Before, wood floor boards had to be laid and nailed piece by piece and finished on site. Technology has made the process easier with quick installation systems. Many types come pre-finished with shines built to last so you won´t have to strip and re-finish your floors every couple of years, as you would have in the not-too-distant past.
You can buy just about any kind of wood in ready-to-use form; from the old standbys like maple, oak and cherry, to harder to find exotic varieties. In the interest of the environment, be sure that you are considering wood that comes from a sustainable source.
The most economical option, if you need to install a completely new floor, is to use soft wood instead of hardwood and refinish it by painting or staining. Softwood is less expensive but it is not as durable as hardwood.
Your first choice is to decide on the form of wood that you want to use, as this will determine the method of installation. Your choices include engineered board, solid board or wood tile.
- Engineered boards are the most popular choices. They are pre-finished boards that are laid as a floating floor*. They are supplied with “tongue and groove” edges for gluing together, no nails required. Some use a click system* where the tongues and grooves simply click together.
- Floating floor: A resilient layer is sandwiched between the wood layer and the structural layer underneath it. The board is held down by its own weight and does not need to be glued to the sub-floor. A floating floor can be laid straight onto existing boards but a damp-proof membrane and cushioning foam is installed first. You can buy a combined under-lay composed of foam with a waterproof backing. This layer protects your wood layer from moisture and prevents the transmission of impact sounds.
- Click System: is an installation method in which the tongues and grooves on the side of the board are slotted together without gluing and simply click together.
- Solid wood boards have a tongue and groove edges that slot together before the boards are glued or nailed to the sub-floor. The sub-floor is the flooring underneath the finished floor. Solid boards are often unfinished and you will need to finish them yourself after installation. Solid wood boards are heavier and nailing and laying them down is more difficult than laying a floating floor.
- Wood tiles are thin strips of wood arranged in various patterns that are glued to a square of plywood. To install the tiles, you glue them to a sub-floor. Self-stick tiles are also available.
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- Know the two kinds of genuine hardwood flooring: solid or engineered wood.
- Laminates aren´t the same thing as hardwood: Laminates can look like hardwood, but they aren’t made from wood at all.
- Hardwood flooring isn´t for every room in the house: Since wood is susceptible to water damage, it´s usually not recommended for bathrooms. Engineered boards can be installed on any floor, but solid wood boards aren´t usually used below ground level, such as in basements (because they are more susceptible to shrinking and expanding from moisture/temperature changes)
- Species makes a big difference: depending on what tree is used, hardwood floors can vary a lot in color, grain patterns and texture.
- Save time with pre-finished hardwoods: You can either buy pre-finished hardwoods or you can buy them unfinished, meaning they will be stained on site. The latter require a lot more maintenance and frequent re-staining. Pre-finished boards are much less hassle in the long run.
Are hardwood floors a good idea in the kitchen?
Like bathrooms, kitchens are in continuous exposure to water, such as might happen around the sink or dish washer. This can cause warping or buckling, which will mean portions of the floor will need to be replaced down the line. This doesn’t mean that hardwood floors should never be found in the kitchen.
If you do have spills, clean them up promptly and if something leaks, get it fixed right away.
Be careful selecting your species of wood. Oak, ash, maple and other “hard” hardwoods stand up better than the less durable woods like pine, fir or cherry.
Next, you have to decide on a finish. Wood floors finished on-site tend to have a beautiful sheen, but know that they will require yearly refinishing. Polyurethane finishes last longer, and they don´t need stripping, waxing or buffing. Another alternative is a high-quality pre-finished floor, which is an alternative that saves time, mess and the addition of toxic fumes to your home during the finishing process.
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- Hardwood floors are durable and easy to clean.
- They look beautiful, offering a warm and natural effect.
- They match homes of all ages and styles.
- Hardwood floors increase the value of a home.
- They are particularly suitable for living rooms, dens, hallways and stairs.
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- Hardwood can be noisy if they are not sound insulated.
- They can be drafty and dusty if placed directly onto joists.
- Hardwoods flooring does require periodic maintenance, and it can be scratched (pet claws) and dented.
- Wood isn’t the best choice in rooms that are likely to get wet frequently, like a bathroom or foyer.
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The main threats are dirt, sand and grit. These abrasive materials act like sandpaper on your floor´s finish, which result in dents and scratches, as well as a general dulling over time. Here are some tips to help you keep hardwood floors looking shiny and new:
- Use floor mats or area rugs by your home´s entrances.
- Wipe away spills promptly.
- You may vacuum hardwood floors, but make sure you use a vacuum with a brush attachment instead of a beater bar.
- In addition to vacuuming and sweeping, you may want to damp mop your floor, but be sure to use a neutral pH floor cleaner.
- Don’t stress too much over dents and dings that will occur naturally over time, consider it a part of the natural aging process of wood, which helps to build character. However, if the floors become too scratched up for your tastes, you can always have them sanded and refinished.
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