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What is the best hardwood floor to buy?
By Crystal Hosking – Hosking Hardwood Flooring
© 2013, Copyright protected. All Rights Reserved

 


 Depending on the individual homeowner, shopping for hardwood flooring can be either a fun easy process or a very tedious and time consuming one. Some homeowners know exactly what they like and what they want. In other cases, some people spend hours, days, weeks or longer searching for that perfect look. Hardwood flooring is a huge investment in your home and it’s important to find the perfect fit.


Solid vs. Engineered

One of the most important first steps in choosing a hardwood floor for your home is to determine whether you need to use solid hardwood or engineered hardwood. Solid flooring which has traditionally been the most popular over the years is used in installations over wood subfloors and in regions with atmospheric moisture content which is relatively stable. Solid hardwood flooring is typically 3/4” thick and recommended to be stapled or nailed down, although some thinner solid wood flooring on the market today boast that they can also be glued direct to the subfloor or concrete slab.

Engineered hardwood was designed to be more versatile. It can be installed in virtually any room of the home and is an especially convenient option when homeowners want to put real hardwood flooring over concrete subfloors or over subfloors with radiant heating systems. The cross layer construction of engineered flooring minimizes expansion and contraction and therefore can put up with moisture atmospheric changes a bit better than solid hardwood can. Engineered flooring also offers more installation options than typical 3/4” solid hardwood. In addition to being able to staple or nail engineered hardwood, you may also be able to glue down or float engineered planks. There are even specific engineered floors that boast click locking tongue and grooves for fast and glue less floating installation. These click lock hardwood options are perfect for homeowners who’d like to install themselves.

Of course, these are just general guidelines for standard solid and engineered flooring. For more details on where a particular floor can be installed in the home or which installation methods are approved for a particular floor, it’s always recommended to read the manufacturer’s detailed installation instructions.

Bedroom

Although color and style are usually the most important factors with consumers choices, sometimes the level of traffic in a particular room can dictate which floor will be right for you. In a bedroom for example, there is typically significantly less traffic than in other rooms of the home. This could allow for maybe a softer wood species, like American Cherry or American Walnut, to be installed in this less trafficked room if you prefer their appearances over a harder species like red or white oak flooring.

The hardness of a wood species is typically measured comparatively to the red oak wood species, as is shown on the Janka Hardness Chart (link appears below). Oak flooring has been known over the years for being a very hard and durable wood. As you will see there are many that rank higher on the hardness chart, but that doesn't necessarily mean that their service life will that much greater. Solid oak flooring can last well over 100 year before it needs to be replaced.

(See Janka Hardness Chart for a full spectrum of wood species and hardness ranks)

Examples of popular hardwood flooring as used in bedrooms:
Mont-Royal Hardwood Flooring 
Bruce Dundee Plank
Somerset Hardwood
 

Kitchen

The kitchen can be one of the busiest rooms of the home. There are constantly people coming in and out, dropping things, spilling water, moving chairs, etc. This creates the need for a hard, durable floor to be installed. Hardwood flooring with an Acrylic Impregnated wear layer has emerged in the industry as one of the best most durable real wood floor options on the market today. Products like Armstrong’s Performance Plus incorporate Acrylic Impregnated wear layers into their collections, making these products 10x more durable than regular prefinished hardwood flooring. These durable hardwood floors fill up the pores in the top decorative layer of the engineered product with the finish, creating a denser surface that is less likely to dent. Additionally, since the color typically runs all the way through the wear layer, scratches are less likely to show.
 


 Family room / Great room

Typically, family rooms are designed for comfort and are more relaxed than other areas of the home. For these reasons, a more casual hardwood look is sometimes appreciated. A more informal appearance can be acquired in a variety of ways: by using wider boards, a handscraped texture or lighter colors. Some of the best wood flooring styles that we find fit very well for this type of area are shown below. 
Anderson

Armstrong Gatsby collection
Century Estate Wide Plank
Mont Royal Adirondack collection

Owens Plank
Shenandoah Scraped

Somerset Antiques collection





 
Livingroom / Dining room

Living rooms and dining rooms have a tendency to have a more formal aesthetic and the right style of hardwood flooring can definitely help you achieve the look you’re interested in. For a more traditional atmosphere, try a narrower (2-1/4IN.) wide strip flooring. Narrower boards have a very traditional appeal, especially when a natural red oak or white oak is used.

For a more contemporary and elegant look, try a narrow strip in a darker stain. It’s important to keep in consideration how much traffic is generated in these rooms, as usage may help determine which wood species would be best in your setting. As mentioned previously, refer to the
Janka Hardness Chart for a complete list of wood species hardness rankings.




Living with pets

Pets can be a welcome addition to any family. However, without proper precaution, dogs and some cats can certainly wreak havoc on a hardwood floor. It’s important to keep pets’ nails trimmed and to train dogs and cats properly, with either going outside to do their business or using a litter box. Also, make sure any urine, vomit or excess food/water mess is cleaned up right away, as these things left on a hardwood floor for an extended period of time can end up damaging the wood.

We do not at all infer that if you have or want hardwood floors that pets should be avoided. Millions of people, including all of us here at Hosking Hardwood Flooring, own pets that coexist with our hardwood floor. It's just something you should be aware of.


 
Sunlight 

Sunlight can have an effect on both a prefinished hardwood floor finish as well as the wood species’ natural color. Sunlight used to yellow and dull out hardwood flooring, but in recent years, manufacturers like Lauzon have created finish additives which minimize these annoying and harmful effects of the sun. Additionally, the natural color of a wood species can change overtime with the exposure to sunlight due to the specific photo sensitivity of the species. Natural colors and hues tend to darken and richen over time, with complete maturation happening at around 6 months. Typically, exotic wood species have a higher photosensitivity than domestic wood species and therefore the deepening of color will be more extreme in species like Brazilian Cherry or Santos Mahogany as compared to a Red Oak or Maple. This is completely natural and just adds more beauty and charm to your hardwood flooring.

Pre-finished vs. job-site finished

There are a slew of benefits gained by choosing pre-finished flooring over site-finished flooring. One of the major advantages is that there is no wait time for the finish to dry. Because the finish is already applied at the factory, there are no dangerous fumes that you’ll have to live with and wait to disperse from your home. In most cases, furniture can be moved right back in after the newly prefinished flooring is installed.

Additionally, pre-finished flooring is so much more durable than its site-finished counterpart. Pre-finished flooring typically features Aluminum Oxide, which are miniscule aluminum particles that are added to the layers of finish. These particles fill up spaces in the finish and then are dried under UV lights, making the finished product 2 to 3 times stronger than site-finished hardwood.

Over concrete slab

Many homeowners believe that they can’t put real wood flooring down in their home if they have a concrete slab as a subfloor instead of plywood. This is just not true at all; engineered flooring was created for just this purpose. Engineered flooring is created by fusing a layer of real wood to cross layers of plywood, typically made from birch or pine. The cross layers help make engineered flooring stable enough to be installed over concrete, where there may be more moisture coming up through the subfloor.  Engineered flooring also offers the options of being glued down directly to the concrete subfloor or floated using an underlayment.

 Living in humid areas (ie: near ocean)

Where you live, regionally, may also effect the type of hardwood flooring you put in your home. If you live in a place where there is a lot of moisture (near the ocean or in a very humid climate), you may need a more stable construction, like an engineered hardwood floor. Wood is a very porous material. When there is moisture in the air, the wood will suck the moisture in. Much like a sponge absorbing water, the wood flooring will expand. Solid hardwood flooring, prone to buckling in these types of situations, would not be recommended. Engineered flooring, on the other hand, minimizes expansion and contraction and would work well in humid atmospheres.

How to select a brand to buy

There are 100’s of brands of hardwood flooring in the marketplace today. Just like any other consumer product, there is an entire spectrum in terms of quality. There are hardwood flooring brands that have been in business for years and have an excellent reputation in the industry for selling top quality products. There are other brands that are short lived, selling cheap products and offering little to no customer support. When choosing a brand of hardwood flooring to purchase, it’s definitely recommended to do a little research and check out what other homeowners are saying about the brand.

We like to recommend companies specifically located inside the U.S. or Canada as top contenders in the market. Canadian manufacturers (Lauzon and Muskoka),especially, have very strict quality standards and it shows in the material they produce. Many U.S. brands that used to manufacture their "engineered" hardwood flooring overseas, like Somerset, have recently brought their plants back into the U.S. and now have much better control over their final product.

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Overall Rating: 4.9 stars - 33 reviews

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Date: July 25, 2014
Page Rating: (4.5/5)
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Very good information.
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Date: July 23, 2014
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
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Very informative.
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Date: July 2, 2014
Page Rating: (4.5/5)
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Great information and covered most questions I had, including the pets comments.
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Date: June 16, 2014
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
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Very helpful! Helped clarify the options.
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Date: June 2, 2014
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
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Louise, I have been all over this website reading their very informative articles that help educate us all. What your looking for is located in under the brand collections where it gives the consumer the option to give their opinion as to what they think of a particular floor. FIY - I was in customer service for a long time and found that usually the only time someone would take the time to comment about a product was when they think they had a problem with it.
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Date: June 1, 2014
Page Rating: (3.5/5)
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What I would like to see is reviews by people who have various kinds of wood flooring in their homes to see if they have any issues with any type, brand or color. Some may show scratches, for example. Wood flooring providers have something to sell and they may not be so forthcoming about problems as customers would be. We need ssome real world reviews.
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Date: May 16, 2014
Page Rating: (4.5/5)
Comments:
This write-up provided useful, general information.
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Date: May 14, 2014
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Comments:
Excellent article. Thank you for making it available.
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Date: May 4, 2014
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
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i live on the ocean in florida need 2000 sq ft?
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Date: April 30, 2014
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
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Hickory

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