Ralph's Blog

From the forest to the floor – Part One

Posted on Sat, Aug 27, 2016 @ 09:08 AM


Forrest.pngIn this two-part blog we explain how a beautiful tree in the forest becomes a beautiful floor in your home. Part one focuses on the process to turn a tree in made into floor boards while part two explains the installation and finishing process.

When I look at a hardwood floor I can often envision the wood it came from and sometimes I think I can even see the tree it came from. And you need a lot of tree to make a floor.

How many trees?

Imagine a tree about 18 inches wide and about 10 feet of trunk. Not a giant tree but not a small one either. It will create something close to 100 square feet of flooring, depending on the quality of the wood once it is milled. This means for an average Ralph’s floor; we need 5 trees to create the flooring.

A trip to the mill

After being cut, raw logs are sent to a saw mill to be further cut into boards. At the mill, the first machine is a debarking machine which removes the bark from the outside of the log, from one end to the other, all the way around in one continuous motion. Once the log is debarked and smooth, it is fed into a rip saw to be cut into boards. 

Cool, lasers…

Before a single cut is made on the rip saw though each log is scanned by a laser to determining how to best cut it up to produce the best and most usable boards. There are many ways to cut a log into lumber but the most common are: plainsawn, riftsawn, and quartersawn.

If the goal is to produce mostly plainsawn boards, the log will be turned 90 degrees after the first few cuts to keep the grain at the correct angle.  When more quartersawn or riftsawn boards are needed, the log may be cut from four “corners” of the log, yielding some riftsawn and some quartersawn boards or may be cut at an angle from the outside edge to produce only boards with a specific grain.  Each of these sawing methods produces progressively fewer usable boards per log, which is why rift and quartersawn boards tend to cost more.

Each of the boards produced is then sent to the planer in order to get them to a uniform thickness. Usually the boards are cut to slightly over one inch thick and about half an inch wider than their finished widths. This extra leaves room for the moulder to shave off a little and for shrinkage when the boards are dried. Multiple widths also allow for most yield from the boards.

The moulder planes the boards to an exact thickness and creates the tongues and grooves that will enable them to fit together so precisely. End matching is the last machining step and it puts tongue and groove on the ends.

Waste not, want not

Milling wood for hardwood floors can create lots of extra pieces but everything is used for something. Smaller or irregular pieces are used for trim while bark and shavings are sent off to be used for paper or mulch. In some mills sawdust and shavings are for heat or power. And just like with the bark, any thin strips sliced off are reused too, either by being sent to the chipper or sent to be made into trim.

Removing defects & drying

Defect cutting occurs before it goes through the moulder, cutting out cracks, large knots, and anything else you don’t want in the finished floor. Often the pieces are sorted into matching bundles. The kiln drying occurs after the material is rip sawn but before it is ran through the planer. Once the hardwood bundles are sorted, they are ready to be shipped to be made into your dream floor.

In the second part of this blog, we will describe how the boards from the mill and used to create amazing custom floors in your home.

 Photo courtesy of Oyvind Hope

Tags: about hardwood floors

Sand on Site vs. Prefinished Hardwood – Myth Buster Edition

Posted on Sat, Aug 13, 2016 @ 09:08 AM


Myth.pngHere at Ralph's Hardwood, we love wood and we think all wood floors are beautiful. This fact seems obvious but it doesn't stop people in our showroom from asking us all the time, "which is better: sand on site or prefinished?".

Our answer is always the same - it depends.

Dispelling Some Myths

If you do some research you will find different reasons why you should choose site finished instead of pre-finished and vice versa. While most of these ideas held some truth at one point, they aren't really as relevant today. We don't think the question is so much about which is better as much as it is about which is better for your project.

Let's start by dispelling (or at least clarify) a few myths about sand on site versus prefinished hardwood floors:

Style - often you will hear that prefinished flooring styles are limited but this isn’t necessarily the case. While prefinished doesn't give the complete flexibility you get with site finished floors, today's manufacturers have created more style  and color options that ever before. The style limitations come into play when you want a specific color and a specific texture and a specific width. This kind of customization is only available with sand on site. 

Installation Mess - there are many articles that will tell you sand on site floors are messy and that your house will be filled with sanding dust. Not with Ralph’s. We use a superior dust removal system that includes a containment system that has been modified to work with our removal and installation equipment. 

Cure Time - Traditionally site finished flooring needed anywhere from a few days to a week for the floor to dry and cure. This isn't necessarily the case anymore with portable UV finish systems that when coupled with water-based UV finishes enable much shorter cure times.

Odors and Fumes – ok, so this may not exactly be a myth. Hardwood floor finishes often have an odor however many products for sand on site floors now utilize special formulations to reduce odors and fumes and wax has experienced a real come back and has no odor at all. So while site finished floors may have fumes or odors, they can minimized depending on how you have them finished.

So What Should You Do?

Instead of worrying too much about prefinished versus site finished, we suggest you look at many different hardwood samples and go with the one you like best. Once you have a sense of floor you like, one of our hardwood expert can help you find the best option for your project, timeline and budget.

That way you can focus on getting your dream floor and not be overly focused on sand on site versus prefinished.

 Photo courtesy of CLEAN_UP

Tags: about hardwood floors, hardwood floor optio, finishes, stains & textures

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