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Hardwood FAQ's


What is the difference between site-finished and prefinished hardwood floors?

Site-finished hardwoods are installed raw (unfinished) and then sanded, stained, and coated with polyurethane in your home. You are able to select the stain color and the gloss level of the floor. Prefinished hardwood floors are fully manufactured and finished in the factory. A prefinished floor offers a quicker and more convenient installation, but you have fewer choices in stain color, etc. Both types of wood flooring (site-finished and prefinished) are available in solid and engineered wood.

What is solid wood? What is engineered wood?

Solid wood is exactly as it sounds: a solid piece of wood. Solid wood is usually ¾" thick. Engineered wood is thinner and is made in plies (layers) with the actual species of wood on the top layer. The bottom layers utilize other species of wood for stability. Engineered wood was developed for glue down installation, but some can be nailed down. Engineered floors can be ¼", 3/8" (most common), ½", or even 9/16" thick. If the area being installed has a plywood subfloor, either type may be used. Solid wood floors can only be installed on a cement slab if special and expensive installation techniques are followed.

Are prefinished floors real hardwood floors? Are engineered floors real hardwood floors?

Yes, both are composed of 100% hardwood. Most engineered wood floors can be sanded at least once, except veneers. All ¾" solid prefinished wood floors can be sanded numerous times.

What are distressed wood floors? Handscraped? Wire brushed?

-A distressed wood floor is an intentionally scratched, scraped and/or gouged flooring surface with an antique look. These processes may involve aging the wood, wire brushing, sculpting, and hand scraping the hardwood floor. Doing so results in a floor with a lot of texture and character. (NOTE: all handscraped flooring is considered distressed, but not all distressed floors are handscraped.)

-A handscraped/sculpted floor has a series of broad, shallow grooves on the surface of the board. Historically, floors were hand scraped on site to make the floors flat. Today's hand scraping is done at the factory to give the floor an antique or vintage look that duplicates generations of a family walking on the floor. A truly hand scraped floor will be unique – no two hand scraped floors will look the same. A worker at the wood floor factory has taken a hand tool, and has worked the surface of each board. The scraping may be heavy or soft, depending upon the style. Hand scraped boards add real depth to the flooring surface and hide scratches, dents, and wear extremely well. Less expensive styles use machines or templates for scraping, resulting in a series of ridges that may be repetitive. Most hand scraped floors cannot be refinished.

-Wire brushing is a way to distress wood flooring by machine for an antique look. Wire bristles are used to remove the sapwood (soft wood) and open and enhance the wood grain, adding texture & character. The matte finish hides scratches and wear particularly well.

Will wood floors hold up to high traffic situations? Kids? Pets?

The more you sweep and/or vacuum your floor, the better it will wear. Hardwood floors are not scratch resistant. The floor will indent if you drop something heavy or sharp on it. You can gouge a wood floor by dragging your furniture across it. Keep your pet's nails trimmed. Some floors show wear and damage more readily. Generally, the lower gloss, the less scratches, etc., will show. Medium stain colors and wood with a lot of grain will also show less damage. Very light and very dark floors show scratches and wear quickly, and floors such as maple that have very little grain again show imperfections more readily.

How do you take care of a hardwood floor? What type of vacuum cleaner should I use?

Sweep or vacuum regularly and damp mop as needed using a hardwood floor mop and approved hardwood floor cleaner (do not use oil or wax based cleaners.) Be sure you have felt floor protectors on the legs of chairs, bar stools, etc. Use good quality doormats at all of your exterior doors. Do not use a vacuum with a beater bar or hard head on hardwood floors. The vacuum head should be brush or felt; a wand attachment is preferable. NEVER use a "steam mop" on a hardwood floor.

How often will I have to refinish a hardwood floor?

That depends on the amount of traffic in your home and how well you take care of your floors. Generally speaking, the average homeowner needs another coat of polyurethane every 6 to 8 years. You totally refinish a floor only because you either want to change the color of the floor or the floor has been abused (deep scratches, gouges, discolorations, etc.)

Can I put hardwoods in my bathrooms?

It is not recommended as full use bathrooms are usually very moist areas, and water is not a hardwood floor's best friend. However, if this is for use in a ½ bath or powder room, it will probably be okay.

Can we walk on floors immediately after they are installed?

That is dependant on the type of installation method used for your project, and whether you chose a prefinished floor or a site-finished floor. Ask your salesperson or installer to be sure.

Is one manufacturer better than the other?

Some manufacturers are more established than others, and some have stronger warranties than others. One of the differences between companies is quality control. Almost all manufacturers make flooring in a wide variety of quality levels.

Will there be a lot of dust during the installation process?

Some of our operations, such as removal of old floors, undercutting doorjambs, and removal of old carpet and pad may create an unusual amount of dust or dirt. While almost all of the wood cutting is done outside the home, there will still be some dust. We can hang plastic to help contain the dust to the area we are working in. With a site -finished installation and/or refinishing, we strive to keep the dust from the sanding to a minimum. We also offer a Dust Containment Sanding System which significantly reduces the amount of dust that is generated by the machines.

What are the differences between hardwoods and laminates?

Hardwoods will scratch and indent more easily than laminates. Laminate floors are a computer generated picture and therefore don't have the depth and realism of a real hardwood floor. Laminates utilize a floating installation method whereas wood floors are usually secured to your subfloor.

How much does it cost to install hardwoods floors?

That depends on the quality and species of wood you choose, but generally you can have hardwoods installed from around $7.00 per square foot and up, depending on manufacturer, quality and your incidental charges.
 

Can I install hardwoods on my stairs?

Yes, however it is not inexpensive. An average staircase retrofitted in solid oak is around $150 per tread and riser combination. We also install new handrails and balusters.

Which direction should I lay my hardwoods? Front-to-back or side-to-side?

If your new floor is being installed over a cement slab, the direction is totally your choice. A general rule is to run the wood the same direction as the longest length. However, if your new floor is being installed over a wooden subfloor, the wood must run in the opposite direction of the floor joists. If this is not the direction you want your wood to run, you can run the wood on the diagonal or additional subfloor can be added so that you can change the direction. This can be discussed further during your In Home Estimate.

How much subfloor do I need to have a wood floor? What if I have particleboard?

For a wood floor installation, most manufacturers require a minimum of 5/8" thick CDX grade plywood (3/4" is recommended) or ¾" thick OSB subfloor (required.) Maximum 16" on center joist construction is also required. ¾" hardwoods cannot be installed over particleboard, waferboard, pressedwood, or fiberboard. Thinner products (5/16", 3/8", ½") can be installed (nail down) over ¾" chip, waferboard, or particleboard. All wooden subfloors, especially particleboard and OSB, must be in very good condition in order to properly support the new wood floor. Many homeowners with particleboard opt to have it removed and replaced with plywood. (These subfloor requirements are not applicable on a cement slab installation. Moisture testing and leveling are your biggest concerns if you are on a slab.) Again, this can be evaluated further during your In Home Estimate.

Are you floors made in the USA?

Many of our products are. However, some are not. Imported generally refers to prefinished wood flooring that is manufactured in China and other Asian locations. The wood may or may not be grown and harvested overseas. Consistency in quality, unpredictable availability, and warranty implications are concerns, but the cost may be lower than American made products. NOTE: There is current litigation involving the formaldehyde levels in certain brands of imported hardwood flooring (none that we carry!)

What is floor prep?

Anything that is required to follow the manufacturer's requirements that the subfloor be flat, clean, dry, and structurally sound prior to the installation of the new floor. For many floor coverings, the subfloor must be level to within 3/16" over a 10' span.

Can we stay home while work is being done?

Usually you can, but that depends on your ability to enter or exit the home without disturbing your new floors while the finish is drying or the glue is setting up. Ask your salesperson or installer to be sure.

I'm adding more wood. Can you match my existing finish and color exactly?

Wood slowly changes color over time. For this reason you can add more of the exact same prefinished flooring and no one will be able guarantee a perfect color match. If you are choosing site finished hardwoods, we will blend the stain color to match as closely as possible, but the most important thing to match is the wood (grade, species, etc.) itself.

I am doing site finished wood. Which is better--water or oil based polyurethane?

Durability is very similar. Water based polyurethane dries more quickly and doesn't yellow or amber like an oil based urethane will. Oil based urethanes have a stronger odor and take longer to dry than water based urethanes. However, darker stain colors tend to look better (richer) with oil based urethanes.

Which should I do first, paint or the new floor?

You can certainly do your floors first. A reputable painter will not have any problems protecting and not damaging your brand new floors. By doing the painting last, you don't have to worry about touch-up painting, painting your primed shoemold, etc.