Browsing through the showroom at your local flooring distributor can give you a good feel for things like the appearance of different types of wood floors, including species, grain patterns and finishes. While these things are certainly important, failing to pay attention to other wood flooring features can cause you to miss out on the extras, upgrades and options that help wood flooring work just right for your home. Keep these six features in mind as you shop to help you choose the perfect wood floor.
When you're shopping for wood flooring, you'll see both prefinished and unfinished varieties. The prefinished wood has a factory seal, which means it's already been stained and can be walked on as soon as it's installed. The unfinished varieties are pure wood, with no stain or seal on top. These unfinished versions may catch your eye because they can be up to $2 per foot cheaper than prefinished varieties. Don't let this discount fool you however, because once you factor in the cost of finishing the floor, prefinished wood is often cheaper in the long run. Unfinished floors will only save you money if you already have some experience with this type of work and can do the finishing yourself -- novice finishers should leave this work to the experts for best results.
If you choose prefinished wood, your next decision is whether to go for floors with beveled edges -- planks with eased or angled sides -- or nonbeveled planks with square edges. Beveling can help mask imperfections in the floor and make it look smoother, but some homeowners feel that they also trap dirt and debris, making the floor harder to clean.
All wood is not created equal. To compare the hardness of different types of wood, look for the Janka scale rating, where higher ratings mean tougher, more durable wood. Species like pine and fir rank low on the scale, while Brazilian cherry and mahogany are much stronger, and will hold up better to heavy use. Woods like cypress, white oak and ash fall right in the middle of the scale, making them a good mid-range option.
Wood flooring planks come in narrow strips, medium widths and ultra-wide planks that can measure a foot or more in width. While narrow planks work well in traditional homes, wider planks are often associated with more modern or contemporary decor. Wider planks also provide a better showcase for the wood, with fewer interruptions of grain pattern. For a modern twist, consider mixing planks of varying widths to increase visual appeal.
Wood floors come in a wide variety of textures beyond the standard smooth finish. While floors with a smooth finish look sleek and clean, they are also vulnerable to dents and scratches. Handscraped wood comes with character in the forms of scrapes, dents and dings, which help to hide damage done by pets and children over time. Distressed wood floors are designed to look aged, but may not have the same deep texture of handscraped floors. Wire-brushed floors are a good compromise between smooth and handscraped, with wire-applied texture that helps accentuate the wood grain.
If you plan to install your wood floors over a radiant heat system, you should choose wood that will work well with this high level of heat. Start with engineered wood, rather than solid hardwood whenever possible. Pick narrow planks, rather than wide ones, which reduces the risk of heat damage. Finally, stick to more stable species like oak or ash as opposed to less stable ones like maple or pecan.
The next time you visit a flooring retailer, like Flooring & Cabinet Outlet, keep an eye out for these features, and carefully make decisions regarding which is best for you.