If you are in the market for new flooring, maybe part of complete residential interior design, or maybe you simply need new flooring, options are plentiful. A popular path is the hardwood one, which nowadays offers more choice and considerations than ever before. In this blog we will explain your options.
The first distinction you need to make is between softwood and hardwood. There are plenty of differences, but when it comes to flooring, we generally note the durability of the wood. Hardwood includes slow growing trees, while softwood tends to include fast growing trees. The slow growth of hardwood often makes the wood stronger, which means better service life. Hardwood flooring comes in two forms. One made from solid (e.g. complete wood) while an alternative is made from solid wood mixed with manufactured materials.
Solid Hardwood – Each plank is made from 100% wood. It means long service life and can even aid in the structural support of the home. The solid hardwood type suits most areas, but for warm, went or cold areas. Solid hardwood should be avoided in the basement, kitchen and bathroom areas.
Engineered Hardwood – Each plank is made from 5% to 20% solid wood which is placed as the top layer. Below this layer, you will come across ply, MDF and other manufactured materials. The service life of engineered hardwood is slightly shorter, but it will not misshape due to temperature changes and can be fitted all around the interior, from the bathroom to the kitchen areas.
There are hundreds of hardwood species; most common are Oak, Walnut, Ash, Pine, Cherry and others. Regardless of the species you choose, you should check with your supplier that the hardwood was ethically and responsibly sourced. Most hardwood flooring, in particular, oak floors and walnut floors are available from managed forests around the world, so your decision to fit hardwood does not come on the expense of habitats and your money isn’t used to encourage illegal logging. You can check on the supplier site for ethical credentials such as FSC certificate or ask them directly. The most widely fitted are Oak, Walnut and Ash.
Oak Hardwood – Oak can be red or white depending on the country of origin. Oak offers suitable hardness, value for money and durability making it popular in flooring, boat building and even suitable to create wine barrels.
Walnut Hardwood – Walnut hardwood is a darker option, particularly the black American walnut variation. This Walnut hardwood isn’t as strong as Oak, which is why manufacturers often coat it in durable lacquered finish. However, Brazilian Walnut (more expensive) is sufficiently strong.
Ash Hardwood – Ash hardwood is a lighter color option, even in some cases coming across almost white. The hardwood is stronger than Oak and Walnut, so it is naturally prized for its service life.
Once you have decided between the sold and the engineered types and suitable species, comes the stage of choosing grade. Hardwood includes features such as knots, sap, color variations and other natural features. By grading the hardwood, manufacturers allow you to choose boards with plenty of features or boards with a uniform look.
Rustic and Natural Grades – These two are the basic grades, meaning that natural features are to be expected across the entire board.
Select and Prime Grades – These two are high-end grades, meaning that natural features are muted in favor of uniform look. Naturally, these two grades are more expensive.
After selecting suitable type, species and grades, comes the final stage of selecting the finish. The floor finish is meant to create a lasting barrier of protection from minor damage and to give the floor a beautiful look. Most common finishes are Oil or Lacquer based.
Oil Finish – Oil is the best option when you want to keep the natural look of the floor intact. Applying the finish can be done onsite or at the factory and it is easy to maintain. Generally, the oil will result in a matt finish.
Lacquer Finish – Lacquer is the more hardwearing of the two, generally used in areas that feature high foot traffic or require protection from the sun. Unlike oil, lacquer does not penetrate the wood and effectively ‘sits’ on the surface making it quicker to wear. Generally, the lacquer will result in a satin maybe even glossy finish.
Thank you for reading. To discuss your interior design project contact Michele Safra Interiors.
Information written by Jonathan Sapir, CEO of Wood and Beyond. You can read further helpful information on his blog http://www.woodandbeyond.com/blog/