Wood Underfoot

All About Hardwood Floors

You just have to knock on wood to know that you have really good floors in your house…knock on wood floors, that is. Wood floors are homeowner and home buyer favorites for good reason. They are long lasting and naturally good looking. There is also nothing like wood to warm up a room’s atmosphere and appearance.
Wood flooring comes in dozens of species from which you can choose the right look for a new home or to replace flooring in an existing home. The best wood floor for your home could be a domestic species such as maple or oak, or you can choose from exotic imports such as bamboo or hardwoods from Brazil.
You can choose the width of flooring based on your decorating preferences. Narrow widths are typically associated with more traditional interiors, whereas wider width floors are found in more casual and rustic spaces. Random-width flooring permits even more decorating personalization allowing you to dial the exact look and feel you want for your spaces.
The stain color choices offered for wood flooring are endless, from rich, dark shades of walnut and wenge to lighter maple and blonde stains. Although darker stains are typically associated with traditional interiors, you can also pair dark wood tones with more contemporary spaces that have exposed beams and bricks. Similarly, dark tones marry particularly well with stainless steel appliances and other reflective surfaces such as glass.
Thanks to advances in engineered wood flooring, you can now have the luxury of wood flooring where you could never have it before. Modern adhesive technology has enabled wood floor installation over radiant-floor heating – nails and fluid filled pipes have never been a good idea. Engineered floors can even be installed in basements and over concrete slabs thanks to the holding power of specially-formulated glues that work well with their sandwiched-veneer construction.
The costs for wood flooring vary by species, wood grade and the thickness of the planks ranging from $2.00 per square foot upwards of $12 per square foot for exotics. Installation will cost $2 to $4 per foot depending on the location of the installation and how many square feet. Solid ¾” wood floors can last 100 years or more and can be refinished up to 10 times in many cases. Pre-finished solid wood flooring, that is flooring that is finished in the factory before installation, is available with up to a 50 year finish warranty while engineered wood finishes are warranted for ten to thirty years on average.
Laminate flooring is the most economical option for a wood-look. It is made with a photo of wood which is glued to a fiber board base and snaps together to install. The disadvantage of laminate flooring is that it cannot be refinished once it is worn and needs to be replaced.
SELECTING THE RIGHT FLOOR
Knowing how much traffic and moisture your wood floor needs to tolerate will determine your wood flooring options. High traffic areas such as kitchens, foyers and mudrooms call for hard wood species that can handle constant use. Oak, maple and hickory are suitable choices for these rooms. Bedrooms, on the other hand, are lighter use areas and are great candidates for softer wood species.
Below grade rooms and basements have a higher humidity level and require engineered woods that won’t warp as easily. Bathrooms with tubs and showers are not good candidates for wood flooring. Powder rooms, on the other hand, are perfectly suitable for most hardwood flooring and wood can elevate the décor of these small spaces.
Most any kind of hardwood floor can be installed over a plywood subfloor. This includes glue-down, nail-in, click-together engineered floors or even floating cork floors. If you want to install new wood flooring over existing wood flooring, choose a thinner plank with a factory finish that will transition easier to other floors in other rooms of your home without a thick threshold. Over tile or a concrete slab you will want to choose flooring that clicks together or a glue down floor as nails are not an option.
Hardwood flooring is graded by each mill. Naturally, the fewer knots and color variations the more expensive the wood although the grading does vary by wood specie. Select finishes have very few or no defects. Natural finishes have a few defects that add some character. The most character from knots and color variations are found on rustic grades of hardwood.
FINISH OPTIONS
Hardwood floors can be finished on site or come pre-finished from the factory. On site finishing ensures a smooth, level finish with no variations. It takes a few days to sand, apply stain, and then a few days for the finish to dry before you can walk on them. An oil-based polyurethane finish is the most durable, but takes longer to cure and the pungent odor from the curing process is frequently intolerable for long periods of time. This type of finish holds up best to pets and claw marks. Water-based polyurethane has no odor and requires up to three days to cure.
Pre-finished floors can be installed and walked on the very same day. Each plank, however, has a beveled edge which does give the floor a slight variation in appearance. Factory applied finishes are much harder and more durable that site-applied finishes due to the fact that they are cured under UV lights.
In addition to stain color, hardwood floors can be finished with a matte or shinier finishes. Many species are available with hand-distressing for an aged or weathered look. Even more interesting are hand-scraped floors that have the look of well-worn, reclaimed lumber.
Even tile manufacturers are getting into wood. You can now find porcelain tile that mimics the appearance of wood floors – perfect for spa baths and basement stairs. Don’t underestimate the impact that wood floors can have on your décor and the value of your home. They are one of the most sought-after features that buyers look for when purchasing a home and will outlast most other flooring options. Beautifully.