“It’s time for new floors!” If this statement gives you anxiety, you are not alone! Your choice in new flooring is a big decision, as the floors that you choose will likely be around for decades to come. To complicate things, the world of floor coverings can be overwhelming and confusing to navigate, given the vast number of flooring options available today. From construction types, stains and finishes, installation methods and more, the flooring industry landscape can be tricky to navigate.
Well don’t worry, because we are here to help cut through the noise and make floor buying simple! Let’s go over some basics:
There are many different flooring materials out there, but if you’re here, you are probably considering hardwood flooring or a manufactured wood alternative, so let’s talk about these.
Hardwood flooring is hardwood flooring, right? Wrong! There are actually two types of hardwood flooring, each manufactured very differently. These two types are: Solid Hardwood Floors and Engineered Hardwood Floors.
Let’s explore the difference between these two.
This is just what it sounds like. A solid hardwood flooring plank is made from a single piece of wood, cut into a board and then either left unfinished, to be custom finished on-site after installation, or prefinished by the manufacturer.
A prefinished hardwood floor plank is stained and treated with finish and does not require any additional steps after installation. Solid hardwoods have the advantage of being able to be sanded and refinished, typically at least once and possibly more depending on the thickness of the plank.
Since solid wood is prone to movement, more care must be taken when installing boards to avoid cupping, down the road. The wider the plank, the more susceptible it is to cupping. Typically, solid hardwood planks should be 5 inches or less in width to avoid issues with wood movement over time.
Engineered hardwood flooring was conceived as a modern solution to the limitations of traditional solid hardwood, and it truly is a modern miracle! Constructed from multiple layers of wood, each facing a different direction, engineered hardwood is not nearly as susceptible to cupping or movement over time, and can handle moisture-rich environments that would be unsuitable for hardwood floors. That means that engineered hardwood can be installed in places such as basements, which would not be recommended with solid wood.
The top layer of an engineered plank is the same wood that a solid plank would be made from, meaning that the exposed surface of the floor will be beautiful, solid hardwood, but will have the advantage of advanced engineered construction underneath.
SPC LUXURY VINYL
“Wait, that’s not wood at all!” That’s correct, SPC Luxury Vinyl is a wonderful alternative to real wood floors. Hardwood floors simply cannot be installed in some places due to high moisture content. Sometimes, they are just not the best choice for very active households where the wood will constantly be scratched and damaged. Enter SPC Luxury Vinyl. SPC stands for Stone Polymer Composite, and refers to the rigid core of the plank. This super-stable construction features an incredibly durable, waterproof surface layer that is also impact, dent, and scratch resistant. This surface layer has been embossed to replicate the appearance and texture of real wood.
If you are planning to install new hardwood floors, you need to know about acclimation. Wood is extremely efficient at transferring moisture through itself. Hardwood flooring will absorb and release moisture from the air depending on the environment that it is in.
To acclimate your hardwood flooring to its new environment, you need only store the wood in the room where it will be installed for a minimum of five days and up to two weeks. This will ensure minimum bowing and cupping caused by the movement of wood after installation.
Let’s Go Deeper...
Do you know what’s under your floor? Well surprise, there’s more floor! The subfloor is the hidden floor underneath your actual floor. Subfloors can range from concrete slabs to plywood, and are very important as they add stability and protection, while also providing a surface to attach your main flooring to.
The installation method used for your flooring will depend on the subfloor type, so it’s important to know what type of subfloor you have when selecting flooring. Not sure which flooring is compatible with which subfloor? That’s okay, you need not be an expert, just be sure to ask your retailer or hardwood flooring professional about compatibility before purchasing flooring.
Wood You Like To Know More?
The harness of different wood species is measured by an industry-wide standard known as the Janka Test. Basically, a steel ball is forced into the surface of the wood using measured air pressure to determine the force required to sink the ball into the wood by half its diameter. Exciting stuff, huh?
The results of this testing gives us the Janka Scale, by which wood hardness is measured and compared. The higher the Janka rating, the harder the wood. While harder woods stand up better against dents and scratches, softer woods have the advantage of being easier to work with in terms of milling, sanding, nailing, etc..
Now that you have an understanding of the Janka Scale, you can easily see where different wood species fit in relation to one another’s hardness. If a wood species is very hard, it can be difficult to work with or to refinish if needed. If a wood is too soft, it will be very susceptible to scratches and damage over time.
Given this information, it’s easy to see why the most popular species of wood typically fall into a “Goldilocks” middle zone on the Janka Scale - not too hard, and not too soft. Red Oak is the industry mean for hardness, and its sibling, White Oak, is just a bit harder, making these species the most popular choices for flooring in the world, by a wide margin.
Well of course you have questions, even if you haven’t thought of them yet! When it comes to hardwood flooring, it is simply impossible to include all relevant information here. While this is a great place to get started, we recognize that there is a wealth of industry knowledge out there that has not been covered. Don’t worry though, we’ve got your back!
Have questions? Contact us and send any questions that you have. Our flooring experts will be happy to get back to you with an answer!
Have a flooring project, small or large? Reach out with any questions. We strive to create an experience that is enjoyable and headache-free.