Hardwood Floors – Everything you need to know

Hardwood flooring is durable, beautiful, and brings a long-lasting component to any room of the home. If you’re considering installing hardwood flooring, it’s important to understand more about the cost, the different types of hardwood that are available, and the pros and cons. With the right finish and wood type, these floors will bring consistent beauty and warmth to your home for years to come. Read onto learn more about hardwood flooring so you can determine if it’s right for you.

What is hardwood flooring?

Hardwood is a flooring material that comes from slow-growing trees. This wood is dense and much more durable than softwood, making it a prime choice for many homeowners. Since this type of floor is made from real wood, it’s a great way to add natural beauty to any room of the home. The durability of the species you choose can differ depending on its rating from the National Oak Flooring Manufacturers Association (NOMFA), which uses a Wood Hardiness Rating Scale to determine durability levels. One key reason many people opt for hardwood flooring is due to its unique and natural aesthetic. Since this material is obtained from real trees, each plank offers its own individual wood grain and characteristics.

Types of Hardwood Floors

Hardwood flooring is comprised of different species, and each one has its own unique features. Here are some of the most popular types of hardwood floors so you have a better idea of which one is best for your needs:

  • Maple: One of the most popular options for flooring, maple wood features an understated grain which makes it ideal for both large and small rooms. Maple hardwood flooring is also highly durable, so it’s great for homes with heavy foot traffic, children or pets. If you want to stain maple flooring, it’s not as porous as some other wood types so it may not be ideal if you’re looking for custom colors.
  • Rosewood: With its unique grain pattern, rosewood is a beautiful choice for your home. This type of wood is still a newcomer to the flooring world. However, rosewood has been used to create furniture for many years, which means it’s a good option if you need something strong and durable.
  • Walnut: Choose walnut hardwood flooring if you’re looking for something dark and exotic. Walnut comes in many different species, and it’s one of the hardest and strongest hardwoods available for flooring. Install walnut in high-traffic areas to keep your floors looking beautiful.
  • Cherry: Bring an elegant touch to your home with cherry floors, which start out with a pink color that deepens and gets richer as time goes on. This hardwood does scratch more easily than some other hardwoods, but it’s still a great choice if you maintain and refinish it on a regular basis.
  • Hickory: For a rustic look, try hickory hardwood flooring. This wood offers a distressed look, high durability, and a warm aesthetic. It’s also quite versatile, making it a wise choice to match with almost any décor style.
  • Ash: If you’re on a budget, consider ash wood floors. This wood has between 45 and 65 different species to choose from, so make sure you find out more about the different options available to ensure the best fit for you.
  • Mahogany: An elegant wood, mahogany only gets better with age and brings a classic look to the home. While mahogany is more expensive than most other hardwoods, it’s a great choice if your goal is to install something stunning that will also stand the test of time.
  • Oak: This hardwood is resistant to wear and tear, and it’s still one of the most popular choices for flooring. Oak looks beautiful in any setting, and it’s very durable, which means it can withstand plenty of abuse.

Pros & Cons of Hardwood Flooring

Just like any other product, hardwood flooring has its own unique set of benefits and drawbacks. Here are some of the pros and cons of choosing hardwood floors for your home:

Pros

  • Longevity: While hardwood costs more than most other types of flooring, it’s also exceptionally durable which means it should last for many years without needing to replace it.
  • Variety: Thanks to the many different species available, you’ll find hardwood flooring in a wide range of styles. You can also finish most hardwood floors to match your preferred color, which makes this type of flooring perfect for everything from modern to classic homes.
  • Safe: Synthetic flooring like carpet and vinyl can release VOCs or volatile organic compounds into the air. Since hardwood is made from natural materials, you don’t need to worry about harsh chemicals that can cause headaches or allergies.
  • Sustainable: Hardwood is sustainable, making it an eco-friendly choice for floors. Look for hardwood that comes from sustainable forests and try to purchase products that are harvested and manufactured in the USA.
  • Better resale value: For decades, hardwood has been the prime choice for buyers and sellers. If you choose hardwood flooring, it can increase your home’s resale value and make it more enticing to potential buyers.

Cons

  • Cost: The cost to purchase and install hardwood flooring is much higher than most other alternatives. If you’re on a tight budget, hardwood floors may not be attainable.
  • Potential for pests: While hardwood is durable, it’s also vulnerable to pests like termites. Make sure you choose a species of wood that won’t attract termites or else you have the potential to deal with serious damage to the subfloor and the flooring itself.
  • Water damage: Hardwood is easy to clean, but it should never come into contact with standing water. If hardwood gets wet for too long, it expands and contracts, causing the floorboards to warp and buckle. Hardwood is not recommended for use in bathrooms for this reason.
  • Prone to scratches: If you drop something on your hardwood floors, or if your pets are too rambunctious, the flooring can become scratched fairly easily. Depending on how deep the scratch is, it’s possible to repair it, but this flooring is still more vulnerable to visible scratches than other options.

Hardwood Flooring Cost

The cost of hardwood flooring varies depending on a variety of factors including availability, species, finish, and more. When shopping for hardwood floors, compare several prices to ensure you’re getting the best possible cost for your budget. Maple costs between $6 and $11 per square foot on average, while pine ranges closer to between $4.50 and $10 per square foot. Hickory floors range between $6 and $13 per square foot. Red oak and white oak both start at approximately $8 per square foot, with red oak going as high as $13 and white oak as high as $15 per square foot on average. Walnut is the most expensive choice, coming in at around $11 to $20 per square foot. Compare different prices in your area to ensure you’re getting the lowest possible cost and remember that these costs don’t include the cost of labor and installation.

Hardwood Floor Finishes

Once you’ve chosen your floors, you’ll need to decide what type of finish to apply. Hardwood can be finished using a variety of options to create a specific look. Here are some examples of finish options you can use for your new flooring:Water-Based Polyurethane: This clear finish dries quickly and is easy to apply. Since the finish is water-based, it’s low-odor and emits very low levels of VOCs. A water-based polyurethane finish is smooth and shiny with no yellowing and offers a high-gloss look. This clear finish resists yellowing and moisture, but it can show scrapes and scratches quite easily.

Oil-Based Polyurethane

A durable and affordable finish, oil-based polyurethane is slow-drying and does release high levels of VOCs. However, this option is extremely durable, making it a popular choice for commercial applications. You can use this finish in high-traffic areas in your home to preserve your floors and limit the need for refinishing. Over time, this type of finish may yellow, but it can create a rich, warm look with amber tones.

Wax

If you want a low-sheen finish, wax is a good choice. This finish type is easy to apply with low odor and low VOCs. The wax penetrates deeply into the wood and can be combined with your choice of stain. Applying wax is complicated, so it may cost more to apply it to your floors. Wax comes in liquid and paste form, and typically requires several coats that must be applied and buffed by hand. Exposing wax to water can cause white marks that are difficult to remove, and it also scratches and scuffs easily but can buffed out and re-waxed to repair it.

Shellac

This finish is natural and sustainable, and it’s easy to apply to most hardwood flooring. The finish seals your wood quite well and dries down to an orange-tint with a high-gloss appearance. Shellac can be tinted or mixed with denatured alcohol to give it a matte look if you choose. The finish dries quickly but does tend to stain and leave water spots behind if they’re not dried and removed on contact.

Acid-Cured

For highly detailed hardwood floors or exotic species, acid-cured finish is best. This finish is durable and consists of an alcohol base that cures to the wood, creating a shiny and durable finish. The finish highlights the color, grain, and natural beauty of your hardwood floors. It’s recommended that you hire a flooring professional to apply an acid-cured finish since it has a very strong odor that requires a full-face respirator. It also requires a skilled, steady hand to ensure an even application.

Hardwood compared other types of wood

Laminate vs Hardwood

Laminate is an affordable alternative to hardwood flooring, and it may be one of your choices if you’re planning to update your home. Laminate is made from pressed wood and costs significantly less to install for both the material itself and the installation. It’s much thinner and more flexible than real wood. Laminate flooring is easy to clean and you can use a variety of cleaning products to keep it looking new. Unlike hardwood, laminate floors cannot be refinished and they’re much more difficult to repair. Even if you install laminate planks in your home, you’ll need to replace damaged pieces which might not match if the original floors are starting to fade due to exposure to sunlight. When it comes to water resistance, laminate is a better option for rooms like bathrooms and kitchens. Some homeowners claim that laminate doesn’t look anything like hardwood and can have a “fake” or inauthentic look, which may make it seem cheap and low-end.

Hardwood vs Softwood

You may think that softwood is not as durable as hardwood, but the differences actually pertain to the seeds that the trees produce. Hardwood trees have seeds that feature a coating, typically in the shape of a shell (like walnut) or a fruit. Softwood seeds do not have any coatings, and the seeds eventually drop to the ground. Most hardwoods come from flowering plants like maple, oak, and walnut. Softwoods come from trees that produce needles and cones, such as spruce or pine. Softwood is typically used to manufacture things like window trim, furniture, and paper. Hardwood is typically used to make flooring, and it can also be used to craft high-quality furniture. Hardwood is denser and more expensive than softwood, and it comes from slow-growing trees while softwood has a faster growth rate.

Engineered vs Solid Hardwood

The term engineered wood means that the material is made of a thin layer of hardwood attached to a substrate of plywood. This material is much less expensive than hardwood and can usually only be sanded and refinished once to the thin layer of top veneer. Solid hardwood comes in long planks from a variety of hardwood species and is milled to add tongues and grooves on the edges to interlock boards together. Hardwood flooring must be secured to a subfloor, and it can be sanded down and refinished several times. While engineered wood looks similar to hardwood, it’s not as durable or long-lasting. Once you sand and refinish engineered wood floors once, you likely won’t be able to do it again without exposing the plywood underneath. However, if you’re aiming to get the look of hardwood without the high price tag, engineered wood can be a good alternative choice.

Hardwood Floor Installation

Since hardwood needs to be attached to a subfloor, it’s best to hire a professional when you’re ready for installation. If the floors are attached unevenly, it can cause the nails to pop up or the floors to buckle over time. Let’s explore more about the price to install hardwood floors so you can be sure your project will work with your budget.

Hardwood Floor Installation Cost

When calculating the average cost to install hardwood floors, you’ll need to include the price of labor and removal of your old floors. On average, it can cost approximately $4,400 to have hardwood flooring installed in your home. Remember, prices vary greatly depending on the species of wood you choose. A professional floor installation company will charge you to remove and dispose of your old floors, which may cost between $8 and $13 per square foot in addition to the new installation. Most flooring companies will charge by the square foot to install your new floors. If your home is larger, expect it to cost to more than if you’re just installing floors in one room or in a smaller home. Get several estimates from different companies so you can do a side-by-side comparison. Some flooring installers will include the cost of removal in their total price, which could save you money.

How to Install Hardwood Floors

Installing hardwood floors is a complex process that requires skill, knowledge, and patience. Most hardwood flooring can either be nailed or glued down onto a subfloor, which will also need to be installed before adding the hardwood. Here are some of the basic steps involved in the installation process for hardwood floors:

  • Measure the room and be sure to purchase approximately 10-15% more materials than you need in order to account for damages.
  • Remove and dispose of all old flooring, including any subfloors. Next, make sure the room is level before installing the subfloor.
  • Hardwood floors require at least a ¾” plywood subfloor. Attach the subfloor to the joists using long drywall screws to keep it from squeaking.
  • To protect your floors, add a 15-pound tar paper or felt vapor barrier to the subfloor, allowing a 4-inch overlap for each section. Staple the vapor barrier to the subfloor using a staple gun.
  • Place your hardwood floor boards along the first row, choosing a straight, long one to start. Use a chalk line to align the boards, and drill pilot holes through the planks into the subflooring and floor joist. Keep each board length random to give the room a natural flow.
  • Lay and attach the first floorboards perpendicular to the floor joists underneath to create a solid anchor.
  • Once you install the first few rows, drill pilot holes into the tongue of each board, then hand-nail them. Lay out your boards ahead of time and keep lengths random. Make sure that everything lines up in adjacent rows for even distribution on the floors.
  • Use a pneumatic nail gun to firmly attach each hardwood plank and use a staple gun to drive it into the tongue of the planks at the ends. Wait until the end of the project to go back and install thresholds for a more exact cut.
  • Two nails at a distance of every 10-12 inches should be placed on every board to ensure secure installation.
  • Once the installation is complete, sweep the floor clean and fill in nail holes with matching wood putty.
  • If you want to know how to install hardwood floors on concrete, you’ll need a vapor barrier and a dry, flat surface. A subfloor is not required to install hardwood floors on concrete but a plywood on slab is still recommended.

Hardwood Flooring Installation Cost per Square Foot

The cost of your flooring materials will depend on the species of wood you choose. In addition to the materials, you’ll need to factor in the cost of labor. Most installers charge by the square foot instead of by the hour. If your flooring costs $10 per square foot, factor in an additional $4 to $8 per square foot for the labor. That means that you’ll pay an average hardwood flooring cost per sq ft installed of approximately $14 to $18. Remember, your price will vary depending on a variety of things including your location, current demand, availability of labor and materials, and the size of your home. If your home has a unique shape, a lot of stairs, or unusual nooks or corners, you’ll likely pay more for labor in these cases. It requires a skilled hand and a good eye to install hardwood flooring properly in complex spaces.

Refinishing Hardwood Floors

One of the most impactful benefits of choosing hardwood floors is the ability to refinish them. If your tastes change or just want a new color, you can sand your floors and apply a new stain. The cost to refinish hardwood floors can also vary depending on different factors including the size of your home, how much furniture needs to be moved, and what type of stain you choose. You can try refinishing hardwood floors DIY to save money, but it’s important to know how to perform this project correctly for great results. Sanding and refinishing hardwood floors requires a lot of time, energy, and knowledge about how to sand and refinish them correctly, so you don’t end up with streaks or uneven floors.

How to Refinish Hardwood Floors?

If you decide that you want to refinish your hardwood floors, you’ll likely need to sand them first. This process can be expensive since you will either need to hire a professional to sand your floors or rent equipment if you want to do things DIY. Sanding hardwood floors is a precarious process that requires an even, steady hand so you don’t sand down too much. However, you’ll still need to sand down to the bare wood in order for the new stain to soak in and evenly cover the floors. There are ways to refinish your floors without having to sand everything down. Here is some information about how to refinish hardwood floors without sanding:

  • If you don’t have any scratches going all the way through to the wood, it’s possible to scuff-sand your floors with a buffer.
  • Once the floors are buffed, you can apply a fresh coat of finish. More than one coat may be required to ensure even coverage.
  • You can rent a floor buffer at most home improvement stores, and you’ll also need a good vacuum cleaner to suck up the dust.
  • Once you rough up the hardwood floors, apply a water-based polyurethane finish and allow it to dry for three hours.
  • When applying new finish, use a paint brush to smooth the edges and give it an even look.

It’s important to note that you should only refinish hardwood floors without sanding if you want to make repairs or do touch-ups. Otherwise, you’ll need to sand the entire floor down to bare wood and reapply a brand-new stain or finish.

How Much Does it Cost to Refinish Hardwood Floors?

You can opt to refinish your hardwood floors yourself to save money if you choose. Plan to pay approximately $500 for every 275 square feet when refinishing your hardwood floors. For the entire home, you should pay between $1,000 and $2,400 on average if you’re refinishing your floors yourself. This cost includes the price to rent buffing or sanding equipment, sanding pads, wood stain, brushes, and your choice of finish. A professional refinishing will cost you more, but it could be worth it to ensure peace of mind and to make sure that everything is done right. Many professional floor refinishers will also offer a limited warranty in case anything goes wrong. They can also complete the job much faster, so you can get back to enjoying your home.

How to Fix Scratches on Hardwood Floors?

Hardwood floors are durable but they’re also prone to scratches that can be quite visible depending on the color and type of finish. Thankfully, most scratches are fairly easy to repair as long as they’re not too wide or deep.

  • Start by cleaning the scratched are with a soft rag and a small amount of hardwood floor cleaner to remove dirt and dust.
  • Rinse off the cleaner and dampen a rag with water to wipe any excess, then allow the spot to dry.
  • Fill in the scratch with a wax stick to smooth out scratched areas. You can use a plastic putty knife to push the wax into the scratch and fill it in.
  • Buff the scratch using a clean, soft cloth. Rub it back and forth to buff the wax to a smooth shine.

This process is designed for minor scratches only. If your hardwood floors have deep scratches or serious gouges, you’ll either need to refinish those specific areas or sand and refinish the entire floor.

Cleaning Hardwood Floors

With regular care, most hardwood floors are easy to keep clean and maintain. Make sure you clean your hardwood floors correctly to help them maintain their beautiful finish for years to come.

How do You Clean Hardwood Floors?

It’s important to use the proper tools to clean your hardwood floors or else you may run the risk of causing accidental damage. Use a mop that includes a soft machine-washable microfiber pad to dust and clean your floors. Dusting pads are an easy way to remove simple dirt, dust, and common household allergens without the need for water or cleaning products. Wipe your hardwood floors clean on a regular basis and add protective mats to the floors to prevent damage in areas with heavy foot traffic. Use felt floor protectors on the legs of your furniture to protect your hardwood floors from dents and scratches that can occur when chairs are moved around. You can purchase or rent a hardwood floor cleaner machine whenever you need to perform heavy duty cleanings.

Best Way to Clean Hardwood Floors

To keep your hardwood floors looking beautiful, dust them weekly to remove surface dirt. You may also vacuum your floors, but make sure you use a floor-brush attachment, so the vacuum doesn’t damage the hardwood. Vacuums with a beater bar can scratch the floors and leave unsightly damage behind. You may use a mop to clean your hardwood floors, but only do so with a cleaner that’s specially made for use with hardwood floors. Never allow standing water to sit on your floors and make sure they’re completely dry immediately after mopping them.

DIY Hardwood Floor Cleaner

You can make your own DIY hardwood floor cleaner to save money but avoid using vinegar or soap-based cleaners. Vinegar can dull the finish on your floors, and soap or wax tends to leave residue behind. You should also avoid using any type of hardwood floor steam cleaner, since too much heat and water can lead to cupping and serious damage that can be costly to repair. To make the best hardwood floor cleaner solution yourself, mix one teaspoon of pure castile soap with four cups of water. You can also add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to give your home a pleasant fragrance. Add your mixture to a spray bottle and shake thoroughly. Then, simply spray your floors and mop them clean using a mop with a soft microfiber pad.

With the right species and method of installation, you can enjoy beautiful hardwood floors for years to come. Remember, hardwood flooring can easily be changed by sanding and refinishing it whenever you want to update your home. Always clean and maintain your hardwood floors using the right tools and cleaners for a beautiful home that will stand the test of time.

Eco Friendly (Green) Hardwood options

Let’s face it, it’s important we are all conscious of our carbon footprint. There’s a lot to consider when purchasing flooring. We want to conserve the trees but what other flooring options are out there?

Some things to consider before purchasing any type of flooring are:

  • Ability to be renewed or recycled
  • Is it a responsible manufacturer?
  • Transportion distance of floor
  • The Toxicity to environment
  • Ongoing Maintenance
  • Life cycle of flooring

Eco friendly alternative options:

  • Cork Flooring – A renewable material, cork is made from the bark of the Oak tree.
  • Bamboo Flooring – Bamboo is very eco-friendly as it renews every 3-5 years.
  • Linoleum Flooring – Produced naturally from the flax plant.
  • Eco Friendly Carpeting – Skip the wood and find a renewable carpet made of wool.
  • Recycled hardwood floors – Save a tree, find some wood from an older building.