adjacent boards when there is foot pressure on an individual board. This is due to the clearance between the tongue and the groove. The clearance should not exceed 0.6 mm to comply with AS2796 Timber – Hardwood – Sawn and milled products, but with this tolerance movement will be observable.
A small amount of noise can be expected from most timber floors when walked on. Noises can occur from movement of one board edge against another or from boards moving on nails. A floor is often more noisy during drier weather due to loosening at the joints. A floor that squeaks excessively requires remedial action.
Timber strip floors can be expected to show some indentations depending on the hardness of the species used, variation in density, volume of traffic and type of foot ware worn. Softer timber will indent more readily than harder timbers.
When timber floors are laid direct to concrete slabs, drummy sounds can occur under some boards. When there are a limited number of instances associated with one or two boards in some areas of the floor, and no vertical movement when pressure is applied, remedial work is unlikely to be required. Refer to ATFA Information Sheet No. 6 Hollow Sounds available at www.atfa.com.au.
Acceptable floor appearance
Timber colour, grade and species
Within a single species the colours and colour variation can be quite pronounced and can differ markedly from one floor to another. It is also possible that a limited number of boards of different species but similar in colour and character will be present in some floors and this should not be cause for concern. Through grading errors or when a floor is sanded, it is also likely that some features will appear or be a little larger than the grade description. There is however generally a clear difference between a floor that is of the incorrect grade and a floor where grade limits have been exceeded in some boards.
Such fl oors where the grade description is exceeded in some boards should also not be a reason for concern. Refer to ATFA Information Sheet No. 5 Floor Colour and Grade available at www.atfa.com.au.
Board lengths and distribution in the floor
Board lengths are generally a minimum of 900 mm long when laid on joists or battens. When laying over a structural sub-floor the minimum length may be shorter. Where possible end joints should not cluster together or align. Generally, only one end join should occur in a group of three boards between floor joists. In the case of glue fixed flooring, it is preferred that end joints be a minimum of 300mm from end joints in adjacent boards.
The sanding process involves hand controlled equipment and due to this there will be some evidence of the sanding process in the fl oor. It can be expected that the fl oor will be fi ne sanded and that edging will not result in scalloping. Similarly it can be expected that corners will be scraped to an even surface and sanded to provide a fi ne surface. As such sanding marks in the timber should not be visible from a standing position.
Generally, the viewing angle for assessment should be 45° from the eye to the floor.
At times there can be vibration that occurs which may be induced by the sanding machine or the sub-floor framing. Although this vibration can lead to chatter marks in the floor, it would be usual to expect a floor free of chatter marks. With the re-sanding of an older floor it must also be recognised that the sanding process will not remove existing deep cuts or damage and that stains may also not be removed if they have penetrated deep into the timber.
Nail holes and filling
Unless otherwise requested, all flooring nails are to be punched below the surface and the nail holes are to be filled. With solid tongue and groove flooring it can also be expected that any gaps at board ends will also be filled. Filling at board edges is generally not recommended except for parquetry where flood filling is to be undertaken and in some instances with direct adhesive fi xed floors. When one colour of filler is used, that colour should match the darker tone in the boards as with time the contrast generally becomes less.
Coating and finishing
A floor is subject to much heavier wear than furniture and although a good quality finish can be expected, the same finish quality to furniture should not be expected. There are a number of imperfections that are likely to be present to some degree in a finished floor and the degree to which they occur, where they occur and the presence of other imperfections, will determine their acceptability. When assessing the appearance of a floor it is to be done from a standing position and the floor should be viewed at an angle of about 45°.
Dust and debris – A degree of contamination in the final coat is unavoidable and will vary from one site to another being dependent on a number of factors such as draughts, heating and ventilation systems, insects and the like. It can be expected that the contractor will take reasonable measures to minimise the risk of contamination and that at job completion there will not be heavily contaminated areas in the floor that are obvious when assessing the floor.
Swirl marks – Swirl marks are caused by rotary sanders and to some degree will be present in all floors. Down lights will highlight sanding imperfections due to light refraction through the coating and as such this is not controllable by the contractor. Fine swirl marks that are not obvious under natural light when assessing a floor should not be a concern.
Coat levelling – Rejection, orange peel and quilting all relate to unevenness in the coating resulting in either a mottled effect or in the case of quilting discontinuity across joints. If instances are isolated, minimal in nature and not in areas frequently viewed then remedial work is unlikely to be necessary.
Delamination – Separation of one coating from another or from the coating to the board should not generally occur in a floor and in such instances remedial work is necessary. Minor delamination due to movement at board joints or ends can occur and provided it does not progress, remedial work is unlikely to be necessary.
Gloss variation – Differing conditions in the dwelling at the time of curing can result in gloss variation. Although consistency can be expected at the time of a particular application, some variation may be apparent between areas when finished at a different time. Gloss variation within a room particularly with satin finishes usually requires remedial work.
White lining – When gaps appear at board edges the stretching of the bridged coating can cause a white line to appear at board joints. Unless severe this conditions requires no remedial work.
Lap and roller marks – Some finish systems are more prone than others and should lap or roller marks occur, they need to be minimal in number and not able to be observed from all directions, to be acceptable.
Edge bonding – Some finish systems can act as an adhesive and bond board edges together. With
shrinkage in the floor, wide irregular spaced gapping and splits in boards can occur. Only minor edgebonding resulting in small gaps at board edges is acceptable. Frequent splits and wide gaps are not acceptable.
Ghosting – Lighter toned boot and foot prints can occur in floors 6 to 18 months after the fl oor has been finished. In most instances the source of the mark cannot be identified and in most instances not likely to be associated with the sander and finisher. Re-sanding and finishing may correct the problem and a compromise between parties is often necessary to resolve the problem.
Colour changes to timber and coating
Over the course of time colour changes occur in timber floors from the effects of ultra violet light.
Therefore it is usually more pronounced in sun exposed areas of the floor. This is partly associated with the changes in the timber and partly with the coating that is applied. Some coatings darken with time more than others and some timbers are more prone to colour changes than others. This process is natural and gradual but can result in distinct colour differences where rugs have been put on the floor. Some of this change can be minimised by not putting rugs down till six or so months after the floor has been completed. To avoid severe effects it is beneficial for flooring contractors to make clients aware of how the coating used may result in colour differences. From there it is up to the owner to manage how rugs are used.
How to maintain your timber floor
Timber floors vary in ease of maintenance depending on the type of coating used and the traffic/usage of the floor. Regular care will greatly enhance both the appearance of your floor and its lifespan. At some stage, the floor will need to be rejuvenated which typically involves buffing back and re-coating. Some of the softer floor finishes can also benefit from application of metallised polish which provides an additional wear surface. It is important that maintenance requirements are understood by customers to ensure ongoing satisfaction – make sure your upfront conversations with your flooring contractor are not just about installation of a timber floor but extend to how you need to maintain the floor in the short and long term.
A newly finished floor
Although a floor may be walked on after initial curing, some precautions are necessary with a newly finished floor until the coating system has fully hardened and this may take in the order of two weeks. Use of the floor before the full cure has been realised can result in increased tendency for scuffing and scratching. It is recommended that rugs are not laid until after the floor finish has fully hardened. Rugs with rubber backings should never be used as these may tend to stain the applied coatings. While light furniture can be replaced and used during this period, attach furniture protection felt pads to the feet of tables and chairs. Heavy items such as fridges should be moved carefully into position and at no time should they be dragged over either newly finished or fully cured floors. Consideration should also be given to chairs with castors as they can indent softer timbers and also cause premature wear of the coatings. Again these should not be used until the finish has hardened and barrel type castors are less likely to damage a floor than ball castors.
Ongoing care and maintenance
Ingress of grit and direct sunlight
Traditional enemies of timber floor finishes are the sand and grit brought into the house with footwear. These small particles act like sandpaper resulting in scratches in the floor. Mats placed both outside and inside external doors provide a simple and effective means of significantly reducing grit from entering the house. Similarly, in high wear areas, runners and rugs can be effective and can also add to the décor of the house. The kitchen floor generally experiences high wear and therefore a floor rug in this area can be particularly beneficial. Another aspect that should be considered is the amount of direct sunlight on floors. Direct intense sunlight can contribute to gapping and possible cupping of boards. It will also cause the colour of both boards
and finish to change with time. Some floor finishes are more prone to darken with age and direct sunlight accelerates this process. Filtered sunlight through sheer curtains or blinds provides an effective means of slowing the colour change processes and is also effective in controlling gap size and possible cupping. In some instances it may be decided that window coverings will not be used, and if the sunlight has not been controlled by patio roofs or awnings then floors rugs can be used.
Establishing a regular cleaning program will greatly assist in keeping floors in pristine condition. There are many aspects that affect how often the floor requires cleaning and these include the degree of grit present (particularly from children and pets), type of exterior and interior matting used, the level of traffic, type of footwear and general conditions of the area outside the house.
Spills should be mopped up when they occur and any leaks attended to immediately. Failure to attend to leaking pipe work can result in severe problems with a floor particularly when laid over sheet flooring or directly adhered to a slab. Scuff marks or stubborn stains may be removed with light rubbing using a wood floor cleaner. As some cleaners can attack certain types of coating, use where possible the cleaning regime specified by the coatings manufacturer – alternatively always test rub an isolated area of floor to verify compatibility of the cleaner used to the coating.
For regular cleaning of domestic floors an anti-static mop provides an effective means of collecting dust and grit. Continual walking on a dirty floor will quickly damage the finish. If a vacuum cleaner is used then the condition of the brushes should be regularly checked. If they have worn thin, contact of the metal head on the floor can result in scratching. Do not use hard head vacuum cleaners as they will invariably cause fine scratches on the floor. Steam mops are not recommended on polished floors as they can cause damage to certain types of coatings. They may also cause ‘lipping’ on floating floors.
On a monthly basis floors can benefit from damp mopping. Providing the mop is only damp and the finish is in good condition, mopping carried out correctly will not affect either the finish or the timber. Damp mopping provides an effective deep clean and should be undertaken with a neutral pH wood floor cleaner or product recommended by the finish manufacturer. Harsh detergents or abrasive cleaners are to be avoided as are use of methylated spirits and vinegar as they can chemically attack some types of coatings e.g. waterborne polyurethanes and penetrating oils. After wetting the mop it should be wrung out until it is moist and the floor can be mopped in this condition. Using clean water, a final mopping with a mop wrung out till it is ‘dry’ may be used to further remove excess moisture on the boards. Periodically the protective pads on furniture legs should also be check to ensure that they are clean of grit or in need of replacement.
Timber floors are subject to different wear patterns and it is in areas of higher wear that there will initially be signs that the floor requires re-coating. It is important to ensure that excessive wear has not occurred if a total re-sand and re-finish is to be avoided. The finish should be inspected in the high wear areas and if a few drops of water bead on the surface then the finish is still intact and may require cleaning rather than re-coating. If however, after a few minutes the water begins to soak in and the timber colour darkens, then the finish is partially worn and re-coating should be undertaken. It is important that the details of the original coating system can be made available to the sander and finisher to ensure compatibility between coats.
Limited Warranty Exclusion and Conditions
1. The Limited Warranties do not apply to “seconds” or “mill trial” grade products.
2. The Limited Warranties apply only to the original purchaser and the original installation site, and are not transferable.
3. The Limited Warranties do not cover conditions or defects caused by improper installation, the use of improper adhesives, inadequate sub-flooring or improper sub-floor preparation.
4. The Limited Warranties apply only to products installed indoors. The Limited Warranty does not apply to panels installed in wet areas and do not cover any inappropriate environment.
5. The Limited Warranties do not cover construction related damage.
6. The Limited Warranty does not cover damage due to fluids of any source or type.
7. The Limited Warranties do not cover panels that have been installed with obvious visual defects.
8. The Limited Warranties do not cover conditions caused by improper use or maintenance, such as:–loss of gloss or build-up of dulling film due to lack of maintenance or improper maintenance.–damage resulting from failure to follow floor care instructions.–scuffs, scratches, cuts, chipping, indenting or similar damage caused by gliders, castor wheels, vacuum cleaner beater bars, toys, or other objects.–damage caused by chemicals, burns, fires and other accidents.–damage caused by abuse (i.e. dragging heavy or sharp objects across the floor without proper protection).–Failure to support furniture with floor protectors made of non-staining felt or non-pigmented hard plastic. Protectors must be at least one inch in diameter and rest flat on the floor.
9. The Limited Warranties do not cover variations of color, shade or texture of the panels you purchase from those shown on samples or photographs.
10.The Limited Warranties for light commercial use do not cover panels that have been stored or installed in areas that are persistently wet (e.g. saunas or bathrooms with showers or tubs).
11. Laminate flooring is intended to be free floated, and therefore should not be bound at anytime. If a heavy object is placed on the flooring, and a buckle area is formed, then we recommend the object is moved to a different location.
- This warranty is for replacement or refund of the materials only, no labor.
- This warranty applies only to the original purchaser.
- Claims for wear must be shown a minimum of 10% of total area.
- Any known manufacturing defect must be reported prior to product installation, and not be installed.
- Any claim under this warranty shall be made by contacting the shop before installation. Proof of purchase with the date of purchase must be presented with the claim.
- Any damage that occurs during shipping is the responsibility of the shipping company.
- Flooring Market reserves the right, and must be offered the opportunity, to inspect the complaint in site and, where applicable, to inspect the floor in its installed condition.
The benefits to the consumer under the warranty are in addition to other rights and remedies of the consumer under a law in relation to the goods or services to which the warranty relates. Our goods come with guarantees that cannot be excluded under the Australian Consumer Law. You are entitled to a replacement or refund for a major failure and for compensation for any other reasonably foreseeable loss or damage. You are also entitled to have the goods repaired or replaced if the goods fail amount to major failure. All expenses related to warranty claims are the responsibility of the consumer making the warranty claim.