After mulling over TrustedPros’ articles, which provided stellar comparisons between laminate flooring, engineered hardwood, and solid hardwood, you've finally decided to install hardwood flooring. Alas, other matters are still up for consideration before installing your floor—so don’t relax just yet! We’ve complied a list below.
Your lifestyle can have a direct relationship with your floor’s appearance. Family members and pets can leave behind dust, hair, fur, footprints, and stains. When choosing a floor colour and finish, it is very important to think about your cleaning habits. Dirt build-up is visible on dark floors with a high, or semi-high luster finish. Opting for a matte finish may help you avoid visible build-up; however, white dust will be visible on a black or brown surface. Maintaining a dark, lustrous floor comes with some challenges.
spot visibility is much lower on light colours. No matter if the finish is glossy or matte, lighter floors are a safe choice in terms of maintenance.
Do consider how the colour of your floor will impact your living in the future. If you like to re-decorate often, choosing a neutral coloured wood, rather than one with red-orange undertones, is more flexible. Keep in mind that the colour of wood, especially walnut and cherry, can age over time. Neutral colours are much easier to pair with colourful paints and fabrics.
Thinking about the space where your hardwood floors will be used is essential to picking the best type of wood for your needs. High-traffic areas in your home, such as hallways, kitchens, and family rooms, work best with durable wood. Durable wood is also a great option for active families with pets, and kids, because it is resilient to impacts, spills and scratches well.
Start by researching the hardness of the wood under consideration using the Janka hardness test. A harder wood, like Hickory or Walnut, may resist damage in a family room where furniture is moved often. Using softer, more delicate woods like Oak, Fir, or Yellow Birch in that space may lead to disappointment if the flooring gets damaged. If you truly love the look of Fir or Yellow Birch, consider it for wall panels, or ceiling-work. Pick a wood that you can maintain for a lifetime.
If you’re worried about damages here and there, don’t fret, there are great options on the market to ease your mind. A matte finish, or a more rigid and pronounced grain, like hand-scraped hardwood for example, can help mask damages if they occur. Hand-scraped woods have a very rustic aesthetic, and a naturally worn appearance, which hides scratches and dents well. Another great option is restored, or reclaimed wood. These planks are naturally rugged with a lot of character that you can build upon.
If you're concerned about going over budget when you remodel, there are plenty of other options that can be more wallet-friendly than solid hardwood, such as vinyl, or laminate. Engineered wood floors can be less expensive than solid hardwood as well. However, this is not to say that hardwood flooring will be unreasonably priced. Usually, exotic woods are more expensive. It isn’t difficult to find generic, affordable wood options. If you do go this route, there are plenty of styling methods that can revolutionize their aesthetic.
Choosing a North American wood like White Oak or Hard Maple can help you save some money in areas where transportation across the globe may elevate cost. Moreover, picking a tropical, rare species from another continent may be more expensive. Expensive, exotic wood isn't always better than local options.
When choosing between options, consider where you save money on less expensive options, and how this could damage other environments and communities around the world. Some floor options can be affordable, and some can be too-good-to-be-true affordable. Ultra-affordable options, like $1.00/ft2 bamboo, may indicate that companies selling them are involved in illegal or irresponsible harvesting practices. Some companies exploit regions for a product, and harvesting irresponsibly helps them cut corners on price. Buying a product that is one-and-a-half times more expensive per square foot may sometimes mean that you’re supporting a company with sustainable harvesting methods. Do consider that a tight budget may cause injury to people and species in other regions.
Choosing hardwood is tricky because the material is often exploited. Harvesting wood sustainably is an ongoing issue. Deforestation is highly common and extremely damaging to the people and wildlife of the affected regions. However, eco-friendly options and sustainably procured wood are available. Here they are, at a glance:
- Question where your wood is coming from: While there are particular species that are endangered, or known to be highly exploited, knowing your hardwood floor’s wood species isn’t always the best indicator to follow when making a decision. Sometimes, the company that harvests the wood, and the region it came from can be more valuable indicators of wood sustainability. Particular countries have higher forest stewardship standards than others.
- The wood species and growth: Slow growth hardwood, which faces extinction in some regions, may be sourced from primary forests. They are an endangered species because ne seedlings take an extremely long time to grow into adulthood. Instead, there more sustainable options. Softwood trees tend to grow much faster, and they are often sourced from plantations, which are established for the purpose of harvest. So, they are a more sustainable wood source than rainforests, which are home to millions of native species. Check the background on your wood species before you purchase it.
- Be wary of tropical hardwoods: These trees are the most notorious unsustainable harvests from primary forests. Be very cautious of woods sourced from Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America, as they tend to be tropical hardwoods.
- Ask if your wood is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified: FSC certification is a well-known, international standard system. The FSC has strict environmental and social regulations for forestry. Choosing a FSC product can help with some of the environmental burden you may feel when looking at product options.
- Choose a 'local' wood: A North American wood product has its advantages. It may have a smaller transportation carbon emission than one travelling from across the globe. Moreover, Canada tends to have rigorous forestry regulations, and higher environmental stewardship. Local woods may help alleviate that same environmental burden that comes from choosing hardwood flooring.
- Consider reclaimed wood: Reclaimed wood is wood taken from old buildings, homes, and mills. The advantage of reclaimed wood comes from wood’s natural longevity, by recycling the material. Recycling wood does not harm trees, and it can give you an awesome looking floor. You can try contacting your local mill before checking with other retailers like Habitat for Humanity ReStores, or UrbanTimber for reclaimed wood.
- Consider a quick-growth plant: Bamboo grows very quickly. It can be harvested within the first five years planting it. Moreover, it grows extensively daily, making it an ample resource. Bamboo is a highly adaptive species, allowing farmers to plant it in various regions. While these amazing qualities make bamboo a terrific resource to use for flooring, it does have its downsides. There is plenty of deforestation done to make way for bamboo crops. Make sure you're purchasing sustainability certified bamboo to avoid environmental exploitation. Certified products usually come from companies that co-operate with organizations similar to FSC, such as Rainforest Alliance Certified, to help maintain and support responsible environmental stewardship.
- Engineered wood: This is a unique product because it usually uses wood pulp products, and draws from lower-grade tree species with narrower diameters (sometimes younger trees). There are FSC engineered wood products available on the market.
- Cork it: A great sustainable option for flooring is cork. Did you know that cork is a highly sustainable, renewable resource? Cork is tree bark that is safely harvested without damaging the tree. Cork grows quicker than any other hardwood options. It is harvested and produced in Mediterranean countries that have stricter government control over forest sustainability. Cork has a beautifully textured appearance. It is also water, termite, and rot resistant. How neat is that!
- DIY: If you're adventurous, and a natural builder, check out this tutorial for hardwood flooring made out of shipping palates. Shipping palates are another reclaimed wood option at your disposal, and they tend to be inexpensive, sometimes free!
Get the Look
Flooring is more than just that—it’s also décor. Colours and styles work together to form a beautiful ambience. Lighter woods can influence a beachy, or-cottagey atmosphere. Darker woods can bring out deep sophistication, or a rustic vibe. However, no single colour or wood will determine how a space is going to look. Pairing colours and shapes brings the room together.
Over time, some woods will change colours from sunlight exposure, and age. Some woods will darken with age, like Mahogany, Cherry, and Walnut. Some woods you can stain, oil, or finish to create a desired colour and effect. There are so many ways to enhance a piece of wood. You can purchase inexpensive wood (like some Oak species), and stain it to give it a richer, more luxurious appearance. Choose different styling techniques, such as hand-scraped, wire brushed, and even acid washed finishes. Allow you toplay with textures, and make your wood unique.
Sometimes people love a sample of a product, but hate it in large amounts. Some folks have run into this issue when painting their homes. Keep in mind that the same can happen with flooring too! Make sure that you have thought about the flooring samples you have seen when making your final decision.
Regardless of the type of wood you select, maintenance is essential to keeping your floors healthy and beautiful. Clean your floors with care. Use a lightly dampened soft cloth to remove dust and dirt, rather than a cleaning product. Diluted vinegar in water works as a delicate bacterial cleanser too. Use water sparingly, as wood doesn't handle significant moisture well.
The finish you choose can impact your floor’s durability and appearance. A prefinished hardwood gives the wood great durability against scratches; it also saves you from finishing a raw product after installation. There are plenty of other finishing options to choose from. Some types of oil based varnish, for example, make wood more durable and resistant to solvents, heat, chemicals, and water. Other popular, water-resistant manufactured options include lacquer and shellac. It’s best to consult an expert, and do your homework when considering manufactured options. There are several varieties that serve different purposes, and have different appearances.
There are natural products that you can use to protect your floors against water damage as well. UV curing, natural oils (tung, linseed, soybean), and wax finishes are some popular choices. These natural options are preferred because they don’t contain chemicals, and small scratches tend to show on glossy, manufactured finishes. However, natural options have their downsides. Oils don’t have a protective shield to protect against dents and deep gouges, like manufactured finishes. Moreover, some will argue that a natural wax finish lacks the durability and longevity that homeowners are looking for in their hardwood flooring.
While there are several options on the market that increase the longevity of your floors, wood is a delicate material. It is reasonable to expect damages and scratches to occur over time. If any dents or nicks bother you, purchasing wood filler available at hardware stores is a quick fix.