How to lay a Tranquility floor

Beautiful timber is a scarce resource to be used as carefully as possible while wasting as little as possible. For this reason all Tranquility flooring will usually only be offered as 12mm T&G boards. At this thickness the maximum floor area is produced from any log and each tree gives maximum pleasure. At 12mm it is not load bearing so needs to be laid on a structural floor see ‘Floor Structures‘.

This document only describes laying the floor itself. It does not cover how to prepare the floor structure on which it will be laid, or the various types of floor structure including those with under floor heating in them – so for details on this and installation options please go to Floor structures and preparation where new and existing houses are covered and advice given on what to do with what is there now. It also discusses laying the floor between the skirtings or under them (much the best).
Tranquility flooring is a totally natural product so shows all the natural beauty of the trees from which it is made. It is delivered with all the natural features (knots, shakes etc) most of which should be laid and filled (see below) though lengths of fading boards without either the tongue or the groove are to be discarded. The most beautiful timber is around the features so removing them removes the most beautiful timber, and if featureless floors are wanted it is best buy a factory produced product. The boards will therefore often vary considerably in colour and feature; some boards may have colour markings others do not have, and there will generally be three different board widths. The look of the floor you will live with and all will enjoy will depend on how the boards are selected, so it is important the colours and features are evenly mixed across it. So:

  • Artist’s impression of a crown cut board:drawing of a crown cut board
  • Artist’s impression of a radial cut board:drawing of a radial cut board

First: Sort the boards to width.
The floor will look superb when the board widths are mixed randomly across the floor, and less than perfect if all the 200mm boards are together etc. Bear in mind the colour and feature you have, so each board and board run can be laid to look random. The boards come from the whole tree and you may like to notice the two primary types of grain. Boards sawn from near the outside of the tree are called ‘crown cut’ as, looked at end on, the annular rings almost run across the board. There are often wild grain patterns on such boards. Boards from the centre of the tree are called ‘radial cut’ and the rings on these run from top side to bottom side of the board. On the surface the rings will be tight and generally straight up and down the board. You may also like to choose particularly featured boards to be in particularly visible places like doorways. Time spent here is time well spent. The first board run will be laid groove to wall, and as this is either scribed to the wall or hidden under the skirting, any board with an imperfection on the groove side could be laid first.

Next:
Decide where to start laying: The room will tend to look longer than it is in the line of the boards and narrower than it is across them, so decide first which way you want the boards to run. It is then a good idea to start from the longest continual side if the room is an odd shape.

Make sure you have all the tools. You will need:

  • A chop saw which can be set for all angles, able to take the widest board. You can hand saw but why when the chop saw does a perfect job.
  • A good jig saw (sharp straight blades) for the scribing and cutting into doorways etc.
  • A straight edge – even a 1m spirit level is OK.
  • The fixing tool – Porta-Nailer recommended.
  • Preferably a small plane for trimming.
  • A chalk line.
  • A good hammer.
  • A punch (to punch the pins home)
  • Some pins – 30mm are good.

Set the chop saw with space on both sides of it and the saw set to square (0°). By always sawing the boards with the groove to the back and face up, it will not matter if the cut isn’t exactly square. The ends of joining boards will always be exactly the same angle – so no gaps between board ends.
Decide what board width is going to be laid first (tongue out) and choose the first board.

When laying under the skirting:

drawing showing board laid under skirting

  1. Measure the board width including the tongue and add 6mm. Mark this distance out from the wall at both ends and snap the chalk line the full length of the wall through these two marks.
  2. Select the first board and cut the end that is to be laid first. Lay it to the line with the chalk just visible in front of the tongue and leaving a gap to the end wall of about 5 to 10mm. Pin the back to the sub floor under where the skirting will be at about 250mm centres. Don’t hammer the pins right down in case you need to lift it. Select the next; saw the ends square and lay as the first and so on to the end. When you are happy, nail the pins down firmly but don’t damage the board surface.

When laying between the skirtings:

drawing showing board laid between skirtings

  1. Measure the board width including the tongue and take 15mm off. Mark this distance off the skirting at both ends of the room and snap the chalk line the full length of the wall through these marks.
  2. Select the first board and cut the end to be laid first. Lay it just outside the chalk line and, measuring regularly between the wall and the chalk line, transfer that dimension less 2mm to the board including the tongue. Continue and join the marks on the board – then jig saw very carefully to that line. Continue with the boards until you are happy with the first board run, then lay them to leave the constant 2mm gap between them and the skirting. Pin at about 250mm centres through to the sub floor. Don’t hammer the pins home until you are happy with the entire board run. When you are happy, nail the pins down firmly but don’t damage the board surface.

For both situations:

  1. Now PortaNail the outside edge through the tongue while standing on the boards to make sure they don’t move as you are depending on the pins at the back plus your weight. Test nail a sample first as the weight required behind the mallet varies with the hardness of the board. It needs to be struck strongly enough for the nails to be sunk so they are not in the way of the groove of the next board to be laid, but not so hard they break the tongue. If a nail fails to be sunk flush with the surface of the tongue it will interfere with the next board when you try to fit it. This is when you need the countersink as you must hammer it in and out of the way.
  2. Continue across the floor stopping periodically to appreciate your work and to make sure the board selection is good. Use short offcuts groove side into the tongue of any board you are laying to ‘encourage’ the next groove over the tongue of the board you are trying to get tight by tapping gently with a hammer. Then the action of the Porta-Nailer will pull it very tight.
  3. Approaching the other side, check the board widths available and the length of each width available, and decide which is to be the final one to scribe to the wall. Wider is better, but if perchance there are going to be odd lengths of some widths, you can use them on the last board run as they are going to be scribed to the wall. It is best to fit a reasonably wide board run last if that can be arranged.
  4. drawing showing last board fittingFit the last board run carefully. Fitting under the skirting gives lots of tolerance, but fitting between them does not. In this case cutting the boards with a 2mm gap will require the back of the boards to be a little ‘under cut’ as they will have to be coaxed down from an angle, and when down should be tightened up on the last board by pulling them away from the skirting with something like a pallet knife. When you are happy, pin them down as at the other side of the room.

Finishing:

  • Fill the cracks, knot holes or other imperfections, but choose the filler colour to match the surrounding timber. Almost all floors will require some filling, and the more spectacular the floor – the more filling is required. Knots are usually filled with darker filler than plain board cracks. Note it is not unusual to use 3 or more colours across the floor if it is vibrantly coloured. The floor is very valuable and a tin of filler is not.
  • Sand to your own requirement. The more ‘perfect’ the floor is the less natural it will probably look, so we would suggest you don’t worry about minor imperfections – but here is where you make it as you personally want it.
  • Now it is ready for coating.
  • Having selected the finish coating, make sure the surface is really clean and dust free. You can get ‘Tacky’ cloths from Decorators Merchants that pick up the finest last traces of dust, but a slightly damp cloth works wonders. Under no account start the coating until it is bone dry.
  • Apply the first coat and allow the full time for drying. The more natural you want it to look the fewer the coats you would probably like, but the level of protection against liquid spills etc builds up with the coats. The more porous the timber the more variable the first coat will look, so it is a good idea to look across the floor with light behind it so you can see if it has really soaked in in some places and not in others. If so, we would strongly suggest at least one more coat. In Tranquility several floors are finished with just the one coat particularly if there is a beautifully strong scent to the timber as there is with Cedars and Cypresses.