Flooring Guide

Modified on 2008/01/14 14:47 by Administrator — Categorized as: Knowledge Base

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Wood Flooring Buyers Guide

This guide is designed to help answer many important questions you should know regarding the purchase of a hardwood floor. You will know more about the different characteristics of different types of products and will be better prepared to make the right choice. You will purchase a hardwood floor perhaps only once in your life, so it’s important to be well informed.

WHY CHOOSE HARDWOOD FLOORS?

Hardwood flooring makes an excellent flooring choice. It’s a durable material, available in a vast range of species and colors. Colors that will compliment most any furniture or decor. In addition to creating a warm atmosphere, often times it will add to the value of your home. Unlike other flooring types, hardwood flooring is easy to maintain and provides a healthy, hypoallergenic environment, and is a recyclable product. Most hardwood flooring can be refinished to it original beauty for a modest sum of money. Hardwood is typically more expensive than most types of floors, but it service life can easily exceed fifty years.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF HARDWOODFLOORING

TRADITIONAL UNFINISHED FLOORING

A unfinished or traditional hardwood floor is made of unfinished hardwood strips which are sanded, possibly stained, and polyurethaned on site. The flooring can be installed by the consumer but the sanding and finishing typically requires the assistance of professionals. Unfinished flooring has been in existence for generations, and sanding and finishing techniques have evolved greatly over the years. Its final appearance is smooth and has no bevel on the sides of the flooring.

There are inconveniences with this type of flooring. There are great quantities of dust created during the sanding process. Also the finishes used on the floors can often times give off very strong fumes. Which means often times people have to temporarily move out of their homes. The time required to do all the work of the sanding and finishing can easily exceed a week, depending on the number of coats of finish applied to the floor (3 to 4). Even though their drying time is faster than that of traditional urethanes, water-based finishes are generally less resistant but have the advantage of yellow less.

It is also important to consider that the quality of workmanship of the finish job. Often times without a professional the end finish result will be of medium quality. Site conditions, other s works in progress, atmospheric and climatic conditions, the finishers experience, professionalism and attention to detail, and the quality and adjustment of the finisher equipment are many of the factors the will effect the beauty of your floor.

Another aspect to consider is that urethane sometimes brings out the natural colors of the wood that were not apparent prior to the time of installation. Thus it makes it a little more difficult to lay out the pattern of the flooring. After many years have passed , when the floors finish starts to show signs of wear, it can be sanded and refinished to its original state and shine.

The original purchase price of traditional hardwood flooring is relatively low. But the cost of the entire project will vary depending on the fee charged by the finisher. As in any type of hardwood flooring, traditional hardwood remains a good choice considering its long service life. You will enjoy it for many years to come.

PREFINISHED FLOORING

Prefinished, or factory-finished, hardwood flooring refers to a floor made of solid hardwood strips that have been sanded, stained (if desired), and protected by a finish that is applied and cured by ultraviolet light in a factory, under ideal conditions. A finish applied in a factory is generally more resistant to wear than finish that is applied to floors in the field. The finish of factory-finished floors consists of many coats of urethane containing aluminum oxide and other anti-abrasive ingredients which provide the flooring with a finish that is exceptionally resistant to wear. In addition most urethanes applied in the factory also contain ingredients that reduce changes in the color of the finish as much aspossible. All there is to installing the floor is carefully nailing it in, often time very easy for the consumer to do. Each factory finished strip has what is called a micro-v (bevels on all four sides) which allows each strip to stand out in the floor.

Factory finished floors also have advantage of allowing you to easily match up natural colors in the wood strips as you install them. After several years have passed, when the floors finish starts to show signs of wear, it can be sanded and refinished to its original state, just like a traditional hardwood floor.

Its original purchase price is higher than that of a unfinished hardwood floor but its overall cost is generally less, considering the costs of sanding and finishing a traditional floor. In addition, a traditional solid hardwood floor or a prefinished hardwood floor will add value to your residence. Excellent value for the money and one of the best selections among different types of flooring.

ENGINEERED HARDWOOD FLOORING

An engineered hardwood floor is one whose top surface is made of hardwood. This solid hardwood surface layer, whose thickness varies from one manufacturer to the next, is glued onto a plywood base to give it greater stability. These products are generally factory finished and available in individual strips or mats made of to or three strips. Being more stable, engineered floors are often time used with radiant heat and in areas where the relative humidity is higher than usual.

Many manufacturers offer this type of flooring. The quality , number of layers of plywood, thickness of the solid wood top layer, and the quality of the finish varies greatly from one product to the next and the price usually reflects the quality of the product.

Engineered flooring is often glued onto a sub floor made of concrete, plywood, and acoustic underlayements. Some products can be stapled down to sheets of plywood. Depending on the thickness of the upper solid hardwood layer, the floor’s service life will be less than a unfinished or prefinished hardwood floor. This is typically because the wear layer of a engineered floor much thinner and only can be refinished a few times.

The purchase price of most engineered hardwood flooring is generally much higher than that of prefinished solid hardwood flooring. Laminated flooring is a major investment, given its service life, and should be installed in areas where you want to enjoy the warmth of real wood but limitations make the installation of solid harwood floor impossible.

LAMINATED FLOORING

A laminated floor has a printed surface, a photograph protected by a layer of plastic polymer which imitates the grain of solid wood. Since it is a photograph, the wood-imitation pattern is repeated from one panel to the next. The base of this flooring consists of MDF ( medium density fibre) HDF (high density fibre) which are made of a mixture of sawdust and glue compressed to different levels. The installation is called floating because no nails or glue hold the floor to the subfloor. A sublayer of Styrofoam must be installed between the subfloor and the product. This is easy to install, it is matter of putting glue into the panel mortises and assembling it. Some of today’s floating floors do not even need glue, their panels are snapped together. This product type can be found at most construction material manufactures and is relatively economical, depending on the desired quality.

Laminated flooring cannot be restored when worn outor repaired when damaged. Its service life is relatively short, which can make it and expensive flooring option over the long term.

GRADES AND HARDNESS AND WIDTHS

Many wood species are available on the market today. Each one has its own unique color, grain, hardness and stability characteristics. Each species of wood is unique. You must consider your visual preference first. Species durability and hardness are two aspects among many to consider in choosing your floor. However, they are not the priority in making your decision since all wood species can be damaged if maintenance is neglected and certain precautions not taken.

The term grade, or quality, refers to the natural characteristics of the species. Each grade displays its distinctive natural color and typically does not dictate a difference in quality. Choosing a grade is a matter of personal taste. A more uniform grade will be more expensive than a grade with natural color variations. In the prefinished products industry, the terms or names used to designate quality levels are often different from manufacturer to the next.

The choice of flooring width is a matter of personal taste and desired appearance. Please note that narrow strips are more stable in fluctuating relative humidity conditions. The wider the floor the more seasonal expansion and contraction you will get. To avoid flooring expansion and contraction it is important to maintain your home’s room temperature between 60 degrees to 72 degrees. And the relative humidity level between 40%-45%.

FINISHES

For prefinished flooring the application of Ultra Violet Cured polymer urethane coating that contain aluminum oxide considerably increases the finishes resistance to wear. Make sure that the products contains coats of aluminum oxide. The number of finish coats on the flooring does not necessarily reflect the thickness and quality of the urethane applied. In general the higher the amount of coats the smoother the finish.

INSTALLATION

I t is preferable that you entrust the installation of a solid hardwood floor to a professional if you do not believe you have the necessary skills and knowledge. The professional will guarantee his work which in turn ensures a quality job. If you decide to do the installation yourself you will need tools and preparation. You must ensure that the temperature and humidity of the room are controlled, and have a suitable subfloor and adequate tools. We advise that you carefully read the manufacturers installation guide before beginning any job.

ROOMS AND LEVELS IN THE HOUSE

You may install your hardwood floor in all the rooms of your home with the exception of the bathroom, laundry room since they have high levels of humidity. Most solid and engineered flooring manufacturers recommend that their products not be installed in the basement of a house. However some manufactures have developed glued and floating floor installations techniques that would allow you to do so under certain conditions.

CHOOSING YOUR HARDWOOD FLOOR

Choosing a hardwood floor is a wise investment. Hopefully this guide has helped you choose a floor that is best suitable for you. Please do not be afraid to ask questions. You may purchase a hardwood floor perhaps only once in your life so it is important to be informed.