When deciding what type of flooring is best for their house, many home owners opt for wood flooring because of its natural beauty, warm coloring, and easy refinishing. However, deciding to go with hardwood is only one decision of many when it comes to installing wood flooring.
Prices, styles, finishes, and costs can vary quite substantially, so it’s important to think carefully about that when deciding on your hardwood flooring.
What type of hardwood flooring is available?
Wood flooring generally comes in two main types:
1. Engineered wood flooring. For engineered wood flooring, each piece is made out of two layers of wood. The top layer is what is visible upon installation, and it’s attached to the second layer — the core. Engineered wood is often confused with laminate, vinyl, or veneer flooring, but unlike these types of flooring, engineered wood is made entirely out of wood, just in two separate pieces.
2. Solid wood flooring. Each plank is made out of solid wood, from a single piece of timber. This wood is mostly used for its appearance, but is not always used because of its temperamental nature. Solid wood has a greater likelihood of expanding and contracting with moisture and temperature change. Most contractors will recommend that it’s not installed directly over concrete, in basements, or with radiant floor heating.
Once you’ve decided to go with solid or engineered wood, it’s time to think about how your hardwood will be cut. Strip flooring is cut at a set width, but the thickness of each piece can vary. Plank flooring only has two thickness variations, but the widths can vary substantially. Parquet flooring can be arranged in beautiful patterns, with the planks of wood held together by an adhesive.
What wood species work well as flooring?
While choosing what type of wood you want is partly an aesthetic decision, it’s important to pay attention to the durability and overall cost of each type of wood you’re considering, as it can differ quite substantially between species. Some of the more popular choices of wood species include:
Red oak: A dense wood that resists wear well, this reddish hued wood is one of the most popular flooring choices in the United States.
White oak: This hardwood has a similar grain as red oak, but is a beautiful brown, gray color. It’s also a harder and more durable than red oak.
Pine: Another popular choice, pine has a warm yellow cast with beautiful swirls and knots. It’s often chosen because of its built-in resistance to insects.
Birch: There’s quite a variation of color when it comes to birch wood, which makes it a unique hardwood choice. It’s a strong wood, but not as hard as white or red oak.
What wood floor finishes are available?
The two types of finishes that are most commonly used on hardwood floors are surface finishes and penetrating finishes. Surface finishes tend to be the most common, since they’re pretty easy to maintain, and increase the durability of the floor. Usually a stain is applied to the wood, and then a polyurethane finish is applied to the top for protection. Penetrating finishes soak into the entire piece of wood, and then a wax is applied for shine. Usually this wax needs to be reapplied on occasion, and not all cleaners can be used with this finish.
What is the cost of hardwood flooring?
Know that the cost “per foot” of your hardwood floor is only part of the overall price. When you ask for an estimate, make sure it includes everything your installer could potentially charge you for, including furniture removal, delivery, subfloor preparation and demolition. Designer hardwood flooring will be more costly than more common budget options, but will be a lot less likely to be found in other homes, if uniqueness is what you're aiming for.
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