Sticker, or No – What Say You?

Saturday, I drove my friend’s Honda CRV to Sellersburg, Ind., to pick up a 210-square-foot overrun of 5″-wide white oak flooring for my kitchen rehab project. (Yes, I’m too poor to pay the $200 shipping fee – feeding a horde of feral cats is expensive – and I’m too cheap to pay full price at a flooring store.)

The plan was to let the long pieces hang out the back window by 10″ or so (tied down properly, red flag attached, of course). My Subaru Outback doesn’t have a rear window that opens, hence the loaner car (and it already was crying out for new shocks and struts, so what’s another 200 miles on the old ones?).

But right when I pulled up to the gate of Pennington Hardwoods, the skies opened. I’ve stood under a waterfall; this was worse. After checking the weather radar on my phone, I realized I had two choices. 1) Get all the wood inside the CRV, window closed. 2) Make another four-hour round-trip next weekend. I opted for choice 1.

The guys at the loading dock said it couldn’t be done; they were so wrong. With the longest flooring packets going from corner to corner, top to bottom, we were able to shove all but one plastic-wrapped packet into the car and shut the back gate and back window. For that final packet, I cut it open to pile the flooring lengths into the front passenger seat, across the foot areas in the back – wherever it would fit. Sure, I needed only 190 square feet for my kitchen, but you never know when that last 20 feet will come in handy. And anyway, I’d already paid for it.

The drive home was harrowing. In my haste to get everything loaded and get back on the road before the hail started, I hadn’t secured everything properly. OK. I didn’t secure it at all. So every time the CRV started hydroplaning in the deluge, I had to steer into it whilst praying the wood wouldn’t shift and decapitate me. And I was fearful for the entire drive that all four tires would simultaneously burst; they were seriously overtaxed. And visibility was maybe 50′ for much of the return trip.

So about that headline…

I made it home safely (if shaking) and got all the wood into my dining room, and I starting cutting the packets apart to sticker the flooring, only to find that thanks to an ill-timed (and quite rare) cleaning frenzy two weeks back, I’d throw out all the “useless” narrow sticks of wood in my basement. Sigh.

So in the shop today, I was dumpster-diving for suitable sticker stock when someone said I was wasting my time, and to simply leave the flooring in the plastic until I’m ready to use it (which won’t be, I should mention, for at least a month or two). And another someone concurred with the first he-who-shall-not-be-named. I grabbed the moisture meter to test a piece I’d brought in (I need to try a couple finishes on it) and found it was at 14 percent. I say sticker.

So I cut a bunch of scrap to length, went home and got to work. But I ran out of stickers again. So tomorrow, whilst I scrounge for more, the debate will no doubt arise again. I need some backup, gentle readers…sticker, or no: what say you?

— Megan Fitzpatrick

p.s. I should note that the first thing I did when I started thinking about this massive (and insane) undertaking was to read – no, study – Bob Lang’s “The Complete Kitchen Cabinetmaker.” If you’re also crazy enough to want to build your own cabinets, I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

28 thoughts on “Sticker, or No – What Say You?

  1. John1gig

    If 14% is a good reading, forget about stickering.
    Find someone with a kiln and let them sticker it in the kiln. Should be in the 5 to 8% range.
    14% will allow the seams to open up every winter. These cracks will fill with dirt eventuily not letting them close.
    That will lead to buckeling and premature re-finishing.

  2. JoeHurst

    Stickering is smart, but the installation isn’t the problem. The sanding and finishing steps can be rather rough.

    I can’t believe nobody’s mentioned this yet, but white oak with cats…Can you say “feline-induced fuming”?

    Good luck,
    Joe

  3. TWDesign

    I always sticker, we’ve for some Plyboo in ~1/4 and ~3/8 what comes in packets of 5 plastic wrapped, the partially opened bundles cup like crazy, I think stickering is the only way to allow them to air dry well.

  4. tman02

    I would definitely remove the plastic AND sticker the wood so all sides acclimate equally (can’t hurt).

  5. Fred West

    As many others have said stickering wont hurt but if you think about it when you go to the lumber yard or the big boxes their lumber is not stickered unless it is green. Again as other have said, I think the acclimating is far more important. Jon, I may be a complete idiot for asking this but how would clamping it down help? If that piece or those piece have enough tension to twist wouldn’t it do that anyway after you unclamp it and start cutting? Again, please excuse my idiocy but I had to ask no matter how dumb I look. I mean how much MORE dumb I look. 😮 Fred

    1. terrynjon

      I don’t know why it works, but it has for me. (presuming you clamp it to something flat) Perhaps it is similar to wood bending.

      Jon

    2. dreamcatcher

      @Fred & terrynjon

      “…how would clamping it down help?”

      Yeah, I didn’t know what that meant either. If you have a bowed plank, just throw it out. If you have a pile of “spaghetti” then you should reexamine where you got your wood from. This isn’t furniture you are making – it’s a floor. If you wants to risk having gaps and bumps in your floor then maybe try the “clamp it down” method. If you want a beautiful long lasting floor then only use quality lumber of proper MC and no major twists, cups, or bows.

      BTW… minor twists, cups, and bows are not a big deal. You can “clamp it down” directly to the subfloor using the flooring nailer! Small cups will be sanded out later.

      DC

      1. terrynjon

        The “spaghetti” was a tree my father and I cut down and stickered to air dry. Unfortunately, a tornado hit the barn it was stored in, and then it endured the thunderstorm and a couple of days in the sun while we were cleaning up my grandfather’s farm. I’m afraid the wood was not as high a priority as the cattle and other damage. No one was hurt, so we were blessed. I have built several projects with that wood and it has a great story.

        Jon

  6. Tom8021

    When I did my cabinets, I knew it would take too long for me to do everything. I found a cabinet company that would build the “boxes” to my specs using ecabinet systems software. Basically send them a file their c&c machine can read. There was a learning curve for sure but the cabinet company was helpful in letting me know the minimum they would need.

    Doing it this way, I concentrated on drawer boxes, doors and the rest of the hard wood areas. The boxes by the way came disassembled, so I didn’t feel totally guilty of taking a short cut. It still took me six months to complete it.

  7. Kevin Fitzsimons

    Comment on kitchen cabinets: My cabinets are custom made and the company used melamine for the carcasses, cherry for facing edges, and solid cherry cabinet side panels, doors, crown molding, and toe kicks. European style hinges. The melamine is straight, very light (visually) inside the cabinet and easy to keep clean. Making one long run of cabinets instead of individual cases makes sense. Drawers are dovetailed solid maple. I’ve built a lot of cabinets and it’s really pretty simple. I now use a Festool Domino instead of a plate joiner. You can pre-assemble the cabinet before applying glue to confirm size and fit.

  8. dreamcatcher

    It is ironic to me how some people know so much about woodworking but lack in the carpentry department… no offense.

    I have laid dozens of wood floors and been around dozens more being laid, so I can confidently say that stickering the wood is not important. But acclimating the wood is crucial. I try to acclimate the wood for about two weeks in the same conditioned space where it will be installed. If the wood came in banded packs or cardboard cases (common) I would just leave in the cases but when the wood comes in plastic (rare) I would get them out of the plastic and in a [unstickered] stack.

    One tip – don’t make any attempt to sort the lengths into piles. You want to stay random. Similarly when you lay the floor, try to pull out of 3-6 packs at a time. Lastly, try not to “think” too much while laying the flooring. Get rid of any REALLY odd ones but let random be random. Thinking inherently creates pattern. All you need is to move fast and keep joints outside of a 6″ radius of one another.

    Have fun/good luck

    DC

    1. Megan FitzpatrickMegan Fitzpatrick Post author

      The packets came in 9′ lengths of random pieces wrapped in that stretchy plastic stuff on a roll (same stuff we use in the shop to “tie” bundles of wood together). I HAVE to get the plastic off…both for wood acclimation and because I have an elderly cat who has a propensity for, uh, relieving herself on plastic. And even if it doesn’t need stickering, it won’t hurt, right? The stickered stacks are more stable than the stacks of random-length wood, I think, for when the cats decide to use them as a gymset.

      Besides…it makes me feel as if I’ve accomplished something 😉

  9. DonP

    My wife will be so happy to learn that I can use her CRV to haul Wood.

    I understand not wanting to spend the money for shipping. When my Jeep died I was forced to replace it with a small sedan. When I need to go wood shopping I rent a truck $20 for the day. No year long insurance bills or upkeep. It not ideal but it’s workable.

    I would sticker it or a least take off the plastic to keep air flowing around it.
    Remember the old proverb “Only the paranoid survive”

  10. Steve_OH

    I’m suspicious of that 14% MC number. Unless they’ve been storing this wood in the old shed down by the pond, the moisture content should be around 10% or lower.

    Assuming that the wood is as dry as it ought to be, stickering should be unnecessary. And if the wood isn’t dry, then the supplier has some ‘splaining to do…

    -Steve

    1. Megan FitzpatrickMegan Fitzpatrick Post author

      I thought that seemed high, too. I need to bring in a few more pieces to test, and use a different meter with which to test it. Of course, it did only cost $2.15 per square foot…so maybe I paid less for more water? But I’ve bought from them before, and have been very pleased with their product.

      1. dreamcatcher

        14 is high. I shoot for between 6 and 10. I would call the company and let them know the issue. If they are serious about their product they will send a rep out with new material.

        DC

  11. xMike

    Speaking of crazed kitchen cabinet making – beware! (imagine sounds of rattling chains! – and moans – don’t forget the moans). Don’t buy the book!
    She who must be obeyed foolishly agreed that since I had purchased nearly all the woodworking tools known to man, it should be no problem for me to gut the kitchen, remodel same, and then BUILD ALL THE KITCHEN CABINETS MYSELF! THINK how lovely they will be. CUSTOM to the Nth degree. EACH a small furniture MASTERPIECE! bWOOO hA hA HAAAAA!
    That was two years ago. Demolishing, re-walling, re-ceiling-ing, re-wiring, re-plumbing, re-flooring, and re-painting all went RELATIVELY speedily. Piece of cake.

    However…..the little masterpiece cabinets are still coming along. Figured maple. Lovely little things. Each a thing of beauty.

    The base cabinets are finally installed (did I mention two years?). Three of the upper cabinets are NEARLY ready to install (finishing the finish is nearly finished). ONLY five MORE TO GO! (SOB!). aND tHEN i get to make Only 16 more doors (16) and 5 more drawer fronts – well, 13 if you want to count the pantry drawers. Will I ever be done! When I die, will there still be one cabinet with only one door? What will become of me.

    My happy story of kitchen-cabinets-done-on-your-own ends with the song “Chain, Chain, CHAAAAIN!”

    Don’t go there. Buy them. It’s cheaper and will leave you much more time for woodworking.
    Mike Dyer

    1. dreamcatcher

      @xMike
      You say “Don’t go there. Buy them. It’s cheaper and will leave you much more time for woodworking.” but I don’t understand… or rather, I don’t think YOU understand.

      Having been a professional cabinetmaker for a number of years I can tell you two things about building kitchen cabinets.. it’s fast and it’s easy. That is, unless you do it wrong. I have seen many try to build cabinets like the cabinet companies do. That would be wrong. Remember that they build cabinets for any situation. But you have the advantage of knowing your precise situation. Don’t build one cabinet at a time in 3″ increments, instead build an entire bank of cabinets at a time (as big as you can fit through the door). I’ve built four piece kitchens before…. 1 hour cabinet install.

      While it sounds like you are too deep to change, maybe others can learn from your follies.

      Here’s a few tips for those listening;

      1. Use plywood whenever possible. I’ve seen a few guys go for the gusto with all solid but it’s just a waste. Plywood and veneers will get you far, save on cost and weight.

      2. Simple joinery whenever possible. Save the mortise and tenon for the furniture, crank out those face frames with pocket screws and biscuits. Screw the carcass together, screw and plug the drawer boxes, cope and stick the doors (or miter and biscuit).

      3. Let someone else do the work. Even in the pro cabinet shop where I worked, we often outsourced the doors and drawer faces. Why? Well, while we had shapers, router tables, and many profiles our selection was pale in comparison to what a company like Walzcraft has – and faster&cheaper than it would take for us to do ourselves.

      4. Lacquer. Solvent based of course. Some will disagree and I admit that it has it’s downsides but as an upside you can apply 10 coats of hard, durable, lustrous, water resistant lacquer in a day. Heck, put 10 more on tomorrow if you want and you could drive a truck into the finish with nary a scratch. Buff it down with a scotchbrite and some paste wax if you don’t like the showroom look.

      Those are just a few off the top of my head; hopefully someone will learn something today.
      DC

  12. jasonvonkruse

    Meagan,

    Charlie Peterson says in his video on installing a hardwood floor at fine homebuilding that you can leave it in the packaging (boxes in his case) for 3 months, or lay it out on the floor for a week. I take that to mean that as it’s been kiln dried already, it’s wont take too long to come to room moisture content. Charlie says the floor and subfloor need to be within 4% before you install. All of that to say, if you have the time (and it sounds like you do), just pile it and don’t worry about the stickering.

    Jason

  13. Wood Zealot

    First off, I would have paid the $200 for it to be shipped… but then again, I’m not the adrenaline junkie that you seem to be.

    Secondly, looking at the picture, specifically the stickered section, your love of Tetris is very apparent.

    Lastly, I think at this point the main point is to treat the stock uniformly… so it’s either sticker it all or plastic wrap (or wax emulsion) the ends of all. I would just blast the Tetris soundtrack and finish stickering it all. Course my opinion is probably the least informed of all (but that never gets in the way of me sharing it somehow).

    1. Megan FitzpatrickMegan Fitzpatrick Post author

      Oh dear. I just realized, Charles, that my current interior design aesthetic looks frighteningly like yours!

      1. Wood Zealot

        I thought the same. It’s a winning design aesthetic if you ask me… until every room looks like that and you need to do something silly like try to sell the home.

        And thanks for calling me dear. That was sweet.

  14. terrynjon

    Sticker it or clamp it down. I’ve dealt with too much spaghetti to not do one or the other. Good luck!

    Jon

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