Considering that there are many flooring types in the market, the decision on what flooring type to buy can be a bit overwhelming. Your decision to install a hardwood floor is undoubtedly worth it and will give you satisfaction. However, that is just a tip of the iceberg and the beginning of the many decisions you still have to make. There are so many hardwood species that you still need to narrow down your choices to specifics.
You have a choice between colors, wood species, among other choices. The factors that should influence your hardwood flooring buying decision depend on the room you are installing the floor, your budget, your color preferences, among others. For rooms, you should consider how prone a room is to moisture, the foot traffic in the room, whether you have children or pets etc. In this article, we take a look at 10 factors to consider when buying a hardwood floor.
1. Engineered Hardwood vs Solid Hardwood Flooring
Whether to buy solid or engineered hardwood floor depends on the room where you are installing the floor. For rooms that are prone to moisture like a basement or kitchen, you should install engineered hardwood floor. You can pre-finish solid hardwood floors multiple times depending on its thickness, which make them more durable than engineered hardwood floors.
Solid Hardwood Flooring
Solid hardwood floors are a single piece of hardwood consisting of planks or strips. There are three types of solid hardwood floors, namely strip, plank, and solid parquet hardwood flooring. Strip hardwoods are narrow and are usually less than 3 inches wide. Plank hardwoods are wide and are more than 3 inches wide. We also have parquet floors which are floors made in decorative geometric patterns. Strip floors are much cheaper but less dense than plank hardwoods.
Engineered Hardwood Flooring
What is engineered hardwood flooring? Engineered hardwood floors have multiple layers of wood with a hardwood on top and a plywood at the bottom. Usually, the top layer is 100% hardwood, therefore, natural. The engineered hardwood floor thickness will determine how many times you can pre-finish it but it is usually 2-3 times. This is because most engineered hardwood floors have a thin top hardwood layer. As such, they cannot be pre-finished multiple times like solid hardwood floors.
2. Hardwood Flooring Species
For both solid and engineered hardwood floors, there are different types of species. The trees are either domestic or exotic. Examples of domestic woods to the USA are oak, beech, and maple. Examples of exotic tree species are Brazilian cherry, kempas or ipe. The woods differ in grain, hardness, and provenance.
You can choose a species depending on the hardwood of the wood. You can use the Janka hardness scale to do hardwood species comparison. Wood hardness is measured using the Janka wood hardness scale. The woods on the Janka hardness scale are compared to red oak which is the wood industry standard. Did you know that a red oak wood floor can last for ten decades?
Busy rooms with high foot traffic, require the most durable hardwood floor species. For rooms or homes without much traffic or activity can consider buying softer hardwood flooring.
3. Pre-finished vs Unfinished Hardwood Floor (Site Finish)
Pre-finished floors are factory-finished with sanding, staining, and coating. After purchasing a pre-finished floor, it only needs installation on the floor. Therefore, buying pre-finished hardwood floors comes with the convenience of fast installation. Actually, you can move in immediately after the installation. Additionally, pre-finished floors come with a lifetime guarantee from the manufacturer.
For unfinished hardwood floor, sanding, staining, and coating are done on the job site after the installation.
When you install an unfinished hardwood floor, the sanding and pre-finishing process will take some days. You, therefore, should give the process a completion time period before you can move into the premises.
Pre-finished and Unfinished Hardwood floors
Pre-finished floors undergo a process of preservation in the factory. Most manufacturers will sand, stain and then coat it with polyurethane. Additionally, the boards may be oven-baked, a process which creates a hard finish. The disadvantage of pre-finished boards is that they come with beveled edges making the floor uneven after installation. On the other hand, site finished wood has no lines between the hardwood boards, which make the floor flat and smooth.
There are also fewer messes with pre-finished floors and less exposure to chemicals. The sanding process produces dust, and after that chemicals application is necessary at the job site.
Also, unfinished hardwood floors have more natural look than pre-finished hardwood floor. The grain patterns on pre-finished woods are less conspicuous. Generally, it is less warm than unfinished floors.
It is also easier to customize an unfinished hardwood floor and apply stains that are unique. You can easily get a professional to do the color you prefer. You only need an expert craftsman to do that. However, when buying pre-finished hardwood floor, you have to go with what is on offer in the factory.
Although pre-finished flooring costs are higher than buying unfinished hardwood floors when sanding, staining and coating costs are added, they become more costly. Therefore, the overall costs of pre-finished floors are usually less than the cost of unfinished hardwood floors.
4. Grain Pattern
Wood grain patterns differ depending on how the wood was cut and wood species. In this regard, there are three types of grains, namely curly, straight, and flat grain.
5. Plank Length, Width, and Thickness
Hardwood floors come in a variety of lengths widths and thickness. Wide planks are easier to install than narrow strips. Most wide planks are denser and are made from the heartwood of a tree and maybe more sturdy than narrow wood strips.
The thickness of the hardwood floor determines its wear layer. The wear layer is the top layer; the surface that is exposed to foot traffic. The thicker the wear layer, the more durable is the floor. Ideally, you should consider hardwoods floors with a wear layer that is more than 3/16 inches.
A hardwood floor with a thick wear layer provides more opportunities for sanding and pre-finishing. Although thick floors have more upfront costs, because they are more expensive to buy, they have a longer lifespan than thin hardwood floors.
6. Distressed Solid Hardwood Flooring vs Smooth Floors?
Distressed hardwood flooring is finished in a unique way. The hardwood floors are artistic with enhanced texture. The wood floor has antiques and character giving it a reclaimed look. Causes of distressed hardwood include sculpting, hand-scraping, wire brushing, and aging. While smooth floors are the typical new floors that are either pre-finished or unfinished.
7. Reclaimed Solid Hardwood Flooring vs New Wood
What is reclaimed hardwood flooring? Reclaimed hardwood flooring comes from recycled wood salvaged from old homes, abandoned structures, barns, old warehouses, and commercial buildings. The woods are then shaped into flooring materials. Because the wood is recycled, it is an eco-friendly flooring option.
8. Hardwood Floor Finishes
Whether you are pre-finishing your hardwood floor after decades of use or installing a new unfinished hardwood floor, you choose choose a floor finish. There are different types of finishes differing with durability, cost, and glossiness. You should choose a topcoat depending on your aesthetic preferences.
9. Natural Colors Vs. Stained Colors
Wood species vary by hardness, grain patterns, and color. Hardwood natural colors are dark, light-colored and moderate, neither dark or light. When buying a hardwood floor, consider the natural colors of different species and choose a color that you prefer.
You should choose dark colors if your space is well-lit. However, scratches are more noticeable on dark floors. Dark woods include mahogany and walnut. You can use light-colored hardwoods like pine, poplar, and birch to brighten a room. They are also good at hiding scratches. Medium colored woods include oak, hickory, and cherry.
You should only consider staining a hardwood floor if you can’t get it in the natural form. Stains change the color of hardwoods and make the grain patterns more conspicuous. Noteworthy, different species of hardwoods accept stains differently. Therefore, it is advisable to get a professional to do the staining of the hardwood for you. With staining or wood painting, you can achieve hues that are not natural to wood like green, gray or blue.
10. Floating Vs Fixed Hardwood Floors
When buying a new hardwood floor for your home, you have two main installation methods to choose from, namely floating or fixed. Fixed floors are nailed or glued to the sub-floor using different mechanisms used in the flooring industry.
Floating is a method of installing floors without nailing or gluing the floor to the sub-floor. It is a common method of installing laminate floors although innovators have devised hardwood floating floors. Before installation, the sub-floor or substrate should be flat.
The boards are engineered for gluing or snapping together in a similar manner to how a jigsaw puzzle operates. As such, the wood pieces are attached to others but not to the sub-floor.
Floating floors are easy to install and a favorite among DIY enthusiasts.