Jump to content

Hickory wood floors


Scottpat
 Share

Recommended Posts

I have two homes with wood floors that are made from hickory. They are both cupping. One home is on conventional foundation and the other is a walk-out basement. Both are bone dry! Both are on lake front lots. Both homes are also weekend or vacation type homes. Both homes have their thermostats set at 80f in the summer and 60f in the winter when their owners are not in them.

I do not know much about hickory other than it is a very hard wood and it is all around my part of the country. I have done some research and have discovered that hickory is also a very porous wood and absorbs moisture easily.

My theory is that the floors are cupping from being closed up and that they are so close to a lake that increases the humidity. The wood then absorbs the moisture and cups.....

I have also been told by two flooring contractors that they would not even consider putting hickory in a lake front home.

Any ideas??

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Never seen hickory flooring, but I've worked with hickory and have some sense of it's characteristics.

It's susceptible to movement caused by elevated ambient humidity. It was/is not a desirable wood for boat work. That doesn't make it sound like the right thing for lakefront living.

S'gotta be moisture differential causing cupping; that's what always causes cupping. Micro climates cause weird things to happen with wood.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've never, ever seen it for flooring. I wouldn't use flatsawn hickory for anything. It's one of the most sensitive to moisture changes of the American hardwoods. If I remember correctly, it changes dimension about 1% for each 3% MC change. If I was forced to use it for flooring, I would've applied shellac to all sides before installation.

I'll bet each board has a lot of sapwood too, making it even less stable - and too much contrast in each board. Way too "country".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have also been told by two flooring contractors that they would not even consider putting hickory in a lake front home.

Did they say why?

Oak is about as pourous as anything I've milled. I live 100 yards from one of the great lakes and never had problems in my shop or with my 50 year old oak floors. And, I have moisture issues in my basement. Hickory is usually fairly stable when it's dry. Not alot unlike maple or cherry. Hickory cabinets and flooring are not at all uncommon around here.

Google "hardwood stability charts." It's not at the bottom.

I wonder if the wood was completely dry before it was milled into flooring. That seems like an awful lot of movement from humidity alone.

They still make hammer and axe handles out of it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have two homes with wood floors that are made from hickory. They are both cupping. One home is on conventional foundation and the other is a walk-out basement. Both are bone dry! Both are on lake front lots. Both homes are also weekend or vacation type homes. Both homes have their thermostats set at 80f in the summer and 60f in the winter when their owners are not in them.

I do not know much about hickory other than it is a very hard wood and it is all around my part of the country. I have done some research and have discovered that hickory is also a very porous wood and absorbs moisture easily.

My theory is that the floors are cupping from being closed up and that they are so close to a lake that increases the humidity. The wood then absorbs the moisture and cups.....

I have also been told by two flooring contractors that they would not even consider putting hickory in a lake front home.

Any ideas??

Scott,

I've never seen a hickory floor, either, but do you suppose that the damage mightn't have anything to do with the climate? Could it have been caused by some one-time event (e.g. a flood or some untended leak)? Clearly it got soaked at one time, but has since dried out. Either way, it should be replaced.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the replies...

The two flooring contractors said that hickory needs to be in a consistent low humidity environment and not in a home that is closed up or near water, like the a lake that both homes are sitting on. They told me that it will cup about six to eight weeks after it was sanded flat.

I agree with the stand alone dehumidifiers and this is what I recommended as a possible solution to their problem.

It seems like a local designer loves the look of hickory and he did both homes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Honestly, hickory isn't much different than red oak. They're both open cell, they mill the same, sand the same and they even look similar. One of the homes owned by our family has 2600 square feet of hickory floors and hickory cupboards. The installation is at least ten years old with zero issues.

I think Jimmy is on the right track or the floor was installed before the lumber was properly dried.

Cupping is caused by the bottom being wet, or the top being dry. If it was a humidity issue the wood would be crowned.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not necessarily. Simple changes in humidity happen too fast to affect much. Long term changes create microclimates/microconditions. That matters a lot.

Take a piece of hickory, put it on plywood (vapor retarder), finish the top, (vapor retarder/barrier), and now we got a vapor barrier sandwich, and we all know what that means.

Chad, are your family houses ply or lumber subfloor? That'll make a big difference.

Or, maybe it was wet when installed. The answer there is lost to time. What we know is it's cupped now. I doubt sanding and refinishing would get you anything, since how many flooring installations are backprimed/backfinished?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If these are basements or slab on grade applications near a lake it is most probably related to the water table and moisture penetrating the concrete. Not much to do other than tear it up and use a non-vapor permiable waterproofing membrane on the concrete, and reinstall.

Words of warning:

I installed hickory in a number of units during 2003-05 it looks great. We had another Issue that I would mention to you to watch out for. Our flooring contractor supplied Hickory flooring (some of it Pecan) which had a powder post beetle infestation. Nasty little buggars. We were required to tent 4 multi family buildings and apply 4x the amount of poison required to kill termites for two full days. The powder post beetle can lay dormant for 4 years and become active due to increased moisture in the wood. The PPB's create galleys in the wood while they eat the cellulose. When they mature they emerge and leave what appears to be a worm hole 3/32 in. or so. That indicates the beetle has left and is laying eggs elsewhere.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Flat sawn hickory looks real nice, but beyond that it's junk. Hickory flooring is full of sapwood, that's what gives it all the color contrast that people are willing to pay extra for, and it also makes the boards unstable. If it's solid hickory the solution is to replace it, if it was engineered it would probably still be flat.

Tom

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Why would flooring manufacturers put them selves in the line of fire with a product destined for warranty claims? That doesn't add up either.

Do any of them warn against installing Hickory under certain conditions?

Don't blame the species

One other thing to consider. There's a real good reason for laying new flooring out ahead of time to give it a chance to acclimate. Hauling it off of a truck and installing it for reasons of getter done could have also played a part.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...