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Hardwood flooring is warm, cozy and inviting and is the preferred flooring among many homeowners. However, before making a hardwood flooring purchase, there are a few things you should know. Among other things, are a few factors that make hardwood flooring a good choice for certain rooms within the home but at the same time it is not right for other rooms. This buying guide will help you with the decision making process for hardwood flooring. You will also learn some important information about types and styles of hardwood flooring, the proper installation of hardwood flooring, pricing factors and how to care for hardwood floors if you decide to use hardwood flooring for your project.
A few things to consider before installing hardwood flooring are what rooms are best for hardwood flooring, how your climate will affect hardwood flooring, how the Janka scale rating of your hardwood flooring will be an important number to look at if you have high traffic situations like children or pets and the floor’s exposure to sunlight. Hardwood flooring is a good choice for living rooms, bedrooms, dining rooms, dens and offices for the beauty and durability it offers. But hardwood is very sensitive to moisture, so it should not be installed in bathrooms and if it is to be installed in a kitchen, it is very important that the edges be sealed against moisture.
If there are high traffic issues in the living room or other rooms, like children or pets, then it is best to choose a hardwood flooring that rates high on the Janka scale. Red oak is usually rated somewhere in the middle of the scale with Brazilian Walnut being some of the hardest hardwood flooring and Eastern White Pine being some of the softest. Even if a very hard wood is chosen, precaution should be taken with regard to scratches or dents by the use of area rugs or floor mats.
Along with moisture, humidity is an enemy of hardwood flooring with the exception of hardwood flooring that is constructed with the rift sawn method. So consider the climate where the hardwood flooring is to be installed. Humidity levels in the room should be kept between 40% to 60% in order to protect hardwood flooring from expanding and buckling. It might be a better option to install engineered hardwood flooring in areas where humidity extremes cannot be avoided. Sunlight can affect the performance of hardwood flooring by fading or otherwise changing shades. So if the room that you plan to install hardwood flooring experiences a great deal of sunlight, you may wish to hang blinds or solar protection sheets outside the windows. Certain types of hardwood flooring are more affected by sunlight than others.
There are many types of hardwood flooring all depending upon the tree in which it was harvested from. Basically, these types are divided into two groups, domestic and exotic. Domestic types include hardwoods harvested from trees grown in North America like White and Red Oak, North American Cherry and Maple, Black Walnut, Hickory, Beech and Ash. Exotic types of hardwood are typically grown in other regions of the world. Some of these types include Teak, Jatoba, Tigerwood, Ipe, Santos and African Mahogany, Wenge and Patagonian Rosewood. These types of hardwood are usually more expensive than domestic hardwoods. Methods of construction include plain sawn and quarter sawn. The difference between these two consists of the angle that the wood is cut. Plain sawn is cut lengthwise to reveal the grain and quarter sawn is cut across the top of the wood revealing the growth rings. The finished product comes in planks or strips measuring about 2 and ¼ inches in width.
Textures for hardwood flooring include smooth, distressed, hand-scraped and wire-brushed each with their own unique properties. Smooth has an even appearance and distressed possesses an old world look that is beaten in creative patterns. Hand-scraping involves the creation of uneven patterns of waves either by hand or with a machine and wire brushing removes the soft areas of wood like the sapwood to present a deeply grained look. The color of hardwood flooring is for the most part determined by the color of the finish. You can also add variety to your hardwood flooring by utilizing either parquet, which is hardwood that is laid in creative patterns, inlays that decorate the hardwood with medallions or stencils used with different color finishes and mixed media patterns that offer a mixture of hardwood and tiles or marble materials.
Manufacturers of hardwood flooring usually recommend the use of a moisture barrier underlayment and one that will even out minor imperfections in the sub-floor. These also provide some sound proofing. T-moldings are used when rooms of similar height meet. Reducer moldings are used when rooms are of a different height. Quarter round covers the gap next to the wall. End cap covers thresholds and stair nose covers the edge of cork on stairs. Solid hardwood flooring is usually installed by either gluing or nailing down the planks directly to the sub-floor. Engineered hardwood flooring is usually installed by the floating floor method whereby planks or strips are attached to each other by tongue and groove or click and lock construction and then placed onto to the sub-floor without adhesives or fasteners.
There are a couple of different things that may affect the price of hardwood flooring. As was mentioned earlier, exotic types are usually more expensive and the higher the Janka rating, the more expensive the hardwood will be. Grade and quality have the most affect on the price of hardwood flooring. Grade varieties include clear, select, common and rustic. Clear has no visible defects. Select grade has tight knots and variations in color. Common has a rustic and darker appearance. Rustic is the darkest, the most knots and the most visible imperfections.
The care and maintenance of hardwood flooring involves regular sweeping, dusting or vacuuming. Do not use excessive water on your hardwood floor, although a slightly damp mop may be alright without the use of any harsh cleansers. It is a good idea to remove shoes before walking on hardwood floors and use area rugs in high traffic areas. Occasionally, your hardwood floor may need refinishing.