Hardwood Flooring Choices


Hardwood Flooring Choices

Matching your hardwood flooring with your overall style

Your home reflects your style, so should your hardwood flooring

A home mirrors those who live there; it’s a truth of life. What’s over your mantel, under your roof, and throughout your rooms, reflects what you love, who you are, where you’ve been—your style.

And to help you find the hardwood that suits your style, we’ve created this page called Hardwood Flooring Choices.

The number of hardwood colors, textures, choices, patterns, and price points can intimidate even the most experienced shopper.

Knowing the basic styles can provide you with a firm foundation upon which to commence your hardwood-shopping journey.

Here you’ll learn all about a variety of hardwood types on the market today. You’ll discover the beautiful yet practical styles, the elegant and easy-care types—the entire spectrum of hardwood choices available for each home.

Choosing your ideal hardwood style is all about knowing the best combination of performance, aesthetics, and budget that meets the needs of your lifestyle.

Considering the wide variety of design options available today with hardwood floors, you can create a look “all your own” that will have lasting beauty and durability.

For example, inserting decorative medallions, running the boards on the diagonal, or creating a border are just some of the design styles one can consider.

Before you get to the design, you need to select the type of hardwood that’s right for you and your home.

Today you can choose between a site-finished and a pre-finished hardwood floor. Pre-finished hardwood comes ready for installation. The hardwood boards have already been sanded, stained, and finished at the factory level. In many cases, this can provide a harder, better-protected surface.

Pre-finished floors offer a wider variety of wood species and save hours of labor and cleanup.  You get an extended factory finish warranty with pre-finished floors. But site-finished wood floors allow you to have a fully custom floor – you choose the wood species, and when it’s sanded, your stain choice is applied on site. You have a choice of sheens from matte to high gloss with site-finished floors.  With site-finished, you also have the chance to level the surface of the floor after it has been installed. The end result is a smooth surface with no detectable high or low points between the boards as you run your hand across the floor.

To learn more about this, we suggest you go to the hardwood sections entitled Hardwood Construction, Before Your Hardwood Arrives and Before Buying Hardwood. For more on styles, please read on.

Making the Best Out of Hardwood Flooring

Remember, It’s All About Location

To begin with, you need to locate where you plan on installing your new wood floor.

There are limitations on where to install wood floors. This is especially true for the 3/4″ solid wood floors.

Solid hardwood floors are more prone to react to moisture and are generally not recommended for basements, or installing directly onto a concrete slab.  The good news, however, is that engineered hardwood floors can be installed over concrete slabs.

Now Understand Grain and Cut

Hardwood floor styles are the result of the wood species available. Some of the more popular species are red oak, white oak, maple, cherry, white ash, hickory or pecan.

Each species has its unique graining and texture. The graining on the boards is determined by the way it has been cut.

There are two cutting processes. “Sliced Cut,” which shows a more uniform pattern, whereas “Rotary Cut” shows a larger and bolder graining pattern.

Select Color Wisely

Within each species of hardwood, you will have to choose the color and finishes. Here’s where it pays to shop carefully.

When selecting a color, choose one that either contrasts or coordinates with your cabinetry and furniture.

Also, keep in mind that darker woods tend to be more formal, while natural colors are more casual.

Select a Finish That Suits Your Style

Incorporating your style in hardwood flooring.

Hardwood flooring installed in a suite

You should be aware that there are different types of finishes depending on whether your hardwood floor is pre-finished or the job site finished.

In general, lower gloss levels are better suited for active rooms. This is because lower gloss or matte finishes help minimize the appearance of dirt and scratches.

Consider the elegant look of the high gloss finish for a more formal décor.

Yesterday’s Upkeep is a Thing of the Past

The days of having to wax and scrub your hardwood floors are pretty much gone forever. Manufacturers of pre-finished wood floors have developed sophisticated techniques to quickly apply hard, durable, urethane-based finishes right at the factory.

By using ultraviolet lights, the pre-finished wood planks can have several coats of urethane applied within a matter of a few minutes. This is helping make hardwood floors both more affordable and much easier to maintain.

Recently, the hardwood flooring manufacturers have begun to add small chips of Aluminum Oxide directly to the floor’s finish, which dramatically increases the life of the urethane finish.

Floor Protection Wears Many Coats

Most factory-finished hardwood floors have several coats of finish applied to the wood’s surface.

For example, many wood floor companies are applying 6-10 coats of an ultra-violet (UV) cured urethane. This type of finish would be extremely difficult for someone to duplicate on a job site finish.

In addition, factory finishes tend to be more consistent and durable.

This does not mean you should wash your floor with a mop (as a matter of fact, excessive water is not a friend of hardwood), but it does mean these floors won’t watermark like the old waxed hardwood floors. The UV cured urethane wood finishes do make these floors easier to maintain than the old waxed hardwood floors.

Pre-Finished Hardwood Finishing Choices

  • UV-cured – Factory finishes that are cured with Ultra Violet lights versus heat.
  • Polyurethane – A clear, tough, and durable finish that is applied as a wear layer.
  • Acrylic-urethane – A slightly different chemical make up than Polyurethane with the same benefits.
  • Ceramic – Advanced technology that allows the use of space-age ceramics to increase the abrasion resistance of the wear layer.
  • Aluminum Oxide – Added to the urethane finish for increased abrasion resistance of the wear layer, which is becoming extremely popular on the better grade wood floors.
  • Acrylic Impregnated – Acrylic monomers are injected into the cell structure of the wood to give increased hardness and then finished with a wear layer over the wood.

Job-site hardwood flooring finishing methods provide these options.

If you have an acceptable subfloor surface, and you want a custom stained hardwood floor or a wood floor to match existing trim, than a job-site finish is your answer.

Job-site finish means you start with a bare (unfinished) hardwood floor and than the floor is sanded, stained, and finished in your home.

The other advantage of a job-site finish is, if you are concerned with uneven heights between planks, the sanding process will smooth out the floor. Be warned, though, this can be quite a mess, and the process does take several days.

Job-Site Hardwood Floor Finishing Methods

  • Water-Based Urethane – Water is used as part of the chemical makeup of the polyurethane finish.
  • Solvent-Based Urethane – Oil is used as part of the chemical makeup of the polyurethane finish.
  • Moisture Cured Urethane – A similar chemical make up as solvent-based urethanes, but this finish needs the humidity (moisture) in the air to cure.

Board Widths and Their Influence

When shopping for a hardwood floor, you will see boards in various sizes. The narrower board widths are referred to as “strips” and the wider units as “planks.”

You should be aware that board width can visually impact a room.

Narrow width boards will expand a room, while wider boards work well in a larger room or area.

Edge knowledge you should be aware of

Different hardwood floors have different edges. Hardwood floors come in either a beveled edge or a square edge. Each edge creates its own specific look and feels to final installation.

Here’s a summary of today’s hardwood edge types:

Square Edge

The edges of all boards meet squarely, creating a uniform, smooth surface that blends the floor together from board to board. The overall look of this floor gives a contemporary flair and formal feeling to the room.

Eased Edge

Each board is just slightly beveled. Some manufacturers add an eased edge to both the length of the planks as well as the end joints. Eased edges are used to help hide minor irregularities, such as uneven plank heights. Eased edge is also called a micro-beveled edge.

Beveled Edge

These products have a very distinctive groove in them. Beveled edge planks lend themselves to an informal and country decor. With the urethane finishes applied at the factory today, the beveled edges are sealed completely, making dirt and grit easy to be swept or vacuumed out of the grooves.

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    Determining your floor’s Hardness

    Below are listed the relative hardness for numerous wood species used in flooring.

    These ratings were done using the Janka Hardness Test, which measures the force needed to embed a .444 inch steel ball to half its diameter in a piece of wood.

    The higher the number, the harder the wood. Although this is one of the best methods to measure the ability of wood species to withstand indentations, it should be used as a general guide when comparing various species of wood flooring.

    The construction and finish also play an important role in the durability and ease of maintenance of any wood floor.

    Wood Species Hardness Rating
    Douglas Fir 660
    Southern Yellow Pine (short leaf) 690
    Southern Yellow Pine (Long leaf) 870
    Black Cherry 950
    Teak 1000
    Black Walnut 1010
    Heart Pine 1225
    Yellow Birch 1260
    Red Oak (Northern) 1290
    American Beech 1300
    Ash 1320
    White Oak 1360
    Australian Cypress 1375
    Hard Maple 1450
    Wenge 1620
    African Pedauk 1725
    Hickory 1820
    Pecan 1820
    Purpleheart 1860
    Jarrah 1910
    Merbau 1925
    Santos Mahogany 2200
    Mesquite 2345
    Brazilian Cherry 2350

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