Why choose hardwood flooring over other flooring systems?

Hardwood flooring has a natural beauty that will give any room a very warm feeling. When building a new home, adding an addition or just taking up old carpeting that doesn't have a hardwood floor beneath, you should look at the wide variety of wood flooring available.

Unlike carpet, 3/4" thick wood flooring can take wear and tear and last well over 100 years with minimum maintenance. When the surface finish wears, or gets scratched over time, you can recoat or sand and refinish the floors to make them new again.

The variety and colors of wood flooring available today, make it easy to find one that will compliment any design ideas you have. Hardwood Flooring is also the only floor covering that will add resale value to your home.

What are the health benefits to hardwood flooring?

Carpets gather dust, animal dander, mildew, mites, pet urine, pollen and other irritants that can cause respiratory difficulties and are also harmful to those suffering from asthma or allergies, properly maintained hardwood flooring is extremely resistant to penetration from irritants.

One of the most common reasons for ripping out old carpets and installing hardwood floors or refinishing the existing hardwood floors is to get rid of the billions of dust mites that infest wall to wall carpet.

Dust mites are little bugs that live off of dead human skin cells, which we all shed. The mites' feces is what humans are actually allergic to. Dust mites love carpets.

It gives them so many opportunities to meet other dust mites and breed. For people with allergies wood flooring is one of the best types of flooring to have.

Dust mites thrive and dirt and pollen build up in carpet even with constant vacuuming and washing. Dust and pollen are simply vacuumed or dry-mopped from a wood surface. Area rugs can be removed for more affective cleaning of the rug and the floor beneath.

Is hardwood flooring more expensive than carpeting?

A high quality wall-to-wall carpet often costs more than hardwood flooring products. Looking at flooring as a purchase that will last for generations with proper maintenance, it is clearly a better value.

Once hardwood flooring is laid down it doesn't require expensive steam cleaning and may only need an inexpensive re-coating after a generation of use (depending on maintenance and wear and tear).

Comparing this to carpeting which needs expensive deep cleaning every year or two and replacing after only a few years, hardwood is obviously the better value and much less expensive in the long term.

How is hardwood flooring a good investment?

Hardwood flooring could add value to your home in the following ways:

  • Hardwood floors are generally nailed through the sub floor to the joists, which adds structural integrity to your home.

  • Hardwood floors act as thermal insulators.

  • Hardwood floors add value to your real estate investment. They generally make a property easier to sell.

  • Hardwood floors are very durable. Sometimes when old buildings are destroyed the hardwood floors can be reclaimed and reused.

  • Most floor coverings, carpet, linoleum, etc. last an average of 8 years. Hardwood floors can easily last the life of the building.

  • Today's wood floors are affordable. Over time, wood floors maintain their value. When other flooring options are looking tired and worn out, wood floors will still look beautiful and timeless.

  • Hardwood floors come from a renewable natural resource and can be recycled into other wood products years later, (particle board, paper, mulch, etc.)

What are the most common hardwood flooring systems being installed today?

  • 3/4" solid flooring (unfinished, or pre-finished)medallion

  • Engineered (unfinished, or pre-finished)

  • Longstrip (pre-finished)

  • Parquet (unfinished, or pre-finished)

A variety of customized products are available to further enhance the hardwood flooring to be installed in your home including borders or feature strips in domestic or exotic woods, crests and medallions, laser inlays and patterns, and flush mount or self-rimming wooden register/vent covers.

How are Hardwood Floors Installed?

  • Nail Down or Staple Down

Typically used with the 3/4" solid products. Solid Strip floors or Plank floors can only be installed on wooden subfloors or sleepers on or above grade. 1" to 2" inch staples or nailing cleats are used to attach the wood flooring to the subfloor. A pneumatic gun is used to drive the staple into the wood flooring and subfloor.

  • Glue Down

The recommended mastic or adhesive is spread on with the proper sized trowel to adhere the wood flooring to the subfloor. It is not recommended to glue down 3/4" solid.

  • Engineered and Parquet Floors

Engineered wood floors can be glued, nailed or stapled; parquets can only be glued down. There are many types of adhesives on the market. We use the manufacturers recommended adhesive when installing their flooring.

  • Floating

With the floating installation method the floor is not mechanically fastened to any part of the subfloor. There is a 1/8 inch thick pad that is placed between the wood flooring and the subfloor. Wood glue is applied in the tongue and groove of each plank to hold the planks together.

The padding protects against moisture, reduces noise transmission, softer under foot, and provides for some additional "R" value. Some Engineered floors and all Longstrip floors can be floated. This is a very fast, easy and clean method of installation.

Will my floor change color over time?

Yes. You can expect to see shade differences in your floor over time. The cause is usually from exposure to the ultra-violet rays of the sun, whether direct or indirect. This color change will be more noticeable in lighter colors, which will darken over time.

In addition, certain species, like Brazilian Cherry, will naturally darken over the years. These changes are due to the natural characteristics of wood and are not covered by most manufacturers' warranties.

Where can/can't I install hardwood in my home?

Hardwood can be installed in any room except a full bath. With the variety of products available and a choice of installation options, hardwood flooring can now be installed in any room of the home. The only consideration is whether the floor will be installed on-, above- or below-grade.

For example, because of potential moisture problems, solid hardwood is not recommended for installations below grade, such as in a basement. Engineered products, which are inherently dimensionally stable, are better choices for this area.

All types of hardwood can be installed on- or above-grade. Today's hardwood floors have made advances in style, durability, maintenance and care, making them more widely usable throughout the home (with the exception of the bathroom where its use is not recommended due to potential moisture problems).

What is prefinished flooring and is it right for me?

The major difference between prefinished and site-finished flooring is the custom, tabletop look you get with a site-finished floor. Prefinished often has those gap-grooves between each strip, which some folks find unsightly. site finished = TABLE TOP prefinished = gaps and some unevenness.

A lot of hardwood flooring sold today is prefinished. That is, several coats of UV-cured polyurethane are applied at the factory. These factory finishes are tough and durable. Installing a prefinished floor eliminates the time, the dust and the odors associated with the on-site sanding and finishing of an unfinished product. A prefinished floor can be installed in a day. An unfinished flooring installation may require up to four days, depending upon the space.

There are many prefinished and unfinished hardwood floors that can be glued down. You really need to get to a showroom or see a catalog of choices in order to pick the floor that's right for your application. There are solid floors and laminated floors. The solid wood flooring systems are recommended to be glued down to plywood substrates. The laminated floors are made like plywood. They are constructed of layers of different kinds of wood and can be installed over concrete or over plywood.

As always, if you choose a prefinished floor, you will not be sanding and therefore it is paramount that the sub floor is close to PERFECT before you start installing. If the sub floor is not perfect, you will see it in the finished floor. Modern adhesives last as long as the floor.

Can I sand and refinish my floor?

Many hardwood floors can be sanded and refinished at least once and as many as three times or more. The exact number depends upon the total thickness of the product or the thickness of the top layer of premium hardwood, as in an engineered product.

With this process, we sand the entire finish off the floor, and then rebuild the finish surface. This procedure can take up to five days or longer, depending upon the size of the space. While sanding and refinishing a floor may be costly and disruptive to the household, it is usually more economical than replacing the floor.

When is it time to re-coat or refinish my floor?

When your floor begins to look worn this is a sign that it may need sanding or refinishing. A simple test to tell what you need to do is to pour a tablespoon or two of water onto your floor.

If the water beads, your floor is simply a little dirty or tarnished from wear and tear. The solution in this case is just some cleaning or stain removal.

If over a period of a few minutes the water slowly soaks into your floor, your floor is partially worn and will need re-coating or refinishing soon, but for now just take a little extra care. If the water soaks right in, it is time to re-coat or re-sand and refinish your flooring.

Can I re-coat my floor instead of re-sanding?

If your floor has not been waxed or oiled re-coating is a great option. It takes less time, is significantly less expensive than re-sanding and creates less of a mess. If you re-coat your floors every few years, before the finish has worn through, you will prolong the life of the surface of your floor and reduce the need for re-sanding.

More recoatings fail than any other process in hardwood floor work. The reason is always the same. Something prevents the new finish from adhering (bonding) to the old. This could be dirt, wax, oil or a hundred or so chemicals that finishes don't like.

A real professional tries to clean the floor with everything in the book before actually buffing (abrading) and refinishing. General Hardwood Flooring, Inc. first washes the floor with solvents. When this is completely dry we then buff the floor with a fine abrasive screen. This abrading process makes the floor surface rough so the new finish will adhere to the old finish.

Why does my floor have cracks/gaps in it?

In is common for cracks to appear in floors, especially with wider planks, due to shrinkage and expansion over the year. Small cracks are not harmful to the floor and most will only appear seasonally due to changes in moisture levels. In order to reduce or eliminated the chances of getting cracks in your floor, make an effort to maintain a humidity level between 45% and 55% throughout the year. Air conditioning or a de-humidifier in the humid summer months and a humidifier during drier seasons helps to keep the humidity level more stable year round.

Any article made of wood is subject to expansion and contraction resulting from changes in humidity. Wood is a hygroscopic material, which means it will absorb moisture in a wet environment and give off moisture in a dry environment until the wood reached equilibrium. Approximately 1% dimension change takes place with each 3% change in the moisture content of the wood. This applies to hardwoods more than soft woods.

Maple is a hardwood, but is especially susceptible to this dimensional change relative to moisture content. Air can hold a certain amount of moisture at a given temperature. Relative humidity expresses what percentage of this maximum value that the air is actually holding. Warm air can hold more moisture than cool air. For example, if a sample of air at 32 degrees and 100% relative humidity is heated to 75 degrees, the relative humidity of that sample drops to 20% because the warmer air has a larger water holding capacity.

During the winter months, the interior relative humidity of homes drop significantly as the heat is turned on. Wood flooring (as well as wooden furniture and any other wooden objects) will shrink as a result of this decrease in relative humidity. This shrinkage will manifest itself in the form of slight cupping of the floor. These kinds of seasonal changes in wood flooring are normal, and are not defects. Seasonal changes in wood flooring can be mitigated through the use of climate control devices such as a humidifier. Wood flooring should be stored in such a way as to minimize exposure to humidity levels greater than that of the normal level of the structure or residence in which it is to be installed.

Wood flooring should be stored inside the enclosed structure or residence after heating and cooling systems are operational, near where the flooring is to be installed. Wood flooring must not be stored in a garage or other unheated structure, as the relative humidity in an unheated structure will be significantly different than that of the interior of the structure. Wood flooring must not be stored in a structure or residence where propane heaters are in use, as propane heaters generate large amounts of moisture as a by-product. Failure to follow proper storage procedures may result in expansion and contraction beyond the normal expansion and contraction described above.

How do I control contraction and expansion of my floor?

This is a very common question with a very simple answer. To ensure your floor stays in place and has a long life free of damaged caused my extreme contraction and expansion, maintain the humidity in your house at a level between 45% and 55%. This is a simple and efficient step to increase the longevity of your floor. An added benefit of maintaining humidity is your personal comfort.

Why does my floor squeak?

Usually this is due to a poor sub-floor like those found in many older homes. The old 3/8" strip flooring reacts to the humidity changes by expanding and contracting, sometimes causing a cupping or crowning effect on the strips. When you walk on the floor the pieces might flatten out and cause a rubbing effect that gives a creaking sound.

It is best to avoid using any solid 3/8" flooring if possible. In newer floors it can sometimes be a result of shifting of your floor because of changing humidity. This can be avoided by maintaining an equal humidity level throughout the year.

Hardwood floors, all of them, will eventually developed some sort of squeak in them. The reason behind this is that they are nailed to a wooden structure called a sub floor made of wood underlayment and joists. The nails are an efficient and cost effective way of fastening but have the following drawback. When the wood expands and contracts with the various seasonal humidity changes, the holes around the nails also expand and contract.

As we use and walk on the floors we continue to loosen them by jiggling them ever so slightly each time we use them. Your floors may squeak more in one season than another. For most homes, they squeak more during the heating season, which tends to dry out and shrink the hardwood strips.

Some solution thoughts:
Humidify the house during the heating season and dehumidify during the summer, humid months. Shims can be driven between the sub floor and joists to create a swelling at the spot that the squeak occurs. In some cases we have shot 2-inch finish nails into the face of the finish flooring with a pneumatic nailer. These need to be shot in at a 15-degree angle (toe angle) to work effectively. Sanding and finishing will not solve a squeaky floor problem.