Our Ultimate Guide To Common Hardwood Flooring Questions

Have some hardwood flooring questions you need answered? Let us help you answer some of the most frequently asked questions that we get.

What Are Hardwood Floors?

Hardwood floors are one of the choices homeowners have when choosing floors for their homes. Before wall-to-wall carpeting became so inexpensive, wood floors were the most common floors in America. Wood floors are a great design item as well: they look good, they are luxurious when maintained properly, and they also last almost forever.

What Types of Wood Floors Are There?

There are two main types of wood floors: solid hardwood floors and engineered wood floors. They differ by how they are made. Hardwood floorboards are made from a single piece of wood, while engineered wood floorboards are made of layers of wood and topped with a hardwood veneer.

Should I Choose Hardwood Floors or Engineered Wood Floors?

It depends. There are many variables to this question, and no two homes will get the same recommendation. It’s important to understand that the location of the wooden floors in your home, the amount of traffic walked on them, the weather in your area, the humidity, and the long term plans for the home are all factors to weigh when choosing hardwood floors. It is best to seek the advice of a professional hardwood floor expert.

What Are the Different Types of Hardwood Flooring?

Hardwood flooring comes in many different varieties, offering a huge range of colors and grain patterns to choose from. Some examples of popular hardwood flooring species include walnut, cherry, red oak, maple, hickory, beech, teak, and bamboo. Some of these species are native to the U.S. while others must be imported from abroad, potentially impacting the cost. They also vary in hardness, which is ranked using a scale called the “Janka Hardness Rating.” For example, walnut has a Janka Hardness rating of 1010 making it slightly softer than birch which has a Janka Hardness Rating of 1260.

What Are the Different Styles of Hardwood Flooring?

Today’s hardwood floors are available in more varieties than ever before. Modern hardwood flooring is available in a wide assortment of colors, grain patterns, finishes, and styles, ranging from pale and glossy to dark and weathered. These variations depend partially on whether the floor is hand-scraped, wire-brushed, or smooth. The opposite of smooth floors, hand-scraped floors deliberately feature markings that show off craftsmanship, creating a more artisanal and old-fashioned look. Wire brushed flooring is somewhat in the middle striking a balance between chic polished floors and rustic distressed floors.

What Is the Difference Between an Unfinished Wood Floor and a Prefinished Floor?

When you purchase new wood floorboards from a store, you can choose between an unfinished wood floor and a prefinished wood floor. As the names suggest, it’s all about the finish of the floorboards.

Unfinished wood floor: These wood floorboards will come unfinished and will be coated after they’re installed. This gives more choice and freedom to the homeowner, who can stain the wood, and choose the type of finish he wants. However, unfinished wood floors can be harder to restore in case of damage since the coating and condition aren’t unified throughout the whole floor even if done by the most experienced hands.

One main pro from unfinished floors is that since the finishing and sanding are done when installing the floor, the surface will be a lot smoother. A prefinished floor can have some grooves or inconsistencies between planks in some cases.

Prefinished wood floor: The floorboards will come coated and finished by the manufacturer, which makes them easier to handle and install. They’re also easier to replace in case of damages or restoration. However, they’re harder to match to existing wood floors, and if you have damage but your model is out of stock, you’re in trouble.

The main pro of prefinished floorboards is that it saves lots of time since there is no finishing needed. Moreover, it comes from the factory with 5-6 layers of coat, while unfinished wood will usually be coated twice or maybe or maybe three times when installed.

What Is Wide Plank Flooring?

Wide plank flooring is a great way to complement a beautiful home. The broad face of the boards combined with longboard lengths will create an appearance that will impress all who enter your home. Whether you are trying to create the traditional rustic appeal of 19th-century craftsmanship or just want to show off the elegant grains and textures of your exotic wood floor, a wide plank floor might just be the perfect choice for your home. 

Is There Such A Thing as Recycled Wood Flooring?

Yes. Wood is recovered from many sources: old barns, factories, riverbeds, or old logging operations. Heartwood pine is primarily sourced from reclaimed timbers that come from warehouses and factories built during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Recovered or recycled wood creates a truly unique flooring option.  

Can I Install a Hardwood Floor in Any Room of My Home?

Hardwood flooring can be installed on any level of your home. If you’re installing below grade (in a basement) or over any concrete slab on any level, you’ll need to use an engineered floor. Because these engineered floors are often more stable than solid wood floors, they can withstand minor moisture level changes better than hardwood flooring can. The solid wood flooring could possibly cup and buckle in high moisture-prone areas like basements.

The only exception would be in bathrooms. We do not recommend any type of hardwood floor in a full bathroom where water will be splashed or spilled on it. Hardwood and laminate can work well in half-baths where there is no tub/shower or high humidity. The best options for full baths would be ceramic tile or vinyl flooring.

Which Hardwood Flooring Installation Is the Best?

There are basically four ways hardwood flooring can be installed depending on how it’s made and where it’s going in your home.

Nail or Staple-down Hardwood Flooring Installations: This type of installation has been used for centuries and is the traditional way of installing hardwood flooring. Each floorboard is nailed or stapled at an angle just above the tongue down through the wood subfloor using a manual or pneumatic flooring nailer or stapler.

Direct Glue-down Engineered Hardwood Flooring Installations: Each tongue and grooved floor board is laid into a bed of adhesive that is spread out onto the surface of either a wood subfloor or concrete slab using a specific sized notched trowel. This type of installation is more complicated by the fact the boards have to be inserted together in wet adhesive, aligned, and kept together as the floor is installed. The adhesive is expensive and it can get messy. Also, the manufacturer of the hardwood flooring must clearly state that it can be directly glued down.

Floating (Glue-together) Engineered Hardwood Flooring Installations: This method has been around for approximately 35 years and is installed by applying a bead of glue into the groove of each floorboard which is then laid over a foam pad and tapped together using a hammer and tapping block. This method counteracts the boards’ ability to expand and contract; the whole floor moves as a unit during seasonal relative humidity without the typical separation of individual floorboards. This installation is easy and quick, but the manufacturer of the hardwood must state that it is allowed to be floated.

Click-Loc Floating Hardwood Flooring Installations: The Click-Loc design is a relatively new concept. During installation you simply either tap the boards together and they lock in place or you lock and fold the boards together. There are several different patents on the market that work very well. Click-Loc flooring is very easy to install and is extremely popular with do-it-yourselfers and installers alike. Of course, you must use hardwood flooring that has the appropriate Click-Loc or Lock and Fold installation design. The majority of laminate flooring also has a Click-Loc design.

There Are So Many Choices of Wood, What Should I Consider When Trying to Choose for My Home?

In addition to choosing a suitable color to complement your decor, you should also consider texture, grain, and the cut of the wood. Qualified installers will know and understand the more technical qualities like dimensional stability, machinability, and ease in finishing. You will want to also consider availability and cost. You can find more detailed information about the different species of wood from the National Woodflooring Association.

How Do You Clean Wood Floors?

Cleaning a wood floor is a simple process. First, clear the floor from any object that can be moved. Then vacuum with the brush extension or dry mop the entire floor. After most dust and debris is removed, you can mop the floor using a few drops of dishwasher soap, or a special cleaning solution for wooden floors. Mop (only damp) with the grain in smooth strokes across the room.

Important: If your floors are coated with Shellac or Lacquer, don’t use water as it will cause damage to the floors.

The last step of cleaning a wood floor would be to buff the floor with a dry cloth or mop. This will make your floors shine and remove any soapy residue left on the floor’s surface. (Be thorough, as any standing water will damage the floor.)

Will My Dog Ruin My Wood Floor?

Dogs that are extremely large and actively run in the house will dig in to get traction, possibly scratching the surface of any wood flooring. Usually, pets do not like the feel of wood flooring under their feet because they have a tendency to slip when they try to run so they learn quickly not to run on them. It is important to keep the dog’s (and cat’s) nails trimmed and to possibly limit their areas. Also, make sure your pets are housebroken. Pet urine is an acid and will damage the natural color of the wood flooring if not cleaned up right away, leaving a black stain that does not always sand out.

What Are the Best Hardwood Floor Cleaners?

Unlike carpet and rugs, wood floors require constant maintenance and care, as well as day-to-day cleaning. The best hardwood floor cleaners not only keep the floor sparkling but also extend the floor’s life.

Here are some recommendations:

  • Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner
  • Black Diamond Wood and Laminate Floor Cleaner
  • Pledge Clean It Gentle Wood Floor Cleaner
  • Parker & Bailey Wood Cleaner
  • Zep Commercial Hardwood Cleaner

How Can I Make My Wood Floors Look New Again?

You have two main choices: simple screening and refinishing or full sanding and refinishing. To decide which way is best, you need to consult with hardwood floor experts, who would be able to take into account all the factors and give you the best advice.

Some of the factors affecting such a decision:

  • The floor’s condition
  • The wood’s age
  • The condition of the finishing
  • Where the floor is located in the house
  • Your budget for the project

How Long Does It Take to Install Hardwood Flooring?

Just like people, hardwood floors need time to “acclimate” to new environments. Acclimation, which is a critical stage of the floor installation process, is defined by the Nation Wood Flooring Association as “the process of adjusting (conditioning) the moisture content of wood flooring to the environment in which it is expected to perform.” That means placing the flooring in your home before installation. This process generally requires at least 72 hours, possibly more. It also takes additional time to complete the physical installation process, depending on factors like the size of the room and the condition of the existing floor. Due to the complexity of the process, it’s strongly recommended that you let an experienced professional company handle the work. And be sure to listen to their recommendations about when your flooring is ready for either a move-in or to get back to regular life. This is not something you want to rush.

How Long Before You Can Walk on Hardwood Floors?

Each installation varies depending on whether your new hardwood is prefinished or unfinished. If the new material is unfinished you will need to wait 24 hours after installation. This will ensure the final coating has adequate time to dry and set. If the new hardwood is pre-finished, you can walk on the floor after installation is complete. As above, be sure to listen to your installer’s recommendation.

How Long Does It Take to Refinish a Hardwood Floor?

A simple refinishing will take as little as two days, where one day would be preparation, sanding, and coating the floors, another day waiting for the polyurethane to dry. In more complex jobs, or when the size of the job is big, it may take anywhere between 3 days and up to 7 days in total. If you plan to stain the floors as well, you need to add 24-48 hours to the schedule.

In addition, if the refinishing is due to water damage or includes restoration of a part of the wood floor for whatever reason, the refinishing can take 10 days or even more.

How Do You Finish a Hardwood Floor?

The most popular finish of wood floors is polyurethane, a polymer used to coat hardwood floors that is durable and has a variety of looks (gloss, semi-gloss, matte). Other finishes include varnish, shellac, and lacquer, which are rarely used today for floors. Some older floors are still coated by these finishes, which may require continued use for best results.

How Long Does It Take for Polyurethane to Dry on Wood Floors?

It differs from brand to brand and floor types, but most polyurethane varnishes take approximately 24 hours to dry and be ready for light use. Before you put the room back to full use, touch the floor in a place less notable to see if the coating has fully dried to ensure you won’t leave footmarks.

Of course, if the room isn’t ventilated, the weather is cold, or there is no sun, it may take longer than that.

Can You Sand and Refinish Engineered Wood Floors?

Yes and no. Engineered wood floors require lots of attention when refinishing. Not all engineered wood floors can be refinished, due to their structure and characteristics. If you want to find out, call hardwood finishing experts who can help you further, or call the engineered wood floor manufacturer for more details.

It is important to mention that not all solid hardwood floors can be refinished either. If the floors have been refinished several times or damaged for some reason, it could be impossible to refinish them without creating further damage.

Can I Touch Up Scratches and Dents on My Wood Floors?

Most hardwood flooring manufacturers offer touch-up kits for their own collections. There are also colored putty fillers available in hardware stores that can be color-matched to your wood species and stain color. These products can help mask minor scratches and blemishes.

How Can I Better Protect My Floor from Early Wear?

Protecting the floor from early wear is as simple as establishing the consistent cleaning routine recommended by the manufacturer. This includes using damp cloths or mops and vacuums rather than wet mops, employing the use of rugs, and using plastic or felt discs under furniture to keep the legs from scratching the flooring surface.

When Ordering Hardwood Flooring How Much Extra Should I Order to Allow for Waste?

It is best to order 5 to 10% more than you think you need to make sure there is enough. Take a good look at the room layout and consider your skill level before making a final decision. You will want extra in case some boards arrive damaged or are damaged during installation. It is also a good idea to have some extra for future repairs.

Should I Expect My Hardwood Floor to Have Color Variations?

Color variations will be present in all grades of hardwood as it is a natural product.

Can Gapping Be Stopped?

Gapping cannot be stopped completely, but by controlling humidity in the home, it can be reduced.

What Can Be Done to Level Out Dips and Dings in the Flooring?

Try replacing individual boards of hardwood, or look for a patching compound recommended for use on wood floors.

How Do You Stain Wood Floors?

Staining wood floors can be a part of refinishing or installation. The staining is meant to provide a color to the wood floors. The most common is ebony, or a dark shade (espresso is popular these days), and the second most common choice is “blonde” or natural wood color. The stain should be applied to the floors as a sealer, prior to coating it with protective layers of polyurethane.

How Long Does It Take for a Stain to Dry?

Different stains take different times to dry, and it also depends on the conditions in the room. In most cases, the drying time for wood floor stains will be 36-48 hours. Darker stains will take longer to dry. If the weather is cold or the room is not ventilated, it’s going to affect the drying time as well.

How Do You Remove Spilled Paint from a Hardwood Floor?

Wiping out wet paint immediately after spills or splatter is the best way to protect staining on your hardwood floors. However, for already, dried paint, use any of the following methods:

  • Use soap and water for water-based paint
  • Use an effective paint remover
  • Use denatured alcohol with a rag
  • Use alcohol-based cleaning pads
  • Use paint thinner as a last resort

Can I Install a Solid Wood Floor Over a Concrete Slab?

5/16” thick solid hardwood can be installed over concrete. Standard 3/4” solid hardwood should not be used over concrete. However, it is possible with several additional steps. The concrete should be covered with a plastic sheet and sealed at all seams. Then another moisture barrier such as a plywood subfloor should be added to protect the flooring. Regardless, follow all manufacturers instructions carefully.

How Does Installing Hardwood Floors Lead to a Healthier Indoor Environment?

Other types of flooring harbor bacteria, pet dander, dust, and dirt, trapping it in your home. Wood flooring does not. With simple cleaning, you can keep your wood floors free from the debris that causes an unhealthy environment.

Is Wood Flooring Hypoallergenic?

Allergy experts have proven that wood flooring does not contain the irritating dust and microorganisms that cause allergy flare-ups. By installing wood flooring you are creating a healthier environment for your family, especially important if any of you are allergy-prone.

Is It Hard to Install Hardwood Floors?  

Some flooring projects are more complex than others. If you do not possess an extremely high skill level you should leave hardwood flooring installation to professionals. Even a small mistake could radically change the finished look of your floors (or the associated price tag) leaving you with an unhappy surprise after all your hours of work and planning. When you let a team of experts handle the job for you, you can expect work that’s done right the first time without any stress or mess.

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