Buying Tips

Choosing a type of wood flooring for your home depends ultimately on what you like best. But it can be difficult to determine what you do like best; the options available to you in species, color, and type can be dizzying at first. With these tips we’ll try to simplify it for you to help you choose the hardwood flooring that most fits your needs.

The 3 most important factors in considering cost are: Grade, Width, and Finish

  • Grade – Determined by color consistency and natural characteristics such as knot holes, pin holes, mineral streaks. The cleaner the Grade, the more expensive the wood is.
  • Cut – The most common is plain-sawn. Less common is quarter-sawn or rift-sawn.
  • Finish – You can get hardwood in Unfinished or Prefinished. The advantage of Prefinished is it’s already sanded, sealed, and sometimes stained. Finished products come with longer warranties.

Basics

Hardwood floors are a classic choice: they’ve been a traditional flooring option for many cultures and civilizations for centuries. A practical and decorative choice, to many, hardwood flooring lends a sense of permanence to an interior. The range of options including finish, surface, stain, and species make hardwood a very attractive choice.

There are two methods of hardwood construction:

  • Solid Hardwood is cut directly from the log, milled, sanded, stained and finished.  It can be installed on and above grade level.  ¾” is the standard thickness.  Board lengths are random. In addition, solid hardwood is available unfinished and prefinished.  The advantage of prefinished hardwood is that it is already sanded, sealed, and sometimes stained. Because the finishing process is done in a controlled setting, the products come with longer warranties.
  • Engineered Hardwood is made with cross-ply construction.  The top layer is peeled off the log and glued to additional layers of wood for dimensional stability. Engineered floors can be installed above, on or below grade, in a basement for example.

There are two major styles of wood flooring available:

  • Strip Flooring is a traditional look, with strips ranging from 2-1/4 inches to 3-1/4 inches wide.
  • Plank Flooring offers a wider range of styles including exotics.  These boards are at least three inches wide, but usually larger.

There are so many different species of wood it would be hard to cover all of them so let’s just talk about what’s most popular. Red and White Oak, Maple, and Brazilian Cherry (Jatoba) are the most widely used and represent a good cross section for your consideration.

Red and White Oak: These are the most common choices for wood flooring. Its consistent graining and availability make it an excellent value. GRAIN: Consistent, and sometimes rippled grain pattern. COST: Ranges from $4-6 per square foot.

Maple: It’s slightly harder than oak and has a subtle grain pattern. Because of the lack of pores on the surface, only a few stain options are available. GRAIN: It has a very fine grain pattern. COST: $5-7 per square foot

Brazilian Cherry (Jatoba): This beautiful wood has dark, rich, natural color tones that get darker the older it is. It is one of the only woods that actually improves in appearance as it ages. GRAIN: Has a medium-spaced salmon-colored grain that gets darker with age. COST: $6-8 per square foot.

Hardwood flooring adds a richness to any home. Beyond the just the practical side of durability, structural stability and the added value wood brings, nothing compares with the elegance, warmth and beauty of natural hardwood floors.

Care & Maintenance

Hardwood flooring is a beautiful choice for almost any room in your home or office and can stay that way for decades as long as they’re properly cared for. There are lots of ways to care for your hardwood floor and most of them are preventative.

Dirt, and especially moisture, are natural enemies of a hardwood floor. Even if you choose hardy and durable woods, it is still a good idea to put down rugs on areas that see heavy traffic like door entrances, especially during periods of inclement weather like rain or snow. To prevent slippage, purchase a quality vinyl rug pad – don’t use rubber, foam back or plastic pads as they may discolor your wood floor. You should rearrange the layout of the room from time to time, like the locations of the furniture or rugs. Those types of things block sunlight and since exposure to sunlight’s UV rays affects the coloring of your floor over time, if the layout is the same for many years, you could get inconsistent coloring. It might even appear that the areas under the furniture or rugs are discolored. Carpet runners with non-skid pads are also good to reduce damage in high traffic areas.

Wood flooring is susceptible to natural expansion and contraction depending upon varying humidity levels throughout the year. You could never completely eliminate this, but to minimize it try to maintain a normal indoor relative humidity level of 40-60% year round. Dryer air can cause excessive shrinking of your wood floor. A humidifier is one of the best tools you can use to prevent this, especially during the winter months or if you use a wood stove or electric heat. Concurrently, during periods of excessively damp air, wood tends to expand. You can maintain proper humidity levels with an air conditioner, dehumidifier, or even periodically turning on your heat during the summer months.

For some finishes, light damp mopping does the trick – see your manufacturer’s instructions for more specific guidelines. Do not clean or wet mop your hardwood floor with water as it can dull the finish and damage the floor permanently. And never use a wax or cleaner that must be mixed with water, such as an oil soap, as this may totally ruin your floor and you could even lose your warranty. Don’t use wax, polish, or abrasive cleaners or scouring powders like Comet, and never under any circumstances use steel wool.

To keep normal amounts of dirt off of your floor, sweep them often with a soft, fine bristle broom. You also should vacuum them once or twice a week, especially if you live on or near a beach where excessive amounts of sand can be tracked in. Again, use a soft brush attachment to minimize scratching. If it gets wet, get rid of that water right away! Remove those spills immediately using a soft towel or wet/dry vacuum, then dry it thoroughly. This is especially important with wood floors with a urethane finish.

Check to see what the manufacturer’s recommendation is for a “no wax” cleaner on your urethane-finished floor and use that in conjunction with a clean cloth to rub into spills. Some stains can be stubborn and those may require additional scrubbing with an appropriate scrub pad. You should never apply wax to a urethane floor topically. Periodically clean it by applying a recommended cleaner to a dampened sponge mop, not the floor itself. Do not allow puddles of cleaner to linger on the floor’s surface, get them up right away!

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