verything you need to know about hardwood flooring
Buying a hardwood floor is an important decision and
ignificant investment. In order to choose the type of flooring
that’s right for you, it’s important to know your needs and
preferences in terms of design, wood species, durability,
technologies and maintenance, and the many other advantages
hardwood flooring provides.
This guide will take you through
the various types and quality options to help you choose a
flooring that’s everything you want it to be.
Hardwood offers many well-known advantages. It’s natural,
eautiful, warm, and easy to maintain. It costs about as
much as other high quality floor coverings, but it lasts
dozens of years. It also creates a healthy environment,
minimizing the risks of dust allergies.
Available in many styles with a wide variety of features,
hardwood flooring can complement any decor. Hardwood
enhances a home’s interior and adds much to its resale value.
Take the time to compare the many possible floor coverings
and consider their benefits over the long term. Think about
the feel you want to give your home. Avoid imitations —
especially wood-look laminates. Natural is beautiful! Above all,
choose wood because you love it’
s warm, classical beauty.
Technologies of wood flooring
There are three main technologies of hardwood flooring on the market:
All wood flooring, regardless of width or length, that is one
piece of hardwood from top to bottom is considered solid
Unfinished solid hardwood flooring is sold in the form of
These low-cost boards are generally easy
to install, but finishing the surface is more complicated
and has to be done on site. You have to pay for finishing
on top of the cost of the wood. F
or quality results, you
should hire a highly skilled professional to sand and stain
the floor, then to apply three or four coats of varnish. This
technique is less and less common, and contractors that
use it are becoming harder to find.
Because of sanding dust and fumes from the varnish,
residents have to find someplace else to stay while their
floors are being finished, which can take three to five days.
When prefinished, solid hardwood is sold as ready-to-install
wood boards that are already sanded, stained, and finished
in an ideal, controlled environment. A full array of wood
species are available in a
range of grades, colors,
sizes, and shines to
blend with any decor.
Prefinished solid hard-
wood is quick and
easy to install, and
the residents don’t
have to leave home
prefinished engineered hardwood flooring is sold as boards
made up of a hardwood surface (called the wear layer) glued
on a plywood base. D
eveloped for installation in areas with
variable humidity levels, engineered flooring is more stable
than solid wood. The boards can be glued directly onto
concrete, an acoustic underlay, or even a subfloor with a
floor heating system. They can also be stapled to a plywood
This is the perfect floor covering for condominiums,
basements, and commercial uses.
The quality of an engineered wood floor can be determined
by looking at four factors: the thickness of the wear layer,
the number of plies that the plywood is made of, the surface
cutting procedure used, and the precision of the cut.
The wear layer should be at least 5/32" (4 mm) thick to offer
the same resanding possibilities as solid wood. For greater
stability, the plywood should be at least 5 ply. The wood
should be dry sawn rather than rotary peeled or slice cut
since only dry sawing produces
a high quality, natural-looking
Glueless engineered hardwood
This flooring consists of boards of real hardwood
with a high density fiber (HDF) core and a fastening
system at each end. These so-called “floating”
floors get their name because they don’t need glue,
nails, or staples.
As they can be installed quickly
and easily, they represent a practical and elegant
means of owning a genuine hardwood floor that
has the added advantage of being moveable.
Quality recognition a trick
It would be easy to believe that all hardwood floors are the same. There are so many brands and manufacturers of flooring
on the market, and all promise quality. But if you learn what really constitutes quality, you’ll know what you’re looking at and
you’ll see that only a few brands remain.
Dare to compare…
Lay down a few boards and assemble them. The tongues
and grooves should fit perfectly and easily together. Check
the floor yourself for uniformity by running your hand over
the surface to make sure it’s even, indicating a precise cut.
Irregular spacing between the boards leaves room for dirt
Know how to recognize unusual imperfections. It’s normal
and even pleasant to see some healthy knots and mineral
marks in the wood. These characteristics don’t affect the
quality of the floor, and actually make it look more real.
However, some manufacturers let a percentage of
manufacturing or finishing defects slip through,
reducing the quality of the final product.
The quality and durability of a finish is not determined
by the number of coats, but rather by the quality of the
material and the application procedure used. Applying
a protective coat in factory and drying it under ultraviolet
light is a popular method that has proven its worth. There
are ways to tell whether a product has a good factory
finish. For example, the stain should reach to the bottom
of the joint to ensure a uniform color. Finish should also
be applied in the joints so they don’t absorb dirt and
water, which would quickly darken. Make sure the
color is consistent from one box to another.
Lighter woods are more likely to change color or turn
yellow from the effect of intense light or the sun’s rays.
To reduce and slow discoloration, some manufacturers
mix a UV treatment directly into their finish.
An antimicrobial agent can also be added to the finish.
This treatment provides a more hygienic environment
and a floor that is easier to clean.
Once assembled, prefinished hardwood floor boards form
a “V” joint. The V joint should be as small and as uniform
as possible to hide imperfections in the subfloor. This will
also prevent premature wear on board edges and make
it easier to move furniture without damaging the wood
or the finish. If the joint is too deep, dirt and dust will
accumulate and your floor will be harder to maintain.
Varnish applied after installation are much less wearresistant
than factory finishes, and only the application
is guaranteed. Prefinished floors, on the other hand,
are finished with multiple coatings
applied in ideal conditions and
dried under ultraviolet light,
and are generally guaranteed
for 15, 25, or 30 years.
These finishes are exceptionally
durable. If you
follow the maintenance
procedures, they will
last far beyond
A stained floor gives a unique feel to each room. But be sure to select stains that will match different decors, since your
wood floor will outlast any trend in home fashion.
With prefinished hardwood floors, you can choose to install different colored
boards to frame a room or accent a particular feature of your decor in a
Each species of wood has its own grain, color, and veining. Your choice of
species depends on your personal preferences and the effect you want to
achieve. The most popular species are oak and maple, followed by birch,
ash, beech, cherry, and walnut. Exotic, deluxe woods are also available,
such as Brazilian cherry, mahogany, sapele and tigerwood, which are
very warm in color and extremely hard.
For home use, the hardness factor is not really a serious issue. It is also
important not to choose a species from pictures — ask to see a sample.
There are three main glosses on the market:
A very bright, smooth finish that tends to highlight scratches
or marks of any kind and makes dirt and dust more visible.
This medium-bright finish is the standard for prefinished
Low gloss: More and more popular, low gloss finish minimizes the appearance
of scratches and marks. It stays looking new longer than glossy finishes.
Grading is a means of rating boards according to variations
in the wood’s natural color. For example, “select & better”
grade woods are more uniform in color than “exclusive”
or “traditional” grade, which presents greater, more
pronounced natural color variation.
To understand the grading system, compare two samples
of the same species with different grades. Also ask to
compare a number of boards from the same box to check
the grading and manufacturing. For some manufacturers,
products graded in the third category are not guaranteed
and may have manufacturing and finishing defects.
Your wood flooring should ideally be installed in
opposite direction of your subfloor joists. But you
should also consider the shape and size of the room.
For example, installing the boards lengthwise may
make a long room look even longer, and it may be
more flattering to lay the boards diagonally. If you
like an original look but still have more traditional
tastes, try a “herringbone” design.
Boards are generally available in standard widths of 2-1/4", 2-1/2", and 3-1/4". Wider widths are becoming more and more
popular, some up to 5" in width. Your choice will depend on the effect you want to create. Narrower boards make a room
look longer, while wider boards make it appear shorter. Remember, however, that a tight grained wood like maple expands
more with humidity, which may make narrower boards preferable for some uses.
Installing a hardwood floor usually requires much more than just prefinished
hardwood boards. You’ll surely need edgings, stair nosings, and moldings to
join with the walls. Make sure you can get these basic accessories in the same
stain and gloss as your flooring. Ask retailers if they have all the accessories
needed for the complete installation of a prefinished hardwood floor.
Don’t hesitate to hire a professional. Remember, your
floor may last a hundred years. Invest judiciously in proper
installation so you’ll be fully satisfied with the result.
Your floor’s worst enemies are water, soap, and sand.
Don’t use a wet mop or commercial soaps. All you need
is a damp cloth, or use the care products recommended
by the manufacturer, and vacuum regularly.
Unlike other floor coverings, wood is a living material. That
means you have to be particularly careful of the humidity
level in your home before, during, and after installation.
To avoid stressing your floor, you should always keep the
average relative humidity level at about 45%.
Choosing a retailer
As this guide has shown you, a number of variables
come into play when choosing a hardwood floor. But
equally important is finding out about the various
retailers and choosing wisely. Buy your hardwood floor
from a specialist — one who not only sells flooring, but
can also give you advice and help you complete your
project according to your priorities and budget.
There’s more to a successful project than just knowing what kinds of hardwood floors are available on the market. Make
sure you actually see a large representative sample (color, grade, and species). Don’t be afraid to ask your retailer if you
can compare products, open boxes of boards, and try assembling a few. Touch the surface of the wood to make sure the
boards are uniform and that they’re well manufactured and finished. Many hardwood floors may look alike, but in terms
of performance, few compare.
Now look at the following criteria and start personalizing your purchase.
1 What type of home do you live in?
If you live in a single family home, find out if your
subfloor is made of wood or concrete. In a condo, special
installation is required for proper soundproofing. Ask your
condo association for the recommended soundproofing
standards and consult a flooring specialist.
2 What kind of furniture is in the room, and what style of decor?
Is there already wood in the room? Are there a lot of
furnishings, or just a few? What shades are they? In a
new home, the ambiance you’re looking for will largely
influence your choice of wood species, grade, color, and
finish. Consult an interior designer.
3 What rooms are you planning to floor?
Sketch out the rooms where you want to install your
hardwood floor. Indicate the areas of the rooms and make
note of stairways, closets, and any obstacles that will
require special fitting. Find out what kind of subfloor you
have and in what direction the joists run. In a basement,
engineered flooring is the best choice.
4 How many people live in your home?
The more people there are, the greater the traffic and the
more durable your finish needs to be. If you have young
children or pets, a low gloss finish would be better since
it minimizes the appearance of scratches.
5 Who should you have install your floor?
You can hire flooring installation specialists who guarantee
their work. Good retailers can guide you.
6 Find out about your expert retailer’s services
• Does your retailer have a good product and accessory
• How are products delivered? How long will it take?
• Does your retailer offer an installation service?
• Can you get maintenance products and the
manufacturer’s maintenance guide?
• What do you know about the retailer’s and
7 Ask about the retailer’s experience and reputation.
• How many years has it been in business?
• Is it an authorized dealer of the brand you want to buy?
• Do you know anyone who has bought from the company
and would recommend it?
• Can the retailer provide references? (Ask to see photos
or videos of its work.)
• Is the estimate you received detailed and exact?
• Can the retailer explain the technical aspects of installing
a hardwood floor?
Make the right choice!
This purchase guide provides all the information you
need to make a wise choice in your hardwood flooring
purchase. When you’re shopping around, always remember
these three basic principles:
• Good planning will save you unpleasant and costly
• A knowledgeable, expert retailer will provide sound
advice and successful results.
• Purchasing a quality product will save you worries
and give you peace of mind for years to come.
If you respect these principles, you’re sure to make the
best choice based on your priorities, and you’ll know
you’ve made a long term investment in the product
that will give you the best
value for your dollar.
a hardwood floor only
once in your life.