Determining what type of flooring will work best in your home depends on your design aesthetic, lifestyle, and budget. Installing new floors is a costly and time-consuming proposition, so you will want to be sure to get it right. Hardwood floors are a great choice for most homes because of their authenticity, durability, and classic beauty. When considering installing hardwood floors in your home, you might have many questions about how to select the best and most durable floors for your specific needs. Here are answers to some of the most common questions asked about hardwood floors.
What are the different types of hardwood floors?
Let’s begin by looking at the two basic types of hardwood floors, solid hardwood and engineered wood. Knowing the differences between these types of wood floors will help you decide which is the best option for your specific needs.
Made from a solid, single piece of wood, a solid hardwood floor is long-lasting and durable. It consists of strips or slats that are ¾ to 5/16 of an inch thick that are either stapled or nailed down to a plywood foundation. Solid hardwood, the most popular choice because of its authenticity, can vary in quality and isn’t suitable for every situation.
To determine the quality of hardwood flooring, here are some things to ask:
What was its source? What was it made from? What type of finish does it have? How refined is the grain? How consistent and stable is the color?
Solid hardwood floors can work in any room of your home above the ground and can be sanded and refinished many times. They cannot be used in basements, over concrete floors, or over radiant heating systems. This is where engineered wood flooring can be a useful alternative.
Engineered wood flooring is made from multiple layers of wood veneers with a hardwood top layer that is 100 % natural. Below the hardwood layer are crossed layers of plywood pressed together with the grains running in different directions. This adds to the strength and stability of the wood and prevents it from expanding and contracting due to moisture.
Engineered wood floors are versatile, can be used in any room of the home, and can be installed with a variety of methods including gluing, floating using an underlayment, or click and lock grooves. Because the top layer is fused over plywood, they can be installed aver a concrete slab and used in humid conditions.
Although they look the same as solid wood floors, it is important to keep in mind that they cannot be sanded and refinished as many times. Also, while they are often considered to be made from only wood with no other materials, they might include soft woods and non-wood materials.
Whether to use solid wood or engineered wood depends on where you’re installing your floor. For any room on the ground floor or above, with the exception of bathrooms and laundry rooms and other rooms with high humidity, solid hardwood floors are great. Solid hardwood floors can be used in kitchens, as long as they are kept clean and spills are promptly wiped up. In basements, hardwood floors won’t work and engineered wood floors are a good substitute.
Installing solid hardwood floors or engineered wood floors will cost about the same and will increase the value of your home. Laminate flooring, which has a thin veneer of wood, is much less expensive, less durable, and cannot be refinished should it become damaged. Hardwood floors, whether solid or composite, are higher in quality, sturdiness, durability, and value than laminate flooring.
What is the most durable wood floor?
For rooms that get the most traffic, choosing the most durable hardwood floor will be a priority. The hardness of wood is measured by comparing it to Red Oak, the most common wood used in hardwood floors and a hard and durable wood. A Red Oak wood floor can last over 100 years.
Some types of wood are softer than others. In bedrooms or rooms that get less traffic, you might want to consider a softer wood like American Cherry or American Walnut.
Deciding on the best hardwood floor depends on your lifestyle, circumstances, and is also a matter of taste. In any case, quality should be a top priority. There are many different brands and companies that sell hardwood floors, so be sure to pick a company that has a good reputation, positive reviews, and excellent customer support.
What type of wood is best for hardwood floors?
Some questions to ask yourself when choosing a wood species for your hardwood floor are:
How busy is your home? Do you have small children? Do you have pets?
Wood species differ in terms of provenance, hardness, and grain. Provenance refers to where it comes from, whether from domestic species such as Oak, Maple, or Beech, or from exotic sources such as Ipe, Kempas, or Brazilian Cherry. Domestic woods tend to be less expensive and milder in color, whereas exotic species are harder and have more contrast.
The relative hardness of wood species is measured with a rating system called the Janka system. It bases its rating on the depth of impact when a steel ball is fired at the wood, but actually the higher the Janka number, the harder the wood is.
Their low numbers mean that Heartpine and Ash are softer woods that may dent more easily, while Mahogany, Brazilian Walnut, Hickory, Oak, and Maple have higher ratings and are thus more durable. If you have a busy home, you will want a wood species that is hard, durable, and resistant to dents and wear.
Wood species also vary in terms of their grain. A wood that has a close-grain, such as Maple, Alder, and Walnut, has tighter fibers and a harder surface. Woods with an open-grain have loosely packed fibers and might splinter more easily, even if they are hard.
The grain of the wood will also influence the look. Oak has a pronounced grain, while Maple has a straight grain. If you like a bold grain, you might want to consider Tigerwood and Brazilian Cherry. For a casual look, you might want a wood with high variations, knots, splits, and streaks.
Dark or Light?
Color also varies by wood species and might be a factor to consider when picking out what type of hardwood floor to choose. Dark colored woods work best in a well-lit space. A dark wood can give your home a warm look and makes a statement, although scratches will be more noticeable on a dark wood. Dark woods like Walnut or Mahogany, work well in a formal space and can make your home feel more stately and refined.
Light-colored wood works well in a small space or a dark room because they give your room an open and airy feel. If you are looking for a way to brighten a room, for a classic look, or to hide scratches, light woods are the way to go. Do you want a middle ground? If so, medium woods, like Cherry, Hickory, and Oak, are a great compromise. They will give your room a warm and cozy feeling.
While each species has a color, colors can vary and change over time. As they age, wood floors tend to darken and might become more beautiful. The deepening of color is natural and adds charm and beauty to your floor. Some wood species, such as Oak and Hickory, change less than others.
Factors that affect the extent of darkening and changes in color are sun exposure and finishes. The more sun exposure, the more likely it is your wood floor will darken. For this reason, you might want to move rugs and furniture periodically to keep your floors even in color. Oil-based finishes might show some yellowing over time, while water-based finishes are more likely to remain clear.
Boards, Strips or Planks?
If that isn’t enough to wrap your mind around, hardwood floors also vary in the width of the boards. Strips, boards that are less than 3 inches in width, are narrow and give a more traditional look. They can also create a feeling of space in a small room.
Planks refer to boards that are three to five inches wide, while wide-width planks are 5 inches or wider. Wide boards work well in large spaces and create a sense of openness or a more casual, informal look. Board widths can be alternated for a vintage look.
How do specific wood species measure up in these terms?
Oak and Ash are hard, but have more open grains. Maple is a close-grained light wood with a creamy color. Red Oak, the most popular wood species, is open-grain, inexpensive, and has a pinkish color. White oak has a medium hardness and a light brown color. Beech is know for its dramatic appearance with contrasting streaks. Kempass is very hard and comes from Malaysia and Indonesia. Bamboo, actually not a wood but a grass, is made durable through its processing.
In the end, your decision might come down to style, design, taste, and personal preference. With over 50 domestic and imported species of wood flooring available, you are sure to find something that offers just the look you want.
What is the best hardwood floor finish?
Sealing is necessary to protect a hardwood floor. Hardwood floors come either prefinished at the factory or unfinished. At the factory, a floor is prefinished by applying an aluminum oxide/polyurethane coating. The advantage of prefinished floors is that they will last much longer. This is because factories are able to apply much tougher finishes than can be applied in your home.
Other advantages are that you won’t have to wait for the finish to dry or be exposed to dangerous fumes, dust, noise, and disruption. The main disadvantage to a factory finished wood floor is that you will have fewer options for the look of the floor. If your floor is finished at the job site, you will be able to choose the exact finish that you want and get a more customized look. Also, the sealant can cover the seams between boards for a tighter surface.
The type of finish you choose is a matter of preference. Glossy finishes are shiny and reflect light while satin or matte finishes are better at hiding scratches. All varieties of finishes offer same protection for your floor, but will give your floor a different look. A dark stain can give a room a more contemporary or classy look and a light stain might be look more casual and less formal. Hardwood floors can be refinished if needed.
The type of protective finish will play a big role in how resistant it is to scratches and stains. While it won’t impact the durability of the floor, finishes that are less glossy are better at concealing scratches. Finishes that are textured with the use of wire brushing, or distressing also help hide scratches.
What if you have pets?
Hardwood floors can be compatible with pets, although you might want to take a few steps to protect your floors from scratches and accidents. If you keep your pets nails trimmed, keep the floors clean, and wipe up accidents promptly, you should be able to keep your wood floors safe and looking great.
Are hardwood floors worth it?
If you are looking for a classic look, hardwood floors are the way to go. They might be more expensive than some of the alternatives, but they will last a lifetime and offer many advantages over other types of flooring. Easy to clean and maintain, soft and comfortable to walk on, antimicrobial, natural, and safe, a hardwood floor will add value to your home and make it feel inviting and warm.