How to Design The Perfect Hickory Wood Floor
Wide plank Hickory has a “reputation” in the wood flooring industry.
Some people love it for its tensile strength, others shy away from it thinking it’s too rustic or “busy” and installers and builders are often nervous about its stability. The good news is not all wide plank Hickory flooring has to be busy or unpredictable. In fact, with the right grading standards and manufacturing process, you can create a Hickory floor that will be beautiful and stable for any installation or environment.
As you are shopping for Hickory floors you can review the list below and use it as a “shopping guide” of sorts. It gives you the most important design considerations for your new floor to ensure it not only looks good but will also be stable as well.
Where Does the best Hickory Grow?
The best Hickory trees grow in the Appalachia region of New York and Pennsylvania. This is where cold climates limit the growth period for the Hickory tree so it grows nice and slow. This allows it to develop more heartwood, tighter grain as well as girth and height.
The benefit of using Northern grown Hickory is due to the floorboards having superior color consistency, better control over the “character” in the floor, wider planks and longer lengths.
The First 40’ Of the Log
The highest quality Hickory hardwood flooring is going to come from the bottom 40’ of a mature Hickory log, never from the upper portions of the log, or from the branches and limbs.
This section of the log is the oldest part of the tree, so it will create flooring boards that are more stable, with more heartwood and sound character, that will not fall out or need filling.
The flooring boards will also be available in wider widths, and longer lengths, for the best look. This wide plank hickory floor, designed by Pocci Design Group, has 6-12″ random widths, 50% of those widths are 8 and 10 inches wide, and an average of 7 foot lengths.
Air and Kiln Dried
To enhance stability and maximize performance, Hickory flooring should be air dried for 3-6 months and then kiln dried per order.
The air drying process slowly reduces the moisture that has accumulated over 80-100 years when the tree was growing. The kiln drying is done per order, to bring all flooring boards to a consistent 7-9% moisture content.
This double curing process also makes the fibers of the wood so much more healthy, than just kiln dried Hickory. That is why Carlisle hickory floors have been installed on radiant heat, concrete slab, and waterfront homes.
Hickory is available in a wide variety of wood grades. Most Hickory flooring is made from lumber grade hickory, the same material you would use to build a piece of furniture or cabinets. Lumber grades are designed based on the quality of the lumber, and since it is often cut up into small pieces, for the purposes of furniture and cabinetry construction, it pays very little attention to how the wood is used to build a wide plank floor.
Proprietary grades, like those available from Carlisle, are created with both quality and aesthetics in mind. You never compromise the quality of your hickory wood floor, you just choose a grade based on the look you want to create.
How is the Floor Made?
Most flooring today is mechanically mass manufactured. This means that a rough board enters a machine then comes out on the other end as a floorboard. It is never really seen or inspected for quality by a human being, it is just packaged up by SKU and shipped to the distributor.
Even though this flooring has all the same the specifications, the wood, color, and character are going to look dramatically different over an entire floor. To mitigate this risk, high quality hardwood flooring can be made by the careful selection, observation, and scrutiny of a craftsman. Through this kind of hands-on process, the boards are selected based on the quality, aesthetics, and consistency, relative to the specifications set forth by the client.
There is nothing more critical to the final look of your Hickory wood floor than the widths and lengths.
For example, most hardwood flooring is available just 3” wide and 3’ average length. With a floor like Hickory, which already has a lot of natural variation and character, this is going to create a very rustic floor.
Ideally, you want to select a Hickory floor that is a minimum of 8” wide with 6” being the smallest width you would use. As for length, 7’ average is the best. The purpose of using wider, longer boards, is to minimize the seams in the floor. Fewer seams mean fewer distractions from the overall beauty and design of the room. In the bedroom above, the client wanted to maintain the integrity of the tree and embraced the natural character of the wood. You will notice very few seams in this floor, just adding to the beauty of the overall look.
Solid vs Engineered
Your decision to use solid or engineered wood flooring is going to depend first, on the environment where you are installing the flooring, and second, on the expectations you have for your wood floor. It may also be determined by budget since engineered hardwood flooring is often less than solid options since most engineered flooring uses a thinner veneer backing.
If you are considering an engineered wood floor the flooring should be made just like a solid wood floor using the same material, so there is no aesthetic difference when the floor is installed. You also want to verify there is a 3/16” wear layer, just like a solid wood floor, and 6’ average length. Widths will vary, but 8” is ideal.
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