The décor of any place reflects the owner’s style and personal preferences. The colors, fabrics, and materials you choose to decorate your homes, offices or places of leisure, define the different looks and vibes a venue has. Whether you prefer classy and sophisticated or casual and vibrant, the color of your walls, the upholstery around, and the material on the floor are key to making your homes and workplaces beautiful with a personal touch. Hardwood flooring has been the preferred choice over tiles for many, especially for homes. Hardwood flooring not only gives rooms a warm and cozy atmosphere because of the classic wood color but is also long-lasting and environmentally friendly.
Many people choose hardwood flooring for their offices or places of business too, like cafes, restaurants, garment stores, and others. There is hardly anybody who doesn’t imagine wooden flooring and shelves when someone says the word ‘library.’ It is the rustic feel and soft, brown color of wood that instantly gives a sense of comfort to residents or clients.
Different Types of Hardwood Flooring
Wide varieties of hardwood flooring are available on the market today. They are divided into categories based on the finish, the make, and the top sheen. It is important to understand these categories, the installation process, and the maintenance routine for optimum use and long life of the hardwood flooring you plan to invest in.
SOLID WOOD FLOORING
Just as the name suggests, solid wood is a solid piece of wood from top to bottom, cut from a single piece of timber. These wood planks come in varying degrees of thickness from 3/4" to 5/16". These can be installed on or above ground level. They are durable and give a great look to the room they are installed in. Solid wood flooring is good for areas that are used much more than other places in the house, like living rooms and bedrooms.
ENGINEERED WOOD FLOORING
Engineered wood floors are those in which the top and the bottom layer is solid wood while the layers in between are wood composite veneers. Grains in each of the veneers run in different directions. This ensures that the wooden plank is less prone to expansion and contraction due to weather conditions or the area in which it is installed. Resistance to expansion makes engineered wood flooring more durable. Engineered wood flooring can be installed on, above, and even below ground level. This makes it a good choice for basements.
UNFINISHED WOOD FLOORING
No matter which hardwood flooring you choose, it will always need a coating that seals the top layer of wood and saves it from everyday wear. This finishing can be done at your place of installation before the flooring is put in. In case of unfinished wood flooring, the people in charge of installation will sand the wood and apply the finish at the final site. There are many finish options available. Unfinished wood flooring is a good option if you want to match the floor color and sheen to existing furniture or flooring. But as it is sanded on site, you will have some dust and noise to deal with.
FACTORY FINISHED WOOD FLOORING
Factory finished wood flooring is sanded and finished at the factory itself, resulting in a clean and quick installation. This type of flooring is ready for use immediately after installation while in the case of unfinished wood flooring; you need to wait for the finish to dry completely.
Comparison Between Solid and Engineered Wood Flooring
There are a number of pros and cons you need to weigh before finalizing the hardwood flooring to be installed in your home. Solid wood flooring cannot be used below ground level or around heating systems as it is prone to expansion and contraction. But it can be sanded and refinished multiple times, giving it a fresh look. Engineered wood flooring is easy to install as it can be nailed, stapled, or glued to a subfloor.
Various Finish Sheens
A large variety of finishes are available in both unfinished as well as factory finished wood flooring. You can choose between a high gloss finish that gives the most shine and reflects a lot of light, a semi-gloss finish that gives a moderate shine and reflects less light, and a satin or matte finish that shines the least and reflects very less light.
Many people might like their flooring to be very glossy and shiny. But, the more sheen on your floors, the more likely you are to notice tiny scratches or daily wear on the wood. Factory finished wood flooring has lesser sheen options compared to unfinished wood flooring. But, all finishes offer the same amount of protection to your hardwood flooring.
Cleaning & Maintenance
Hardwood flooring is easy to clean and maintain. All you need to do is sweep using a soft broom or dust it with a microfiber cloth. Vacuuming is also a good option. And, you can use the wood cleaning products once or twice a month.
Unlike heavy mopping that is done daily on tiled flooring, hardwood flooring needs light cleaning. Just using a broom or dusting is enough. Do not use the vacuum too often as the wheels of the vacuum cleaner can cause scratches on the floor. Once a week is enough. Ensure that it is set to the bare floor setting and the beater bar doesn’t touch the wood floor. Never use wet mops or steam cleaners over the wooden flooring. You may use professional wood cleaning products once a month.
Polishing the floors once every two to three months renews the finish and protects your hardwood flooring. This will clean up any minor abrasions noticeable on the top layer of flooring. It is important to get your hardwood flooring sanded and refinished every few years to maintain an even surface and shine. Sanding helps get rid of any deep scratches that may have appeared with use.
IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT
Being a renewable resource, wood can be used in flooring without causing much harm to the environment. Sustainable forest management has ensured afforestation and safe harvest of timber. Wood is a carbon neutral product. It produces oxygen during its growth cycle and also stores carbon later. Some research studies suggest that hardwood flooring improves the quality of indoor air. Wooden floors last for many years and don’t need to be replaced very often. And at the end of their life, they can be recycled or burned and used as fuel. Compared to other flooring options, production of wood flooring uses less water and energy. All these factors contribute to hardwood flooring being a product that does not harm the environment.
Hardwood flooring is a big investment, so there are some important things one should keep in mind before purchase and also the care to be taken after buying and installation.
Before buying, it is very important to choose the right wood material and finish to suit your requirements. Any changes in this at a later stage can prove to be quite costly. Which wood, what color, and finish you choose depends mainly on where you want to install the wooden flooring. Areas of high traffic such as living, dining, and bedrooms need particular wood, while rooms that see fewer footfalls or are more open to temperature effects (kitchen/attic) need a different wood and finish for a better life.
Although the room you want to install hardwood flooring in is of a particular size, your installer may insist that you order more wood than required. This is necessary because some of the material is cut to fit the exact shape and size of the room. This will result in some minor wastage. Once boards are cut, they cannot be used elsewhere as the end grooves are cut off, making it impossible for them to join with other boards. Generally, you are expected to order about 10% extra wood than what you would need for the size of the site. This percentage may be higher in case of flooring being installed over or around staircases, fireplaces or windows.
There are a few precautions you can take to avoid scratches or dents on the wood surface that come from daily use. Never push or pull furniture over the wooden flooring. Always pick it up to move it. You can use rugs and carpets to lessen the pressure daily movement can have over the floor. This will also help keep dirt from spreading over the floor. If you have pets at home, keep their nails clipped to avoid surface scratching. Do not use water, vinegar, wax, soap or strong cleaning substances on hardwood flooring.
Hardwood flooring really enhances the look of any room and is gaining immense popularity in recent times. Thorough research before purchase and a regular cleaning and maintenance routine will help you keep your hardwood flooring looking new and give it a long life. You can't really go wrong by adding a hardwood floor in your home.