Our feet are often ignored, neglected and underappreciated, but like the floors in our homes, they are the foundation upon which we stand to make our impression on the world.
Residential flooring is the canvas that grounds every piece of furniture that will grace your home. When replacing flooring during a renovation or building a new house, often the choice defaults to hardwood in high end interiors. It’s a very versatile material, looking perfectly at home in a contemporary setting in a light color, while traditional homes tend to favor darker, rich tones. The most common wood flooring material found in residential interiors is oak, closely followed by maple. When stained, cherry has a rich look with a refined, graceful grain, and walnut asserts a masculine quality with its nutty brown hue.
Hardwood can either be purchased with a factory-applied finish, or a finish that is stained on the job site. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, with pre-finished flooring tending to be somewhat less expensive since the on-site labor is less intensive. However, color selection tends to be somewhat limited, depending on the manufacturer and I’ve never been all that happy with it when trying to achieve a mat, hand rubbed look. Also, be aware that a pre-finished floor will often have beveled edges creating grooves between each plank which can be a dirt trap. Wood floors that are stained on site are only limited by the stains available and can be finished with various types of eurethane, both oil and water-based, or they can be oiled or hand-waxed. Beware of the last 2 finishes, though, since you can’t apply a eurethane product after an oil or wax has been used.
When finishing new wood floors on site or re-finishing existing floors, the finish needs time to properly cure before you can walk on it or put furniture or rugs back on it. Courtesy of Classic Hardwood Floors (www.classichardwoodfloorswa.com ) the following time lines should be followed:
- Walking on floors: 24 hours
- Replacing furniture: 3 days
- Replacing rugs or mats: 2-3 weeks
To my high end clients who insist on “real” wood floors I will sometimes suggest engineered flooring. To the casual observer, high quality engineered wood flooring can be indistinguishable from solid hardwood. It comes in plank, strip, various species, colors and sheens and can have all the richness and elegance of solid hardwood.
The advantages of using high quality engineered wood flooring are stability, strength and the ability to use radiant heating beneath, which is not possible under solid hardwood. Engineered wood has a thin layer of decorative wood on the top in the species chosen, finished in various colors and degrees of sheen.
Beneath this decorative layer are several layers of wood pressed and laid at cross grain to one another. This cross graining means that each plank resists movement, warping and cupping which can affect solid wood flooring. Because the surface is pre-finished in a factory most often in a spray booth under controlled conditions, the finish is often superior to one done on site which can be subject to dust particles, fibers from finishing tools and premature foot traffic before the varnish has a chance to fully cure. Pre-finished flooring can also offer UV filters, anti-yellowing compounds and anti-microbial properties, while some manufacturers are offering an oiled finish which has a hand-rubbed, matte appearance.
Have you found a hardwood floor that you particularly liked? What was your favorite part about it: the grain, color, width of plank? What about a floor that you didn’t like? What was wrong with it and what do you wish you might have done differently?
Coming up: Wood floors in kitchens and bathrooms. What?? Am I crazy?!