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How To Choose Hardwood Flooring

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A guide to the most common types of hardwood flooring.

A guide to the most common types of hardwood flooring.

Durable, wear-resistant and inherently beautiful, it's no wonder wood is one of the most popular flooring choices. Wood also emits a feeling of warmth and can be easily repaired and refurbished, though it also looks great as it ages.

Both softwoods and hardwoods are appropriate for interior home use. Softwoods such as pine, fir and spruce are likely to be damaged by wear and abrasion so they are best suited to light traffic areas such as bedrooms. Hardwoods like oak, maple, birch and pecan are denser and able to withstand harsher treatment. Wood works best in spaces that are free of contact with moisture, but wood can also be treated to repel the negative effects of moisture.

The way wood is sawn determines its appearance and resistance to wear. Quarter-sawn flooring (edge or vertical grain) displays an even grain and will stand up to hard wear quite well. Plain-sawn flooring (flat grain) displays noticeable grain patterns and may not wear evenly.

The cost of wood flooring ranges from inexpensive pine to pricey walnut parquet. It can be purchased either finished or unfinished. Colour, grain pattern, density and texture vary and are specific to each species. Prefinished hardwood offers convenience; hardwood that's sanded and finished on site offers a gleaming reflection you just can't get with the small gaps between prefinished planks.

Regular maintenance is quite simple: just vacuum or sweep regularly give floors an occasional light wash. Regular polishing can enhance appearance.

In this article:
Wood strips
Wood planks
Parquet
Wood tile

Wood strips

Description

  • most popular type of wood flooring
  • most common species are oak (coarse grain, reddish brown), maple (medium brown), walnut (dark brown), teak and pecan
  • long narrow boards that measure 3/4” thick and 1-1/2”, 2”, 2-1/4” or 2-1/2” wide
  • available in random lengths between 2’ to 16’
  • are tongue-and-grooved along sides and end-matched at ends
  • cannot cement directly to concrete, must use plywood subfloor

Uses

  • extremely versatile in any setting whether informal or formal, traditional, contemporary or modern
  • ideal for areas of high traffic such as entrances and family rooms

Maintenance

  • frequent sweeping/vacuuming and/or dry-mopping
  • appearance and durability improved with occasional waxing

Wood planks

Description

  • similar to strips but wider, usually between 3-1/2” to 8”
  • available in random lengths between 2’ and 16’
  • are tongue-and-grooved along sides and end-matched at ends
  • most popular species are oak and pine
  • displays more grain than strips

Uses

  • to create a rustic, informal space
  • usually in antique or colonial interiors
  • recalls character of early American homes
  • requires large area to balance scale of large planks

Maintenance

  • frequent sweeping/vacuuming and/or dry-mopping
  • planks require ventilation below to prevent boards from cupping

Parquet

Description

  • a mosaic created from wood
  • geometrically laid squares measuring between 6” to 9” square
  • most common species are oak, teak and walnut
  • laid in typical patterns including herringbone, monticello, chaucer, haddon hall, saxony, standard
  • most expensive wood flooring material

Uses

  • best suited to formal or traditional spaces like living, dining or family rooms

Maintenance

  • frequent sweeping/vacuuming and/or dry-mopping
  • adding two thin coats of wax to newly finished floors will improve protection against wear
  • highly durable but will not withstand traffic as well as wood strips

Wood tile

Description

  • similar to parquet except that tiles are not laid in patterns, grain of wood provides pattern
  • oak and maple are most common species
  • for easy installation, some tiles are available with self-adhesive backs
  • is the least expensive type of wood flooring

Uses

  • suitable for any living area
  • especially appropriate for an inexpensive kitchen floor

Maintenance

  • frequent sweeping/vacuuming and/or dry-mopping
  • very durable
  • adding two thin coats of wax to newly finished floors will improve protection against wear

 

 

 

Photographer: 

Donna Griffith

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