Choosing the Best Hardwood Floor: A Guide

May 8, 2017
Choosing the Best Hardwood Floor A Guide

If you are renovating your home, choosing the right type of flooring for your home is one of the biggest decisions you will make. If you have decided on classic hardwood flooring, you may think that your choices are over. However, this isn’t the case. There is a range of different options you need to consider when choosing the best hardwood flooring for your home.

Solid or engineered hardwood flooring

Traditional hardwood flooring was produced using solid and thick planks of timber. Hardwood flooring produced in this way is still available today, but manufacturers are increasingly offering engineered hardwood flooring.

Engineered flooring is produced using a thin layer of hardwood which is bonded with multiple layers of ply. These layers help to prevent the flooring from shifting position as it contracts and expands in response to environmental conditions.

Engineered flooring is perfect for installation in apartments and basement flats which have concrete floors. If you install solid wood flooring onto a concrete floor, it will need to cushioned by a layer of plywood which can raise the height of the floor and cause doors to jam. Engineered flooring can be installed directly onto a concrete surface, removing the possibility of this issue.

However, one drawback of engineered flooring is that, because of the thin top layer, it cannot be sanded and refinished in the same way solid timber can. This means that if you scuff or scratch engineered hardwood flooring, it is likely you will need to replace the damaged section. With solid hardwood flooring, you can buff out damage and refinish the surface, so it looks as good as new.

Pre-finished or Site-finished flooring

Planks of hardwood flooring can either be purchased with an unfinished raw surface which is finished by a contractor after it has been installed or pre-finished with a topcoat and staining already applied.

The major advantage offered by pre-finished wood is that you can be certain of how the finish will turn out and you can use a sample of the flooring to co-ordinate the rest of your home’s decor with the colour of the wood.

Pre-finished hardwood flooring can also be install at a greater speed compared to solid wood flooding because there is no need to apply layers of staining and sealant. If you chose site-finished flooring, you run the risk that the colour and finish of the flooring will not turn out as you hoped or expected once the staining has been applied.

However, site finished flooring does allow for a greater level of customisation, as you can choose the exact shade of stain you wish to use.

Polyurethane or oil finish

There is a wide selection of finishing products on the market, including penetrating oil, polyurethanes, and UV-cured urethane finishes. However, whichever one of these you chose, the choice is really between a polyurethane or oil finish.

Oil will penetrate deep into the wood, creating a natural, matte and soft look. However, an oil finish is much more likely to be damaged when compared to flooring which has a polyurethane finish. When polyurethane sets, it forms a solid topcoat which helps to protect the wooden surface, making it much more resistant to any damage caused by wear and tear.

However, while an oil finish may be damaged more easily, it is also easier to repair or conceal any damage when compared to polyurethane. This is because you can easily touch up any damaged areas of with fresh oil, whereas a damaged section of polyurethane finished flooring will need to be replaced.

Oil finishes are easier to maintain. However, you will need to carry out this maintenance on a more regular basis. Whereas polyurethane is tougher and so it does not require as much care.

The type of wood

You should carefully consider the advantages of the different types of wood which are available to you.

  • Oak: White and red oak is a very popular choice for hardwood flooring, as it is extremely durable which absorbs stain very well. Oak also has a very attractive natural grain.
  • Walnut: Walnut is also a popular choice. Although walnut is softer than oak, it has a deeper colour which can make it ideal for a room in which you want to achieve a darker, richer, finish.
  • Ash: Ash is a light coloured wood, which is extremely tough. It is the ideal choice if you need a hardwood floor which can sustain heavy use.
  • Hickory: Hickory is the perfect choice if you wish to create a rustic look within you home. This versatile wood is extremely durable. However, its density can make it difficult to install.

The grain pattern

The way a log is cut can have a big impact on the grain. Wood which is plain sawn, rift sawn, or quarter sawn will produce very different grain patterns.

  • Plain sawn wood: This will produce a standard wood grain look which will feature the familiar undulating patterns.
  • Rift sawn timber: This will produce a linear and long grain which does not undulate.
  • Quarter sawn planks: These have a similar grain to those that have been rift sawn, but with the addition of rays of grain which reach out across the wood.

The majority of hardwood flooring is plain sawn. If you wish for your flooring to be rift or quarter sawn, you may need to have it cut as part of a bespoke order at the wood yard.

The width of the plank

Traditionally, hardwood flooring is supplied in strips which are two or three inches wide. However, planks with a greater width are becoming increasingly fashionable in many modern homes, with some homes being floored with planks that are seven inches wide. Wide flooring planks can help to create a sense of luxury.

However, if you opt for wide planks, you should be aware that they may be more susceptible to the effects of the expansion and contraction of the wood.

Following these tips will help you to choose the perfect type of hardwood flooring for your home.

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