Hardwood Flooring Options
Prefinished plank flooring has the finish applied at the factory prior to installation. There’s no dust from sanding, no fumes from chemicals, and no waiting for the finish to dry. These floors are warranted to last longer than site-finished floors–typically 5 to 35 years, for residential use. This is because factory applied urethane finishes are much tougher and longer lasting than many site-applied finishes.
When the prefinished floor is installed any irregularities in the existing subfloor will show up as tiny steps between the prefinished boards. It is imperative when installing a prefinished material that you have your contractor take the time to make sure you have a smooth subfloor on which to install your new flooring.
Unfinished wood (sand -in-place) is 100% hardwood milled from lumber that is installed and then finished in place. Subflooring irregularities will not show as much in a floor that is installed and then finished because the flooring is sanded after installation allowing for any irregularities to be smoothed during the sanding process. After the wood is sanded, it can be stained a color of your choice before the finish coat is applied. Hardwood reacts to changes in its setting, like moisture and extreme temperatures, which cause solid wood to shrink or expand. All solid hardwood can be sanded and refinished if needed over the years. Solid hardwood is not recommended for installation below ground level or in bathrooms.
Parquet Floors (Parquetry) is a geometric mosaic of wood pieces used for decorative effect. The two main uses of parquetry are as veneer patterns on furniture and block patterns for flooring. Parquet patterns are entirely geometrical and angular squares, triangles and diamonds. . The most popular parquet flooring pattern is herringbone. Parquet flooring is usually installed in basements or other areas where the subflooring is inappropriate for installation of hardwood strip flooring.
Engineered Hardwood Floors is built up of layers of wood. It consists of three to ten layers, called plies, that are glued together. This multi-ply structure gives engineered wood superior stability, greater than solid wood, which reduces concerns associated with shrinking and expanding when temperature and humidity change. Engineered wood can be installed below ground level making it a great choice for finished basements.
The Finishing Process
Sanding will smooth out any irregularities between boards, eliminate surface roughness such as minor scratches and prepare the wood for applications of finish. There are at least five steps in the finish process:
- Rough Sanding
- Fine sanding
- Edging Around Walls and Corners
- Hand Sanding
Sanding will not always remove deep scratches or gouges. Neither can sanding remove all deep or heavy discoloring such as pet urine or old water damage stains and can’t always even-out “cupping” the curled-edge effect of water damage.
Our recommendation is to have your flooring installer provide a sample board that is at least 36″ by 36″ on which the stain is applied. It is much easier to view different stain colors on this sample board than it is on your new flooring.
Stain is applied and allowed to dry thoroughly before the first coat of finish is applied. Expect the floor surface to be rough prior to buffing.
The two most common finishes are polyurethane and waterborne finish.
Polyurethane is an oil-based finish. It’s one of the most common surface finishes. It provides a rich, deep, textured appearance – possibly the most robust of all the major finishing options. It is also a cost-effective solution.
Waterborne is a Swedish finish, that many experts believe is the most durable finish available. Waterborne finish dries fast, resists yellowing, and offers a clear, light, durable alternative. Environmentally conscious homeowners and contractors will enjoy the “greenness” of this option. Waterborne costs a little more than the typical polyurethane.
Drying Time ranges from 12 to 24 hours for all oil polyurethane and from two to six hours for waterborne finishes.
Curing Time can range from seven days to one month. During this time be careful moving heavy furniture. It’s recommended waiting at least one week prior to putting rugs down.
Dust: When a floor is sanded, tiny dust particles are released into the air. This cannot be prevented but a number of steps can be taken by your flooring contractor to minimize this amount of dust allowed into the air. If someone promises you a dust-free job, be cautious. This isn’t possible. Most sanders have internal dust pickup fans and vacuums but none are 100% efficient.
Care & Maintenance
A big advantage to hardwood flooring is that it is very low maintenance. Under normal conditions, it will need only periodic sponge or damp mopping. Some homeowners choose to wax and polish their floors – especially floors that get more dirt and foot traffic. Cleaning kits are available but once you start using wax, you’ll have to continue periodic waxing until your floors are refinished.
Wood floors come in a variety of species and finishes that will fit any décor. Today’s wood floors come in more than 50 species, both domestic and exotic, spanning the spectrum of color options, hardness, and price ranges. No matter what the look you want to achieve, there are a variety of species to meet your needs. Oak is one of the most common species of hardwood flooring and comes in several different grades.
Grades of Oak. The National Oak Flooring Manufacturer’s Association (NOFMA) has established guidelines by which oak flooring is graded.
Clear: This is the highest grade. Characteristics include tight grain, no worm holes or knots and high uniformity of color. Some mills have combined clear grade with select grade calling it “select and better”.
Select: Tiny worm holes may be present. Any visible knots will be small and tight and will average no more than one every three feet. This grade is relatively uniform in color with some slight imperfections in milling possible.
Number One Common: Tiny worm holes may be present. This grade will have a few more knots and some minor milling imperfections with more color variation. Knots will be small and tight and will average no more than one every three feet.
Number Two Common: A big difference is the contrast in color which is noticeable after the flooring is installed. This is because the wood graining will have more natural variation and the stain will show more variation. There are more worm holes and knots as well.
Michael Crum, GMB, CGB, CGR
Summit Design Remodeling, LLC