Expectations are extremely important with large purchase items like flooring. This is especially true with hardwood floors. There is no question that a new hardwood floor will add a dimension of beauty and warmth to your home. Many consumers don’t know that wood flooring has some unique characteristics that make it not the perfect choice for everyone. This article is by no means meant to discourage you from buying a hardwood floor, but you do need to take into consideration these four little known facts about hardwood floors before making a purchase:
Wood Floors are Guaranteed to Scratch
There are various finishes that manufacturers put on wood flooring to make them more scratch resistant. The most popular finish these days is Aluminum Oxide. Wood flooring also typically comes with a wear warranty from 5 to 50 years in length. Wear warranties, however, usually only guarantee that a wood’s veneer won’t wear completely through. There are no anti-scratch warranties in the wood flooring business. All wood floors, no matter the finish treatment or quality of the wood, will be susceptible to surface scratching. With that being said, make sure you prepare your home for a wood floor before the installation. It’s a good idea to use furniture protectors, floor mats, and area rugs to guard your wood floors from scratches. Also, you might want to consider installing tile in your entry ways, since it’s the area where the heaviest traffic usually occurs. If there are large pets or children in the house, you may want to consider looking at a laminate floor, which is much more resistant to scratches.
Wood Floors Guaranteed to Indent
Wood floors are by no means a soft product, but they may be susceptible to denting from heavy use or drops. No wood flooring is dent-proof, but different species of wood do have different degrees of hardness. The Janka Test is used to measure the hardness of a species of wood. Using this test, wood species are given a score based upon the force required to embed a steel ball into the wood. It is said that the higher the score, the better the species of wood is at withstanding denting and wear. Northern Red Oak, the most common species of wood used in flooring, is the standard to which all other species are measured against. It has a score of 1290. There are species of wood that score over 3000 on this test, and while they may wear better with everyday use, they still will probably dent if something heavy like a hammer or can of food is dropped on the wood. If you are really concerned with your floors ability to withstand indentations, you do have other options. There are “wood-look” high-pressure laminate and porcelain products that are much more resistant to pressure and wear. In addition, a distressed or hand scraped wood floor will do a better job at hiding dents and other wear on your floor.
Wood Floors Guaranteed to Age
Aging with most floor coverings typically relates to how a floor loses its luster over time due to wear and tear on the floor. If I were to say, “Your carpet has aged”, you would think it was time to get new carpet. However, one of most unique attributes of wood flooring is its ability to actually look better with age. Wood floors already come with a lot of natural character and beauty. With proper maintenance, normal use and traffic should just increase the beautiful character of your wood floor. A real wood floor can also be refinished to restore its original luster and shine. This is something that can’t be done on wood-look products like laminate, vinyl and porcelain.
These are all nice attributes, but what I really want to touch on in this section is the photo-sensitivity of wood flooring. Wood tends to change color over time when exposed to sunlight. In fact, some wood floors can take up to a year and a half to mature into full color. Other floor coverings, on the other hand, might be vulnerable to fading or discoloring when exposed to prolonged sunlight. So while sunlight makes other floor coverings look older overtime, it beautifies wood floors, allowing them to reach their true color. This is an important attribute for consumers to know, because a freshly-laid wood floor might not always look like the sample you saw in the showroom, which has been allowed to reach its full color.
Consumers also must be conscientious about moving their area rugs and furniture periodically to avoid discolorations. Exotic hardwoods and hardwoods with a natural finish on them tend to be the most photosensitive. Most hardwoods darken and become bolder over time, but some woods like Santos Mahogany actually get lighter from sunlight. If you are really concerned about sunlight’s affect on your floor, purchase a hardwood that has been colored with a darker stain or purchase a species like Northern Red Oak which is a less photosensitive species.
Wood Floors Guaranteed to be Affected by Moisture
Wood floors are extremely sensitive to moisture. That includes changes in surface moisture, subfloor moisture, and humidity. Damages from moisture related problems can result in wood planks cracking, cupping, or buckling. It is important to hire an expert installation team that is familiar with wood and its reaction to moisture. Proper maintenance by the consumer is equally important. Standing water should be wiped up immediately, and the wood floor should be kept in a climate-controlled environment.
One way to combat the effects of moisture on your floor is to choose an engineered wood floor. Engineered wood flooring is a much better choice over a solid, because its construction adds dimensional stability to the planks. The layers of plywood under the veneer are laid cross-ways, reducing the wood’s ability to expand and contract along the grains when there is a change in moisture levels.