Hardwood

Hardwood floors are a popular option that continues to increase in popularity. In addition to creating a rich, warm appearance, hardwood floors are also an investment that will last the life of the home. In this first part of hardwood floors, we wanted to provide information specific to types of hardwood, as well as finishes and species.

Solid Hardwood

First, you could choose solid hardwood floors, which means that one piece is milled from lumber. This type of hardwood is available in a variety of widths, usually starting at 2.5 inches, and going up to 5 inches. The thickness of solid hardwood floor also varies, going from 3/4 to 5/16 of an inch. If you were interested in solid wood, keep in mind that dramatic temperature and/or moisture changes can cause shrinkage or expansion.

Engineered Wood

Another possibility is engineered wood, which means that real wood is used but rather than being one piece, as you would find with solid hardwood, the floor is comprised of 3 to 10 layers. Generally, the top layer is between 1/16 and 1/6 of an inch while the overall thickness ends up being from 1/4 to 3/4 inches. Because engineered wood has multiple layers, it is actually a more stable choice.

Finished

When purchasing hardwood flooring, you have a choice of finished or prefinished. A site-finished floor means that the wood is delivered to your home where it is sanded, stained or painted, and finished. While you might pay a little less for the wood itself, labor is often more expensive. In addition, this type of wood means you end up dealing with dust, fumes, and so on.

Prefinished

Prefinished hardwood is wood completely finished prior to being shipped to your home. Therefore, you do not have to worry about the mess of flying dust or unwanted odors. Another benefit is that site-finished wood has to sit for about two weeks to acclimate to your home whereas prefinished wood does not. In this case, the wood generally sits for a few days and then is ready to install. The final consideration is that warranties are better for prefinished floors since there is better control over the wood at the factory than at your home.

Species

Finally, we wanted to talk about the different species you might consider for hardwood floors. Every species offers something unique such as color, texture, pattern, and durability. For instance, maple has a cleaner grain whereas oak is far more pronounced. In addition to favorites such as oak, pecan, walnut, birch, ash, maple, and cherry, you could also choose from a number of exotic species. Some of the most popular include bamboo, kona, kempas, Brazilian cherry, cabreuva, and jatoba.

As discussed in the first part of hardwood floors, you have some wonderful options as far as style, finish, and species. However, the decision to go with hardwood floors goes beyond this information. We wanted to cover the best rooms for using hardwood flooring, life expectancy, and proper care and maintenance.

Rooms

Although you will find hardwood floors in bathrooms and kitchens, you want to be careful in making this decision. Because of the high moisture content and risk of water spill, most people will choose laminated hardwood floor for these rooms. Therefore, if you are set on purchasing solid or engineered hardwood, we strongly recommend you avoid placement in the kitchen or bathroom.

Now, both solid and engineered hardwood flooring can be used in literally any other room of the home. However, if you want to place hardwood in the basement, you definitely want to stick with engineered wood, which is recommended for below grade. If you have hardwood flooring installed in a room with heavy traffic, it would be best to use throw or area rugs for protection.

Life Expectancy

If you buy quality wood, whether solid or engineered, the floor is a lifetime investment. When these floors are cared for properly, they will last the life of the house. Now, some species of woods or the placement of hardwood could result in damage. If the damage is only a minor scratch or dent, you might be able to sand it out and refinish that area of the floor but if the damage is more significant, part of the floor may need professional attention or completely replacement.

Today, most prefinished hardwood floors are given a lifetime warranty specific to structural integrity. As far as the actual finish on the hardwood, warranties would go anywhere from three to twenty-five years, depending on species and manufacturer. Remember, going with site-finished flooring usually reduces the warranty time by 50%.

Care and Maintenance

Then for the care and maintenance of hardwood floors, you might be surprised to learn it is not as complex as many people think. All you need to do is provide the floor an occasional sweeping and it will stay looking beautiful. If you want to clean the floor with commercial cleaner, always check with the manufacturer for recommendations. Never use dusting spray, ammonia, or non-suggested cleaning products.

Sometimes, solid and engineered hardwood designed with a top layer of 1/10 of an inch or more can become dented or scratched. In this case, you could have the floor complete sanded and finished, making it look brand new. Another benefit to sanding and finishing is that you could always choose a different stain color, giving your home an entirely new look.