Two features common to hardwood floors in the past 50 years have started to go by the wayside; those are skinny planks and uniform-width planks. In the past, almost every hardwood floor came with planks that were all about four to six inches wide. They were all of the same width as well. That’s not the case anymore. The most popular hardwood floors being produced now are wide plank hardwood floors with varied width planks. What does that mean?
Typically, any hardwood flooring plank that is over six inches in width is considered a wide plank. These planks are more reminiscent of older styles of hardwood flooring. When local hardwood was the only way to create a reliable floor, as opposed to a luxury, the carpenters would cut the planks as wide as possible. Cutting wider planks meant that less work was needed to lay the floor. They were choosing to cut planks for construction purposes instead of aesthetic purposes. Paradoxically, those choices they made are now considered aesthetically pleasing.
In addition to cutting planks as wide as possible, carpenters of the past used as much of the tree as possible. That meant that the planks were not uniform.
Varied Width Planks
When hardwood floors were sourced only from local trees, the carpenters would attempt to use every bit of the tree. That meant they would cut the widest planks they could from the trunk. Then, they would cut smaller planks from other parts of the trunk and even from some of the larger branches. If there was a bend in the branch or the trunk, the plank would have to be cut before the bend. That meant that some planks would be wider than others. Also, the planks would all be different lengths.
Once again, this was a construction and function decision, not an aesthetic one. However, it’s so iconic of antique homes and barns that it has become a preferred aesthetic. For those reasons, varied width and wide plank hardwood floors are very trendy.
In addition to the size of the planks, different parts of a tree have different shades. For example, the heartwood is likely a darker and deeper color than the sapwood. Since the carpenters were using the entire tree, they would end up with planks of different widths, colors, and lengths. Those patchwork floors are very popular now. It’s expected to remain a hot trend for years to come.