Yes, we’re getting ahead of ourselves, but this discussion has started and I wanted to capture it.
You’d think you just go down to the big orange or blue box store and buy some hardwood. But no, that’s not how we’ll do it- mostly because they don’t sell what we want. There is a confusing amount of choices to make when it comes to floors. For our cabin, we get the luxury of installing the same floor throughout the entire 1st floor BEFORE we ever install any interior walls. It’s a perk of a LHBA log home because:
- 1. we don’t have any load bearing walls on the interior like they do in every episode of HGTV.
- 2. cutting the floor material every time you need to meet up with an interior wall is a pain.
What is the best type of floor for the home we are building? And by “best”, I mean:
- Easy installation
- Long lasting
There are a lot of options, but here’s what we’ve looked at doing:
Type of floor
There are concrete floors– Ronnie (of LHBA) does this a lot- and they look great. He installs pex before pouring, and then hooks it up to provide radiant heating. This requires at least a concrete slab, so it wasn’t an option for us since we planned on having a pier foundation. Plus, I really did want the pier foundation for two reasons: 1. lots of airflow to keep things cool under the house during the hot, humid summers we have in the south. 2. Even though our property shows up on the FEMA map as being 600 feet from the outermost band of a 1,000 year flood zone, I’m still not taking any chances, and piers gave the house an extra 3 feet of height, just in case.
Tile floors– this would be nice for spills and leaks, but I worry about getting it right everywhere- it must be perfectly level everywhere. Also, I have a piano to roll in there- I really don’t want to break tiles with that thing. And even though we have hot humid summers, my toes told me they don’t like cold tile in the morning.
Carpet – Well, we entertained the idea, but when looking at cabins with carpet in them- we both decided it just looks ugly to us. Maybe for the upstairs, but not the main floor. I personally feel like carpet holds dust, dust mites, and is generally bad for the air, but I was surprised that there are studies on both sides of the issue, and there’s a lot of disagreement on this idea. Either way, we thought it looked ugly in practice, so we’re not doing it.
This leaves wood. But not so fast- what kind of wood? engineered? solid? Hardwood? Softwood? What shape of edge- flat boards? Shiplap? Tongue and Groove (T&G)? What type of attachment method? Face nailing? Blind nailing? peel and stick? glue or no glue?
I asked around on the LHBA forum- Rod said even the engineered stuff isn’t staying flat- he installed it in his camper. That was surprising. I thought it might be better, but I’m actually a snob and want real wood. So that narrows our choice down to either hardwood or softwood. The heavy piano is a problem. Even though I believe shellacking it *could* make it hard enough, I’d rather just install oak or something and *know* it’s hard enough.
But still- not so fast. I put red oak in my old house in Utah- it worked out great, but the boards were only about 2″ wide. For this cabin, we both agree that we want really wide planks- like 12″ wide. But the orange and blue people don’t sell them in that width normally, so we are going to have to use a lumberyard.
That still leaves the attachment method and the edge- T&G would probably be expensive for the mill do for us. I imagine shiplap to be cheaper and easier. Or, I’ve heard folks just doing planks with no edge and face nailing the planks. LogHouseNut (LHN) did this, and then used tung oil to protect the wood.
And on the face nailing issue, Rod was a purist- advocating “cut nails” over standard nails from a nailgun. I looked into cut nails- there’s a company that makes them using civil war era equipment – no joke. But LHN said he’s been disappointed that even though he went through all the trouble to use cut nails, not one person has ever asked about them. Probably because once they’re installed, the average person can’t tell the difference between the head of a cut nail and a regular nail.
On a not-so-satisfying-note about wood floors- everywhere I read, they all agreed that wood floors must be installed cross-wise of the floor joists. My floor joists will have to run N-S, due to the layout of my pier foundation, which means my finished floor will have to run E-W, which means when you enter my front door, the floors will run left and right- I wanted them to run front-back (N-S). Oh well. I mean, I can’t easily move the piers…. 🙂
And finally, there are a lot of determining factors on the width of the plank- some websites say they can only be installed in an area where the humidity only varies “a little”. They say Colorado is a terrible place for wide planks because the humidity can vary so much. But here in the south- we have high humidity most of the time- is this also bad? Nobody knows. And what do they mean by “bad”? Some say it doesn’t matter if you have an AC system. Also, they say don’t install wood floors before you have the AC working – need to keep the humidity level. But that would mean I’d need the house to pass the final inspection (can’t turn on the power until I get an ok from utilities), meaning – what? – I just leave the subfloor until I’m ready to move in? I don’t think so. No. I’m thinking these ‘experts’ might not be so expert when it comes to the real world.
We’d like to go with very wide – hopefully 12″ wide – oak plank floors, made from rough-sawn lumber, installed E-W, probably glued to subfloor, face-nailed with ring-shanked nails, and then slightly counter sunk. Floor sanded, stained, and then sealed. Oh, and it’ll come with a “if you ever want to remove it down the road, good luck” guarantee.
One guy on C-list sells a rough cut oak board (1″x12″x12′) for $18 each. I’ll need about 1600/12 = 133 boards. It looks like I can get 1600 square feet of the stuff for about $2400 or less. I have never seen pictures of a floor with planks that wide in a cabin. If I can get out to the local mall, I might take a few of a floor I saw there with very wide planks. When I saw it, I just stopped and stared. I don’t even know what they sell in that store, but the floors are awesome!