“Wide plank:” if you’re in the market for hardwood, surely you’ve heard the term. Wider boards are becoming more and more popular, and for good reason. They have a subtle but decisive affect on a room: whether 5” or 10”, they showcase the intricate beauty of wood grain more than strip flooring.
Like a large canvas, a wider board contains more room for characteristic variation. The contrasts between soft grain, hard grain and eccentric knots create a stronger impression that is both tactile and visual.
Unlike other types of flooring, wide plank hardwood has both a modern and a classic look to it. With fewer seams and joints than strip flooring, it has a clean and rich aesthetic. Especially in a species with less colour variation, like Maple, wide plank flooring looks expansive, which is why interior designers frequently use it in smaller rooms to make them appear larger.
At the same time, wide plank flooring also harkens back to the homes of Colonial America, when old growth trees were milled for hardwood. The age and size of these massive trees made for extremely strong raw wood. Hardwood manufacturers nowadays are replicating this look with wide plank flooring and the design community is embracing it, incorporating it not only in traditional decor, but in modern as well.
Where is the line between strip flooring and wide plank flooring? Most industry professionals would tell you 2 ¼”. Anything less than 2 ¼” would be defined as ‘strip flooring’ while anything wider would be wide plank. Half a decade ago, wide plank flooring was relatively uncommon and the widest you’d see was about 6”. Nowadays manufacturers make boards as wide as 11” and even wider for custom orders.
As with all types of hardwood, wide plank comes in a variety of textures. If you want a contemporary look, you can stick with the standard flat surface, but if you want to venture into more rustic territory, you can go with ‘hand scraped’. In keeping with the old Colonial tradition, boards are scraped by hand, which creates a very pronounced rippling pattern in the hardwood. If you want a middle ground, the ‘wire brushed’ look is a bit more subtle and natural. Instead of a chisel, a wire brush is run along the length of the board, subtly scraping out the wood’s soft grain. The resulting look is natural, with the undulations following the grain patterns of the wood.
When it comes to colour, wide plank hardwood is available in nearly every colour that strip floor is available in. The trend nowadays is to go into the cooler colours: the greys and the whites. But warmer colours like light and dark browns and even reds are popular too, potentially gaining ground on the recent popularity of cooler colours according to Sarah Richardson. Whichever end of the spectrum you’re inclined towards, wide plank flooring looks especially good in low luster finishes.
Similarly, wide plank hardwood is available in most domestic species. Which one suits your home will depend on the decor of the rest of the room. If you think a strong character suits your style, then I suggest Hickory or Walnut, both of which have characteristic and unpredictable variation. Maple or Birch on the other hand are more monochromatic in character and offer a more discreet grain presence. Oak is a nice middle ground, with harmonious but prominent variation.
A couple things to consider with wide plank hardwood: installation & humidity levels. Because boards are wider, acclimation is especially important. All hardwood needs to be delivered to a dry environment and allowed to acclimate before installation. This ensures that the inevitable expanding and contracting process that occurs when wood is taken from one climate zone to another, happens before the wood is installed. Otherwise boards can warp subtly and large gaps can form between them. As you can imagine, with a wider board comes a more pronounced expansion and contraction process. If wide plank hardwood isn’t properly acclimated, the consequences can be even more severe than with strip flooring.
Similarly, installing wider boards requires more care. Standard 2 ¼” hardwood requires a cleat every 8 to 10” on the tongue side of the board. Using this same nailing schedule on 5” widths, the wood flooring would only receive half the amount of cleats as a 2 ¼” floor. With each nail taking as much as twice the pressure from the expansion and contraction process, the hardwood might not remain firmly adhered to the sub floor. To compensate, we use supplemental adhesion methods, applying a bead under the groove side of the boards. This ensures that the floor remains well-secured to the subfloor.
All in all, wide plank flooring offers your home a greater sense of space and more natural character. It can compliment both traditional and modern decor, depending on the finish, colour and species choice. Wide plank installation also requires proper acclimation and a more robust adhesion method. At Floorscapes, we’re experts in wide plank and we invite you to our showroom to discover the style in person and receive some suggestions as to what manufacturer, species, width, finish and colour will best suit your home.