Winter is just around the corner, and if you’re in the market for new solid hardwood floors, now is the perfect time to add that extra bit of warmth that they’ll bring to your home. But before you make that impulse by on those gorgeous dark walnut planks and cozy up with a cup of hot cocoa, let’s take a closer look at the basics of hardwood, the different types, and some other useful information to make sure you find the best floors for your home.
Hardwood Flooring 101
Before you consider your hardwood aesthetic and make stylistic decisions, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- Engineered vs. Solid: Engineered hardwood flooring is constructed using multiple layers of wood, with each layer positioned in a different direction. Only the very top layer is solid wood, and even that is only a veneer. On the other hand, solid hardwood flooring is made from only one type of wood throughout the plank, and if well maintained, it can last for decades.
- Measuring Hardness: The Janka hardness test is the standard when it comes to determining the durability of hardwoods. It measures the amount of force necessary to embed a steel ball halfway into whatever wood is being tested, with higher numbers indicating harder woods. Red cedar is the softest at 350, while Ipe is the hardest at 3,510.
- Color Changes: All floors will be exposed to sunlight to some degree, which will inevitably change your floor’s tone over time. Some varieties will turn yellow, while others will become darker. The finish you choose can help protect your floors from this change, but be sure to ask an expert while shopping about what to expect from the different varieties of hardwood.
The 4 Most Popular Types of Hardwood Flooring
There is a wide variety of solid hardwood flooring options ranging in color, hardness, and look. Here is a quick breakdown of the most popular domestic options and how they can make your floor shine.
- Red Oak: One of the most affordable options available, red oak is also the most stain-resistant. Its natural color ranges from light, creamy reddish pinks to shades of brown with moderate to heavy graining. While not the hardest option available, red oak holds up to wear and tear quite well and is flexible enough to not split under pressure.
- White Oak: Much like its more colorful sister, white oak is abundant, medium-grained, and a reasonably priced option that holds up against stains. It is also a bit harder than red oak, with colors that range from golden brown to gray.
- Maple: First off, you should be aware that maple is available in both hard and soft varieties. It is delicately grained and has creamy-blonde tones that match well with Scandinavian or Mid-Century Modern interior designs.
- Hickory: Harder than oak varieties and maple, hickory is even more durable and resistant. It features a unique grain pattern marked by mineral streaks and knots that provide a more rustic look, with colors ranging from brown to red and tan.
Maintenance and Avoiding Damage
Once your floor is installed, keeping up with it is key to extending its life and looking its best.
- When sweeping, use a soft-bristled broom and move with the grain.
- Be wary of vacuums with carpet beaters and brush rolls as these can damage the finish.
- Don’t let sticky debris stick around. Clean up spills with a clean, damp cloth as soon as you can and try to move with the grain.
- Never steam clean wood.
- Always refer to your floor’s warranty if you are unsure about certain cleaning products.
If you still have questions or want to explore additional options before settling on the perfect floor for your home, the experts at your local Flooring America are here to help. They will answer all of your questions and help match you with the floor of your dreams.