Buying hardwood flooring might seem like a difficult task, but it doesn’t have to be! It helps to arm yourself beforehand with some basic knowledge before you make your purchase.
If you are shopping for hardwood flooring, you’ve come to the RIGHT place!
Most suppliers and retailers will be very helpful in pointing you in the right direction when purchasing flooring, but they are not psychic. You will need to provide your salesperson with some basic information. The tips provided in this article will help make your buying experience run smoothly.
Before You Buy
The World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) suggests several areas to review before making your purchase. For example, you consider the following:
- Species of wood
- Type of hardwood flooring
- Pre-finished or finish in place
- Dust issues
- Weather issues
- Existing subfloor
- Ultraviolet (UV) exposure
- True cost per square foot
Naturally, you should be prepared with the size of the room and how much traffic the room normally has running through it. If you have pets, this may be a factor in determining the best type of hardwood flooring for your project.
Is the room you are planning to put the flooring in a bathroom or kitchen? This is yet another factor to think about. Moisture and hardwood flooring do not mix. If you are putting new flooring in a room such as this, you may decide to go with something other than hardwood, such as vinyl or linoleum.
Know the Species
There are currently more than 50 species of wood that are used as hardwood flooring. The wide variety available runs the gamut of everyday woods to exotic types of woods.
You will also find a variety of different levels of hardness with all the wood species. It is hard not to get fixated on what is known as the Janka rating of the wood. The Janka rating is the amount of force that is required to drive a 0.44-inch ball halfway into a piece of wood.
This rating is often used as a guide to determine which hardwood to choose for your flooring based on durability. It is important to note though that, even if the hardwood you choose has a high Janka rating, it is not scratch proof. All woods and finishes can be scratched if you are not careful with them or do not properly maintain them.
Types of Flooring
You will need to decide what type of flooring you want to purchase. There are two common types of hardwood flooring available: solid hardwood and engineered hardwood.
Solid hardwood flooring comes as pieces of wood that are solid throughout, consisting of just one species. It is usually nailed or stapled during installation. The benefit of solid wood is that it can be sanded and refinished repeatedly and, with proper maintenance, it will last for many years.
Engineered hardwood consists of a top layer of the actual wood you have chosen, glued to three to nine additional layers of wood. The advantage to this type of flooring is that it is more forgiving of humidity, as it will not react as harshly as solid hardwood through expansion and contraction. This type of flooring can also be sanded and refinished, but because the top layer is not very thick, you are limited as to the amount of times you may do so.
Pre-Finished vs. Finish in Place
If you chose solid hardwood, you will now need to decide if you want pre-finished or unfinished–unfinished will need to be finished once it is installed. Pre-finished offers the advantage that, once the floor is installed, you are ready to go without the mess, hassle, and time involved with applying a finish. Boards that are pre-finished are also prepared in a dust-free environment so your floors will not have dust bumps or bubbles on them.
Deciding to go with an unfinished hardwood floor that you will finish in place offers its advantages and disadvantages. You will need to weigh these out and decide for yourself if it is worth the work and possible hassle. One advantage is that you can customize your floor to create a look like no other by choosing your own stain and then adding your urethane finish.
The disadvantage is that it is virtually impossible to create a dust-free atmosphere in your room, no matter how much you try. This means you may end up with dust bubbles once your floor is done.
You may notice other imperfections from the sanding or even brush marks that otherwise would have been caught and rejected with a pre-finished floor.
As previously mentioned, moisture is not a friend to hardwood flooring. It can cause warping and cracking in the floorboards. If you live in an extreme climate area, you will need to take steps to protect your flooring. This is something you need to consider before going forth with an installation.
For wet climates, you may want to have a dehumidifier installed in your home.
Additionally, you can lessen the effect of the moisture by ensuring your home is well insulated. For homes in dry areas, you will want to install a humidifier to lessen the damage and prevent your floors from drying out.
You will need to know what type of subfloor you currently have in your home. Are you on a concrete slab foundation or do you have an existing plywood subfloor in place? This will have an influence on which installation method you choose.
Depending upon the condition of your subfloor or concrete slab, you may need to do some remediation before even installing your hardwood flooring. If your subfloor is subpar, you will end up with issues later on with your floors that will be undesirable, such as creaking, floorboards popping up, or hollow sounds in some areas.
Sunlight and UV Exposure
Just as moisture is an enemy of hardwood flooring, so too is UV exposure. You will want to consider your room’s exposure to sunlight. This does not mean you need to live in a cave, however.
Consider being flexible with your window coverings and rotating your rugs and furniture to allow equal exposure to all sections of the flooring in your room. This will help to prevent premature fading in areas.
Know Your True Cost
Customers often make the mistake of looking only at the price per square foot of hardwood flooring. They are then shocked with they receive their estimate or bill. This is because they neglect to consider all factors that go into installing a hardwood floor.
The price per square foot that you see in the store or online normally will not include installation if you are choosing to have a professional do the job. It also does not take into account any preparations that may need to be done to your subfloor to ensure a good install.
For that matter, don’t forget that your old floor or carpeting will need to be ripped up and disposed of. Demolition and disposal fees will need to be added in also; not to mention any delivery fees for the flooring itself or materials.
Additionally, the price per square foot is not going to include all the materials that are needed for installation. You need to consider vapor barriers, padding if desired or needed, adhesives, and nails. Don’t forget the finishing touches either! If you chose unfinished hardwood flooring, you need to add in the cost of the stain and urethane, as well as any tools that may be required or equipment rental for a floor sander.
And then there are the finishing touches! If you are going to go through the trouble of replacing your flooring, don’t skimp on the molding. Be sure to include that in your costs.
Knowing all of the costs ahead of time will prevent any surprises once the job is done. So be sure to take all possible expenses into consideration.
Benefits of Going with Hardwood
Even though a new hardwood floor can be a considerable investment, depending on the type of flooring you choose and how much, the benefits can considerable outweigh any concerns you may have. Hardwood flooring may increase the value of your home or decrease the amount of time your home is on the market.
Hardwood flooring has a longer life versus other types of floor coverings. It is very durable and can be refinished to rejuvenate its look. You cannot do that with carpeting, vinyl, or laminate flooring. The manufacturer warranties on hardwood flooring are normally much longer than other types of available flooring.
If you or other members of your family suffer from allergies or asthma, many health professionals recommend switching from carpeting to hardwood flooring. This is because dust, dust mites, and other allergen triggers can hide unseen in your carpeting. They may even remain after a thorough vacuuming.
By switching to hardwood flooring, you are taking a step in improving the quality life for those in your home who have dust sensitivities.
With a hardwood floor, dust cannot hide as it does in carpet fibers. It will lie on top of the floor where it can easily be swept away with a broom or dust mop. A quick vacuuming weekly will dispose of any dust that may collect in the areas between the floorboards.
Deciding to invest in hardwood flooring is a big decision for a homeowner to make. However, being prepared and knowledgeable about what this investment will entail will help to lessen your stress and anxiety when you choose to go forward with this project.
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