How To Select A Wood Floor

Hardwood floors hold a dear place in many peoples' hearts. In fact, many people consider wood to be the "best" when it comes to floors. And in many ways, wood floors are great. Easy to live with, easy to keep clean, durable, and classic. While there are a few up and comers on the market (laminate, LVP), wood still rules.

There are a lot of choices in wood floors, and these go way beyond color. These are things you haven't given any thought to unless you've purchased a wood floor lately. When customers come into the store, we ask a lot of questions, trying to identify what someone is really looking for. Sometimes we get the "deer in the headlights" look. Let's try to clarify:

The most basic information is- do you need Solid or Engineered? Whatis the difference?  Solid wood is exactly that-- a solid piece of wood, cut and trimmed down to a plank.  As solid wood is moisture sensitive (i.e. will warp, buckle, cup when exposed to damp conditions), there are specific situations where it should not be installed: basements, cement slabs (all slabs contain moisture), and full use bathrooms are some of the most common "no nos."

Engineered wood is an all-wood product, but not one solid piece of
wood. It is several layers (usually 3 to 5) of wood, put together using high pressure and heat, to form a super stable plank. This is achieved by layering the plies perpendicular one to the next. All the plies are wood, but the top one identifies what you're purchasing. This is the product you need if you are on a concrete slab, as the inherent moisture will not normally affect it.

The next two "types" of wood available to purchase really refer to the finish, not the construction. Site-finished is raw wood that is installed on site, then sanded, stained, and coated with polyurethane. Fifty years ago, this was all there was (and the finish was paste wax or shellac.) Installing site-finished wood requires several days of sanding, staining, and polyurethane coating, with drying times in between.

Pre-finished wood refers to wood that has its finish applied in thefactory. It is sanded, stained, and then coated with polyurethane with aluminum oxide (almost always), a compound second in hardness to diamond. Prefinished floors have a longer lasting finish, as polyurethane is softer without the aluminum oxide, and the technology does not currently exist for aluminum oxide to be used in site finishing or refinishing applications. Prefinished wood is a much faster installation, as it is already finished and needs only to be installed at your home - no drying time needed!

Now here's where we sometimes lose people: Site finished wood canbe solid or engineered. Prefinished wood can be solid or engineered. That is because solid/engineered terminology refers to the composition or construction of the wood, and site-finished or pre-finished refers to where the wood is finished (stained and coated).

Other factors or characteristics that influence the look of a wood floor include wire brushing, hand scraping, saw marks, character grade, gloss level, and most importantly, the type of wood used. If you love the swirl and movement of grain, then you'll tend to like Oaks and Hickories. If you like a softer, less grainy appearance, then Maple or Birch are going to appeal more to you. There are always exceptions to this, so shop with an open mind, simply looking for what you like. It is our job to help steer you to the product that works best for your needs. An active family with dogs in the house will need a wood that is somewhat distressed, either by wire brushing, chatter marks or saw marks, or other purposely applied distressing. A formal home looks best with a smoother, darker, glossier plank. Hand scraping was very popular a few years ago, but the visual has been scaled back and is much more subtle now.

Taking care of your wood floors will be the same whether you choose solid or engineered, site finished or prefinished.  Grit is the biggest enemy of your floor's finish, so sweep or dust mop frequently. You should be able to use a dry mop with just a spritz of Bona or other good quality wood cleaner occasionally to keep your floors looking beautiful. 

There is more to learn about wood floors, but these are the basics to get you started on your search, without looking like dazed or confused!

Got Dogs?
Are you one of the 65 percent of families in America with a pet? And maybe you've been told hardwood floors aren't the best choice for those of us with pets.  There are some types of wood floors better suited for pets. They aren't indestructible, but they are certainly more practical than others. Look for these dog-friendly flooring types:

~~ Wire Brushed. These wood floors are distressed by a machine to remove the sapwood (soft wood) and enhance the wood grain, adding texture and character. Its weathered, elegant, antique look hides scratches particularly well due to its matte finish.~~ Character Grade. This flooring keeps the wood's natural appearance and displays its full characteristics. Color variations and knots occurring naturally show clearly. This visually less "perfect" wood hides damage well.

~~ Distressed Hardwood Flooring. This wood is intentionally scratched and scraped to create an antique look. Planks' edges can be darkened, wire brushed and sculpted, resulting in lots of texture and character. You won't know if a dent in your floor was one that you paid for or one your dog made! Scratches can be easily hidden using a touch-up pen.

~~ Low-Gloss, Satin or Matte Finishes. These sheen levels help hide normal wear and tear and show footprints less. The glossier anddarker you go, the more light reflects off the floor-showing more dirt, dust and imperfections-not what you want with pets.~~ Sliced Cut Engineered. A cutting method for the veneer on engineered hardwoods that minimizes the soft grain. Also look for a top veneer at least 3mm thick, so you can sand and refinish it once or twice.

~~ Oil-Rubbed Finish. This very low-gloss finish uses oil instead of polyurethane or wax and tends to make wood look vintage. Oil penetrates and becomes part of the wood, so it isn't nearly as sensitive to scratches or wear as a urethane finish. It's easy to maintain (DIY) and, if done properly, will prevent a floor from ever needing sanding. Expect these floors to be on the upper end of the price scale.
Still unsure what you need?  Come in today and meet with an Enhance Design Consultant. We will help you find the perfect floor for your lifestyle!

Design Tip
Open floor plans are popular everywhere, in new homes and in remodels.  No matter if you are using one flooring type throughout or multiple flooring types in your open floor plan, you should definitely consider using area rugs. Area rugs will break up the space a little bit and provide some eye-catching variety. They are also an excellent way to give each "room" its own personality, so to speak, and even its own color scheme. You can also use different thicknesses, sizes, and shapes of area rugs to give your open floor plan more diversity. Area rugs also serve a practical purpose if you have hard surface flooring in your open floor plan. For spaces you want to feel more comfortable, such as the living room, area rugs are perfect for adding softness and warmth.

How Much Does It Cost?
When you have site finished wood (remember our earlier lesson?) and want to add more, you almost always have to refinish your existing hardwood floors at the same time so that it all matches.  A recent project involved adding 680 square feet of site finished hardwoods in the Family Room and Living Room (big rooms!) and refinishing the wood in the Dining Room, Kitchen, Breakfast Area, Hall and Foyer (630 square feet) for a little over $8800.  This included removing the carpet, moving furniture and appliances, and new shoemold in all of the rooms. We were on this job for six days, plus another day to come back out and replace the furniture. The family had to have the work done while they were away on vacation, as this was their entire main level, and they could not live in the home while the work was being done.  

I Was FLOORED By Enhance
Lorraine in Marietta writes: "Enhance has been great to work with. We had major issues with our wood floors downstairs. The prior contractor we used could not fix the problems they created and essentially stopped working with us altogether.  Don came in, assessed the situation, and laid new floors down for us. We have had no issues and in fact we're so happy with their work that we used them for carpet and wood floors upstairs as well. Great group to work with!!" Thank you, Lorraine.  We are sorry that you had to find out the hard way that all companies and installers are not equal in quality and expertise. We are glad you found us and that we could earn your trust and loyalty.