Whether you’re doing renovations or putting a home together from scratch, your flooring choice will be one of the most important decisions that you’ll take. Just like the home itself needs a solid foundation to stand on, so does your interior. The entire look, feel and overall aesthetic of your home will (or rather – should) depend on your choice of flooring. In this article, we’ll be having a look at one of the most widely used, yet often misunderstood types of flooring – hardwood.
Before we begin, let’s get one thing out of the way – no matter how much we’d like them to be, not all wood floorings are made equal. There is a large number of factors at play, which makes choosing the optimal flooring type for your specific situation much more complicated than just picking a colour from a catalogue.
Solid hardwood flooring vs Engineered floors
Back in the day, when someone uttered the phrase “hardwood floor” everyone instantaneously imagined neatly arranged solid timber planks. And while this type of hardwood floor is still popular to this date, there is another approach to flooring that has quickly gained recognition – the engineered wood floors.
Offering a thinner top layer, engineered floors are layered in a way which prevents them from shifting during the natural expansion and contraction cycles. Engineered floors are also easier to install, especially when working with concrete subfloors or in basements. This is because standard hardwood flooring requires a couple of plywood layers underneath, resulting in a slightly elevated flooring, which can interfere with already installed doors. Engineered flooring comes with no such downside and, as an added benefit can even be installed directly atop of a soundproofing mat.
Despite all of its perceived benefits, however, engineered flooring has nothing on classic hardwood floors when it comes to aesthetics, experts agree. The classical hardwood floors simply look, feel and even sound better.
Prefinished or Site Finish – Which one is right for you?
You can get your hardwood planks either prefinished (where the stain and topcoat are already applied), or raw (in which case they’d need to be finished on-site). There is often a debate, especially amongst the more DIY-spirited of homeowners, about which is the better choice. And while there’s no definitely better choice, both options have their differences.
Generally, prefinished wood comes with the added benefit of “getting what it says on the box”. You can already see what your flooring will look like once installed, and there’s much less work to do on-site. Furthermore, prefinished pieces can offer for easier colour matching, as you can test various samples against the other pieces of decoration throughout your home and see what you like best.
On-site finishing, on the other hand, will allow you to customise your flooring a bit more, as the stain and sheen can be adjusted per your preferences. And, since the floor is usually sanded after being installed, you can get a tad smoother looking surface by opting for the more labour-intensive method.
What type of finish to pick?
Choosing the right type of finishing can be rather difficult, as there is a wide variety of products on the market, all of which are fully capable of getting the job done. Between site-finish polyurethanes, penetrating oils, prefinished UV-curved urethane finishes, and oil-like hybrids, you’ll have a lot to choose from. To simplify the situation for you, we’ll look at the two main categories: polyurethane and oils.
Incredibly resilient to damage, stains, as well as day-to-day wear-and-tear, polyurethane finishes, are the go-to choice for households with pets or young children. They’re much more difficult to scratch and will last you a very long time, even if you aren’t super careful around them.
Oil finishes, on the other hand, are much more delicate and can get scratched very easily. To compensate for that, however, they’re also easier to repair. While polyurethane repair jobs generally involve board replacement and recoating an entire section of your floor, oil finishes can be spot-repaired.
At the end of the day, your choice depends on what type of maintenance you see yourself doing in the future. If you go with oil finishes, you’ll have an easier time fixing any damage, but the damage will also occur with much higher frequency. With polyurethane, you’ll have the exact opposite experience – they’ll need repairs much less often, but the task will be quite laborious and time-consuming.
Generally, the most popular types of hardwood floor come from oak, walnut, hickory, ash, and cherry trees, with oak and walnut being the prime choices.
Oak hardwood floors are picked for their durability, as well as their ability to take stain very well. Appealing, widely available and easy to maintain, oak is the prime choice of most homeowners throughout Western Europe as well as North America.
Walnut hardwood floors, on the other hand, are slightly softer and better shading. Prized for its rich and warm tone, walnut is a staple, especially in North America.
We’re going to wrap this guide by having a look at the various grain patterns that you can choose from. Hardwood floors come from planks cut in three different ways – rift-sawn, plain-sawn and quarter-sawn.
Choosing plain-sawn planks will provide you with the traditional type of hardwood flooring, complete with its undulating patterns (or cathedrals as they’re most commonly referred to).
Rift-sawn floors will come with a more consistent look to them, without any specific patterns. Choosing rift-sawn planks for your hardwood floor will provide you with a consistent, long and linear grain.
The last type – the quarter-sawn planks, will yield a very intriguing kind of pattern, resembling iridescent rays, striking through the pieces. Depending on the kind of aesthetic that you’re going for, your desire for them may vary.
Standard hardwood floors usually present a combination of either plain-sawn or rift- and quarter-sawn mixes. As noted above, however, should you have a particular aesthetic in mind, you can find and order hardwood flooring made entirely out of one type.
Source: Architectural Digest