Knowing how hardwood is constructed provides you with an understanding of the hardwood floor right from its beginning. That’s important information because these are the materials you’ll be living with and walking on for years to come should you choose this flooring product.
Knowing the different types that make up various hardwood floors also helps you understand and evaluate their performance aspects: why certain hardwoods are easier to install, why some wear better, longer, and why others are easier to replace. Plus, perhaps most important, understanding hardwood construction and materials can make you a smarter shopper, help you better determine hardwood flooring value and keep you within the parameters of your budget.
When we think of solid wood floors we generally are talking about a 3/4″ thick plank that is 2 1/4″ wide. This is the classic strip wood floor, although it is possible to find a narrower width or a slightly thinner gage. The strips are generally in random lengths from 12″ – 84″. The most common wood species used for solid strip floors are red oak, white oak, maple, cherry, white ash, hickory or pecan. And the three common types of wood floors are Solid, Engineered and Longstrip Plank.
Solid wood floors are one solid piece of wood that have tongue and groove sides. When we talk about solid wood floors, we tend to think of floors that are unfinished, but it’s important to know that there are also many pre-finished 3/4” solid wood floors. And you should also be aware of the moisture factor.
Solid wood floors are sensitive to moisture and because so they are used in nail down installations and are not recommended for installation below ground level, or directly over a concrete slab. The good news is that these floors can be refinished, or recoated, several times, which adds to their appeal and to their long life in your home. In fact, there are solid floors that are over 100 years old that are still in good condition with rich patina and character – enhancing the beauty of the home.
Because they’re a natural product, hardwood flooring will expand and contract in response to seasonal changes in moisture. In the winter heating months, moisture leaves the wood causing the floor to contract, which creates small gaps between each plank. In the summer months, when the humidity is higher, the wood will expand and the gaps will disappear. If there is too much moisture it may cause the wood planks to cup, or buckle. Not something you want in your home.
Oak is commonly used for solid unfinished wood floors and there are several different qualities of oak for you to choose from. These qualities are clear, select and better, #1 common, and #2 common. The clear has no visual blemishes or knots and is extremely expensive. While the select and better quality has some small knots and very little dark graining. The #1 common and #2 common have more knots and more dark graining. So be aware of that when buying an unfinished solid oak floor and make sure you know which quality of wood you are buying.
Engineered wood floors are generally manufactured with 2, 3, or 5 thin sheets or plies of wood that are laminated together to form one plank. These wood plies are stacked on top of each other but in the opposite directions. This is called cross-ply construction which creates a wood floor that is dimensionally stable and less affected by moisture than a 3/4” solid wood floor. In the presence of moisture, solid wood planks will always expand across the width of the planks, rather than down the length of the boards.
The advantage of cross-ply construction allows the plies to counteract each other which will stop the plank from growing or shrinking with the changes in humidity. The other advantage for you is versatility. You can install these floors over concrete slabs in your basement as well as anywhere else in you home. Most engineered floors can be nailed down, stapled down, glued down, or floated over a wide variety of subfloors, including some types of existing flooring.
Engineered floors will range from 1/4″ to 9/16″ in thickness, and vary from 2 1/4″ to 7″ in width. The widths can also be mixed, such as 3-5-7-inch planks installed side by side. By varying the board widths you can change the total appearance of the floor. Create a truly custom look for your home. The lengths will be random and range from 12″ – 60″ in length. Because engineered wood floors are made up of several layers of wood the top finish layer can be a totally different wood species. A variety of domestic or exotic hardwood species are available such as Oak, Maple, Hickory or Cherry.
Longstrip plank floors are similar to engineered floors and have several wood plies that are glued together. The center core is generally a softer wood material and is used to make the tongue and groove. A hardwood finish layer is glued on top of the core. The top layer can be almost any hardwood species and is made up of many smaller individual pieces that are laid in three rows.
Longstrip planks are approximately 86″ in length and 7 1/2″ in width. They generally have between 17 and 35 pieces that make up the top layer of each board. This gives the effect of installing a board that is 3 rows wide and several planks long. Each longstrip plank looks like an entire section that has already been pre-assembled for you. This alone can create a unique look all your own. Longstrip planks are designed for the floating installation, but most can also be glued-down, or stapled down. Because these floors can be floated they are extremely versatile – they can go over a wide variety of subfloors and on any grade level.
Like engineered floors, longstrip floors come in a wide variety of domestic and exotic hardwood species. Longstrip plank floors have another advantage. When damaged, they are easy to replace. That can be an important consideration for active homes.
Hard wood flooring installation is a significant investment in your home. Installing hardwood flooring is hard, exacting and detailed. We strongly recommend that you have it done by seasoned flooring installation professional. They’ve been “visiting” homes for years. That way you can be assured of a beautiful, efficient and correct flooring installation.
However, while installing hardwood flooring is a skill that is developed through years of experience, your understanding of the basics of hardwood floor installation will increase your knowledge of the process and enhance your confidence in the installation professionals working in your home.
We hope this knowledge makes you a smarter shopper, helps you narrow down your options, or even solidifies your choice of hardwood flooring for your home.
To most people, their home is life’s greatest possession and a large source of pride and joy.
Which is why they devote so much time and energy to its upkeep. Beautiful, charming, inviting homes are the wonderful result.
Floor coverings are a major part of a home.
So read on and learn the many ways you can maintain your hardwood investment – your home investment and source of pride — today and tomorrow.
Fight dirt right where it enters.
Place walk off mats or area rugs at each entryway to collect dirt and grit that might be tracked in.
These tiny particles act like sandpaper and will scratch your floor.
Be sure to avoid using rubber-backed or non-ventilated mats or rugs as they can damage your floor.
Instead use mats or rugs made especially for hardwood floors and remember to shake them out regularly.
In addition to entryways, remember to place mats in any areas where water may be splashed, such as near a kitchen sink.
These tools can be floor savers.
Buy a good quality broom and sweep your new floor regularly to pick up grains of dirt, dust and other particles. A vacuum cleaner, without a beater bar, can be helpful in between planks and other hard to reach areas. Once dirt and grease are gone, buffing can help restore the luster of your hardwood floor.
Our cleaning suggestions.
Cleaning techniques vary depending on the installation and finish of your hardwood floor.
For “Finish in Place” hardwood floors, we recommend using an 8”x14” terrycloth mop with a rotating head that makes cleaning corners, under cabinets and along base boards an easy task.
Spray a professional wood floor cleaning product recommended by us to safely remove tough stains and spills without dulling the finish of your floor.
Keep in mind these dos and don’ts.
All floors with a urethane finish should never be waxed and require cleaners that won’t leave a film or residue.
A hardwood floor cleaner is useful in removing occasional scuffs or heel marks. Merely spray some cleaner on a cloth and lightly rub the stained area. Sticky spots can be cleaned with a damp towel or sponge.
Do not use ammonia cleaners or oil soaps on a wood floor, as they will dull the finish and performance of your floor. These products will also affect the ability to recoat your floor later.
Since wood naturally expands when it is wet, never wet mop or use excessive water to clean your floor. Large amounts of water can cause the wood to swell and may cause your floor to crack or splinter.
Being a natural product, hardwood will expand and contract due to moisture level changes. Minimize water exposure to hardwood floors and clean up spills as soon as they happen.
For deeper cleaning, please note the following: If your floor is showing excessive wear beyond normal cleaning you may want to consider screening and recoating.
Screening is the process used to abrade the polyurethane finish that is currently on the floor. Then, fresh coats of urethane are applied. Screening and recoating will rejuvenate and prolong the life of your hardwood floor.
If the damage to the floor is severe and has gone through the stain of the boards down to the bare wood, you may be able to sand and refinish. This is mostly an option for solid wood flooring.
This should only be done if a screening and recoating does not solve the problem. This is an extensive process where the floor is sanded down to the bare wood, re-stained and then refinished. If the damage is only in a small area you may want to see if replacement boards are available to alleviate having to refinish an entire area.
Be sure to hire an experienced professional when having any work done on your hardwood floor. We suggest you contact us for advice.
Protect your hardwood floor against tomorrow, sunshine and activity.
All hardwood floors will fade, darken or change shades over time. Exposure to sunlight will greatly increase this process.
Window treatments are recommended, as well as rotating area rugs and furniture regularly to allow floors to age evenly from UV exposure.
Cover furniture and table legs with protectors to guard your floor against damage. Take care when moving heavy objects across your floor to avoid scuffing.
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