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How to Choose Hardwood Flooring

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 30 Mar 2011 | comments*Discuss
 
Timber Flooring Wooden Floors Hardwood

It’s hard to beat the beauty and feel of hardwood floors whether it is the soft warmth of oak, the cool blonde of maple or the dark glossiness of walnut. Regardless of trends and fashions, Timber Flooring always lends an air of quality and class to an area, residential or Commercial, and adds value to the property. Wood, as something created by nature, has a timeless and universal appeal.

Advantages of Wooden Floors

  1. They are incredibly hard-wearing, lasting a lifetime if correctly fitted and maintained.

  2. They are incredibly versatile and can be fitted into every type of living space, from bedrooms to kitchens, living rooms to hallways. The only room which would not be suitable would be the Bathroom due to the high moisture environment.

  3. They are easy to clean and maintain, meaning a more hygienic environment and lower incidence of dust allergies; a recent scientific report showed that carpets in the average British household contained up to 100,000 dust mites per square metre, as well traces of pet faeces and urine, flea and lice eggs, traces of dirt and excreta from the soles of shoes and heavy concentrations of heavy metals, such as lead and mercury. In contrast, wooden floors only carry a tenth of the number of dust mites as carpet and being a natural material, it is healthier, with many wood oils rumoured to have anti-bacterial properties.

  4. They come in a huge range of styles and finishes (such as wax, oil or lacquer) to suit every taste.

  5. Not only are they warm, as they are a good insulator, but they can be installed over underfloor heating systems as well.

  6. They can be environmentally-friendly – for example, most timber flooring sold in Britain comes from sustainable stocks of American and European hardwood. Note, however, that if choosing tropical hardwoods, make sure you check that the manufacturer has sourced their product from an official sustainable forest.

  7. Lastly, they are one of the few flooring options which actually improve with age, with most woods darkening as they get older, their colours deepening and becoming richer as they react to sunlight.

How to Choose Timber Flooring

The first decision is usually type of wood, based on the suitability for the area (e.g. kitchen Vs. bedroom) and the look you want to achieve. There is a huge amount of choice, even within the same species, in terms of colour and texture. The most common choices are Ash, Beech, Cherry, Maple, Oak and Walnut, with oak being the most popular for contemporary houses, although beech and maple are not far behind. Recently, demand for more “exotic” types like cherry has risen.

Once you have decided type of wood, you will then need to choose the grade (these two things will largely decide price) – the highest grade is “select” which does not incorporate any knots, so that floors have a uniform colour and texture; however, you might actually prefer the lowest grade (and cheaper) called “rustic” which has colour variations, as this is less monotonous and gives the floor more “character”. Your choice will depend largely on what effect you want to achieve and what other elements of interior décor dominate the room.

You will also need to choose patterns (e.g. strip, plank, herringbone, basket weave) and construction, such as solid through and through or engineered wood floors, which is composed of multiple layers of wood pressed together and actually produces a product with more durability and stability than solid wood.

Lastly, you will need to decide on the surface finish – most popular is polyurethane, which is water-resistant and protects the wood from moisture and mould. It also makes it very easy to care for and maintain.

If you are considering DIY options, then you may want to look at unfinished hardwood flooring instead of pre-finished. Although this will take more time in installation as you will have to do the sanding, surface preparation and finishing yourself, this can have a lower material cost than pre-finished timber flooring.

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