When we first drive into a mountain area we know we’re there without even looking. One thing about the mountains – our nose always knows when we’re there. Once you’re among tall pines, spruce, redwood, whatever, the air seems to change for the better. Everything always smells clean and fresh. Cedar is an especially aromatic wood and has other benefits too. Moths hate cedar making the material an excellent choice for hope chests and closet flooring. In fact, there have been occasions in our remodeling company where we were asked to line not only the floor of a closet, but the walls and ceiling as well. Talk about a large cedar chest! And although a cedar closet floor alone can do much to protect against moths there is nothing like the wonderful aroma it exudes and the feeling that you’re in a forest.
Installing a cedar closet floor is really simple – especially if you rent or own a pneumatic wire brad nailer. A cedar floor installation consists of interlocking tongues and grooves and fastening the material to the floor. That really is all there is to it. OK, there are a few simple rules:
- Purchase premium material. With premium material the planks are straighter and flatter and that means easier installation and less waste. A box of premium cedar closet flooring has fewer short pieces and that means fewer joints and a faster installation. Keep in mind that the material in the box is generally sold as “random length”. That means that the material inside the box varies in length. A novice would think that all of the material within is as long as its container – not so.
- Make sure that the floor to be covered is flat. No bumps or lumps. No dirt or debris. Anything that doesn’t belong there will telescope through the flooring as an ugly lump. A cedar closet floor will only be smooth and flat if that is the condition of the floor it covers.
- Once the floor is COMPLETELY clean staple down a layer of building paper. We use 15 lb. felt. Random stapling is all that is needed here – just enough to hold the paper in place. Overlap seams (edges and ends) three to six inches. This acts as a vapor barrier – an important part of any wood floor installation. Vapor emanating from below the floor can cause hardwood flooring to buckle and twist. Whatever you do DON’T glue the floor down. Doing so eliminates the vapor barrier (a bad thing) and making repairs later becomes next to impossible. Nails should be used. Either hidden nailing or top nailing can be done.
- Hidden nailing is where nails are driven into the groove of the plank and covered by the tongue of the next plank and so on. Although this procedure is not extremely difficult it does require a bit of an experienced hand. This is because the thickness of the material at the bottom of the groove is very thin and nailing must be very precise.
- Top nailing is where the nails are driven through the top of the material. Although the nailing is visible in the finished product it is the strongest attachment of the two methods and it is the easiest and most forgiving as well. With top nailing the first plank can be laid in the middle of the closet. Working from the center outward guarantees better alignment with surrounding walls. We like top nailing.
- Use a caulk box to snap a straight line through the middle of the closet. Snap another line parallel to it half the width of one of the cedar planks. Doing this will place the first plank dead center in the closet with the alignment line along the edge of the plank. Purists, who insist on hidden nailing, will not want to start with tongue of their first against the wall and work across the closet from there.
- Whether you top nail or blind nail use a small pneumatic brad nailer. We prefer 18 gauge. Brads should be spaced about seven-inches apart. Also, brads from a nail gun become almost invisible when nailed.
- Leave space for expansion. There should be about a quarter to a half inch of clearance between the flooring material and the wall. This must be covered with baseboard (or in the case where baseboard already exists, a trim piece must be used). The floor must have room to expand and contract at the perimeter of the space.
- Finally, make sure that the cedar flooring is the last step in your remodeling process. Working with wall board, oils and other construction materials over a finished cedar floor can easily damage the cedar. And although it is somewhat repairable via cleaning and sanding cedar is very soft and porous and easily damaged.
The very best thing about a cedar floor is that installation is forgiving. The irregularities in the color of the wood hide a lot of mistakes. And because cedar flooring is relatively thin it is light weight and easy to handle and manipulate. There aren’t a lot of home improvements that you can say that about.