Recently refinished hardwood flooring separating

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Old 02-06-10, 01:37 PM
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Recently refinished hardwood flooring separating

Our 1950's house has oak hardwood flooring that was refinished just before we bought it 6 months ago. When we moved in, it was very smooth with no cracks between the boards. Recently we have started to notice the boards separating, some as much as 1/8", and it feels jagged on bare feet. What could be causing this?
 
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Old 02-07-10, 12:42 PM
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It was not kiln dried enough(or at all) and/or not acclamated to the inside of your house for 3 days prior to installing.

Our hard flooring man had to completerly tear out a new floor he put in(for the same mentioned reason) when he got a bad batch from his supplier. The replacement floor has no cracks now, a couple years later. At about $8.50 a square foot(and he claimed he worked cheap!), the customer expects the job to be right, and last!

But after re-reading your post....hmmmm....so you say it had no cracks or cupping prior to the stain? The stain should make it swell, if anything, at least on the top, if it got saturated enough, because the wood was really dry, that could cause cupping. And cupping would shorten the distance across the width of each board, hence the gap. Also if the heat/humidity of the basement or crawl space below it has changed, and no tar paper was put down under the floor, that could cause it also. I've seen that happen.

I am no hard wood flooring expert per say. But based on the science I do know, it would seem that it be advised to stain the boards before installation, and let it dry and aclamate with the stain on, for reasons as what you have going on. Becasue what you have done, in essense, is simulate a situation you should never do with a hardwood floor, and that is to flood it with liguid. Did you pour and mop-sponge it on? - and did it run down in the cracks? Was it an oil or water based stain?
 
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Old 02-07-10, 12:44 PM
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Welcome to the forums! It could be something as simple as cold dry weather. Take a couple of pictures and post them on a site such as photobucket.com and copy/paste the IMG code to your reply post. That way we can see what you see. Close up and overall pix would be nice.
Ec, I was thinking of 50 year old flooring. Should have asked if it was new or not, huh?
 
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Old 02-07-10, 01:45 PM
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Thank you for your responses. These are 50 year old hardwoods. It appears they were covered in carpet for many years, then refinished, then the house sat empty for about 6 months, and now it has been 6 months of us living here. The places where it is happening the worst are near the baseboard heating vents (oil heat), but it is happening other places also. At first I was worried that the foundation was shifting from all the rain because there are a several new, tiny cracks in one plaster wall. I would like to find out how to stop what is causing it and if there is a way to repair the boards.

The worst board, near the heating vent, has separated and is warping. I can push it down a little with my hand. I tried to show how it is now slightly higher than the adjoining board...



Here you can see another one cracking...



and another one separating...

 
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Old 02-07-10, 02:44 PM
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Back when they were installed, the fastening was probably finish nails at an angle. Today's methods are much better and hold more firmly. Yours was probably installed directly on angular 1x8's across the joisting. Nothing wrong with it, but not up to modern standards. I still feel they will expand in the spring and contract in the winter. Before you go do any big things to the floor, wait a season to see if it corrects itself. You could install a humidifier in the room(s) to help increase the moisture in the air and thusly in the flooring causing it to return to normal moisture levels.
 
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Old 02-07-10, 04:06 PM
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Thank you, chandler. I'm glad to hear it's probably nothing major. Sounds like imperfections are to be expected in an older house. I will try the humidifier and hopefully it will correct itself by summer.
 
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Old 02-08-10, 09:33 AM
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Hi, just signed up because we're experiencing the same thing. 1959 house, and we just refinished the hardwood last July. Lots of separating going on here.

Personally I think it has to do with the finish. The original, and subsequent refinishing were oil based, and when we got it done last July, we opted for the water based, as we didn't want the odour or the eventual yellowing.

I would assume the seperating is happening because of the water based finish, on very old, very dry hardwood (We live in a dry climate)
 
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Old 02-08-10, 10:28 AM
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Quite possibly so. Getting the flooring wet and drying it out, keeping it dry with your climate, may have contributed to it. However, as stated in earlier posts, summer may bring a difference you can appreciate.
 
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Old 02-08-10, 01:44 PM
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You're seeing the normal expansion and contraction of the wood, exacerbated by the house sitting empty for so long after finishing.

First of all, looking closely at the pics, you can see that some of the gaps are not new...there is putty clearly visible in some joints....this would have been filled during the refinishing...as the wood expands and contracts, that putty is cracking and coming out of the joint.

Secondly, the wood expands and contracts...the finish is somewhat flexible, but you will get small cracks in the finish where the finish is bridging the gaps between boards.

As I said, you're probably also seeing a little more gapping than normal due to the house being unoccupied for so long. They sanded and refinished the floors, and the floors probably looked perfect....all the gaps filled, sanded smooth. But, once the house is closed up and the temp/humidity isn't maintained, you get a "greenhouse effect." Relative humidity builds up in the home, and the flooring expands. Then, you move in, start running the hvac, maintain the temperature at a normal comfortable level, and the wood shrinks back, often leaving gaps and joint peaking.

The bottom line is, there's not a lot to do at this point, but there is no sign of any problems with the refinish work.....it is all the normal behavior of wood. You're not likely to get rid of the gapping entirely, and you're already at the height of the heating season, but it definitely wouldn't hurt to run a humidifier to prevent further drying....hardwood should be maintained at 35-55% relative humidity anyway. As you move into the spring and summer months, you should see some improvement and some of the gaps close, and you'll see them come back again next winter. Getting a humidifier to keep moisture in the floor in the winter months will minimize the seasonal difference.
 
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Old 02-08-10, 03:30 PM
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Good to know it is normal, but a little disapointing that we can't have perfect floors 12 months a year, lol.

Thanks for the info guys.
 
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Old 02-08-10, 11:11 PM
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It is very reassuring to know exactly what is going on with the floor. I agree Tik-Tok, I was hoping they would stay perfect a lot longer than this! I will just tell myself that it adds to the character of an older house.
 
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Old 02-09-10, 06:16 PM
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Think of the opposite problem. If you didn't have the cracks in the dry winter, you could have bulging joints and cupping flooring. Not a happy thing.
 
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Old 02-11-10, 11:44 AM
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So I just thought I'd post back about my own situation. After I posted last, I went downstairs to check my furnace humidifier, and make sure I had it set high enough.

Lo' and behold the thing was unplugged. I had "temporarily" unplugged it when I switched internet service providers and had 2 different providers for a couple of weeks, and was speed testing them both. It was the closest other plug to my network area.

So I plugged it back in, and my humidity was around 7%. 3 days later, it's at 25%, and about 1/2 the separations are gone, and those that remain are only 1/2 the gap they were!

So make sure you are keeping proper care of your humidifiers in the winter months, in dry areas like mine. Definitely makes the difference.
 
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