Easy, concise knowledge about hardwood construction
Appreciating the process of making hardwood is very simple. Here, we have compiled all the information you will need to understand this process. We highly encourage you to read on and learn more.
Choosing hardwood flooring for your home is an investment. Understanding how natural hardwood becomes the product you have chosen for your home is a crucial part of the selection process as, with any investment, this is something you will be living with for many years to come. With this comes knowledge of the different species of hardwoods and how to choose what will work best for you. There can be many differences between species from ease of installation or replacement to the length of wear.
Perhaps the most important result of understanding the steps of how hardwood becomes your investment is making you a smarter shopper. Keeping yourself within the parameters of your budget is the most crucial step in choosing which flooring is best suited for you.
Understanding hardwood sizes, species and types
Think about all the hardwood floors you’ve seen over the years: floors in your friends’ houses, in hotels, ballrooms, dancefloors, etc. Generally, all of these floors a constructed of planks that measure ¾” thick and 2 ¼” wide, and are typically random in length from 12” to 84”. While this size is most common, it is possible to find planks that are narrower in width or are slightly thinner.
There are several species of hardwood commonly used for solid strip floors: red oak, white oak, maple, bamboo, white ash, and hickory, though flooring is not limited to these few species. These species, and many others, are available in three formats: solid, engineered, and longstrip plank (a variation of engineered flooring).
Let’s further discuss these three formats.
SOLID: Solid wood flooring is comprised of pure pieces of hardwood that have been milled to have tongue and groove sides for installation. Typically, when thinking of this type of flooring, we may think of the wood as being untreated and raw. While this is common, it is important to know that solid wood flooring is also available in a pre-finished form.
Regardless of raw or pre-finished, it is important to understand that solid wood flooring is sensitive to moisture and, because of this, solid wood flooring is used for nail-down installation and is not recommended for use below ground level or to be installed directly onto concrete.
A large advantage to solid wood flooring is that it can easily be maintained by recoating them every 1-2 years, or be brought back to life by sanding and refinishing them. This can be done several times on the same floor allowing for your investment to last longer continuing to add value to your home. In fact, there are still floors in existence that are well over one hundred years old that still retain their beauty and integrity.
However, because solid wood flooring is a natural product, it should be expected to expand and contract in response to seasonal changes in moisture. During dry, winter months, the lack of moisture in the air causes the moisture in the wood to escape. In turn, this causes the wood to contract creating small gaps between each plank of wood. However, in the summer months, humidity is higher giving more moisture retention to the wood causing it to expand making the winter gaps disappear. Knowing this, it is important to know leave enough room around the perimeter of your flooring as to allow for expansion.
Note: if too much moisture enters the wood, this will cause the planks to cup or buckle. If this occurs, the only way to remove the ridges caused by this is a complete resand.
Know that when selecting oak as your choice for flooring, there are several options available to choose from regarding quality. The choices are clear, select and better, #1 common, and #2 common. Clear contains no visible blemishes or knots and is much more expensive while select and better does contain small knots and some minor darker grain. #1 common and #2 common contain more blemishes and dark grain.
ENGINEERED: Engineered wood flooring is typically manufactured with multiple (2-5) thin sheets of wood that are laminated together to form one plank, with the top layer being the actual hardwood surface. These sheets of wood are laid on top of one another in opposite directions or, otherwise known as, “cross-ply construction.” This allows for a dimensionally stable floor that is less affected by moisture than a solid floor as mentioned above. This cross-ply construction allows the thin sheets to counteract each other which prevents the planks from growing or shrinking with the changes in moisture.
The other large advantage to using this flooring is the versatility it allows you. Engineered flooring can be installed not only on the main and upper levels, but can also be installed directly on top of concrete slabs in basements below ground level as, like mentioned above, it is not as susceptible to moisture damage.
Engineered flooring can be installed by nailing, glueing, or floating it over a wide variety of subflooring, including several types of already existing flooring.
Engineered flooring ranges from ¼” to 9/16” thick and vary from 2 ¼” to 7” in width, while length can range anywhere from 12” to 60”. Using varying board widths during installation (i.e. a 3-5-7 inch variation) creates a very unique and custom style to your floor.
Engineered flooring is also available in a variety of domestic or exotic species such as oak, maple, hickory, or cherry.
LONGSTRIP PLANK: Longstrip plank flooring is similar to engineered flooring in that it also contains several thin sheets, or plies, of wood that are glued together. The center core is generally a softer wood material that is used to make-up the tongue and groove. As with engineered flooring, the top layer is that of a hardwood finished surface. This top layer can be, as with engineered flooring, almost any hardwood species.
Longstrip planks are approximately 86” in length and 7 ½” in width. They generally contain 17 to 35 pieces that make up the top layer of each board, providing an effect of installing a board that is three rows wide and several planks long. Each plank appears as an entire sections that has already been pre-assembled for you creating a very unique appearance to your home.
Longstrip planks are designed for floating installation. However they can also be glued or stapled down. This allows the flooring to be installed over a variety of subfloors making it extremely versatile.
Type 3: the easy-to-replace longstrip.
Like engineered floors, longstrip floors come in a wide variety of domestic and exotic hardwood species.
Perhaps the biggest advantage to longstrip plank flooring is the ease of replacement if and when needed.
We hope this knowledge makes you a smarter shopper, helps you narrow down your options, or even solidifies your choice of hardwood flooring for your home.