Laying Wide Plank Flooring For A Rustic Look



What we wanted was a wide plank floor 6-8 inches. We can’t find a tongue and groove that wide which leaves us with face nailing. The questions in my mind are:

-will this “bow up” if I don’t use T&G?

-will there be significan split in the seams?

-will this be more likely to squeek or come loose?

-should I just abandon this thought and go with a 4 in T&G and sacrifice the rustic look I was trying to go for?

Sorry if this is too much but I am getting frustrated with trying to figure this out. I get many different answers from many different folks.




Dear Chris

Now I finally understand what you want to do. Even though the article clearly lays out the best way to install a plank floor, in good detail, our forefathers had no such milling of lumber when they installed plank floor in the early colonies. Wide planks were the regular thing, as the wider they were the less side milling required. Random widths were used simply because they were cut right from the tree though the boule. Narrow lumber from the outside edge of the tree, and wide through the middle.

So let’s get to your case of installing a square edged pine floor or hardwood for that manor. If it’s the rusting look you want this is what you’ll get. First make sure that you have at least a 1&1/4″ thick plywood subfloor. If not add enough thickness of smooth underlay plywood to get it that thick. This is so the flooring nails will have something to grip. Oh, and repair and renail any existing subfloor before you apply the underlay plywood, so all surfaces are squeak free. Install the underlay with lots of ringed shanked nails (6″ on the square), just long enough to go into the subfloor but not through it. You can use longer nails on the joist joints. You are going to try and create a fairly unbroken vapor barrier so no nail should go all the way though.

The wood you want to get will have to be well edge milled, and fairly straight, and long pieces. And most importantly it has to be KILN DRIED to the EMC (equilibrium moisture content) of indoor wood in your region. Find this out from a cabinetry shop or a wood flooring company, and make sure your wood starts out this way. If you try to air dry outside stored wood, it will warp and twist, and not be suited at all.

Install the wood leaving a 3/4″ gap at the edge wall for expansion. And I would like to so these planks glued (with a urethane adhesive, I mention a few brands in the article) and face nailed with the Tremont nails. The rose headed nails wll hold the best, but you cannot use them as you will be sanding this job on site. So just use their finishing nails with the fairly small head :

In your case since these are the only nails you’ll be using, I want you to nail all the ends of course even where they meet the wall. Cover this last row with a wide moulding or baseboard. Two nails in each end. And then as many nails as you can stand to see, intersecting with the joists. Oh, and of course this floor MUST be laid at right angles to the joists. 2″ nails are used on the ends, and 3″ will go through both floor and subfloor into the joist. Predrill all the nails to prevent splitting and stay at least an inch or so from the edge also.

You will have to pry and coax each and every board in place so they are as tight as possible. Use a prybar against a temporary nailed board in front of a stubborn piece. It’s a real bear of a job.

Use the adhesive sparingly, only on the ends (never glue up two boards together) and some more dabs every foot or so along the underside of the board, especially where the joist nails will go. Urethane adhesive is very very strong, and if you try to glue the entire floor, and it fails. Well you will just never be able to remove it. That is also the reason for the underlay plywood, you can always remove the plywood with the failed floor if you have to. It’s a slow installation one board at a time, glued and face nailed.

Then set and fill all the face nails with a colored latex putty. Let the putty dry overnight. Sand the floor silky smooth (or better yet hire a pro to do just this task) and finish the wood with at least 4 coats of oil based polyurethane, for really good moisture resistance. (read my poly w/o bubbles article). And it also would have been a good idea to apply just one coat of poly to the underside of the boards about a week before you installed then. This will minimize the warping as both sides of of the wood will be finished and have about the same EMC.

And to answer you last question, yes this floor will probably warp and squeak and gap, IF you don’t really pay attention to the indoor humidity swings, as I mentioned in the article you have already bought and read. So if all this sounds like too much work, just buy the standard 3&1/4″ wide T&G strip floor and blind nail it simply and easily with the flooring nailer. A 4″ wide plank is still begging to be face pegged, as I mentioned also in the article. It just depends on how narrow you indoor humidly RANGE is.

And don’t you worry, it’s never too much to ask the Doc, this is exactly what I am here for, to give you the most realistic look into all the wood flooring options, and ALL my 25 years of experience. You are actually helping me improve the articles with you additional questions.

As always your Most humble servant, Joseph, the Wood Floor Doctor.