What to Know about Wide Plank Floors

Written by Marion J. Lougheed
Updated July 8, 2016
One trend for wood flooring includes the use of wider planks. The look can often work well in cozier settings such as small family rooms. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List members Lawrence and Sandy K.)

Wide-plank floors are beautiful, but they can be hard to come by. They may be more expensive but can offer a variety of style benefits. If you're thinking of using wide floorboards, consider several factors.

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When it comes to trends in wood floors, many things old are new again. One example is floors made from wide planks. Common many years ago, such floors have resurfaced as a popular option. However, it's important to know that if you want wide floorboards made from wood, as opposed to engineered hardwood, you may discovered that there are problems with meeting demand.

Throughout the 19th century, planks tended to be at least five inches wide and sometimes even wider. These days, flooring strips are generally two or three inches wide. Flooring planks have narrowed over the years because the larger, mature hardwood trees once used for flooring have been forested, and hardwood flooring manufacturers tend to use thinner, younger trees. One alternative that flooring companies are using is to offer reclaimed wood from old buildings.

Benefits of Wide Plank Floors

One of the great things about wide planks is that the style isn't restricted to a single type of wood. Wide floorboards area an option, whether you prefer antiques or exotics, softwoods like fir or solid hardwoods like oak.

Wider planks also draw out the natural beauty of any wood type you choose. Many exotic woods have intriguing features that become more highly visible with wider planks.

Meanwhile, here are practical tips if you are thinking about adding a wide-plank floor to your home:

• Because of deforestation concerns around the world, check if the wood your supplier is providing has been certified by organizations such as the Forest Stewardship Council, an international nonprofit organization.

• Because wider planks are subject to greater shrinkage and swelling than narrower boards, it's important to  control your home's humidity and temperature. Also, when choosing wider boards, opt for more solid woods such as teak or western red cedar.

• Ask your contractor about the wood's dimensional change coefficient, a number that should be lower than 0.00300. You can compare different kinds of wood based on this number to strike a balance between stability and looks.

For more information about wood flooring, see the Angie's List Guide to Hardwood Flooring. Also, consider how Angie's List can help you with your next home project. Members have access to local consumer reviews on hardwood flooring experts as well as 550 other service provider categories.

Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted on Oct. 15, 2012.

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