Hardwood Floors: The Beauty Within

For centuries, hardwood floors have been gracing magnificent homes throughout the Deep South to elegant homes of kings and queens. Known for durability and overall beauty, hardwood floors have gained in popularity throughout the years, rapidly becoming the choice in floor coverings over once considered traditionally installed carpet due to the low maintenance of hardwood floors and the beauty that lies within. With numerous selections of hardwood floors available, consumers are often confused about the composition of wood floors resulting in purchasing a floor that does not fit into an allotted budget or installation not designed for the intended use.

To date, there are two basic types of hardwood flooring, solid wood and engineered wood. With many variations of engineered wood floors available, choosing the correct wood floor can be at best, confusing and frustrating. Whereas the terminology associated with “hardwood”, often results in purchasing a floor that does not fit allotted budget guidelines or installation limitations to which the floor is intended, not all hardwood floors are in-fact; “natural hardwood”. Purchasing and installation of a wood floor not designed for a specific purpose will often lead to replacement and loss of expenditures of funds previously applied.

“Solid” hardwood flooring is traditionally cut from a log in an unfinished plank form with tongue and groove milled on all sides. Ranging from 5/16″ to ¾” in thickness, “solid” floors are typically available in various widths and lengths. Due to the sensitivity of natural “solid” hardwood from humidity and moisture, natural solid wood floors are normally installed at or above ground level. The natural beauty of wood grains found in solid hardwoods is both appealing and alluring with finishes that may be completed upon installation in the home or factory finished with a pre-determined choice of unlimited finishes to select from.

“Solid” hardwood flooring is as one may expect the most expensive of all wood floor selections. It is not uncommon for “solid” hardwood floors to exceed two to three times the cost over other floor selections and in most cases is out of reach of those on restricted budget guidelines. Available in a variety of North American wood species, “solid” hardwood floors are noted for durability and overall beauty that will last a lifetime.

Engineered floors are very similar to “solid” floors and in most cases are not easily distinguishable from natural hardwood when installed correctly. Engineered wood floors are comprised of multiple layers of plywood substrate with a top layer of actual hardwood. With varying degrees of thickness of the plywood substrate from two to ten ply (plywood layers); engineered floors are less expensive than natural hardwood surfaces while providing beauty and elegance to any interior room of the home.

Often referred to as wood laminate flooring, engineered wood floors are readily available in a variety of specifications, each designed to coincide with a particular room of the home. Considered to be stronger than natural wood flooring, engineered wood floors offer the homeowner the option of installation directly over concrete where natural wood flooring is not recommended. With the multiple layers of engineered hardwood pressed and glued together in opposite directions, under extreme pressures, the dimensional stability of engineered wood floors is a superior product for installation on un-even floors, transferring a dull and inefficient room into a room with charm and character.

Cost for engineered hardwood flooring is based on the thickness of the substrate or layers of plywood material that comprises the overall composition and the selection of the finished top layer. With thicknesses varying from ¼” to 9/16″, with the most common thickness of 3/8″ to ½” selected, engineered wood floors average $3.25 per square foot depending on thickness and selection of finished surface, professionally installed. Significant savings are noticeable when installed by the homeowner, reducing overall costs to approximately $2.00 per square foot which can add up to significant savings depending on the overall size of the room. With basic mechanical ability and use of standard installation tools, a hardwood floor can easily be easily installed over a weekend with satisfaction that boost even the most sublime egos.

Regardless of selection, natural hardwood or engineered wood floors offer intrinsic value to any home with active lifestyles increasing the overall value of the home substantially. Hardwood floors add elegance and beauty to any interior room of the home with a high traffic pattern requiring less maintenance while maintaining the overall beauty within.

Hardwood Flooring Discounts – Getting The Best Value For Your Dollar

Hardwood flooring is now becoming a popular alternative to tile or concrete flooring in homes. One advantage of this type of flooring is that it provides a more natural look to any home. Developments in manufacturing processes have made hardwood flooring more affordable than it used to be. However, if you’re looking for more inexpensive hardwood flooring, it might be worth your while to check suppliers that offer hardwood flooring discount prices.

Many hardwood flooring suppliers offer their customers high-grade and branded types of flooring at a discounted price. You can get your flooring purchase discounted to as much as 70%, plus warranty on the item.

Wholesale hardwood suppliers can also give you discounts for bulk purchases, but they usually impose a minimum number of hardwood planks to purchase before they give you the cut-rate.

With the advent of discount selling for hardwood flooring, the commodity now competes closely with cheaper flooring types like bamboo and laminate flooring. Although the bamboo and laminate types are easier to install, nothing beats the durability and natural beauty of hardwood floors.

Once you have decided to get hardwood flooring for your home, you need to ask yourself a few questions:

1. How much money do you allocate for hardwood flooring?

2. Which kind of hardwood do you want to use? Oaks usually run from $3 to $4 per square foot, while maple costs $5 to $6. These are all regular prices, and you can save one or two dollars per square foot if you purchase discounted items. Wood boards with darker stains are usually more expensive than lighter ones. Timbers that are harder are quite pricey, but you have to bear in mind that hardwood flooring is a good long-term investment.

3. Where are you going to install the hardwood flooring? For sure, you cannot have hardwood flooring for your bathroom because water is hardwood’s greatest enemy. You also have to consider that areas with higher foot traffic might require a bit of effort and time for maintenance.

4. What are the colors of your walls and furniture? You wouldn’t want to buy hardwood flooring with a color that does not match those of your walls and furniture. Some hardwood varieties come in natural red or yellow, and you’ve got to watch out for these. If you pick hardwood in red or yellow, make sure that they complement the colors of fixtures that are already installed in your home. If you want neutral colors, you can choose hardwood in off-white, beige, black, or any shade of brown.

Before you buy hardwood flooring, look for resources that you can use to learn more about hardwood floors. Ask for flyers or brochures from your local hardwood dealers and evaluate the types of hardwood that they sell. You can also check the Internet for some helpful information like the hardness scale for certain wood flooring species. You can also compare hardwood flooring prices online.

Hardwood Floor Care

In many homes in Houston, hardwood floors are one of the most beautiful focal points in the home. They come from a wide variety of woods and can be finished in just about any color and finish you can imagine. While hardwood floors are very durable and traffic resistant, proper care and maintenance is essential to keeping them beautiful for many, many years.

The key to keeping hardwood floors looking beautiful lies with keeping them as clean and dry as possible. Dust and other debris on the surface of hardwood flooring gets ground into the finish, and this causes floors to dull over time. The longer this surface contamination is left on the floor, the more deeply embedded the debris becomes and this causes more damage to the finish. If not attended to, this can actually strip away the finish and leave raw wood exposed. Keeping a good coat of wax on the floors will prevent casual spills from absorbing into the wood if you act quickly clean them up. The good news is that keeping your floors clean is a simple matter of sweeping them a couple of times a day with a swifter mop (use a micro fiber pad) and a product like Orange-Glo.

The biggest problem with hardwood floors is getting them scratched by the demands that simply living on them causes. You must take care when moving things around on hardwood floors. When living on hardwood floors, do not drag anything across them when moving furniture or other heavy objects. Use large area rugs under heavy furniture, and keep pads under furniture legs, as these will move when sat upon or brushed up against. These will dig into the wood if left unprotected. Large dogs with toenails that click as they walk can do a lot of damage to hardwoods. Even small dogs and cats can damage hardwood floors. If their toenails are clicking on your hardwoods, it is time to clip them back. Have a door mat so people can clean the soles of their shoes before they walk on the hardwoods.

In my home, I put a ceramic tile “stoop” inside the front door so someone who comes in with grit in their soles can slip them off without damaging the hardwoods.

Pets also may have an accident on your floors, and these must be attended to as soon as found. The beauty of the floor and the health of your family is at stake. Bacteria in the animal’s urine or feces are a health hazard, and when animal fluids get on hardwood floors, acids in the fluid will attack the floor. It is important to use something like Orange Glo that will eliminate the acids. Keeping your floors properly waxed will help prevent these stains from penetrating the wood as quickly.

While scratches are the most common wear and tear issue hardwood floors have to deal with, by far the biggest enemy of hardwood floors is water damage.

Houston hardwood floors are often subjected to high humidity, tropical storms and even hurricanes. Local flooding is always a possibility when living along the Gulf Coast. In addition to weather related flooding normal hazards like plumbing leaks, roof leaks and such can play havoc with hardwood floors. Water will destroy the finish of your hardwood floors, and in severe cases, such as urban flooding, the individual slats of wood will absorb so much water that they will begin to swell and warp.

Almost any Houston handyman service can wax or refinish your hardwood floors, but restoring hardwood floors that have been flooded is a job best left to those professionals certified by the IICRC. Always bring in a professional when this happens, because inadequate drying will result in mold growth later in the areas that did not get dry. Be sure that your technician is certified in water damage restoration with the IICRC, the national certification organization for floor care professionals. If called in time, these professionals can take measures to save your hardwood floors from total destruction. You can visit the IICRC online at http://www.iicrc.com.

In the event of major urban flooding, these steps can save your floors while you wait for a professional to arrive.

Call your insurance adjuster and take any photos you need for insurance purposes before you start the cleanup process.

  • Get everything off the hardwood floors as quickly as possible. This means carpets, rugs, and furniture.
  • If it is safe to do so, use electric blowers to blow air onto the hardwood
  • If possible, direct the flow of these fans downward. Just prop them slightly to one side.
  • When you get a large dry spot, move the fan, and dry out another spot
  • You will notice that your previous dry spot will begin to look wet. This is due to wicking. Just keep moving the fans around until there are no more wet areas.
  • Lean the fans along cracks of walls to force air into these places to help the drying process along.
  • Humidity in a flooded home is incredible, open the windows and place fans in them on one side of the house to force wet air out and bring dry air in. This will do more to dry your floors than the fans on the floors will. You must get the moisture out of the house or it will simply absorb right back into the wood.

The key factor to saving the floors that have been flooded is to get them dry as fast as possible. As soon as possible after the flooding event, you MUST remove everything from your hardwood floors, not just carpet and rugs, but furniture as well. Get as many fans and blowers as you can find and point them downward so that they will dry out the hardwood. As soon as you see a dry spot, move the fan. Be sure to open the house up to the outside so that all this water vapor you are creating will be able to escape from inside the home. If your relative humidity is 50% or less, you can dry the floors out much faster by using fans to blow this hot, drier air into the house along with the floor blowers. (do not do this on high humidity days, it is not as effective). You will have to blow the floors until they are dry, which may take many hours, even days.

Because wood wicks water, as soon as you create a dry spot, the dry spot will start to pull in moisture from the wet wood around it. This greatly increases the rate of drying the floor over not moving the fans around. Many hardwood floors are installed on a “bed” that creates an air gap under the wood slats. If this is the case for your floors, try to create a funnel with a piece of plastic or canvas and force air underneath the floors along any cracks you can find. Use duct tape to tape the funnel to the fan, and an office stapler to staple it over the crack you want to dry out. Take your time, failure to let the floors dry completely out will set up conditions for mold to grow.

While hardwood floors can almost always be restored or replaced, or simply re-finished to restore their beauty. this is very expensive compared to performing the proper maintenance in the first place.

You cannot do anything about flooding, but you can avoid dragging that recliner across the room to put in front of the TV for the big game.

Remember, keep them clean, wax them as needed, get water off as fast as possible, deal with pet stains (and toenails!), properly.