• Hardwood Flooring Basics

    Posted on November 8, 2011 by in Wood Flooring Facts

    Beyond Tradition: the Hardwood Flooring Advantage

    Hardwood flooring is looked upon by many as the flooring option that lends a sense of permanence to an interior. Whether it’s a residential interior, or an office installation, hardwood flooring adds an air of class, as well as structural strength. For these reasons, hardwood flooring remains to be a classic choice. It is a flooring option that has the advantage of tradition behind it; many cultures and civilizations have used hardwood flooring, and have done so for centuries. But, there are reasons beyond those of tradition that make hardwood flooring a practical and decorative choice.

    One of the most attractive attributes of hardwood flooring is the range of options open to you in terms of finish, surface, stain, and species. All of these aspects play a very important role in determining the look of your flooring. With all of these choices, hardwood flooring is known to make for a unique effect in each interior. To this point, an advantage you will experience will most likely be all of the compliments you’ll get because of your hardwood flooring for years to come.

    Pre-finished and Unfinished Hardwood Flooring

    Hardwood flooring can be purchased in either prefinished or unfinished varieties and there are distinct advantages in both. For pre-finished hardwood flooring, the obvious advantage is that of convenience. No sanding is required for these types of hardwood floors, and therefore more time is saved on preparation as well a mess; sanding a hardwood floor involves both. Also, no time must be allowed for the finish on your hardwood flooring to dry, a period which can take a half a day to longer, depending on the kind of finish you use.

    As far as unfinished hardwood flooring goes, the most compelling advantage is that of a more uniform seal. This is the reason why many professionals offer unfinished hardwood flooring to clients; it is easier to make sure that all of the minute gaps between the hardwood flooring boards are sealed when finish is applied on the whole surface of the flooring, and not on a board-by-board basis. This means extra protection against moisture, the hardwood floor’s most dangerous enemy. In this sense, all of the preparation and mess is worth the effort.

    Hardwood Flooring Surfaces and Stains

    The diversity of hardwood flooring extends not only to finish, but also in the range of surfaces and choices in stain available to the customer. Some hardwood flooring is planed evenly at the mill, offering a smooth, refined surface that many consumers have come to admire in hardwood flooring. But another variety of hardwood flooring that is becoming popular with flooring professionals and homeowners is that of the handscraped hardwood flooring. In this case, the hardwood plank is actually worked by hand to create a contoured, seasoned surface that gives the hardwood flooring a more rustic, lived-in appearance.

    The variations in hardwood flooring are further extended by the variety of stains available as well. Some stains serve to bring out the natural range of color in a chosen species. Others effectively change the color altogether, allowing a consumer to enjoy the benefits offered by one species, while enjoying the color of another. Hardwood flooring is probably one of the more flexible choices with regard to appearance and personal taste.

    Hardwood Flooring: the Luxury of Choice

    Overall, hardwood flooring is not just an option which relies upon tradition, although hardwood flooring has been relied upon for centuries because it is such a durable material. What hardwood flooring offers is the luxury of choice and an ease of integration into an interior design. Along with the advantages of appearance, hardwood is and continues to be a choice in flooring that can add structural strength to a residence or office.

    Popular Species of Hardwood Flooring
    Red and White Oak – These species are naturally pale in color, with hints of pink running through the Red Oak. Both are known for their utility across all kinds of applications. White Oak is known to be slightly harder than red oak, although red oak in turn is slightly easier to saw and nail.
    American Cherry – Used for cabinet making as well as flooring, American Cherry is known to be an attractive species that is very easy to work with. It is not as hard as either red or white oak, but offers a greater tonal range of color that darkens over time to become even more rich in tone, due to photosensitivity.
    Hard Maple – Harder still than oak, the uniform texture of maple as well as its naturally abrasion-resistant surface makes it an excellent choice for hardwood flooring. Early North American settlers relied upon maple for its hardy nature, and it continues to be popular today.
    Brazilian Cherry AKA Jatoba – One of most notable features of this exotic species is its color – a rich, reddish brown that eventually ages into a lustrous burgundy. Another important as aspect of Jataba is how hard it is; it is harder than some species of mahogany. So for look as well as durability, Brazilian Cherry excels.

    Hardwood flooring “Dos” and “Don’ts”

    Do:
    Choose a species of hardwood which will stand up to the type of foot traffic you expect in the area you wish to have it installed
    Consult the terms and conditions of your purchase, including warranty information
    Hire a professional installer if you have little or no experience in installing a hardwood floor. Hiring a professional flooring contractor will spare you the costly mistakes that often characterize installations by the inexperienced
    In the case of an unfinished hardwood flooring option, consult with contractors or local retailers about which finish or stain is most appropriate for your choice of hardwood flooring
    Choose an appropriate moisture barrier to rest between subfloor and hardwood flooring in order to add another level of protection
    Expect color variations, as hardwood is a natural material. This can be to your advantage in terms of design. Open all boxes to view the tonal range in your particular batch and lay out the boards accordingly to suit your personal style
    Allow your hardwood flooring to “acclimate” before you install it. This means opening the boxes of flooring to expose it to the temperature of the area where it is to be installed. Being a natural material, hardwood flooring expands and contracts according to climate
    Use DRY mops and vacuums to keep your new hardwood flooring clear of dirt and dust
    See to your pets – clip their nails, buy water dishes with a wide base to avoid spills, use area rugs or runners in higher pet traffic areas, and look out for “number one” (clean up those “accidents” as soon as they happen!)

    Don’t:
    Install hardwood flooring in an area that will be subject to excessive moisture. This also means avoiding an installation “below grade” (in a basement for instance) or in bathrooms
    Install hardwood flooring in an area that is not environmentally controlled all year long – say, in a cottage or summer home that is not constantly maintained
    Use wax-based cleaners or harsh detergents that will dull the finish of the hardwood flooring
    Use steel wool or any other abrasives to clean a hardwood floor

    Use excessive water when cleaning a hardwood floor
    Walk on your hardwood flooring with athletic spikes or high-heels
    Install hardwood flooring over radiant heat. For this, it is best to consider engineered hardwood flooring which is designed to allow for the temperature variations resulting from radiant heat
    Leave damp rugs on the surface of hardwood flooring for an extended period.

    For a more comprehensive list of dos and don’ts, and for more details in general, it’s always best to talk to the professionals directly. Contractors and sales reps that specialize in hardwood flooring can often serve as excellent resources before, during, and after your hardwood flooring purchase.