Choosing the Best Wood Flooring for You

There is nothing as beautiful as wood flooring.

If you are tired of vacuuming and shampooing carpets, you might want to consider changing the entire décor of your home by installing wood flooring. Easy to clean, hardwearing, and stylish, wood has become the dominant flooring material.

If you think wood might be for you, your first step will be to check under your present carpeting to see if there are floorboards already there. Floorboards in newer houses are usually not substantial enough for refinishing but older houses might already have wood floorboards that can be sanded and polished beautifully.

Nothing beneath your carpets? Well that doesn't mean you can't install new flooring.

Now, before you go shopping, let's go into the nitty gritty, to make sure you get exactly what you want.

If you are thinking that a “wood floor is a wood floor is a wood floor”---well, think again. A variety of different woods are available with colors ranging from near-white to deep brown-blacks, and today’s wood floors are suitable for nearly every room in your house. Different woods have different properties, including distinctive colors and grains. You will also discover that different grades are available at different costs so that you can find something that you will fall in love in your price range.

Basic decisions need to be made in regards to hardwood vs. softwood or even bamboo (not, in fact, a wood at all, but a fast-growing grass). In order to discover the best flooring option for you, talk to a contractor and learn what materials will meet both your budget and your personal preferences.

What is the difference between hardwood and softwood? Softwood is soft, as the name implies. Softwood is not as durable as hardwood and is going to show more scrapes, dents and general wear and tear, but it can be refinished. Soft wood is also less expensive and many people like that soft woodsy feel and scent. Popular softwoods are pine, beech and fir. Pine is the most popular softwood and is naturally pale. Birch is similar to pine but tends to have more knotholes which give it more character. Fir ranges in color from a pale yellow to a light red which is very attractive, but it is very soft so needs to be used in areas with less traffic.

Hardwood flooring is the most durable and will resist damage from everyday wear and tear more than most. Hardwood is available in a wide range of colors and grain patterns and of course is more expensive than softwood. The advantage of hardwood is that it is durable, easy to clean and has a warm natural effect. When hardwood flooring starts to show wear and tear you can refinish it to look like new.

If you're sold on hardwood, then you need to choose a species.

Each type of wood has its own characteristic grain pattern, coloring, feel and scent. The most popular hardwoods include oak, maple and ash.

You are probably most familiar with oak as it is universally popular and has a mid-brown color and a tight dark grain. Maple is the second most popular hardwood. Maple is pale and has a fine grain pattern that will give your room a lighter and softer look. Ash is also quite popular with its uniform light texture and consistent grain. If you like more dramatic colors, look at walnut, which has a deep brown color, or at cherry with its rich red-brown tones. Beech has a mid-brown to pinkish tint with a flecked grain.

You can buy wood flooring as solid-wood boards, as manufactured boards called engineered wood boards (hardwood veneer on a softwood base) and as wood tiles (parquet) that are thin wood strips arranged in various patterns and glued to a square of plywood.

Solid wood is most expensive, but it can also be sanded down and refinished many times (plenty of woody thickness).

You may also be wondering about bamboo, which we briefly mentioned. Bamboo is environmentally friendly, tough and from a renewable resource. As mentioned, bamboo is a grass rather than a tree and grows back quickly when harvested. This is why it is often considered an eco-friendly flooring option.

Do a little home work and talk to a wood flooring contractor about they types of flooring to determine what will best meet your needs.

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