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Hardwoods finished on site, pre-finished hardwoods or tile that looks like wood (Walker Zanger)

bettyrug
November 14, 2012
last modified: November 14, 2012
Help Team Houzz!!! Confused homeowner here.

We're remodeling our kitchen/dining area/guest bath area (one level) and turns out we need to replace all the hardwoods (in our 1958 multi-level, but still pretty small home) except for the stairs - which there are many running thru middle of house tying all the levels/rooms together. Also ceiling is pitched with rough hewn wood beams.

QUESTION: Do we go with tile in dining area/kitchen/laundry level which looks over and opens to oak stairs? If so, one option looks like wood so would compliment (very cool pattern in grey/blue/brown tones) but obviously won't match the hard woods exactly. Or do we put new hardwoods in throughout and try not to stress about potential leaks in kitchen/laundry/bath...and if so, do we go pre-stained (which also won't match the stairs exactly or be completely sealed at least between planks) or hardwoods finished/sealed on site (which could match stairs as we'd restain stairs and stain floors all together). So many wonderful choices - so confusing! ;)

Realize hardwoods finished on site are the costliest, but concerned pre-finished (looking at faux-handscraped/ripple for more rustic look of beach house) will look manufactured...and well the tile that looks like hardwood - will that be the avocado fridge of the future? ;)

What say you my brilliant Houzz Community???

Comments (25)

  • Celeste
    Hardwood definitely gives a warmer feeling and in my experience a much better resale value. Hardwood throughout will give more continuity to the space, although, if possible I would avoid hardwood in a laundry room. My opinion; pre-stained hardwoods have more of an advantage. When the factory stains them they apply 7,8,9 or more coats once stain and sealant are applied, where as on site you will probably get 3 at best. The result of pre-finished will give the floor a much longer life. Not to mention the mess involved with onsite finishing, not a fun experience if you are currently living in the home. - Good luck!
  • bettyrug
    Thanks! I was leaning towards the pre-finished hardwoods (in fact, have a box in my car right now!), but then one of my colleagues warned that since they're sealed offsite, then the seams in between each plank are left open to dirt and moisture which happened to him in his last place - a real disaster in the kitchen. And I hear you about the warmer feel of wood throughout - that's what we have now, but as luck would have it, all the floors are apparently on their last legs (and the house is only 50+ years old too - go figure). What about the tiles that look like wood - still too cold?
  • Celeste
    I like the tiles that look like wood, actually have contemplated using them in the bathrooms so that they look more harmonious with the wood and some of them are beautiful! Regarding the shrinkage and swelling of the wood planks, be very selective on the product you select. If you lean towards places like Lumber Liquidators, Home Depot, Lowes, or the places that offer such low prices you will get what you pay for. Factors like climate, manufacturer's quality of milling and the grade of the wood are key. Manufacturers like Somerset, Lauzon, Mercier, Mannington, they are all really good manufacturers, especially the Canadians! Canadians are known for spot on milling. Too often, the flooring issues people have are a result of poor material quality, poor installation and improper acclimation. Stay mid range on wood choice, such as White Oak, not too soft, stains well, beautiful especially when quarter sawn, and really durable! To me, exotics are too costly, are personal preference and are too tropical for many climates in the USA. The oaks are timeless and with all of the stain choices nowadays, they are beautiful! Just look down at your floor now, I'll bet it's oak!
  • bettyrug
    We had narrowed it down to a pre-stained oak at Lumber Liquidators OR a porcelain tile from Walker Zanger...or just good old fashioned oak floors that would be finished on site. And this would be for entire house (except the oak stairs which are still in good shape)
  • olldcan
    So why are your floors apparently on there last leg? and who said that?

    I'd go for the solid oak, finished on site and do your stairs to match. If I were to pick a refinished solid, I'd have 3 coats of clear applied after installation, just to protect it further and seal those darn gaps.

    I would NOT buy any flooring that was from China.....ever!!!!!!! Do your research, know exactly what your buying.
  • PRO
    Brickwood Builders, Inc.
    If the floor is properly prepared for the tile, then I would expect tile to be your most expensive option. The installation cost is significant to make sure all of the floor is level and is adequately supporting the tile.

    The oak flooring installed and finished on site would be best in a high traffic area, IMO, as all of the seams/joints are closed with the topcoats of poly. If you choose prefinished, I would avoid Lumber Liquidators. We have heard far too many horror stories from installers regarding their products and the fact that many are seconds or worse.
  • smldesigns
    We have both pre-finished and finished on site. I prefer the latter. I would not go with tile as it is hard on the feet and back.
  • bettyrug
    Wow - had no idea that China flooring (pre-stained) was such a no no. What about the porcelain tile that looks like wood?

    Not sure why our hardwood floors were deemed toast at such an early age, but there are significant cracks between planks in a variety of places/levels in the house so guess that's why? We were told by at least two different guys they were done; I had no clue - just thought I needed some wood filler here and there, but guess that gummy goodness only goes so far ;)
  • bettyrug
    P.S. WOW - just read all the super helpful posts. Thanks everyone - you, as always, are a WEALTH of information and guidance! Thank you thank you thank you! Sounds like hardwoods finished on site is the way to go...even in the kitchen/laundry/dining area? My project manager/designer was concerned about potential water damage even though we both feel wood will look and feel the best for the entire house :) Here's what's there now...hoping we can afford wider planks when all is said and done!
  • PRO
    CASTLE Design Studio LLC
    B, you're so funny! I agree that you get what you pay for plus we want to keep quality-product-producing-Americans working. My favorite combination is "rough" travertine floors on the first floor (look and function), distressed hardwood on the second floor (adore the look) except for baths and laundry which would be stone. One issue with the woodpatterned tile is -- what if it chips? I think your concern on spending less money today for a trendy item is a very good concern. Classic always pays you back!
  • bettyrug
    Ha...true enough. Thing is the house - although multi-level - is more or less open concept and une petite with livingroom on first level, kitchen/dining/laundry/guest bath on second, and bedrooms/master bath on third with all visible from the stairs (which are gonna stay wood). And I thought the wood patterned tile, if porcelain, wouldn't show if chipped? This is all so wonderful all these choices - and oh so confusing! ;) What's a hard workin' beach girl to do? ;)
  • bettyrug
    P.S. Above is the house pre-demo. Below is the house as of yesterday! ;) New kitchen by 2013, but sans peninsula!
  • olldcan
    Just took a look at the recent picture of your floor, If that's as bad as it is, I cant see why there deemed toast. Honestly, looks like is they were sanded, they'd be looking great again. But with 2 pros (as long as they weren't selling you flooring, should trust there opinion.)
    Glad I could give you some insight on the whole China flooring thing....stay away, very far away!!!!
    @Celeste1965, commented that "Canadians are known for spot on milling" this is so true, premium product !!!!!
    @Deborah Butlar Brickwood Builders commented " I would avoid Lumber Liquidators". Yes most Liquidators, will sell seconds or worse.

    So you've been armed with with some very good information to assist you making a good choice. I'd suggest NOT using hardwood in the laundry room....just incase. Have fun, enjoy the process :)
  • PRO
    Brickwood Builders, Inc.
    I would think most likely the flooring has been sanded over time several times and there is no longer a layer to sand without getting into the nail heads. This is what you run into but not generally in a home of this age. There is a process called "screening" that can be done to extend the life of floors. It does not produce the same results as sanding them down but does take out surface scratches and then you poly back over.
  • PRO
    Oak & Broad
    There is a lot of good advice already offered. Thats why I love Houzz so much. I would be curious how many times your floor was refinished. Natural floors that are solid 3/4 thick should be able to be refinished many times over. As a flooring maker I would be happy to discuss your options on a site finished floor. joel@eutree.com
  • feeny
    Hardwood finished on site would be a good choice. For durability, especially in the kitchen, you might consider a quarter sawn white oak floor. Ours are 90 years old and going strong (but probably haven't been sanded and refinished quite as many times as in your 50 year old house--some of it depends on how many times the house was turned over to new owners who decided to refinish the floors, and how much wear the floor got with different owners).
  • bettyrug
    You are absolutely right - Houzz Community does rock! And your quarter sawn oak sounds gorgeous...just getting pushed to go with pre-finished floors - at least in the kitchen - to avoid the mess and drama involved with installing a new kitchen over newly finished floors. And yes, I have a feelin' our current floors have been sanded a lot over the years with each new owner. My last house was a 100 year old bungalow which benefited from being a rental before I happily picked it up. Floors were gettin' thin but still doin' ok when I finally sold over a decade later. Loved that house.

    What's everyone's thoughts on pre-stained for the kitchen/dining/laundry area - and going with finished on site for the rest of the house, keeping in mind house is multi-level open concept so you can see the kitchen/dining area from the stairs that go up thru middle of house.

    Isn't this fun? My poor designer/project manager - so trying to keep my budget in line while I dream of wide plank floors and fancy porcelain tiles that look like wood. ;)
  • feeny
    Here's the thing, the one place where you might really benefit from the finished on site is the kitchen. When they are finished on site the polyurethane goes over the cracks between the boards as well, whereas the pre-finished ones have no such protection between the boards. So since the kitchen is the one place where spills are inevitable, it does help to have the extra layer of protection.
  • PRO
    Xulon Floors
    I am a hardwood installer and refinisher. I have extensive experience with both processes that you are considering for new wood. Here are my two cents..lol. Engineered hardwood is great for many reasons: The durability of the finishes used, the strength added by its multi-ply construction, and most beneficial is its ability to be installed over concrete subfloors. I would consider myself more expert in refinishing than installing. There are about 1 in 10 installers that can actually refinish a hardwood floor, installing is more of a process, and refinishing is more of an art. I think that sealing the flooring on site is definitely better, although not as durable as the finishes now used on prefinished flooring. It WILL NOT however, do any better at protecting your wood because the end matches and seams are sealed. Water that is left standing on wood will ALWAYS be a problem. In my opinion neither is better or worse. Wood flooring in high water areas really boils down to dedication in keeping the floor dry. I never try to steer anyone to wood in those areas because I dont want to be the one blamed if there is a moisture problem. The reason I recommend on site finishing is for maintenance. Every few years a new coat can be easily applied to make your floor like brand new, and I would assume that the new floor would be solid wood. Based on the pictures that I saw above, I would say that they CAN be refinished, but pictures often don't convey the whole story. If there is excessive crackling (not creaking) as you walk across your floors, or if the nails are exposed (nails along the seams, not topnails) then your floor should be replaced. If neither of those are present, then it can most likely be sanded and refinished. Lastly, I do agree that wood look tile would be a mistake, if you choose to go tile, I would aim for contrast with the wood, not an attempt to match it.
  • kellyslobodian
    Bettyrug,I am building coastal Carolina house.For variety of reasons,enjoyment,resale.etc.climate,dog.......this is where I am......4000 sq ft solid hdwood saddle hickory hand scraped four inch wide planks,told the wider the plank moisture warp may be more issue,four inch fine,looks great.
    I will have lowes do it,start to finish
    I have owned and enjoyed and been in realestate and Lowes will deliver and stand by a job.
    My open floor plan will be hardwood,my baths laundry mud room all porcelain,some wood look some stone,learned on Houzzz the fewer materials you choose the bigger and spacious,thus some porcelain may be repeated.I have coinsidered lumber liquidator,carpet one,Cali bamboo but ultimately think having lowes right here to work with builder etc.have immediate contact less risk and they do stand by their work.plus most hardwood has 25 or 30 yr warranty they cannot risk problem.good luck!
    my loft and Media room will be carpet,
  • kellyslobodian
    also. Bettyrug....isn't houzzzz great!No Chinese product,I do not let my dog eat treats from China nor buy makeup from China.....
  • kellyslobodian
    Bettyrug,sorry kind of going on but right what I have been processing!Sixty Minutes did bit of hatchet job re lumber liqui.and foreign reduction,lowes faired better by far and since that time have really gotten specific about where product is from..another good reason to use Lowes or comparable!,
    also I have Vermont house with pre finished floors hdwood,were dark,now light have held up fine three sons dog ski boots except in kitchen....in my NY house I had hdwood but porcelain in kitchen,some of my friends had hdwood in kitchen,I think wood look porcelain looks great in a room or two,would not do whole house as asked is it next decade avocado carpet or refridge!but love the look great price easy care .I am building in NCEnjoy and using it in bathrooms,not kitchen due to open plan!,,,
  • blueskiesinNM

    I vote for real wood floor that you can screen down the road. I temporarily rented a condo with a wood tile floor, for a summer. I felt like I got hit by a mack truck. So hard on the feet, back, what a head ache. I hated cleaning day.

  • PRO
    Cancork Floor Inc.

    Three/four year old post.

  • blueskiesinNM

    Might be 4 yrs old but people like me looking for solutions still read older post for ideas...so never to late to add updates. I have been following 2 ancient lonnngg post that I find are quite helpful.

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