Quality Counts


A vast majority of talented wood flooring installers likely have a story about installing a floor with substandard milling. If you look through the installation instructions of the National Wood Flooring Association, you will see the phrase “installation constitutes acceptance”. This is basically a loophole manufacturers can use to wash their hands of any issues related to the installation of their product.

Prior to fastening a floor, an installer should inspect and “rack” or dry fit a floor. During the racking process any defects on the product are to be determined and reported prior to installation. The trouble is that not everything that is defective about a product is evident to an installer before or during the installation process. Most problems that develop in a floor, especially engineered flooring, tend to develop over several months.

Let me stop for a second and say that most products and most situations are all likely to work out. This post is not meant to be informational and not alarmist in nature. What is troublesome is when a wood flooring problem develops and creates a nightmare in your home. How do you deal with it? Who is liable”?

Discussing how to assign liability and it doesn’t matter to me. What’s important to me is discussing how to avoid wood flooring problems by choosing a high quality manufacturer of wood flooring. In some circumstances you may default to the contractor to source the material or you may choose to purchase from a retailer. In most cases with retailers, they will recommend and installer or subcontract them to install your floor.

Remember the phrase, “Installation constitutes acceptance”?

Milling defects with wood flooring may not be evident to every installer. Some installers may not even inspect the flooring closely prior to installation. The odds that you will identify a flooring defect while you are at work and your floor is being installed are even lower.

I hope at this point you can see my logic…You have to purchase reputable products from reputable sources.

What is a reputable product?

As you may or may not know, we are big fans of solid hardwood flooring and some engineered flooring as long at the wear layer is significant. The wear layer of a product determines how long the product can be serviced by wood floor refinishing or other maintenance. A great number of products being sold at retailers are mostly plywood with 1/8″ of wood veneer attached or less. The products are unable to be sanded and are for all intents and purposes, single use products. 

Warranties…Yes they are somewhat helpful until you read the fine print. I will admit that many factories finished hardwood floors have an exceptionally tough finish that does not scratch very easily. Many people associate tough finish as a measure of hardness and durability for a wood floor. The reality is that engineered flooring is a combination mostly of softer plywood material. When something heavy is dropped on a thin engineered floor, the dent will telegraph through to the plywood.

Who is a reputable source?

Most consumers deciding on what material to purchase and then finding a wood floor installer. Contrary to this, I suggest that you find a wood flooring contractor before or during the process of buying a floor. General guidance on finding a good product by an honest contractor will go a long way. Asking your wood flooring installer for material recommendations is the same as asking a great mechanic which car to buy.

Few consumers realize that most wood floor contractors are able to purchase wood flooring from wholesale distributors at a cost that rivals most retailers. Most wholesale distributors only sell to professionals, but they will allow showroom access so you can see a variety of products.

There are situations where purchasing from a flooring retailer or carpet store may be necessary. Some manufacturers will sell only to specific retailers directly. In these cases, it’s a good idea to work with retailers who are local to the area. Larger chain retailers often sell their own private labeled products in order to secure the supply chain for maximum profit.

The Essentials

  • Research your manufacturers and their products. The wear layer is key for value.
  • Your wood flooring installer can provide flooring material for your project.
  • Consider finding your contractor before any flooring purchases.
  • Buy local where your dollars matter.

 White Oak versus REd Oak flooring

If you have oak hardwood floors in your home, then the odds of identifying if they are red or white oak can be difficult if they are already finished. So let’s look at the key factors that affect your floor; whether they are being refinished, installed, or repaired.


Oak flooring is universally chosen for many homes because of its versatile nature and predictable behavior when properly installed. A significant amount of oak sub-species exist, but the two most prominent are red and white. A number of factors influence the true color rather the common designation of “red” or “white”. Why does it matter?

Repair accuracy

If your home has existing wood floors and you are remodeling or repairing areas of the floor, then material choice is critical. As you can see below, someone blended white oak flooring into a red oak floor.

So how does something like this happen? Often contractors assume they know more than they do and overlook their due diligence on research. While it can be difficult to distinguish, white oak flooring does contain quite a bit more tannic acid in the wood. For this reason, it is entirely possible to test whether a floor is red or white oak.

What is tannic acid?

Tannins are natural compounds found in oak flooring. The tannin content of flooring can vary, but is useful for creating unique colors on a floor. A number of contractors and manufacturers use solutions to react with the tannin to create amazing color. A unique benefit of tannic acid for homeowner is that termites do not like the taste!

Harvesting region

While wood flooring is graded and milled into specific looks, where it is harvested impacts the flooring as well. Red oak flooring from the Ozark hills does not look the same as flooring harvested in Canada. The soil in which the trees grow is different as well as the climate. Shorter growing seasons generally result in tighter annular growth rings, which helps dimensional stability of they flooring. Oak flooring from a more “swampy” region can be dramatically darker in color because of tannins. It is very important that you ask your contractor where your flooring is harvested if you want to avoid a communication dilemma. Often the cost of flooring harvested from some regions of the US can be considerably less, which influences material choice for many contractors.

Staining and color

Staining red and white oak tends to be equally effective. But, some purists will argue that a white oak floor stains better. Really what matters the most is how a contractor considers the base color in relation to the applied stain. For customers who have red oak and want the red color removed color choice is critical. In order to remove the red base color, choosing a darker color (possibly with more green) will mask the issue. But, keep in mind that red oak is still red in color and to completely eliminate the red is impossible unless you want to replace the floor. Bleaching a red oak floor is an option that can help alleviate the red color. But the procedure can be done only one time and generally softens the wood fibers of the flooring.

The essentials

  • Repairing or extending your oak floors requires careful attention to detail when purchasing new wood flooring
  • White oak tends to have a slightly higher cost than red oak, but it is relatively minimal.
  • Both species of wood stain and color well. White oak is much more suitable for smoke treatments and reactive stains.
  • The origin of harvest affects the color of either red or white oak. Knowing the mill is essential to match existing flooring.


Gaps and cracks are wack


Gaps and cracks… These are the number one wood flooring complaint phone call that happens annually across the United States from December to April every year. We close the doors and windows and turn on the heat and never look back.

Have you ever had chapped lips? Your skin splits and cracks from moisture loss. The same thing is happening to a wood floor in the winter that is developing gaps. Just as your skin is alive, your floor is alive to an extent and let me explain…

When a tree is still alive conducting water, its wood fibers are saturated (about 25% moisture content). To make flooring, the tree is cut down and often allowed to air dry. The log is then rough sawn and stacked where it heads into a kiln. The process of kiln drying reduces the moisture content of the boards to approximately 6-9%. Kiln drying a wood floor close to 0% moisture content would be detrimental to the wood fibers. Wood flooring needs a certain amount of bound water in the cells to maintain its cellular integrity (6-9% is ideal). Decreasing the bound water below this will lead to cellular wall collapse and tearing.

How the problem begins

When a hardwood floor leaves a good manufacturer it will be bundled or boxed with a moisture content that is close to the 6-9% range. Afterwards, the wood flooring travels through several stops, where it can gain or lose moisture depending on the ambient conditions. Upon arrival to your home, most manufacturers require an acclimation period prior to installation…This is where facts and figures often turn into myths and misinformation.

Before ANY wood floor is installed anywhere, it is essential to determine the moisture content at that time. This requires the use of a properly calibrated moisture meter, which any experienced installer should have. Although my experience suggests 80% of wood floor contractors either do not own or choose to use a moisture meter. Checking wood flooring moisture at the time of an installation is akin to weighing yourself prior to beginning a diet. It provides the starting point for the goal of having a ready to install wood floor…

For example:

Let’s say that your wood flooring arrives at 8% moisture content, whereas normally it arrives at 6% MC. Your contractor shows up on the day of the job, but his moisture meter is at home with a dead battery. He decides that because he knows the mill, the weather around Central Oregon, and is an “expert” that the floor is fine to install. A week later everything looks great and everyone is paid. That is basically when your floor starts to experience life in your home and all its cracked up to be (punny huh?)

Installing an 8% moisture content floor in Bend, Oregon without expecting gaps is like walking through Tijuana with a huge bag of cash expecting not to be robbed. Wood flooring that has acclimated to this region prefers to be approximately 6% moisture content. So if you install a wood floor that loses 2% moisture content, then you should expect significant issues with gaps or dry cupping from shrinkage.

The RIGHT? answer  

The relative humidity of your home can fluctuate considerably, especially in Bend. Without supplemental moisture, the interior RH of most homes is approximately 15-20% on the best days. Virtually every wood flooring manufacturer REQUIRES a constant 30%-50% relative humidity level in your home to meet installation and maintenance guidelines. 

In the simplest of terms: If you live in Bend, Oregon or anywhere east of the cascade mountains you will need to add a humidification system to your heater unless you like gaps and cracks. If the retailer of your wood flooring does NOT mention this, then they could be liable for the resulting issues with your floor.

The Essentials

  • If anyone is installing a wood floor in your home, they MUST measure the moisture with a meter to provide accurate information. Failing to do this WILL void any warranty by the manufacturer if a problem develops and later needs to be investigated.
  • The relative humidity level in the air in your home is dynamic and not static
  • Acclimation is ONLY a preparation period for your wood flooring. After a wood floor is acclimated, then proper relative humidity levels MUST be maintained to retain your warranty.

floor sanding Sunriver Oregon

Maple Floors

Precision work

Maple flooring installation and refinishing is a bit of a challenge for floor contractors everywhere, not just Bend, Oregon


Apples to Oranges

Maple varies in density throughout the length of a board. For example, one end of a board may have a Janka hardness of approximately 1300psi, but the other end could test at 1100 psi. During the floor sanding process we have to be mindful of the varying density and refine the scratch pattern of the flooring carefully.

The term “soft maple” does not refer to any specific species of maple. It’s a term that includes several different species of maple. The term is used to differentiate these species from hard maple.

Hard maple typically refers to one specific type of maple species: Acer saccharum. Besides this one species of maple, the only other species that is sometimes considered in the grouping of hard maple is black maple. Black Maple is so closely related to hard maple that some even consider it to be a sub-species of the same tree.

Depending on where you live, different species might be sold as soft maple. For instance, if you live in Oregon, the soft maple that you buy will likely be bigleaf maple. Those living in the eastern United States may actually be buying red maple or silver maple.

As you can see there is more than meets the eye with maple. A number of engineered flooring manufacturers will incorporate soft maple into their products and sell generically as maple, which is true. However, on-site performance will reveal otherwise. In order to avoid problems, I recommend that you ask the flooring retailer. If they do not know or seem uncertain, then I recommend shopping elsewhere.

Sanding and Finishing realities


A difficulty we face daily in the world of flooring refinishers is that people assume imparting color to wood is universally simple. While this would be lovely, the reality is that maple flooring is different. The varying density of maple affects the absorption of stain and finish. Darker colors tend to appear blotchy, but the stain is simply highlighting the density difference of the maple. And while products like stain conditioners are available, their affect is modest in our experiences.

It is possible to use products such as aniline dye to create a more even color on maple. But, aniline dyes have their own drawbacks; such as extremely difficult application and not being colorfast.


Because maple flooring has such a light color, seasonal gaps will be exacerbated on dark stained maple floors. In a dry desert climate such as Bend, it becomes essential to add supplemental moisture to avoid gaps.


Maple flooring comes in a variety of grades that affect its coloration. If you are into the pure and light look of maple without dark color streaks, then I encourage you to purchase a select grade. First and second grade maple will have more dark color and mineral streaking. As a general rule, the more select the grade the more likely the floor will show scratches and wear.

Our Final Verdict:

  • Maple is a great hardwood floor for most homeowners. Just validate whether are buying hard maple or not.
  • Maple will not stain as well as species like oak and can appear blotchy.
  • Choosing the right grade will help ease your concerns over inevitable scratches from wear over time.

Do you want to talk more? Let us know