Your Basic Guide to Hardwood Flooring: What You Need to Know
Flooring lasts, so be certain you choose the right kind when renovating or constructing your home. After all, it impacts the space’s style and adds character.
Hardwood has always been a favourite flooring choice, although its protection and maintenance will depend on the type of wood you pick. But not all hardwood flooring is equal, and there’s a lot more to choosing the type than picking your preferred colour.
Here, we outline the factors you need to be aware of before picking hardwood flooring for your home.
Do You Want Solid or Engineered Hardwood Flooring?
Traditionally, hardwood floors consisted of solid timber planks. Today, you can also find engineered hardwood planks that have a thin top layer of hardwood bonded to other layers made from different materials.
Let’s consider the benefits and challenges of each to decide which is best suited to your home.
Solid Hardwood Flooring
- It can be refinished many times which is why it can last for decades.
- It can be installed over a wood subfloor. Since it requires nailing, it can’t be installed on a concrete substrate.
- It can warp when exposed to high humidity and residual moisture so is unsuitable for basements.
- Since each board is nailed on the edges, the wood can swell at the seams, creating a cupped depression at the center.
- If at the time of installation the moisture in the flooring was higher, it can shrink and create gaps between the seams after it dries.
Engineered Hardwood Flooring
- It is made of many thin layers of compressed resin, wood, and polymers. It is then topped with a layer of hardwood.
- You can install it over a different type of flooring since it is snapped together via grooves on the side of the planks.
- The resin and polymer in engineered hardwood can withstand high moisture and humidity, so can be installed in the basement.
- Not all engineered hardwood can be refinished. Some brands can only be refinished once or twice.
- It comes prefinished.
Should You Choose Unfinished or Prefinished Hardwood Floors?
Until recently, the only option was unfinished hardwood flooring. After installation, a durable satin finish was applied to protect the surface. Today, hardwood also comes prefinished, with pre-applied topcoats and stains. So, which should you pick?
- Because it’s sanded after installation, there’s no discrepancy in the board height.
- You can get the stain mixed to your liking at the store and have it applied over the installed flooring to customize the colour.
- Unfinished hardwood flooring is finished in various phases. It is installed, sanded, stained, and then finished, so takes time to install.
- The process often produces potentially toxic fumes and creates a mess.
- The cost of materials is less than that of finished hardwood, while the extra labour will cost you more.
- It cannot be customized.
- The cost of materials is higher but installation is comparatively cheap.
- It doesn’t produce dust or toxic fumes.
- It often comes with a warranty.
What Species of Wood Should You Pick?
Hardwood comes in many species, and your pick should be based on durability, colour tone, wood grain patterns, among other considerations.
That includes hardness. The Janka rating is the industry standard for determining the hardness of wood. The higher the rating, the harder and more durable the wood.
Oak has two distinct types: red and white.
With a Janka rating of 1290, red oak comes is suitable for most of your flooring needs. It comes in a wide range of warm colours ranging from creamy pink to rusty brown and golden brown. Its swirl grain pattern is graceful and can vary a little in colour and pattern with every board.
White oak has a Janka rating of 1360. Its cool hues have a gray undertone and no hint of red. Its fine grain pattern and colour vary only slightly, creating a smooth effect. It is a good choice for high traffic areas.
Cherry hardwood flooring is loved for its smooth grains and warm brown hues. With a Janka rating of only 950, it is only suitable for areas with light traffic, and if exposed to sunlight will darken over time. Installing wide boards will show off its elegant grain pattern.
Walnut hardwood has large straight grains with deep rich chocolate tones. So, if you like a little drama or sophistication, this hardwood flooring (Janka rating, 1010) is the perfect fit for areas with medium to light foot traffic. Colours vary only slightly from board to board, so you will get a consistent and smooth look.
Maple has a Janka rating of 1450, so is a perfect choice for any location. It is a light-coloured wood with tan, cream, and beige hues, with a slight reddish tint. Maple has a fine grain pattern, and its occasional specks and dark streaks add visual interest.
With a Janka rating of 1820 (the highest here), hickory creates the most durable hardwood flooring which is why it’s usually the top choice for gyms.
Its mocha tones range from creamy beige with a little hint of red to warm brown with dark brown streaks. Its colour can vary significantly from board to board, making it a good choice for a rustic or country look.
Hardwood Installation Guidelines
How you install the floor will depend on the hardwood flooring you have picked. As we’ve mentioned, some types need to be nailed; others don’t. Before you start the installation, read the installation instructions carefully, especially if you’re doing it yourself.
Before you start, let the hardwood acclimate by sitting for a few days. This allows the material to adjust to climatic conditions. Not doing so is one of the most common mistakes people make when installing hardwood floors.
Now, you’ll need to prep the area where you want the hardwood installed. If you are installing over an existing floor, make sure it doesn’t prevent the doors from closing and opening. If you are installing over an existing wood floor, don’t sand surfaces with asbestos or those coated in lead-based paint or finish. Measure your room properly and keep an extra 5% hardwood flooring in case you need it.
There are many factors to consider when installing hardwood flooring. To keep things simple, let our experts do the job perfectly so your floor looks exactly the way you want it to.