There are different types of flooring from hardwood, stone, vinyl to carpet and terrazzo. Hardwood is considered a high-quality option for its characteristics. It is durable and resistant to dust and debris. It can also last a lifetime if properly maintained. All hardwood is not created equal and choosing the best flooring is not a matter of colour preferences or aesthetics alone. Hardwood allows plenty of scope for creativity with different finishes, textures, and hardness ratings for the chosen flooring. Natural wood is versatile and perfect for every room in your home, except for basement and bathroom.
In this post, we’ll discuss about the different aspects of hardwood flooring and how to choose the best among them. The history of this flooring, how it is made and the types available are factors to consider for before buying hardwood flooring.
- Origin of hardwood flooring
Way before the discovery of the New World, the Royals were the first to enjoy wooden flooring. Back then, the procedure of acquiring hardwood was time-consuming and laborious. They were hand-scraped and sanded. Wooden flooring became increasingly common during the Colonial Era. During 1800-1945, wood flooring was widely used and came from local species of trees. They were assembled in the simplest manner. However, after World War II, hardwood flooring experienced a decline in demand as cheaper flooring alternatives were introduced. The demand for hardwood flooring has revived in recent times for its sophistication and timeless appeal.
- Making of solid hardwood floorboards
The trees are cut into logs and depending on the quality, their usage is determined. The planks are made from single wood piece and levelled first. Tongue and groove edges are cut using respective machines. Logs with tight grain and fewer knots are used for cutting out planks for flooring. There are different varieties of cutting methods that create different grain patterns. The logs are cut into three main patterns- rift sawn, quarterly sawn, and plain sawn. The final product can have different types of finish or can be left unfinished as well which has a different appeal.
Types of finishes
Hardwood flooring can be pre-finished, or site finished. There are different types of finish for hardwood and each finish has certain benefits and characteristics. From oil penetrates, oil-like hybrids, to site finished polyurethane and prefinished UV cured urethane finish, the choices are varied.
- Oil penetrates imparts a soft, matte and natural look to the wood planks. While it is comparatively more prone to scratches, the scratches on such floorboards are less noticeable. Soft oil finish is easier to maintain, and you can touch up the problematic areas on a spot-by-spot.
- Polyurethane is a hard layer of top coat on the wood surface. It is resilient to wear and tear and suitable for homes with high traffic, pets and children. While doesn’t get scratched easily, refinishing it is difficult once it gets scratched. The board has to be replaced or an entire section of the floor has to be rebuffed and refinished.
- Pre-finished or finished wood is already treated and ready to install wood planks. These floorboards have less of a chance of being stained or discoloured. They can be quickly installed and walked on readily. You can refinish and sand them from time to time when needed. They are expensive but worth the money in the long run.
- Unfinished wood does not have the gloss and sheen of finished wood but is good enough to be installed. It comes directly from the mill and can be installed easily. Being unfinished, it can be customized easily.
Types of natural wood
Hardwood planks are made from different species of trees which are known for their hardness and durability. Cherry, walnut, oak, maple, hickory, ash, Douglas fir, teak, birch and pine are generally used for high-grade hardwood flooring.
- Cherry is a popular variety of hardwood flooring, American cherry being the most popular. The reddish and pink hue of this wood imparts a bright look to the room. It is a soft hardwood but still can retain dimensional stability.
- American walnut is the most commonly used variant of walnut wood that is widely used for its versatility. It has a rich brown colour and has high resistance to light damage, but it is a soft hardwood and hence, not suitable for rooms with heavy traffic.
- Oak is noted for its classic timeless look and mid-range hardness. It is perfectly suitable for traditional style homes. It can withstand heavy traffic but is prone to scraping. Using padding under furniture helps to avoid such damage.
- Maple is one of the most distinctive types of flooring, set apart by its grain pattern. It is light coloured and has a uniform texture. Maple is noted for its durability and it is one of the hardest flooring available. It is one of the affordable but standard grades of hardwood.
- Hickory is known for its extreme durability. It is one of the hardest wood types available and is perfect for log cabins and rustic style homes. But its hardness makes it difficult to cut and thus increases the installation cost. Its durability makes it a good choice for homes with high traffic.
- Ash wood is light coloured with unique active wood grains. The wood is of medium hardness but hard enough to withstand high traffic. It is very suitable for hand scraped floors and versatile with different stains. However, it needs high maintenance and gets dirty easily.
- Douglas fir has a very uniform appearance. It is one of the softest type of hardwood meaning it gets damaged easily if not maintained regularly. However, it is cheap compared to the average price of hardwood.
- Teak is an exotic tree that is highly durable. It has a natural shine and finish which is unique. Many people leave the teak flooring unfinished and let it age naturally. It is also one of the most expensive variants since it has to be exported.
- Birch is an affordable hardwood variant but functional and appealing at the same time. However, it is a very soft wood which is susceptible to dents and scratches. It is best suitable for areas with minimum moisture.
- Pine has the most traditional appearance among hardwood flooring. It has a surprisingly rich colour after staining and has a distinct beauty as it ages. It is an environment-friendly hardwood choice though its softness is a drawback. It needs more maintenance to retain the lustre.
Factors to consider when choosing hardwood
There are certain features and characteristics that you must consider when choosing hardwood flooring. These will help you determine the grade and type of wood that would be best suited for your home in terms of aesthetics and functionality.
The type of hardwood you choose can influence the temperature and sound control of the room. In this way, the flooring can be energy efficient and save money on your bills for heating and cooling your house.
The hardness of the wood determines the durability. Choose hardwood species that are durable so that they can withstand high traffic.
- Extra flooring
Make sure that you order 10 percent more flooring materials than what is required. There can be wastage from cutting and to fit certain corners. Extra floorboards on hand will prevent delay in installation due to material shortage.
Make sure that you choose a hardwood species that is easier to maintain. Most hardwood flooring can be taken care of with minimal sweeping and mopping while others have to be restrained and sanded over time.
The quality of the wood and its hardness decides the price per square foot. Determine your budget first and the square footage you need to cover and then choose the flooring that meets your criteria within the budget.
- Plank width
Different plank widths are available. While most people opt for 2-3-inch-wide planks, you can also get larger and wider planks as well. Floors composed of wider planks have fewer seams which look luxurious and elegant. However, wider planks are more expensive.
Do ensure the subfloor type is suitable for hardwood installation. This can be determined by the professionals who are supplying the floorboards. You will also find a list of suitable subfloors within the user manual for the floorboards.
There are different categories of hardwood flooring in terms of species, thickness, wood hardness and overall looks. The abundant choices can be confusing at times. When you have the right guidance regarding the features of the various types of hardwood, you can easily make the right choices. The designers and experts working with the floorboard suppliers can also guide you with on a choice that will blend well with your home.