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Buyer’s Guide to Hardwood FloorsNovember 11th, 2019 by
Hardwood floors are beautiful, durable, and easy to clean. These benefits come at a higher price than other hard-surface flooring options, but the longevity and style of wood flooring can be worth it.
Hardwood floors come in a range of styles and species. There are strips, planks, and parquet styles, and colors ranging from gray to deep red, depending on the species and stain you choose. Since there are so many options, there’s something out there to suit almost any space and taste.
Types of Hardwood Floors
Solid hardwood vs. engineered hardwood
When you’re shopping, you’ll need to choose between solid and engineered hardwood.
Traditional hardwood flooring, or solid hardwood, comes in planks of solid wood. Solid hardwood floors can be refinished multiple times. While more costly than engineered hardwood, being able to refinish the floor will make it last longer.
Engineered hardwood has a layer of hardwood on top of other materials that are designed to restrict the natural expansion and contraction of the wood. Engineered hardwood looks great and has a lower price than solid hardwood, but it can’t always be refinished like solid hardwood can, depending on the thickness of the top hardwood layer.
Species of wood flooring
Many different tree species are made into hardwood flooring. Each species has special characteristics, including grain pattern, color, and hardness.
Species can be divided into two main categories: domestic and exotic.
- Domestic species include oak, cherry, birch, and maple.
- Exotic species include Brazilian cherry, tigerwood, Australian cypress, and teak.
Wood flooring widths
Hardwood planks come in a variety of widths, with the normal range being from two to seven inches. Wider planks means fewer seams in the floor as well as a higher cost. Look at samples with different widths to determine your preferences.
Wood floor stains
Wood floor stains soak into the surface of the hardwood, changing the color of the wood while still allowing the grain of the wood to be visible.
Other surface treatments include bleaching and distressing. Bleaching lightens hardwood floors with chemicals. Distressing floors involves a variety of methods to make the wood look older than it is. Methods include staining and then bleaching, as well as scraping, scratching, and denting the floor to give it more character.
Hardwood floor finishes
There are unfinished and prefinished wood flooring options, depending on your preferences.
- Unfinished flooring is stained and finished after installation. If you’d like to customize the look of your floor with a particular stain, perhaps to match your existing floor, then choose unfinished wood flooring.
- Prefinished floor has been stained and sealed at the factory. The advantage of prefinished flooring is that there are no additional steps to be completed after it’s installed, and there won’t be any odors in your home that come with staining and finishing.
Wood floor finishes are either oil-based or water-based. Oil-based finishes produce more of an odor than water-based finishes, which is something to consider if you are installing unfinished hardwood.
Natural oil finishes, which are made from vegetable oils, are more environmentally friendly and less smelly than oil-based finishes. However, they aren’t as durable as oil- or water-based finishes.
Choosing wood flooring
When you select wood flooring, think about these factors:
- If this type of hardwood flooring goes out of style soon, will that affect how much I like it?
- Does this species of hardwood match the rest of my decor in terms of color and style?
- Does the cost per square foot fit into my budget?
- Is it from a sustainable source?
Installing Hardwood Flooring
Before your professional installers show up, prep the room or rooms where the floor will be installed:
- Move everything out of the room.
- Clear a pathway for the installers from the front door to the room or rooms getting new flooring.
- Make sure the kids and pets will be out of the way during the install.
There are different types of installation methods, depending on the type of flooring and subfloor.
- Nailing involves applying nails to the planks at an angle; the nails are hidden by the next plank installed.
- Stapling is similar to nail installation, but instead uses staples.
- Glue installation involves applying glue to the subfloor and placing the wood planks onto the glue.
- Locking, or floating, installation involves laying down a moisture barrier and installing interlocking planks on top of it.
After your floor is installed, you may need to wait a while before you can walk on it. If you got prefinished flooring, this doesn’t apply.
If you selected unfinished flooring and it was treated with stain and seal in the home, you’ll need to stay off the floor and possibly out of the house for a while. Ask your professional installer ahead of time how long the floor needs to sit undisturbed after the finish is applied.
Caring for Hardwood Floors
To ensure your gorgeous new floor will last a long time, find a professional floor cleaning company to maintain it throughout the years. You’ll also want to find a pro to refinish it every once in a while.
Hardwood floor cleaning
Regular cleanings will help extend the life of your floor. Dust your hardwood floor daily, or at least a couple times a week. Vacuuming or mopping is recommended weekly. Polishing is recommended monthly; it fills in any small scratches on the floor.
Schedule an annual deep cleaning with a floor cleaning professional. They’ll have the right tools and cleaning solutions to thoroughly clean your floors efficiently without damaging the floor.
Additional tips for keeping your floor pristine and clean include:
- Removing shoes when entering the home
- Trimming your pets’ nails
- Keeping outdoor entrances clean so there is less dirt to track in
- Using doormats at entrances
Hire a professional to ensure your floors are refinished properly. They’ll have the right tools and experience to get the job done right.
Your floor refinishing pro will clean your floor, sand down the surface layer, clean the floor again, and then apply the stain and protective treatment. You’ll need to make sure you know how long the floor needs to dry so you can plan accordingly to stay off the floor.
The frequency of refinishing depends on the amount of wear and tear your flooring experiences. If there is significant damage to any planks, like very deep scratches, you may need to replace the plank, as sanding, staining, and sealing won’t fix it.
The Bottom Line
Hardwood floors are a beautiful and valuable addition to any home. Once your flooring has been installed, sit back, relax, and enjoy the new look.
Be sure to care for your investment with yearly professional cleanings and having your floor refinished every few years.