Hardwood Flooring 101

Hardwood Flooring 101

I wanted to learn more about hardwood flooring options and went by to visit Amanda and Lindsey at Boardwalk Hardwood Floors in St. Louis.  They gave me a great introduction to three of the most common choices for hardwood (or hardwood like) flooring both in person and with the great information below.  The blog and video are a little longer than usual but very informative. 

Hardwood Flooring 101

Flooring is easy to take advantage of in life.  You and your family and friends walk, roll, crawl, lay, play on the floor every day, typically without a thought or care about it, until the time comes that you have the need to shop for it.  There are hundreds of choices out there, and like most things in life, everything has pros and cons and one just needs to focus on what is going to work best for them based on personal preference, performance, fashion, and lifestyle.

As a hard surface specialist, I am going to briefly discuss the main points regarding a few of the most popular plant-based hard surfaces: wood, bamboo, and cork. I will get in-depth on these and include other floor products in future installments.

I like to think of hardwood flooring as furniture on your floor. It is a classic look that can be used in most design styles. It is easy to clean and maintain, but it is not indestructible. There are factors that can make some woods better choices or better performers than others if the application is a high traffic area or you have pets in the house. The more grain, color variation, and character a floor has the more it can hide surface scratches. I would stress this point the most for households with pets. The less shiny a floor is the less light it is reflecting, so the less it shows dirt, wear, and imperfections. For people who like the look, texture will also hide more imperfections. Texture can be hand-scraping, wire-brushing, or distressing. Basically textured floors already look worn, so they wear or hide their imperfections very well. Choosing a color for any floor is personal preference, but in general very dark floors will show more dust, smudges, and footprints therefore may not be the most practical color for some people. I like to compare it to driving a black car: it looks great when it’s clean, but it is going to look dusty or dirty quicker than medium to lighter tones.

Bamboo Flooring

Bamboo Hardwood Flooring

Bamboo typically gets lumped in the category of hardwood flooring, but it is actually a grass. Since it can be re-harvested about every seven years, it does frequently get classified as a “green” product. However, I do like to point out that by being a grass, bamboo has to go through a fairly hefty manufacturing process in order to become a floor. In addition, most bamboo flooring is made in China, so for customers here in North America there is a much larger carbon footprint associated with bamboo when compared to a regionally local solid hardwood. Traditional horizontal or vertical grain bamboo is similar in hardness to southern red oak. It will perform similarly to a clear grade domestic maple wood, in that there is not a lot of graining or color variation and can show more surface scratches and imperfections. Strand bamboo is a shredded bamboo that is re-pressed together with glues and resins, which makes it very hard and gives it more of a “graining” effect. I do consider strand bamboo to be a better choice for pets in the home when compared to horizontal or vertical grain, however it can still scratch and can not be completely re-sanded and refinished like a solid hardwood due to the nature of its construction.

Cork Flooring

Cork Hardwood Flooring

Cork flooring is a wood product, as it is the bark of a tree. The bark can be re-harvested about every nine years and does not kill the tree, therefore it is also considered an environmental choice. Although some think of it as a new fad, cork flooring has been around for a very long time. There are cathedrals and churches in existence with cork floors that are over 100 years old. Cork is your softest hard surface and gives you the best thermal and acoustical value when compared to other hard surfaces. Cork can potentially scratch or gouge like a wood, but is harder to dent as its cell structure is flexible. It is also naturally insect repellant and mold and mildew resistant, which is why Dom Perignon started using the material as a bottle stopper in the 17th century!

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Thanks to Amanda and Lindsey at Boardwalk Hardwood Floors  for the great education on hardwood flooring choices. We look forward to more blogs in the future.

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