First Timer looking to install in dry/hot climate

Old 03-12-08, 10:39 AM
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First Timer looking to install in dry/hot climate

Hello all,

I have finally caved in to the boss' wishes and will be installing hardwood flooring at some point this year. I have found a nice brazillian cherry hardwood my wife and I loved and we are looking for an engineered option as well. My question comes in this form:

We live in El Paso, TX. We have relatively hot and dry weather and I am wondering if the moisture barrier is always needed. Also, any tips in general for the type of climate i live in.

Thanks in advance!
Old 03-18-08, 07:25 PM
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Solid versus engineered wood flooring. Solid is a nail down product. Engineered wood, depending upon product and manufacturer, may be glue down, nail or staple down, or floating. Solid hardwood flooring can last forever. The Japanese refinish every 200+ years. They take off their shoes. Visit historic plantation homes in America and see 200+ year old solid hardwood floors.

Engineered wood, which is more dimensionally stable, than solid hardwood, which tends to expand and contract as temp and humidity fluctuate, has a thin veneer layer of real wood on top of layers of lesser quality woods. Higher quality products have a thick veneer layer which can be refinished. (Go with nothing less than 3/8" if going with engineered.) Some veneer layers are so thin that they can not be sanded.

In addition to dimensional stability and the different installation options, DIYers are favoring floating engineered wood because they can have the look of wood floors and ease of installation.

Just because engineered wood floors are more dimensionally stable than solid wood does not mean that they are resistant to moisture issues. If a quality product with a thick veneer layer, they can be sanded and refinished. If not, then at best, one can screen and apply new coats of finish.

In reality it makes no difference what the temp and humidity are outdoors. If you maintain interior temps at around 70 degrees year round and humidity at 35-55%, you can have solid hardwood. That means that the HVAC system has to be up and running year round and temp and humidity monitored for solid wood products in the home. If humidity falls below 35%, then humidifier is needed. If above 55%, then dehumidify. A hygrometer, sold where thermometers are sold, will tell you what the humidity level is.

It is important that doors and windows are closed and HVAC system has temp and humidity within required limits and flooring product acclimated in room(s) where it is to be installed for several days to adjust to temp and humidity. Manufacturers instructions need to be followed for subfloor prep, vapor retarder, installation, care and maintenance. If over a crawl space, the soil should be covered with 8 mil minimum polypropylene vapor retarder, overlapped and taped and run up the inside of the foundation and attached with silicone caulk. If over a basement, it should be dry and temp and humidity maintained within the limits stated above.

If planning on solid hardwood, you can go to and click publications and download for free the technical manual on hardwood flooring installation.

Brazilian Cherry is a beautiful wood. It is extremely hard. Keep in mind that it is very photo sensitive. The sample you viewed in the showroom has likely been around for a while and has darkened with exposure to light. Brazilian Cherry, when first cut, is almost the color of salmon. When exposed to light it darkens. Color variations can range from yellow orange to beet red or darker with black streaks strewn within. These are natural characteristics of this species. Do not be shocked when your order arrives and you open a box and then say, "This is not what I ordered." It will take several weeks for Brazilian Cherry to fully oxidize and darken. If you want to take a couple pieces of wood and place them on the dash in your car for a couple weeks, you will get an idea as to how dark the flooring will turn.

Make sure you have an understanding of the characteristics of this exotic species. Make sure your installer does, too. It is a hard and dense species. Keep in mind, too, that if you are considering a plank (4"+) that there will be greater dimensional instability and there will be greater chances for cupping and crowning. Some manufacturers of solid (3/4") recommend for 4"+ planks that urethane adhesive in addition to nailing be done to help prevent cupping and crowning. If this method is used, then the 15# minimum roofing felt vapor retarder recommended for solid hardwood installation is not used. If going with engineered wood, use the manufacturer's recommended vapor retarder.

Read and understand the manufacturer's instructions, whether solid or engineered wood, and make sure your installer follows those, even if you have to miss a couple days of work to supervise and protect your investment.

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