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comprises many different species of hardwood, some of the most popular being Red and White Oak
, American Cherry
, and Jatoba (Brazilian Cherry).
Hardwood is one of the most popular of all flooring options - and with good reason. It has been used throughout the centuries all round the world, it offers a long lasting and permanent flooring option that will last a lifetime and will improve with age.
Not only is there a large range of hardwood floors available, but each can look different depending on the finish, how it has been cut, the grade of timber used, and how it is finished. No two hardwood floors will ever look the same and I guarantee your floor will always get admiring comments from anyone who sees it.
Pre-Finished or Unfinished?
There are two main types of hardwood floors available, either Pre-Finished or Unfinished. Flooring that comes as pre-finished will be sanded and treated with either a stain or simple sealant and the main advantage to this type of flooring is time saved - you don't have to wait for sealants or stains to dry. Also you save time on sanding, which is not only time consuming, but is not quite as easy as it looks and can be a very messy job.
As far as unfinished flooring goes, the main advantage is that your floor can be totally sealed with one consistent covering of sealant, rather than having "gaps". The reasoning here is that moisture can get in between the gaps of pre-finished flooring and eventually rot the timber. An unfinished hardwood floor that is treated with an oil-based finish can create one of the best looking floors, in my opinion.
Suitability for any room.
There isn't really any room that can't be improved by using a solid hardwood floor. Hardwood will match with practically any design features a room has, from a modern minimalist look, to a more traditional look. Either way, hardwood will add its own character to your home and improve looks and hopefully its value too.
You may well have seen very old hardwood timber used in buildings that are hundreds of years old. Today, hardwood flooring can be made to simulate the aged look of old timber, even though it may only have been recently harvested. Many surface finishes are available including smooth finished (planed), or hand scraped. The smooth type of finish is for people who like a more even look to their floor, while the hand scraped timber gives a more rustic and aged look.
Staining of hardwood flooring serves two purposes. One, to protect the flooring using a clear water repellant type of stain, two, a product that enhances the timber by bringing out the grain and natural colors in the timber. Timber colors can be altered to suit a particular situation by using strong staining products.
Popular Hardwood Species
- American Cherry - A dark type of wood that will get darker as it ages. It is easy to machine and work with due to its less dense composition than other hardwoods. An attractive wood that gets better with age.
- Red and White Oak - A pale type of wood with hints of red throughout, both are easy to work with and machine to create various surface finishes.
- Maple - Maple is highly suited to flooring because of its resistance to scuffing and scratching. It has a uniform surface and is one of the hardest flooring options available. If you have a high-traffic area and want a solid, good looking floor, maple would make a great solution.
- Brazilian Cherry (Jatoba) - Jatoba is popular because it has such a distinctive deep red color that will mature and get darker as the wood ages, giving a stunning looking floor. Another great option for high-traffic areas due to being an extremely hard wood.
Things to consider when buying Hardwood Flooring
- Think about where the floor is going to be laid. Is there very high traffic? If so, choose a harder wood. For more information take a look at this Wood Flooring Hardness Table and our Wood Floor Grading details.
- If you are installing the floor yourself, first make sure you are confident enough to complete the job - you don't want to call in the professionals half way through, it will cost you a fortune.
- Decide on pre-finished or unfinished flooring. Ask your installer or supplier for their recommendations - they will know best.
- If you are installing over a concrete sub-floor always install an appropriate moisture barrier - water is a floor's worst enemy!
- Remember, wood is a natural material - it will never be "perfect". If you want perfect, don't use natural wood.
- Always let your timber acclimatize to its new home before fitting. The timber will contract or expand according to the new premises' humidity and temperature. This will help prevent bulging and your wood floor cracking after installation. Take a look at our article on controlling humidity to prevent floor damage.
- If you install hardwood flooring in a high-moisture area, it will suffer - don't do it!
- Always clean up water spills immediately.
- Never use harsh abrasives or steel wool to clean a hardwood floor.
- Ladies! - No stiletto heels!
- If you like under floor heating, perhaps choose one of the engineered types of floor that better cope with the constant temperature changes that occur.
Hardwood floors are an investment; they will improve any room and will look great with a little care and attention from time-to-time. Choose carefully and you will never regret buying a real hardwood floor!
In the future you will need more information on Refinishing Wood Floors.