Whether you're planning on getting Amish bedroom furniture or purchasing an elegant set of wooden dining furniture just ask any interior designer to name the first element to consider when finishing a room, and the answer will likely be flooring. Builders agree, it sets the mood.
Many more professionals these days are bypassing tile and carpeting, and going with wood. But what kind of wood should you go with? Solid hardwood? Engineered wood? Reclaimed antique wood? There are a lot of options out there, but making the right choice according to your tastes and circumstances is easier than it appears. Following are some important factors to consider, as well as advice from the experts.
Which Wood-Flooring Type Should You Choose?
Solid Hardwood: Many shy away from solid hardwood because it expands and contracts and sometimes creaks. But its natural beauty adds value to your home. Further, it can be re-sanded and refinished, so it’ll retain that value.
Engineered Wood Floors: These floors are made of thin sheets of wood that are glued together and refinished at the factory. This results in a more stable product than solid wood, because it resists buckling and warping. Engineered wood floors were developed to be glued over concrete, but they can also be nailed or floated, whereas solid wood can only be nailed to a subfloor.
Reclaimed Antique Wood: This flooring option is custom made one plank at a time according to the customer’s specifications. It is especially stable because it can cut from the center section of a beam.
Finished vs. Unfinished
If you go with solid hardwood flooring, it’s available finished or unfinished. If you’re trying to match an adjacent floor, you’re better off going with an unfinished option and staining it to blend. By finishing the floor on site, you will insure a more uniform color and finish. But do take into account that an unfinished wood floor will probably take several days to install, stain, and finish.
On the other hand, finished wood (both solid and engineered) is factory sanded, stained, and finished. Thus it’s much easier to install and requires less time, not to mention that there will be no on-site sanding and finishing. Finished wood is an especially good option for high-traffic areas because of its durability. Another plus is that it’s less expensive than unfinished wood.
Important Things to Consider
One feature that’s becoming more common is radiant heating, where the heat source is under the floor. When this is the case, then engineered wood is preferable over solid hardwood because of its durability. The National Wood Flooring Association also recommends using quarter-sawn or rift-sawn wood due to the durability factor. According to the NWFA, strip flooring is preferable over plank flooring, since narrow boards expand and contract with changes in temperature and humidity less than wide ones.
For those homeowners who live at the beach, Stoddard again recommends an engineered wood, because it’s scratch-resistant and therefore less likely to be damaged by sand tracked in from the beach, and it also requires less maintenance. Engineered hardwood flooring is clearly the best option for any interior that’s not environmentally controlled, such as those in cottages, summer homes, or below-grade installations.
Some Simple Design Tips
When personalizing a room, understated detail is important. One nice option is to use a lighter wood overall and then add a dark border. Another great idea is to drop in a maple medallion that looks like an area rug.
It’s become more and more popular to mix woods from room to room. Dark woods, like walnut and cherry, work well in cozy rooms such as a den or bedroom, but it’s best to choose a lighter, brighter wood, such as maple or birch, for the kitchen.
If you are going for a formal, traditional, or historic look, then darker wood is the way to go. Country, casual, and contemporary homes are better suited to lighter woods. Design your floor to complement fabrics, furnishings, and accessories.
Current Trends in Wood Flooring
The latest trends in flooring include hand-scraped wood and “exotics” from far-off lands. Woods such as Brazilian cherry, Santos mahogany, and Amendoim have delightful grains and colors. All are available both in solid hardwood or engineered wood.
Owners of historic homes on the Eastern seaboard are increasingly going for the old look and simplicity of woods such as Old Groove Eastern White Pine, which are prized for their old look and simplicity. Likewise, dark woods have definitely become the “in” thing, with walnut being the most preferable option.
DIY & Maintaining Your Wood Floor
Almost 30 percent of homeowners install wood flooring themselves. If you’re handy with a nail gun and saw, then you can do it. Many resources are available to help you with this project, including instruction books and information online.
One of the great thing about wood flooring is that it’s low maintenance. Keep a step-off mat at any doorway, and then all you need is a regular schedule of sweeping and vacuuming. One thing to remember is clean up any standing water immediately. It’s not a bad idea to keep an extra box of wood in case you need to replace a strip.
Fortunately, natural hardwoods survive many household mishaps much better than laminates and synthetics, since the grain and pattern of solid hardwoods go all the way through. Even nasty scuffs and burns that would permanently damage a synthetic surface can be easily repaired.