Photo: Shaw Floors
Installing hardwood flooring is an easy way to improve the look, durability and value of your home. Consider these factors before deciding on whether you prefer solid or engineered hardwood flooring.
The location of your hardwood flooring basically falls into three categories:
- On Grade – at ground level.
- Above Grade – any second level or higher.
- Below Grade – any floor below ground level, including basements or sunken living rooms.
Traditional solid hardwood flooring is not well suited for below-grade installations due to the possibility of moisture issues. The construction of an engineered hardwood gives it enhanced structural stability that allows it to be installed at any grade level when a moisture barrier such as Selitac Thermally Insulating Underlayment or Silent Step Ultra 3 in 1 is used during installation.
What type of subfloor do you have?
If you plan to install over concrete, you must use an engineered product to ensure structural integrity. Solid wood flooring or engineered flooring may be used over plywood, existing wood floors or OSB subfloors. Be sure to refer to Shaw’s installation guidelines for specifics on subfloor requirements.
Will there be moisture in the room?
If you’re considering flooring for a bathroom where continuous moisture is expected, you will want to select a product other than hardwood. While the moisture resistance of an engineered hardwood makes it suitable for rooms below grade or ground level when installed with a moisture barrier, it’s not advisable to install any hardwood flooring in a bathroom.
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Photo: Shaw Floors
Some allergens are more common outdoors, like pollen and mold spores, while others are more common indoors, like dust mites and animal dander. All allergen sources, however, can be present anywhere at any time. And because the cost of air-borne allergy-related illnesses can be staggering – up to $17.5 billion in health care costs and more than 6 million work and school days lost each year – it is in your best interest to prevent and minimize allergy triggers whenever possible.
While outdoor allergens can be hard to control, there are ways to minimize the impact of allergens that occur indoors. Frequent dusting, vacuuming and washing will minimize many indoor allergens, but these activities also can stir them up as well. One way to prevent allergens altogether is to eliminate many of the areas where they can gather. Flooring is one example.
Flooring is one area of the indoor environment where the amount of indoor allergens can be controlled. Certain types of flooring, such as carpet, are simply better gathering places for allergens. Small microorganisms, pollen, dust, dust mites, mold, animal dander, and other substances tend to accumulate in carpet fibers. Other flooring types, such as wood, tend to minimize the accumulation of allergens because there are no fibers to trap these substances. Taking steps to minimize these kinds of allergens can result in improved indoor air quality.
When it comes to flooring, the Environmental Protection Agency finds that hardwood floors improve indoor air quality. This is because hardwood floors do not harbor microorganisms or pesticides that can be tracked in from outdoors. In addition, hardwood floors also minimize the accumulation of dust, mold and animal dander. Both of these findings result in improved indoor air quality.
Photo: Shaw Floors
Wood is an organic material that reacts to its environment. It is hygroscopic, which means that it absorbs and loses moisture in reaction to its surrounding environment. Wood gains moisture and swells in humid environments. In dry environments, it loses moisture and shrinks. This is completely normal and happens at all stages of the wood life cycle, even as the tree is growing in the forest.
If wood gains or loses too much moisture, problems can occur. Wood that gains too much moisture can cup. Cupping occurs across the width of a floor board, with edges that are raised on each board and centers that are lower than the edges. Cupping always happens due to a moisture imbalance through the thickness of the board.
Wood that loses too much moisture can gap. Gapping occurs between floor boards. Gaps can vary in size and are considered normal if they appear and disappear during seasonal changes in humidity. Gaps are not considered normal if they are large or do not close during more-humid months.
Both of these issues can be minimized by maintaining an environment that is consistently between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit, and 30-50 percent humidity. Significant fluctuations outside these ranges can result in cupping or gaps.
Source: National Wood Flooring Association
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