For a very long time, hardwood flooring planks were all about the same. They were between three and six inches wide, they were about 12 inches long, and they were finished with a semi-gloss polyurethane. Current trends are changing all of that. If you have been browsing social media or hardwood flooring suppliers, you’ve likely noticed that hardwood flooring planks are trending wider and wider. Most suppliers offer what they called a “wide plank.” The definition of a wide plank differs based on the manufacturer, but typically, anything over six inches is considered wide plank. Ten inches is a pretty common width but 18 inches is not unheard of. The trend has historical roots as well as practical purposes.
In the second half of the 20th century, most hardwood was sourced from far away. It was transported by ship or by truck and then machined in a factory. That meant that you could pick basically any hardwood from anywhere in the world that you could afford. Before that era, homeowners had to source their hardwood from nearby. Hardwood flooring typically came from no further than a few days on a train. Sometimes, trees within walking distance were felled. That greatly limited the options.
On top of that, the trees had to be felled and milled by hand. Cutting two six-inch wide planks takes about twice as much work as cutting one 12-inch plank. So, crafters would cut the planks about as wide as each individual tree trunk would allow. That reduced the amount of work that had to be done. It also limited the amount of time spent installing them. For those reasons, many old homes have wide hardwood flooring planks.
In addition to the historical reasons for wide-plank hardwood flooring, there are practical reasons. Wide hardwood flooring planks will mean that each room has fewer planks. The reduced number of planks reduces the seams in the floor; that means that smaller rooms will look larger. The seams of multiple planks and the changing grain from one plank to the next creates visual noise. That subtly makes a room look more cluttered. A more seamless appearance can reduce that effect.
Wider planks have fewer places where moisture can creep around and under the floor as well. That makes wide planks ideal for bathrooms, entryways, and kitchens. Anywhere that might regularly get wet could be a good candidate for a wide plank floor.