Customer Checklist

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 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 has gaps between the boards and why tongue and groove flooring is not used externally.

Ultimately you need to understand that timber is a natural product and as a natural product timber will continue to respond to its environment throughout its life.

When you purchase a floor, you will need to consider aspects auch as colour, grade, board width and the finish to be applied. Photos and samples do not always provide a good representation of colour or grade and it is important to reliase that floors of the same species can differ markedly in both colour and appearance. Grading rules do not cover either colour or colour variation.

To ensure timber floors met customer expectations it is necessary to assist them through the selection process and ensure that they have a good understanding of the choices they make. Floors irrespective of the colours and features present are sort after, but it is important to take the time and ask the questions to ensure customer satisfaction.

Asking these questions will assist clients to make informed choices.

1. Have you considered the species and grade that you are looking for?

  • Timber colour can vary greatly within a species and what is provided could differ markedly from other floors or samples of that species you may have viewed.
  • All grades contain some feature such as gum veins and in some species some features are more prevalent than in others. If a small amount of feature is desired then Select Grade should be chosen.
  • It is also important to note that during the sanding and finishing process some features such as gum veins, not previously visible, may appear and others may become larger.

2. Are you looking for narrower or wider boards?

  • Wider boards distinctively emphasize the natural characteristics of timber flooring, by using fewer boards of¬†greater surface area natural features are dispersed calmly throughout giving a more consistent look than narrower board floors.

3. Did you know that it is normal for timber floors to shrink or swell depending on climatic conditions. In time floors may even change colour?

  • Some shrinkage and swelling can be expected with seasonal changes which may result in small gaps at board edges. With wider flooring this can be more pronounced.
  • Owners can help control shrinkage associated with direct sun exposure to the floor through use of curtains, window tinting and floor mats.
  • Floor finishes affect the appearance of the floor with some darkening more as they age.

4. How is your floor being laid?

  • Over battens, joists, particleboard or plywood? Which flooring product is right for which application? Structural floors are designed to span between joists or battens at max. 450 centres (but can also be laid as an overlay). Overlay floors are designed to be laid over a structural sub-floor. Knowing how the floor is to be laid ensures that the right type of flooring is chosen for the job.
  • Timber floors will feel and sound different depending on what is supporting them. Floors on joists or battens will have more spring to them and feel easier under foot. Some movement at board joints can occur and this is more so with wider boards. Floors on solid sub-floors such as plywood or particleboard will have a more solid feel to them and less movement can be expected.

5. What heating and cooling systems are in your home?

  • Heating and cooling systems can modify the internal climate and if it makes it drier then this too will contribute to board shrinkage.

6. What coating is to be used?

  • Floor finishes affect the appearance of the floor with some darkening additional care is necessary when selecting the finish.

Checklist - ensure that your customers correctly understand.

  • That the colour, species and grade chosen provide a particular overall appearance and that this will differ in some respects to that which they can visualise.
  • That the degree of feature they desire in the floor relates to the grade they have chosen and that new features may appear or existing features may become more predominant with sanding.
  • That the board cover width they have chosen will provide a particular look and if choosing a wider board floor some gapping and possibly cupping may be more apparent than with narrower boards.
  • That the feel and sound from the floor will differ depending on how the floor is fixed.
  • That they recognise that timber, as a natural product, will shrink or swell depending on the heating and cooling systems as well as seasonal climatic changes. Small gaps are simply not an issue.
  • That caring and maintaining their floor is the key to prolonging the appearance and natural beauty.