Choosing Blackbutt Timber for Your New Floor

The Blackbutt timber species is a native hardwood commonly found on the north coast of NSW and southern parts of Queensland. It is a tough and versatile timber that comes in neutral shades to complement any interior. If you are searching for a locally sourced floor with plenty of character, look no further than Blackbutt solid timber.

 

Appearance

Though botanically named ‘Eucalyptus Pilularis’, the common term ‘Blackbutt’ derives from the appearance of the tree. The base of the trunk is often charred black which is a distinguishing feature caused by previous bushfires. Once harvested and turned into planks, the shade is light and neutral with a golden nutty hue. The texture is even with straight grains making it an attractive choice for home flooring.

 

Durability

Blackbutt timber is categorised as Class 1 in Above Ground Durability. This means that it is expected to have a lifespan of more than 40 years above ground. Another test that determines durability is Janka Hardness rating. This test measures the hardness of floors where the higher the number, the more a floor can withstand wear. Blackbutt timber has a rating of 9.1. Generally, a wood that scores 8+ is considered hard which reinforces Blackbutt’s lasting durability.

 

Due to its strength, Blackbutt timber is ideal for both interior and exterior use, including flooring, framework and decking.

 

Resistance

If you are a safety-conscious homeowner or happen to live near a bushfire zone, Blackbutt timber is a great material to invest in. It has been recognised and approved by the Building Commission in Victoria as 1 of 7 hardwood species that provides good resistance to fire.

 

Installation

Depending on the product and board width, Blackbutt timber is generally installed using the glue and secret nail method (or top nail for wide boards). Nails are discreetly inserted through the tongue of the planks at a 45-degree angle. This contributes to and maintains the aesthetic appearance of the Blackbutt timber planks.

 

If you are keen to find out more about our Blackbutt timber flooring, visit us online at www.floormania.com.au or visit one of our stores in Caringbah, Concord or Kensington.

Cupping and Crowning in Wood Planks Part 1

Once installed, hardwood planks naturally react to changes in the atmosphere which can cause very slight contractions or expansions if properly maintained. This is usual in wood floors due to their moisture absorption properties. However, if planks show signs of cupping or crowning, this indicates a moisture problem and should be tended to immediately to prevent long-lasting damage. In Part 1 of this topic, we will look at cupping and crowning in more detail and what causes it.

 

What is cupping?

Instead of a floor being level, planks that are affected by cupping will be concave in appearance. It will look like the edges of the board have pushed upwards, causing a slight dip in the middle of the board.

 

What are the causes?

Excessive moisture beneath the flooring is the main cause of cupping. This moisture is absorbed by the wood on the bottom side of the planks, causing an imbalance. As there is more moisture beneath than on top, this causes boards to swell and force upwards. The dip in the middle occurs due to the bottom of the plank expanding, the top sinking inwards and the sides swelling around it.

Some causes of excessive moisture include a broken waterline beneath the floor, wet mopping causing water to seep through the planks, wrong insulation installed under the floor boards or too much dry air above boards causing that imbalance.

 

What is crowning?

Opposite to cupping, boards that are a result of crowning have a convex appearance where the middle of the plank is raised higher than the edges. This arch shape sticks out of the floor causing a bump.

 

What are the causes?

Again, an imbalance of moisture is the main cause of cupping, however this time there are higher levels of moisture on top of the boards compared to underneath. It is more common to see during warmer climates as the relative humidity inside is higher than in colder months. This causes the wood to absorb the excess moisture which can lead to planks swelling.

 

Other causes of crowning can include prolonged moisture on the surface (e.g. mopping), water leaks from appliances such as a fridge/dishwasher or spills that have been left unattended and not wiped immediately. The latter can even include things like underneath a pet’s water bowl.

The main thing to remember with cupping and crowning is that they occur due to an imbalance of moisture on either the underside or top of the flooring. In Part 2, we will be looking at solutions to fix them, followed by preventative measures you can take in the future.

The Pros and Cons of Wide Plank Hardwood Flooring

Favoured by many homeowners, hardwood has been a traditional choice of flooring for decades thanks to its timeless look and outstanding durability. Hardwood planks are often laid in narrow strips, however some contemporary homeowners are opting for the wide plank trend creating a more open space with a rustic feel. Though the definition of wide plank varies, it is generally board width between 130mm and 260mm.

 

If you are contemplating wide plank hardwood for your new floor, we have listed some pros and cons to help with your decision.

 

Pro’s:

Visually appealing

One of the main features drawing people to wide planks is the natural beauty and grain detail found within the boards. Unlike narrow planks, the larger width shows more of the patterns, knots and swirls found within the timber, adding character and style to any home. Wide planks also create space within smaller rooms as there are less joins visible compared to narrow planks that can leave a space feeling cramped and busy. Less joins also creates a smoother surface and is considered a more comfortable option by many people.

 

Quick installation

With wide planks covering more surface area, the installation process is generally faster and easier than for narrow planks. If you are in a hurry to get your floor finished, wide planks are an ideal option.

 

Plenty of choice

Due to increased popularity with wide plank hardwood, homeowners are not limited when it comes to choosing colour, wood species and finish. There is also a variation in wide plank size, allowing you to choose the width best suited to the size of your room.  

 

Cons:

Prone to moisture

Compared to narrow hardwood planks, wide planks are generally more susceptible to moisture damage which can lead to a warped floor if not managed correctly. To prevent floors from shrinking or expanding, you need to control the indoor temperature and humidity. You can check out our recent blog post on expansion and contraction for tips and advice.

 

Call in the experts

Wide planks can be difficult to install without hiring a professional. Unlike many other flooring types which are much more installation-friendly for DIYers, wide planks are generally not on that list.

Wide planks are a focal point that can create a bold statement in any home. Available in varying widths, it is important to choose a size that suits the shape of your room. Talk to our flooring experts here at Floormania for more advice on wide planks for your personal renovation project.

 

Do Engineered Wood Floors Expand and Contract?

This is one of the questions most commonly asked by homeowners considering installing engineered wood flooring. Knowing that solid hardwoods are heavily prone to expansion and contraction, the question is are engineered wood floors the same?

Atmospheric changes

Compared to solid timber, engineered planks have a more stable structure due to their layers of hardwood combined with plywood. This means they are able to withstand atmospheric changes more than solid hardwoods. However, as with all real woods, engineered planks naturally change shape due to variations in humidity and temperature within the home. As engineered wood is not an artificial product, it will react to seasonal changes the same way our bodies do.

When the weather is humid, planks absorb moisture causing them to expand. Alternatively, during cold seasons, planks shrink as they become dry. Although engineered planks resist these seasonal changes more than solid hardwood, you should still expect a small amount of expanding and contracting. With this in mind, there are steps you can take in anticipation of possible expansion.

Expansion gaps

To prevent serious problems with your engineered floor in later life, expansion gaps should be left around the edge of the room, wherever the floor meets a fixed object such as the walls or a doorway. This will allow engineered planks to naturally expand and contract without causing disfigurement to the overall floor. Without an expansion gap, planks may be forced upright, leaving you with an uneven and unstable floor.

In general, leaving a space of 10-15mm is adequate, however always ask one of our flooring experts as gaps may vary depending on the type of wood and the size of your room.

Other tips to reduce expansion and contraction

One of the simplest things you can do is adjust the relative humidity in your home to maintain the shape of your engineered floor.

In the summer, the aim is to keep the moisture out of the air before it is absorbed by the wood floor. An affordable hygrometer is a good gadget to have, as this monitors the amount of air moisture indoors. A dehumidifier or air conditioning will then extract this moisture, keeping your planks at their ideal temperature.

In the colder months, a humidifier will stabilise the increased indoor heat, reducing the chances of gapping between planks.

To sum up, the expansion and contraction of engineered planks is likely to be minimal compared to solid wood but it’s always best to leave that small expansion gap during installation to counteract any small movements. You can also maintain the relative indoor humidity to prevent spreading and separation of planks.

 

Choosing the Best Floor for Your Rental Property

 

With an increasing number of people choosing to pay rent over mortgage in Australia, investment properties are becoming more popular. As a landlord, there are many factors to consider when choosing renter-friendly flooring, particularly price, durability and longevity. To give you some guidance, here is a list of popular flooring choices and the pros and cons of each:

 

Hardwood

Pros: In terms of durability, hardwood is renowned for being a floor that can last a lifetime. Solid hardwood can be refinished numerous times for a fresh look. It also is moisture resistant, easy to clean and can boost property resale value.

Cons: Hardwood is one of the more expensive options, however, it is also a long-term investment. It is not scratch-proof, so heeled shoes and vacuum heads may dent the wood. It is not ideal for humid climates as planks can expand/contract.

Good for: Living/dining areas, hallway and bedrooms.

 

Carpet

Pros: A much lower priced option, carpets are easy to install and last around 5-7 years. They are much cheaper to replace than most other floors. Carpets also act as an insulator, lowering the heating bills. They are ideal in multi-storey properties as they muffle noise and footsteps.

Cons: Carpets stain easily and are likely to need professional cleaning between tenants. They aren’t highly durable and are not advised in areas of high footfall.

Good for: Bedrooms.

 

Vinyl Plank

Pros: Very popular in wet areas, vinyl is hard-wearing, highly resistant to water and low-cost. It absorbs noise well and is softer underfoot than other solid surfaces. It has a quick and simple installation process and can be cleaned easily.

Cons:  Vinyl is not scratch-proof and can be dented by sharp objects. It is difficult to remove if installed using glue.

Good for: Bathrooms, kitchens, hallways, living/dining areas.

 

Laminate

Pros: With a similar appearance to hardwood, laminate is often installed as a more affordable alternative. It is resilient, easy to maintain and highly scratch-resistant – ideal for high traffic areas.

Cons: Though durable, laminate won’t last as long as hardwood. It isn’t waterproof and can be susceptible to moisture damage. If installed as a floating floor, footsteps can sound noisy and hollow.

Good for: Living/dining areas, hallway and bedrooms.

 
Now that you are equipped with the pros and cons, it’s time to choose the flooring for your rental property. Pop into one of our stores or speak to our knowledgeable staff for more information.

 

How Durable is your Hardwood?

When searching for a solid timber floor, one of the most important qualities homeowners look for is the hardness and endurance of the planks. A worthy investment, it is crucial that your hardwood can withstand years of wear. But, did you know there are other factors as well as hardness that can affect the overall durability of wood flooring? Let’s look at them in more detail:
 

Laying wood flooring. Newly laid flooring stretches in a diagonal line across left half of frame . Subfloor on right with a pair of work gloves, a rubber hammer and a black plastic tapping block spread before a green kneeing mat. A stack of wood to be laid in front and small scattering of individual pieces around it on subfloor which fills right of frame.

 

Hardness

The hardness of a specific species of timber is rated on the Janka Hardness Scale. This test gives wood a unique hardness ranking by measuring dent resistance. A higher rating indicates a higher durability; for example in Floormania’s collection, Grey Box has a high rating, Tasmanian Oak is low and Brushbox is in the middle.

Woods with a higher Janka rating are recommended for areas of high footfall such as the living area. Other rooms with less footfall such as the bedroom can be less selective and choose from a bigger range of wood floors.

 

Colour

Though the shade of wood flooring is often chosen for personal preference and to complement the interior of the room, colour can also assist with hiding any scratches. Where imperfections are likely to occur from typical daily usage, light-coloured floors are generally better at blending scratches in compared to darker woods. Choosing planks in more than one shade is another tip for helping to hide minor blemishes.

 

Finish

Choosing the right finish is possibly the most important element to protecting your floor and determining durability. A popular finish is Polyurethane with has a very resilient top layer and scratch-resistant characteristics. A water-based Polyurethane is especially good for commercial areas, as it hard-wearing, flame retardant and more water-resistant compared to oil-based finishes.

An oil finish seeps into the pores of the timber, hardening to protect the floor whilst still upholding the raw grains within the wood. Some natural oil finishes have been adapted so they are much more wear-resistant than their predecessors.

 

Sheen

Instead of opting for a high gloss, consider a modern matte finish which requires minimal maintenance and looks newer for longer. Containing a low percentage of gloss (around 10-25%), matte is better at disguising any small dents or scratches compared to a high gloss as less light is reflected from the surface. It is becoming a popular option and is ideal in high traffic areas.

 
Remember to consider these factors when choosing your next hardwood and you are well on your way to finding a durable floor with years of life to give.