Wood Flooring Options for Your Home

Wood flooring is timeless, elegant and unique, making it a good option for today’s homeowners. It also can be customized to reflect your design tastes. This brief video from Bona provides more information on widths, styles and grades of wood flooring.

Importance of Moisture Management for Wood Floors

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

Four Reasons to Choose Hardwood Floors

Photo Courtesy: Bona

Photo Courtesy: Bona

With all the different flooring options available, hardwood flooring may seem like an expensive option. However, hardwood flooring remains the best choice in having a space that is safe and clean with low maintenance. When you consider the overall life of a hardwood floor, the benefits of wood flooring outweigh the initial cost.

Safe and Clean

One of the biggest advantages of hardwood floors is that hardwood flooring is a more sanitary option than other floor types. When thinking about carpet vs. hardwood, a good amount of dust, germs and other debris get absorbed into the carpet fibers. With hardwood flooring, there is no place for debris to hide, making for a healthier, safer living environment, especially for allergy sufferers.

Low Maintenance

Generally, hardwood floors cost more than carpeted floors, but they also require less maintenance. Because hardwood floors are typically sealed surfaces with a protective layer of finish, wood floors are more stain resistant than other types of flooring.

One of the benefits of hardwood floors is that they can be repaired and refinished. Hardwood floors do get scraped, scratched, scuffed, dented and damaged – especially in high traffic areas. However, wood flooring can most often simply be sanded, smoothed and refinished. It is rarely necessary to replace a wood floor.

Sustainable

Another advantage of hardwood floors is the environmental factor. Wood flooring is the most abundantly renewable flooring material available. The U.S. Forest Service states that the annual net growth for hardwoods is greater than the average annual removal rate. This means that trees are growing faster than they are being used today.

Wood floors also use less water and energy to produce and can be recycled at the end of their life cycle, making it an extremely sustainable product. Considering the differences in producing carpet vs. hardwood, carpet uses more synthetic materials to produce and is treated with more chemicals than hardwood. Also, hardwood not only brings beauty and value to a home, but it can truly last a lifetime while carpet needs to be replaced every 10-15 years.

Unsurpassed Beauty and Value

Probably the biggest benefit of hardwood is its unique and beautiful look. Hardwood is one of the oldest flooring materials there is, and it never goes out of style. Because of the large variety of trees and wood types, a world of colors, consistencies, designs, and grain patterns are available.

Hardwood floors also increase the value of a house. Whereas many new homeowners will remove carpeting when they buy a house, a gorgeous hardwood floor is usually a reason why a house is bought.

Source: Bona

Wood Floor Maintenance: 10 Tips

Photo: Bona

Photo: Bona

Cleaning your wood floors is easy. Regular maintenance includes sweeping with a soft bristle broom, and vacuuming with the beater bar turned off. You also should clean your floors periodically with a professional wood floor cleaning product recommended by a wood flooring professional.

Here are some other steps you can take to maintain the beauty of your wood floors.

  • Don’t use vinyl or tile cleaning products on wood floors. Self-polishing acrylic waxes cause wood to become slippery and appear dull quickly.
  • Use throw rugs at doorways to help prevent debris from being tracked in and scratching your floor.
  • Don’t wet-mop a wood floor. Standing water can dull the finish, damage the wood and leave a discoloring residue.
  • Wipe up spills immediately with a slightly dampened towel.
  • Don’t over-wax a wood floor. If a wax floor dulls, try buffing instead. Avoid wax buildup under furniture and other light traffic areas by applying wax in these spots every other waxing session.
  • Put stick-on felt protectors under the legs of furniture to prevent scuffing and scratching. Replace these often as dirt and debris can become imbedded on the pad and act like sand paper on the flooring surface.
  • Avoid walking on your wood floors with sports cleats and high heels in disrepair. A 125-pound woman walking in high heels with an exposed heel nail can exert up to 8,000 pounds per square inch. This kind of impact can dent any floor surface.
  • When moving heavy furniture, don’t slide it on wood flooring. It is best to pick up the furniture to move it and to prevent scratches.
  • For wood flooring in the kitchen, place an area rug at the kitchen sink.
  • Use a humidifier throughout the winter months to minimize gaps or cracks.

Source: National Wood Flooring Association

FAQs About Wood Floors

Photo: Shaw Floors

Photo: Shaw Floors

Is it cost-effective for home builders and renovators to select wood flooring instead of less-costly materials?

Yes. Residential real estate agents say homes with wood floors sell faster and fetch higher prices, according to a nationwide survey commissioned by the National Wood Flooring Association. By a four-to-one margin, real estate agents said that a house with wood floors would sell faster than a house without wood floors. Some 90 percent said a house with wood floors would bring a higher price.

Does wood flooring go well with most design styles?

Yes. In a survey commissioned by the NWFA, 96 percent of interior designers find that wood flooring works well with many decorating styles – modern, traditional, and formal. Designers rated natural materials as superior to man-made materials in beauty, prestige, style, maintenance, and durability. A variety of woods and finishes are available to complement the décor and style of any room.

There are so many species of wood. How do I select one?

Choosing a species of wood involves more than selecting a color to match your décor. Other appearance-related attributes are important too, such as texture, grain, and cut. Installers will want to consider mechanical properties like dimensional stability, machinability, and ease in finishing. And any specifier will need to consider availability and cost.

Does wood flooring provide good acoustics?

Churches, synagogues, and other clients with auditorium projects increasingly request wood floors for its warmth and acoustic attributes. Ask your wood flooring professional at MODA Floors & Interiors about special installation techniques that can increase acoustic abilities.

Source: National Wood Flooring Association

Rating the Hardness of Wood

Photo: Shaw Floors

Photo: Shaw Floors

Want to know which woods are harder than others? Below are listed the relative hardness for numerous wood species used in flooring.

These ratings were done using the Janka Hardness Test, which measures the force needed to embed a .444 inch steel ball to half its diameter in a piece of wood.

The higher the number, the harder the wood. Although this is one of the best methods to measure the ability of wood species to withstand indentations, it should be used as a general guide when comparing various species of wood flooring.

The construction and finish also play an important role in the durability and ease of maintenance of any wood floor.

Wood Species Hardness Rating
Douglas Fir 660
Southern Yellow Pine (short leaf) 690
Southern Yellow Pine (Long leaf) 870
Black Cherry 950
Teak 1000
Black Walnut 1010
Heart Pine 1225
Yellow Birch 1260
Red Oak (Northern) 1290
American Beech 1300
Ash 1320
White Oak 1360
Australian Cypress 1375
Hard Maple 1450
Wenge 1620
African Pedauk 1725
Hickory 1820
Pecan 1820
Purpleheart 1860
Jarrah 1910
Merbau 1925
Santos Mahogany 2200
Mesquite 2345
Brazilian Cherry 2350

Understanding the hardwood family should help you decide if this is a flooring answer for you and your home. What’s your favorite species of wood?

 

Bamboo Floors: Good Environmental Option

Photo: Shaw Floors

Photo: Shaw Floors

Rainy Asian jungles, wild monkeys and exotic birds. That’s probably what comes to mind when you think of bamboo, right?

The fact is that bamboo is a rapidly growing hollow grass (not wood) that can be harvested every 5-7 years, unlike tree wood, which can typically be harvested only every 15-100 years. When bamboo shoots are cut, their roots remain intact and new sprouts grow in their place.

As a result, bamboo flooring is an environmentally friendly product that provides an excellent alternative to tree wood. It will provide the same natural beauty and feel in your home as hardwood.

Don’t worry, bamboo flooring is panda friendly too. Since the bamboo used for flooring (commonly called “moso” in Chinese) has no leaf growth on the first 16 feet of the stem, it isn’t a source of food for the panda. The particular species of bamboo used for flooring is grown in select groves of Southern China. It’s 27 percent harder than Northern Red Oak, 13 percent harder than hard maple and can be nailed-down or floated. Not only is bamboo durable, it’s frequently favored for its resistance to fire, insects and moisture.

Bamboo comes in different patterns and plank sizes to complement a variety of decors, from casual to formal and contemporary to traditional. If you’re considering hardwood floors, consider bamboo. It’s a great environmental option and is offered in both solid and engineered construction.

Source: World Floor Covering Association