Large Gaps in Recycled Barn Wood Flooring


Old 01-08-18, 04:34 PM
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Large Gaps in Recycled Barn Wood Flooring

One of the most expensive design features of my home was to be the recycled barn wood flooring.

Unfortunately, the builder neglected to install the promised humidifier and then failed to properly connect it. Our place got so dry that we were getting static shocks from wood floors. Anyhow, the wood flooring shrunk. A LOT! On numerous gaps you can fit two quarters side by side and STILL have wiggle room. (See photos.)

We have given the builder 1.5 years to let the floors ‘settle.’ But the gaps remain and the plywood subfloor remains exposed.


1. Is these gaps normal and acceptable?
2. Any chance these gaps will close in the year ahead? It’s been 1.5 years and we’ve already gone through two Winters.
3. What should I do?

Thanks for any and all advice!
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Old 01-09-18, 03:43 AM
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What is the humidity level now? Do you know if the flooring was allowed to acclimate [set in the house for a few days] prior to installation? Unless the house is still too dry I doubt anything can be done short of re installation/replacement. I suppose little filler strips could be ripped and glued in place.
Old 01-09-18, 04:29 AM
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I'm no expert and as such just my opinion. But barn wood for a floor does not seem appropriate. I think it would all depend on how the contractor installed the wood to begin with. Was it installed tight to begin with? Seems obvious at first but did you see and inspect any of the work as it was being done? And if the humidifier system was was not installed why did you not know it until it was finished?

Again only my opinion but I would think barn wood would tend to be almost impervious to humidity and temp changes due to the fact that it has been exposed to the elements for such a long time and has acclimated and stabilized. Although I agree with Marksr that it should've been let stand in the house before installation.

I would try introducing humidity and see if that helps, but during cold weather season's I think it will only revert back to the same problems. I agree with Marksr that I doubt that it can be fixed.

On the other hand some of the charm of barn wood is in fact the inconsistencies of the wood. Gaps, knots, checks and no perfect seams with each other. That's why I think as a floor it's a poor choice as opposed to a wall.
Old 01-09-18, 04:41 AM
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You say it's the builder's fault for not installing a humidifier. Why didn't you make them install it? Then you blame them for not hooking up a humidifier that doesn't exist??? Why did you go through the closing if the work was not complete? Why didn't you rectify the error over the following year or more? Do you have a humidifier now?

Varying humidity does make wood swell and shrink. It's just the nature of the material. In flooring the gaps tend to be worse the wider the planks as there are fewer gaps over which to spread the contraction. Keeping the house at a constant temperature and humidity will help stabilize the floor and prevent the cracks from growing and shrinking with each season. Gaps also tend to be more noticeable with flat butt joints as the cracks go all the way through the flooring which can make them look worse. But, that's part of the charm/patina of barn type flooring where it's usually chosen for it's rough and imperfect nature.

Cleaning out the cracks can help slightly. When the boards try to expand back to their original size dirt filling the joints can prevent the gap from closing completely. With the joint clean the wood is free to expand back to it's original size.
Old 01-10-18, 09:52 AM
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Thanks for the initial replies. It will help guide my conversation with the builder’s floor guy when he comes over.

A little bit more background. I purchased the flooring separately from a company that specializes in such matters. The purchase cost also included installation. Unfortunately, and without my knowledge, the builder installed the flooring and I only found out about this after the fact. It caught me completely by surprise. They billed me the same fee as the flooring supplier was going to charge me for installation; however, I’m not sure the builder’s subcontractor had the expertise that the flooring provider has. Judging by the amount of shrinkage, I have my doubts.

To answer questions posed thus far by the group:

1. What is the humidity? Right now it’s 21% but it drops as low as 14% and never gets above 22%. Usually it’s in the high teens. (And that’s with the humidifier turned on ‘high.’)
2. Do you know if the flooring was allowed to acclimate? Yes. It was on-site for several weeks before it was installed.

1. Was it installed tight to begin with? Yes. There were no gaps initially. If you look into the larger gaps you can clearly see the wood glue due to separation. Also, the floor dropped about the depth of two quarters below the molding as a gap there no exists.
2. Humidifier presence? We realized the humidifier wasn’t installed, despite paying for it, when Winter came and the house became so dry that we all got sick, skin cracked/bled and we were getting electric shocks off the wood floor. By then, we noticed how badly the wood floors had shrunk. There was no closing as we already owned the space prior to construction and were working with the builder in good faith.

Pilot Dane
1. Builder’s fault. To clarify, and sorry if I wasn’t clear, I paid the builder for a humidifier that they failed to install. Once it was installed, it was never connected to power which resulted in further delays.
2. Why go through with the closing? As mentioned above, there was no closing. We already owned the space and were operating with the builder in good faith.
3. Why didn’t you correct the error over the following year? We were operating with the builder’s recommendation to wait 18 months, and to go through several seasons, to let the flooring settle before addressing the issues. The builder had hoped that time would cause the floor to expand back to its original shape.
4. Do you have a humidifier now? Yes, however, it may not be up to snuff since we still cant get above 22% humidity on a good day in the Winter.

Appreciate any and all input. I love the concept of the floor but the gaps are driving me crazy. I hate seeing the subfloor and also want to protect it so we can wet mop the boards.
Old 01-10-18, 10:09 AM
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I'm no expert and perhaps others will know better. But how about using a clear epoxy filler/coating over the whole floor? That would seal it and make it usable for walking, mopping and stabilization. Just a guess!
Old 01-10-18, 10:36 AM
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I'm not a flooring expert. If the builder is willing to work with you on a solution, I would ask about a trowelable wood filler.
Here's a link as an example: DuraSeal | Trowelable Wood Filler
AFAIK the floors need sanded and refinished in order to use this type of filler.

As a contractor, I would say that this is a legal issue and the floor could be replaced at contractor's expense if you want to go down that road.
Old 01-15-18, 07:40 AM
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Just measured and some of the gaps are 1/4”

What are threshold tolerances within the hardwood flooring industry? Is 1/4” within or outside of acceptable range?

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