Engineered Hardwood Flooring

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Hardwood flooring has become ever popular in many countries. In South Africa, home owners are opting for these in preference to the old style parquet and the laminated style of flooring. Hardwood floors go hand-in-hand with luxury, and offer timeless beauty and are low on maintenance. Home owners looking for a classic look might like to consider engineered hardwood flooring. These points should be taken into account, or kept in mind when weighing up the pros and cons of hardwood flooring.

Unlike conventional hardwood, which comes from its raw state and into your home, engineered hardwood is a more complex product which consists of layers. The outermost appearance layer is a hardwood veneer, a thin slice of wood of whatever wood type you prefer. The inner layers are made of plywood, high density fiberboard, or hardwood. These core layers give the product more stability than regular hardwood, while the outer veneer surface gives the floor its aesthetics, its beauty, and, of course, its authenticity.

Engineered hardwood is different to a hardwood laminated ‘wood’ because the surface is made of real wood. While laminated flooring has a core of high density fiberboard, its surface is basically a picture of wood. Laminate is less expensive than engineered and solid hardwood, but has a different look, feel and even sound when walking on it, due to its make up.

Pros:

  • Engineered hardwood flooring is designed to reduce moisture associated with conventional hardwood.
  • The layers block moisture and provide added stability to your floor.
  • This is a low maintenance option because of the fact that Engineered Flooring will not swell or warp.
  • Choosing engineered flooring is considered more environmentally-friendly than traditional hardwood for various reasons.
  • Veneer is sliced very carefully and precisely – it is not cut with a saw. This process produces no sawdust, which means that the entire tree can be used. The sawdust which we know amounts to a significant pile when making hardwood boards is wasted wood.
  • Hardwood trees grow a lot more slowly than the trees used to construct engineered flooring cores. More surface area is produced making veneer, therefore installing traditional hardwood uses many times the amount of slow-growing tree. This makes the replenishing time much longer.

Engineered Hardwood Flooring Cons

  • There are very few disadvantages to this type of hardwood flooring but it is neither a foolproof project and not necessarily the right floor for every application.

Comparable to solid hardwood in terms of cost: –

Engineered floors are still considerably more expensive than laminated floors, tile or carpet. They are, however much more hardy, are low maintenance and will wear a lot better.

That said, one should also take into account the biggest concern as a homeowner … that being avoiding shoddy or inferior engineered work and products, merely because of cost.

Veneers that are too thin will prevent sanding and refinishing opportunities that may double the lifetime of the floor.

Some veneers are so thin and poorly made that they can prematurely warp or fade.

Core layers should still be made from high-quality wood. Some manufacturers try to cut corners by using fiberboard or oriented strand board which might well compromise the stability of your floor and could result in an inferior flooring product.

Your Home is your Castle … quality surpasses cutting corners

It is, without exception, easier to install engineered flooring and the handy man homeowner is often encouraged to install his or her own engineered floors. It is never-the-less, a major project with big financial implications, therefore, I suggest you weigh up carefully, the virtue of employing an experienced craftsman to do the job (who will also guarantee his finished product, surely?) and doing the work yourself …and without wanting to reduce your skill-ability, don’t be too over zealous about your own home improvement skills just to get the job done cheaper! Even for the majority of homeowners who hire a flooring contractor for the job, you’ll save a hefty sum on installation, which is important given that most engineered flooring is more expensive than solid wood.

The cost of high-quality engineered floors (thick veneers) will depend on various issues, the obvious one being the type of wood you choose. In South Africa, imported Indonesian Balau is readily available, is solid, a hard wood and also hard-wearing, able to withstand much more than a softer local wood might be. It lands at quite a reasonable price and is of a superior quality. It is, for example largely used for outdoor decking. Solid wood flooring may be cheaper overall, however it will still take longer to install.

For a free no obligation quote on your solid hardwood engineered flooring please contact us on 031 – 762 1795 or use the contact us form below.

Dustless Floor Sanding Durban and Cape Town

Hardwood floor sanding in Durban and Cape Town is normally done by making use of a specialised company such as The Wood Joint. Some wooden floor sanding companies hire them in when needed but if you are sanding floors regularly then you may want to consider buying one. There are, broadly speaking, two different types of floor sanders or floor grinders. They are relatively expensive to buy and therefore expensive to hire.

Drum sander

The drum sander is an older technology machine that uses a drum with sand paper of varying grits attached to it. The drum spins in a horizontal direction and removes sealer or coating from the wooden floors. One would typically start with a rough grit like a 40 grit paper or rougher and then proceed through the grits to get a finer, smoother finish on the floors before sealing them. These machines come in different widths and different size motors. All of these machines do a similar job. The wider ones at 300mm wide obviously remove sealer a lot quicker as they are covering more surface area. There are two type of paper one can use. A paper-backed sandpaper which is cheaper but will tear or rip more easily if the drum catches a nail or rough edge on the floor. There is also a cloth backed paper which is about 3 times the price. Being cloth backed it is a lot more durable and won’t tear or rip as easily as paper-backed sand paper. Also because it doesn’t get as hot, it last a bit longer than paper-backed before it becomes dull. This is well worth the investment especially if you have a floor that has rough edges or nails protruding or if the drum sander is an older machine. Older machines tend to rip paper more easily because of worn parts. These machines, if calibrated properly work fairly well as they remove 300mm of sealer at a time. They can be difficult to “drive” as they are continually trying to run away from you in a forward direction and the machine needs to be pulled back against the direction of turn. They can also be very messy because the drum is rotating in a horizontal direction and throwing saw dust up into the air. A word of caution when using these machines. When they are switched on make sure the sand paper is not making contact with the floor as the machine will move on its own, probably slap bang into the wall if no-one is hanging on to it. Or worse still slap bang into the pool if you are sanding a deck. The machine can be tilted back so that the paper doesn’t engage the floor,or they are sometimes lever driven. Always work the floor sander in the direction of the boards to avoid scratching the boards against the grain.

Planetary System Floor Grinder

The other type of machine is essentially a floor grinder and is the same machine used to grind concrete floors to a smooth finish. It works with a motor in a vertical position and the shaft spins vertically as opposed to horizontally. Below the motor are three disks of 180mm diameter which can accept various tools, with varying grit, for different applications. Each disk spins in one direction while the whole set of three disks spins in the opposite direct. It is called a planetary system. They move a lot slower than the drum sander but because they are moving in the vertical direction they tend to keep the dust down rather than throwing it into the air. With the correct tool you can achieve the same result more quickly, with less effort and less mess. Even without dust extraction they are a lot less dusty and the dust can be controlled and extracted up as the machine works. Because they spin slower they are a lot easier to use and can be pushed along with one hand. Dust extraction can be fitted to the machine to result in a 99% dust free process. The idea is to start with a course grit tool, or paper, and move through the tools, or papers, until the desired level of smoothness is achieved. There are also other steel tools which act as rasps or files that can be used for stubborn sealer or to level a newly installed floor where small ridges have been left between boards after installation. These machines sand about 10mm to 20mm from the edge of the skirting so the edge sanding is minimised greatly. These machine can be used with or against the grain as they are spinning cross grain anyway.

At The Wood Joint we use both machines depending on what the application is.

A good finish to use is a water based polyurethane as you will be able to apply multiple coats in one day as it dries very quickly. Apply by roller and brush in the corners. Attach a broom stick to your roller so you can stand and do it rather than kneeling on the floor. A light sand with a very fine grit should be performed after the first coat as the first coat will raise the fibres in the wood. Once these have been sanded off very lightly the second and third coats can be applied. Make sure to vacuum properly to remove all dust before the second coat. Dust settles into the polyurethane and dries leaving it rough. Allow it to dry as per the manufacturer’s specification which should be dry enough to walk on after a short while but it will take several days to hard dry. It is best to take your shoes or boots off when sealing and walk in your socks.

This machine can also attend to concrete floor grinding. There is a separate article on this blog regarding concrete floor grinding.

For a free no obligation quote on dustless wooden floor sanding, please contact us on 031 – 762 1795 or use the contact us form below.

Wooden Flooring Durban

Wooden Floors Durban

Early plank style flooring

Many years ago, as late as 1625, most European houses did not have a wooden floor. Instead they had a beaten earth floor which of course created problems with water and dust, as you can imagine. Wooden floors were reserved for wealthier people and in those days consisted of joists with planks of elm or oak up to 600mm wide.

During the baroque era of 1625 – 1714, wooden floors became more elegant and included French parquetry and marquetry patterns which were made from hand cut pieces of hardwood laid in patterns of differing colours. They were then hand scraped, scrubbed with sand and polished. These of course were also reserved for the elite in society.

During 1607 – 1780 the North Americans started installing wooden floors due to an abundance of wood. These floors were generally not polished.

Wooden Floors Durban

French parquet style flooring

By the early 19th century, tongue and groove methods started to be applied by the wealthier clients but the random width plank system, face nailed to the joists, remained more common in modest homes. It was also during these times, due to the advent of tongue and groove, that floors could be sanded and levelled and sealed using shellac. Shellac was all that was really available to carpenters to seal wood in those days. It is derived from insect secretions and after being scraped from the bark of trees and processed, exists in solid form. When mixed with alcohol, it becomes liquid and can be applied. It dries very quickly. As there were no modern tools to perform these tasks it was very labour intensive and only the elite could afford this new technology.

The American Victorian Era of 1840 – 1910 saw mass production of wooden floors and consisted largely of “wood carpeting” which were roughly 35mm x 7mm strips glued to a heavy cotton backing made of canvas. They came in rolls of about 1m wide and were installed by tacking down each board every 300mm or so. Nails were set below the surface and filled, sanded by hand and varnished largely with slow curing tung oils from China. This was not that durable in itself so floors were hot waxed and buffed to a shine with a floor brush. All by hand. I know what a job it can be to level a floor using tongue a groove boards with a large grinder or floor sander. I can only imagine the sweat and tears that went into producing a top quality floor in those days.

Wooden Floors Durban

Modern day tongue and groove flooring

By the Edwardian era (1901 – 1914) tongue and groove flooring was the popular choice for domestic flooring. By the 1920’s and 1930’s wooden flooring was in competition with linoleum and cork floors which offered less maintenance. With the addition of alkyd resin, curing time and durability of finishes improved and emphasis was placed on hard solid durable floors. In the 30’s polyurethane was the choice for a no wax finish for floors which allowed wood to play a prominent role through the modern era of the 20’s to the 50’s. Wall to wall carpeting was still terribly expensive and a lot more expensive than wood.

With the housing boom at the end of World War II, came doom for the wooden flooring industry. Because the broadloom (wide and long carpets) cost could be included in the loan for veterans, solid wood floors were very quickly covered up with more expensive, and therefore more sought after, wall to wall carpets. So from the 50’s to about the 80’s hardwood flooring companies struggled to survive and had to adapt my installing carpets. Also ply wood was commonly used then below the carpets. As a result of this the labour paid to install floors decreased and of course the quality dropped as labour struggled to lay more flooring in a day just to survive. This resulted in poor quality floors being laid which made them unpopular. Parquet was then branded as cheap and common.

As we move along in time, and wooden flooring becomes more expensive than other types of flooring, because wood itself is becoming scarce, solid hardwood flooring starts, to my joy, becoming more popular and associated with the more elite end of society. Carpets are being ripped up to find Swiss parquet and parquet blocks, largely of teak which are being restored to their former beauty. A lot of new floors are being laid in solid hardwood too and are preferred over carpets or tiles. Tiles and carpets have had their day. Solid hardwood reigns, for now, but watch this space because the wheel turns and in a few decades I suppose wooden floors will lose their popularity as do all things with time.

For a quote on your solid hardwood flooring needs please contact us on 031 – 762 1795 or use the contact us form on this page.

Nailing Solid Wood Floor Boards

Nailing solid wood floor boards down can be a time-consuming job if done manually. When nailing tongue and groove floor boards down, one needs to nail the nail through the tongue at 45° and counter sink it slightly so that the next floor board can be slotted in over the nail making it invisible.

If this task is done by hand then one needs to nail it and then use a punch to counter sink it so that you don’t damage the tongue. As the hammer gets used it picks up small traces of oil from the nail and eventually it starts slipping off the head of the nail which will damage the board or the tongue. To avoid this one needs to occasionally sand the head of the hammer to remove that oil and to rough the head up a bit. Just a quick light sand will do the trick.

The nail that would most commonly be used for nailing solid wood tongue and groove floor boards down is a 40mm oval nail. The nail is fairly thick in diameter and if a very hard wood like teak is being used you may need to pilot a hole first so that the oval nail doesn’t split the tongue. With softer woods it is not necessary. You will also need to hammer the board tight up against the preceding board so that there are no gaps and then drive you nail in.

This is all very time-consuming so one would tend to try to use a pneumatic tool to drive these nails in. A normal brad nailer won’t work as you won’t be able to get the head of the nail to be counter sunk so that the next board can be installed without a gap. Also the brad nails are not ribbed so tend to pull out over time. They also have a very small head so can pull through the tongue over time.

There is a specialised tool for this job. It is a dedicated hardwood floor nailer. The video above is pretty self-explanatory in how the tool works. The nail is a hook shaped nail which is driven in at 45° and counter sunk. The nail is also wide but not thick. It is designed to enter the tongue with the width in the direction of the grain and the thickness, which is not very thick at all, against the grain. So splitting of the tongue is reduced to a minimum and the hook prevents the nail from pulling through the board. These nails are also ribbed so they do not pull out over time.

Solid wood floors

Nail for pneumatic nailer

The machine is also designed so that the shaft that pushes the nail in, is used to counter sink the nail. The same applies to a normal brad nailer, but because this tool is designed at 45° it is able to reach all the way into the corner of the tongue.

Because the tool is struck with a hammer, the tool also pushes the board tight up against the preceding board as it nails it down. So any gaps between boards are closed, slightly before the nail is driven through the tongue.

A very useful tool if you are laying many floor boards but cost prohibitive if you are not.

Please contact us for your solid wood flooring needs, laminates, wooden decks and wooden fences by calling us on 031 – 762 1795 or using the contact us form below.

Wooden Parquet Floor Sanding and Sealing

We were called to quote on sanding and sealing the wooden Swiss parquet floors in an old house in Hillcrest. From the pics alongside you can see that these rooms are the typical large ones found in older houses.

Swiss parquet floor sanding Durban

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The Swiss parquet floors have probably been there well on 40 years or probably even since the house was built. Since then carpets have been put down on top of them, probably in the seventies when those big thick pile carpets where the fashion. The carpets had been lifted some time ago but the sealer on the wooden floor was scuffed in many areas and although it was not peeling off or flaking, it had worn back to wood in high traffic areas and there were various marks on them from pot plants and other items that had been placed on them and left for long periods of time.

The total area we had to sand was 170m², so quite a nice sized area. It consisted of 3 bedrooms, passage, lounge, dining room and study. We were relatively lucky in that the existing coating had deteriorated to a point where it came off quite easily. One always needs to be careful of floors that have been coated fairly recently and still hold a lot of coating or sealer because it tends to clog the sand paper. In these cases one needs to use a very coarse grit paper of about 30 grit and at times you need to sand at 45 degrees to the grain to remove it and then sand again with the grain with a less coarse paper. Also, although the floor is flat, it is never perfectly flat and the large floor sander sometimes

Swiss parquet floor sanding Durban

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leaves patches. So just turn the machine at a slight angle to get it to flatten the floor in that area and then go back with the grain to get your scratch marks all running in the same direction.

Once the bulk of the sealer or coating is off, one needs to come back with a smaller hand-held sander to remove those stubborn areas. Once it’s all off you need to remove the scratch marks with a finer sand paper. If you’ve started with a 30 grit paper, you may need to then go to a 60 and then to a 100 grit. But always finish on a 100 grit paper.

We used a polyurethane epoxy floor sealer with hardener or accelerator (mineral based) on these floors in order to speed up the drying time. The client was living in the house so we had to limit dust and had to paint rooms in a special order so that they could still live there while we sealed the floors.

I’m still not completely sold on water based products. The water based floor sealers I have used require many more coats to get the same thickness of coating. Although they dry a lot quicker and many more coats can be applied in the same day, they tend to use a lot more and, in my opinion, don’t provide as hard a finish as mineral based

Swiss parquet floor sealing Durban

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products, especially those with catalysts for hardening.

In between coats we rubbed the floors with steel wool to remove the fibres in the wood that stand up when first coated. A thorough vacuum after that and a second coat was applied.

A quick tip on using the epoxy / polyurethane floor sealer.  Because this product has an accelerator, or hardener associated with it, it goes off, or dries, a lot quicker than a single pack polyurethane.  When you mix your sealer with the accelerator, you should use a flat-bottomed tin such as a coffee tin or jam tin and a flat paddle to mix.  The flat-bottomed tin allows one to mix it thoroughly because there are no ridges for the flat paddle to get stuck on (as opposed to a coke bottle).  A good choice for a flat paddle is a steel ruler.  If you were to pour it directly into your paint tray you will be need to clean that paint tray with every new mix otherwise the sealer will be getting hard already and will interfere with the smooth rolling on the floor.  So place a black dustbin bag (well it can be any colour really) over the paint tray and simply through the black bag away after each mix.  Don’t mix too much as the product has a pot life, (the time it can remain liquid enough to use in the pot).  A hot day will result it in going off quicker than a cold day, or a humid day, and using more accelerator will also result in a quicker drying time.  So be careful with your quantities, you don’t want to waste sealer.

Swiss parquet floor sealing DurbanZ

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This product should be applied very thinly in order for it to dry quickly.  If it is applied too thickly the top will dry but the middle will still be tacky and it will take much longer to be able to walk on it to flat it and apply subsequent coats.  So mix just enough each time.  If it starts going off in the tray, rather through it away than try to apply it while it is already getting hard.  What happens then is that the front edge of the roller spreads it on the floor and the back-end of the roller starts to pull it off the floor because it is already tacky.  This results in a streaky floor which will mean getting the sander out again.  So rather waste a little sealer and star with fresh sealer than waste time by re-sanding it.  And then of course mix a little less so it doesn’t go off in the pot or tin.

For a free no obligation quote on installing wooden floors or floor sanding and sealing please call us on 031 – 762 1795 or use the contact us form below.

Removing Carpet Glue from Solid Wooden Floors

Removing floor adhesive

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A major problem that one encounters when refurbishing old wooden floors is that of carpet glue. When these floors were first covered by carpets, back in the day when thick pile carpets were popular, they used carpet glue to stick the carpets down. The good news is that it can be removed successfully. The majority of it needs to come off before sanding the floor otherwise the sand paper will get clogged which will result in a higher cost of consumables as well as time in changing the paper more often. With a bit of time and the right tools and substances the job can be done quite quickly.

The glue that will have been used will either be a tar based substance or a general carpet adhesive. Most older houses will have used a tar based substance and newer houses a general purpose carpet glue. Tar based glues will have a tan to dark brown appearance whilst general purpose glues will be yellowish in colour. The process is very similar but the materials used will differ and it is important to choose the correct one so as not to waste time and money.

Tar based glue is best removed or loosened using mineral spirits which is readily available at any hardware store and is inexpensive. General purpose glue is best removed using a modern-day adhesive remover also available at your local hardware store. If you are a contractor, I would suggest sourcing the supplier, as this will reduce your cost significantly. Follow the instructions carefully as they will be pretty thorough and will explain how each product works best. Both products will be applied using either a sponge or roller and enough time needs to be given to allow it to do its magic. It is a very similar process to removing paint using paint stripper.

Removing floor adhesive

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Once it has done its magic, use a plastic putty knife or similar to scrape and loosen the glue. Don’t use a steel knife as this can leave deep marks and gouges in the wood, making your sanding job a lot harder.

Once the bulk of the glue has been removed soak a rag in the mineral spirits or adhesive remover and rub the floor to remove the last bit. If you find that you have stubborn areas you can use a steel knife but be careful not to damage the floor or yourself.

The floor should now be left to dry completely. Leave the widows open too to get good ventilation and speed up the drying process. Check on the instructions if you can use water to clean it or not, although this will probably not be necessary as you are still going to sand it.

Your floor is now ready to be sanded smooth before re-sealing. Always take precautions and work in well-ventilated areas when using an adhesive remover as these substances can be very harmful. Always read the manufacturer’s instructions and take heed of their precautions. They know their product better than anyone.

Removing floor adhesive

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You can search this blog for tips on sanding and sealing your floor by using the search bar on the top right.

For a free no obligation quote on your entire flooring or decking needs please feel free to call us on 031 – 762 1795 or use the contact form below. You’ll be surprised on how much you can save by getting a professional in to do the job.

Floor Sanding Durban

Floor sanding Durban

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Many home owners, with old houses, are finding that once they remove the carpets, which became so popular in the 70’s, that there are lovely solid wood floors beneath. After so many years of being trapped beneath a carpet, they do of course need some sanding and sealing in order to bring them back to their previous splendour. Most often there is nothing wrong with these floors and all that is required is a sand and seal to bring them back to new. At times one might find that some of the boards are lifting as the adhesive has given way in which case you will need to clean up the surface and re-adhere them to the substrate. Some of the older floors were stuck down using linoleum glue and I have found floors where this has all come off and left the boards loose. It then needs to be cleaned using mineral spirits. It is best to remove all of this and then use a modern-day adhesive to re-apply them.

Most contractors who installed solid wood floors of yesteryear used top quality timber and therefore you will find that the timber itself is quite all right to last another 100 years, if not longer. Because floors are generally not exposed to much water and weathering, their condition will remain almost as original and all that is required is a good sand and seal.

Floor sanding Durban

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We use an industrial floor sander with a rough grit paper to remove all old sealer and any dirt and blemishes that may have taken hold over the years. The floor sander cannot reach all corners and once we have the majority of it off we use belt sanders and a rotex sander to reach the corners and up against the skirting or wall. Once it’s all off we come back and sand to a smoother finish using a smoother grit paper on all machines until we have reached the desired smoothness.

Once the floor is sanded to the desired smoothness by slowly taking the grit of the paper up, the floor should be completely swept to get rid of all dust. Be careful not to wet the floor with water. Water will cause the fibres in the wood to rise which will result in it going out of smooth and the sanding process will need to be started all over again. A good industrial vacuum cleaner will do the job and will lift all dust to get your floor ready to seal. There are dustless floor sanders available which either work by containing the dust in a bag or they connect to a vacuum cleaner that sucks the dust up as it is being sanded. The latter of course is the better option as then there is much less cleaning after sanding.

Once your dust is up you are ready to start sealing. There are various sealers on the market but the best to use is a polyurethane sealer. You can get a good quality water based one which will allow you to apply subsequent coats more quickly as it dries much quicker. You can get all three coats down in one day using water based polyurethane. The other polyurethane is a two pack one which contains a catalyst so that it dries extremely hard. The choice is yours. Two pack polyurethane will take longer to get your coats down so will cost more due to the time factor but will probably last longer, but will also be more harmful to the environment. Water based coating technology has come a long way these days and I wouldn’t completely shy away from it. But chose a well know brand to make sure that you are getting quality all the way.

Floor sanding Durban

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You will need to lightly sand after the first coat to get rid of the fibres that stand up after sealing. As mentioned above water will make these fibres rise, so you will find with water based polyurethane these fibres will be more prominent resulting in a rough finish. So lightly sand them off, suck the dust up, and apply the second coat. Feel the wood between coats 2 and 3 to see if that step needs to be repeated as the last thing you want is a rough finish after all that sanding. Take your shoes off too as you don’t want to damage the finish.

For a free no obligation quote, call us on 031 – 762 1795 or use the contact form below.