Practical Tips on Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood flooring

Installing a hardwood floor is a very popular home improvement project. These floors have been beautifying homes for years, making them great for traditional houses as well as ultra-modern abodes. Regardless of your dècor or personal style, there's a species and finish of hardwood that's perfect for you. In this article, we'll look at hardwood floors in a few different ways. We'll clue you in to the hottest current trends, warn you of some common (and costly) mistakes, and even help you find the very best professionals in your local area.

Hardwood Advantages

We all know that a gleaming hardwood floor is beautiful. However, there are some other benefits to this traditional floor covering. A hardwood floor adds significantly to the value of your home, if selling is in your future. Hardwood is very easy to maintain and, in most cases, extremely durable. In addition, hardwood contributes to a healthy home! Allergens like pet hair and dust can easily become trapped in floor coverings like carpet. Hardwood allows these allergens to be easily cleaned away, leaving the air in your home much more comfortable to breathe.

Hardwood Trends

Of all the trends in hardwood flooring right now, the biggest is environmentally friendly materials. From the wood itself to the stains and finishes used to bring out the shine, options are available which are much gentler on the environment than those available just a few short years ago. Be sure to let your contractor know that you want an earth-friendly floor; they can show you an array of options which complement both your style and the planet.

In keeping with the earth-friendly movement, a very trendy material right now is bamboo. While this plant isn't even technically a tree, it is hard and durable with a beautiful grain, making it absolutely ideal for homeowners who want a sustainable floor. A bamboo grove is fully mature in approximately six to seven years, while more traditional hardwoods such as oak take as long as ten to fifteen years to reach the minimum size for harvesting. Due to its fast rate of growth, bamboo is much more sustainable than nearly any other hardwood flooring material, making it a great choice for an eco-friendly home.

If you don't love the pale blonde color of bamboo, don't worry. Just like any other hardwood flooring material, bamboo can be stained and finished in any shade which complements your home. Ask for environmentally-friendly stains and finishes. There is even a method of steam-dying bamboo, using hot steam to chemically alter the material and cause a color change. However, this method is still not widespread and may cost more than staining.

When it comes to trendy finishes, there is a fairly even split between traditional and exotic. Traditional hardwood floors include those made from oak, maple, cherry, walnut, pine, hickory, beech and birch. Within this traditional palette is a color to complement any dècor, from rustic to modern. Rich, warm oak and maple are very popular choices for traditional homes, since their color can blend with many different decors and their overall appearance is timeless. In more modern homes, beech is a very popular choice. Its very pale coloring complements the clean, sleek lines of a modern home beautifully.

If you're looking for a sustainable exotic hardwood, your choices are extensive. In recent years, many new species have become widely available. These exotic choices are most common in modern homes. While many of them have become extremely affordable, a few a still quite costly. However, if you truly love the look, you can always utilize the trend of installing a hardwood floor with exotic accent pieces. A few truly amazing examples of exotic hardwoods include the boldly striped tigerwood and purpleheart which, true to its name, shines up to a deep lilac shade. There are more subdued options as well; exotics offer something for every taste. Be sure to buy from a supplier who practices sustainable farming.

Whether you're going the traditional route or playing up your style with unique exotics, accent pieces are another hot trend. An accent piece can be as traditional as a border, or it can be as artistic as a circular crest of purpleheart in the center of a pale beechwood floor. The choice is yours!

Common Hardwood Mistakes

Unfortunate and costly, the following mistakes are usually made by homeowners with the best of intentions.

Attempting to DIY with No Experience

Installing a hardwood floor is a very intricate job. Not only does the floor need to be installed perfectly level, but the sub-floor must be inspected and repaired or replaced if necessary. Staining and finishing a flat surface is surprisingly hard, due to the stain's tendency to pool (which creates some truly odd patterns if allowed to dry). These are just a few of the details which go into creating a solid, dependable and beautiful hardwood floor.

Far too often, homeowners looking to save money attempt to install their own flooring. If you have experience in the area, this can be a great way to stay on budget. However, don't make the common mistake of thinking that just because you've watched a few online tutorials, you are a flooring expert.

Hardwood flooring professionals have spent years installing floors, and they've seen just about every aspect of the process. This expertise translates into several advantages for you. The job will be done more quickly, and any odd problems that may arise are more likely to be tackled with knowledge and experience. While professional services cost more, many homeowners find that the security of knowing the job will be done properly is worth the extra cash. A professional will also give you a warranty (if they don't, don't hire them), promising to promptly address any issues which arise within a certain amount of time (usually one to five years).

While the initial cost is more, hiring a pro is the smart choice for most homeowners. The time you save is more important than you may be thinking. Very few homeowners fully realize just how inconvenient it will be to have their entire living room (or kitchen, or entire first floor) torn up until the floor is finished. In addition to convenience, you also must consider the possibility of making a costly mistake and having to start over. If this happens just once, your DIY costs can easily exceed what you would have paid a professional.

Not Being Specific About Materials

Eco-friendliness is a big concern today. If you're seeking an environmentally friendly floor, be sure to let your contractor know from the very beginning.

Contractors have become accustomed to clients asking for the job to be done as cheaply as possible. This often involves using products which are toxic and woods which aren't as sustainable as others.

Often, if a contractor doesn't hear otherwise, they will assume that you want the job done as inexpensively as possible, simply because today's economy means more homeowners are tightening their belts. If you're willing to spend the extra money on earth-friendly products, make your wishes known right away, and your contractor will purchase accordingly.

Hiring Without Proper Credentials

Another mistake which comes from a desire to save money, this is one you should avoid at all costs. Homeowners will often receive bids from companies or individuals without a business license, without insurance, and often without even a single reference. These individuals will claim to be highly experienced and offer to do the job at an extremely inexpensive rate. They may even say that they don't carry insurance in order to keep costs down.

Don't fall for it! Any reputable contractor or handyman knows the value of a business license and proper, current insurance. A business license shows dedication and a desire to maintain professionalism in their work. Insurance ensures that if a worker is hurt, they will be treated promptly and that any medical bills won't fall onto your shoulders, which is possible anytime an accident occurs on your property. These criteria are essential, and they should never be ignored, regardless of how good a salesman the contractor might be.

How to Find Good, Reputable Professionals

With potentially dishonest or inexperienced workers out there, how can you find pros who will deliver a beautiful and durable floor on time, on budget, and with a professional attitude? Thankfully, it's much simpler than it sounds.

Websites which connect homeowners with professionals in their area are the best resource for getting your new hardwood floor installed right. These websites allow you to find a professional in two different ways.

Looking through local contractors and professionals, you can view important criteria such as licensing, insurance and years in the industry. You can read reviews written by former clients, and you can often view pictures of finished projects. Once you've found a few professionals which seem reputable, you can contact them and discuss your project.

Your other option is to post your project online and let the professionals come to you! Be as specific as possible so that the bids you receive will be as accurate as they can be. Once the bids start coming in, research each professional and check references before making a decision.

Although it's not essential, homeowners who have taken on a large-scale project such as a new floor will agree that it's a wonderful thing to get along with your contractor. Being best friends is not necessary, but remember that this individual is going to be in your home for a significant portion of the day until your new floor is finished. Getting along and being cordial makes the experience much easier on everybody involved.

Posted by: Diane Sheppard
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