Solid Vs. Engineered…how to choose the perfect wood floors for your home

First let’s define Solid and Engineered wood flooring…

Solid
Solid wood is milled from a single 3/4″ thick piece of hardwood. Because of its thickness, a solid hardwood floor can be sanded and refinished over several generations of use. Solid wood flooring expands and contracts with changes in your home’s relative humidity. Normally, installers compensate for this movement by leaving an expansion gap between the floor and the wall. Base molding or quarter round is traditionally used to hide the extra space.

Engineered
Engineered wood is produced with three to five layers of hardwood. Each layer is stacked in a cross-grain configuration and bonded together under heat and pressure. As a result, engineered wood flooring is less likely to be affected by changes in humidity and can be installed at all levels of the home.

Before deciding on Solid or Engineered hardwood flooring, consider these three factors:

Location, Location, Location…
The location of your hardwood flooring basically falls into three categories:

  1. On Grade – at grout level
  2. Above Grade – any second level or higher
  3. Below Grade – any floor below ground level, including basements or sunken living room.

Traditional solid hardwood flooring is not well suited for below-grade installations, because of the possibility of moisture issues. The construction of an engineered hardwood gives it enhanced structural stability that allows it to be installed at any grade level when a moisture barrier is used during installation.

What type of subfloor do you have?
If you plan to install over concrete, you must use an engineered product to ensure structural integrity. Solid wood flooring or Engineered flooring may be used over plywood, wood, or OSB subfloors.

Will there be moisture in the room?
If you are considering flooring for a bathroom where continuous moisture is expected, you will want to select a product other than hardwood. While the moisture resistance of an engineered hardwood makes it suitable for rooms below grade or grout level when installed with a moisture barrier, it is not advisable to install any hardwood flooring in a bathroom.

Living in Michigan we are all well aware of the rapid changing climate from day to day. Especially in the summers with the high humidity. Solid hardwood floors are not recommended for homes on the water without air conditioning or a way to control the humidity levels.

Tougher than your toughest environment!

American Olean introduces a new glaze technology that provides built-in antimicrobial protection.

During the manufacturing process, the glaze is infused with Microban Antimicrobial Protection, creating an environment which inhibits the growth of bacteria, mold and mildew. The result is an additional layer of durable, long-lasting protection, keeping the tile cleaner between cleanings.

The greatest part!? Bacteria inhabiting protection lasts the life of the tile!

Microban Technology is incorporated into the glaze during the manufacturing process, so it starts working the moment the tile is complete. Unlike other antimicrobial agents on the market, Microban doesn’t require UV light to be effective. It won’t wash off or wear away, giving your design an added level of durable, long-lasting protection. And it’s perfect for environments with heavy traffic volume. Check out the link below for more information! And don’t forget to see the complete American Olean line at our Traverse City and Frankfort Showrooms.

Exterior tile installations done right from start to finish…

Back in the day… Our substrate of choice was mortar and our bond cat was pure cement placed over wet mortar. It didn’t make a difference whether it was a floor or wall, the material was the same, sand and cement. On a knowledge basis, you wanted to make sure the tile was freeze-thaw stable. You also needed to know how your sand and cement would behave. When setting tile into fresh mortar it is typically beat in place, which provides a mechanical lock into the damp or wet mortar with no voids under the tile. These types of installations have been known to last literally thousands of years in exterior installations and are still performed today on a somewhat limited basis. The same type of performance can be achieved with a thinset mortar over a poured slab. Most of the considerations to be made remain the same with exception to the setting materials. Here are some secrets of success and industry recommendations.

Drainage slope – Exterior tile needs to shed water as rapidly as possible. While there is no official “rule” on how much slope is required, the 1/4″ in 10′ used for showers is widely accepted as the bare minimum. This slope needs to be in the slab and should not be made of fill material such as mortar, which is much more porous than concrete and will actually hold the water rather than allowing it to drain. If the slab area must be properly sloped with a fill material, the used of an appropriate properly installed waterproof membrane should be considered mandatory to avoid moisture retention in the fill material. If the area to be tiled abuts a structure, that membrane must be appropriately flashed into the structure and a proper movement joint constructed at the wall line. Not all membranes are suitable for this type of application so choose carefully. In general, avoid using waterproofing in exterior unless there is a specific reason to do so. They can cause nearly as many problems as they solve, particularly when it comes to developing efflorescence issues. When the opportunity presents itself, use of a drainage mat under a mortar bed can be very helpful in promoting rapid drainage of the floor system, greatly reducing efflorescence issues; but remember, the water has to drain to someplace to be effective.

Selection and Application of Setting Materials – Not all thinsets are suitable for prolonged exposure to moisture. In exterior applications it is wise to spend a few extra dollars to insure you are using a good premium bonding material suitable for the application. When using a polymer or latex modified product you must also make sure there are provisions to protect the newly set tile from direct exposure to the sun, which can cause rapid drying and thus low bond strengths. Protection must also be provided in insure the polymers have opportunity to coalesce or dry. This is not the typical tile setter’s 12-hour overnight cure; we are talking days, not hours for many thinsets. Recommendations will vary according to formulations but three to seven days protection should be considered a minimum time frame. If you don’t have the time to wait consider using a rapid-set type materials, but even with rapid-set, a simple overnight cure may not prove adequate.

Thinset coverage is everything when it comes to exterior tile work. The industry recommendation is 95 percent for exterior and wet areas. Failure to achieve good coverage is often responsible for the efflorescence that seems to never go away. Moisture left in voids (i.e. trowel ridges) under the tile will dry out to a gaseous form and pass through the grout joints. As soon as the alkaline laden moisture hits the air, the salts will dry leaving their crystalline deposits behind. Exterior tile work is all about good thinset and coverage. No matter what your troweling technique, you’re likely going to have to flat trowel the backs of the tile if it is of any appreciable size or has one of those moon crater backs. A good grout job, one that is nice and dense, full to the top of the tile or edge of the bevel, sheds water much better than one that is low and soft.

Movement Joints – With sun exposure there are certain to be numerous cycles of pushing (as the tile expands) and pulling (retracting as it cools down). This will likely be over damp thinset which means the bonding strength is less than it would be when dry, as typical in all cement products. With all installations, properly placed and constructed movement joints are critical to long-term performance of exterior or any other type of tile work. Lab test are run all the time on thermal expansion and moisture expansion. Rarely has anything been tested that did not move when exposed to heat and/or moisture. In all but the rarest of instances, exterior tie work dries out completely, and even then, it’s only temporary. Moisture growth in tile is a long-term, one-way growth; it is bound to get bigger. We know that when tile gets copious amounts of sun and thus becomes hot, it grows. During the evenings or periods of non-sun exposure, it contracts. Hence the reasons for more frequent joint spacing in exterior tile work.

Taken from www.ntlfloortrends.com article by Dave Gobis.

The LiquiDAM from TEC

The LiquiDAM is a moisture vapor barrier for the installation of floor coverings, tile, stone and concrete toppings. It is a low viscosity, high penetrating, two-part 100% solids epoxy designed to reduce moisture vapor transmission rates from 20 lbs per 1,000 SF per 24 hours to a rate of 3lbs per 1,000 SF per 24 hours from damp concrete and a variety of other substrates. It is specially formulated to be applied to moist or new concrete, as little as 48 hours old. The LiquiDAM is colored blue for visual assurance of coverage during the application process. Only one coat is required to penetrate and fill voids and gaps to fully seal the substrate. And it quickly cures in as little as 5 hours to provide the benefit of same day installation. It is ideal for use with other TEC adhesive, patch, underlayment, leveler and mortar products.

Stop into the showroom for information on other TEC Specialty products both stock and non-stock items!

Tile keep getting bigger and bigger…

Ceramic tile continues to get bigger and the quality better. Consumers seem to love it; bigger tile, less grout, easier maintenance. I remember when large tile was considered 12×12, 25 to 30 years ago. We had much of the same conversations then as we do now about how we will get that tile to lay flat on the floor.

No one can argue that less grout certainly has the potential to make floor care easier. But, anyone who has ever installed large format tiles can tell you it certainly isn’t easier or less time consuming to install. The bigger the tile gets, the more difficult installation becomes. With 18×18 becoming the normal floor tile and 24×24 gaining ground, 3’x3’ or 4’x4’ can’t be far away. We are also starting to see much thinner tile in large sizes for the purposes of exterior cladding.

Setting material manufacturers have been developing many new products to aid big tile installation. Many of these new products are highly engineered and task specific. In the past most manufacturers worked on a good, better, best system. These traditional thin-set products provided different levels of performance and are still adequate for many of today’s larger tile product applications; but often with current construction techniques, consumer expectations, and installation requirements, sometimes tile installations benefit from task-specific products.

Very large tile requires what is known as super flat floors. While it is possible to specify the necessary tolerances during the building process, they come at a substantial additional cost. The skilled labor able to produce such surfaces can also be challenging to find.

Of course much of our work is over an existing slab work installed sometime ago. When attempting to correct out-of-plane conditions with thin-set while installing tile is very labor intensive and often results in an unsatisfactory installation. Floor filled underlayment products, self levelers, or even mortar bed may be required to achieve satisfactory flatness needed for large tile installations.

The next big challenge is selecting the appropriate bonding material. Selecting the appropriate thin-set does not have to be a daunting task but you must consider both the site conditions and end use. If you are fortunate enough to have a flat surface you may want to consider a contact mortar. With very large tile or if the area needs to be quickly returned to in service conditions, a rapid set version may be available. Using traditional thin-set were additional build-up is required is a recipe for disaster. Regular thin-set is designed for a side profile thickness of 3/32” x 3/8”. When used in thicker applications it loses its ability to bond and shrinks excessively causing factures in soft tile and stone and possibly bond loss on dense tile such as porcelain.

A big tile article would not be complete without a discussion of grout joints and rectified tile. Rectified tile is squaring the tile on all sides by cutting or grinding so that measurable variance from tile to tile is minimized. Don’t forget that big tile and small grout joints still need movement joints. Even the perfect job is not going to stay that way if the installation cannot move as needed when required.

Taken from www.ntlfloortrends.com article by Dave Gobis.

The Latest in Urethane Grout…

Urethane grout offers the ultimate in color accuracy, stain protection and crack resistance for residential and commercial tile installations. It resists all types of stains including coffee, red wine, oil, and even tomato sauce while never needing to be sealed! Plus it is consistent in color every time.

Bostik TruColor Pre-Mixed Grout is a patented, water-based breakthrough formula that installs up to 50% faster than traditional grouts, and never needs to be sealed. Its perfect balance of flexibility and toughness enables it to exhibit unmatched performance and crack resistance.

We highly recommend using it on your next installation.