Choosing Wood Flooring

There are many good reasons for choosing wood floors. Allergy sufferers will appreciate how quickly dust can be removed with a damp mop, as will pet owners who struggle to keep pet hair under control. Parents who nervously watch their children eat in the dining room can relax if food and drink are spilled on a properly finished wood floor instead of a carpet. However, the most compelling reason to choose wood floors is the human affinity for natural materials and the aesthetic quality they bring to our homes.

Different Wood Flooring Types

Types of wood floors include strip, plank, woodblock squares and parquet. Wood strips joined by tongue and groove construction make for a strong floor and fasteners are hidden. Such flooring costs more than square edge, which is fastened through the face.

If the flooring is prefinished, you will not have to endure sanding dust, urethane fumes and curing time, but prefinished material costs more than unfinished and the color and species selections are limited.
Be realistic about how long you can live without the use of the floor and whether you can endure the smell if you choose unfinished. Whichever you choose, be sure to check for a warranty against shrinking, swelling and warping.

Hardwoods vs. Softwoods

Both hardwoods and softwoods may be used and are available in several grades: the higher the grade, the clearer the grain and the fewer knots and imperfections. Higher grades will provide a more sophisticated appearance; lower grades are cheaper and give a rustic look.

Unless your aesthetic goal is very rustic, softwoods should not be used in high traffic areas because they tend to scratch and dent easily. They also may stain unevenly.

Softwoods include pine, Douglas fir and redwood. Medium density hardwoods include red oak and white oak, good performers for general duty floors. High-density hardwoods include teak, walnut, maple, pecan, cherry and hickory, the right choice in areas prone to abrasion, such as the front and garage entrances that receive large deposits of winter road grit. Your paint dealer can recommend sealers which, when applied prior to staining, will help provide a more uniform color.


When deciding whether to stain, remember that trendy colors have a nasty habit of looking revolting 10 years later. Because wood floors are a major investment and a semi-permanent installation, a conservative and timeless approach is wise. It is tough to go wrong with either natural wood or a natural wood stain. However, think twice about pickling your wood in mauve.

Another important consideration is the color of existing wood trim and wood furniture. Different wood stains can appear in one space successfully if there is a significant contrast between the colors. If the colors are too close but obviously not the same, it may look like a mistake. Contrasting wood colors will provide excitement in the design of the space, but try to keep the number of colors to a minimum.

If, on the other hand, you are looking for a monolithic, well-coordinated, restful and conservative interior,
then the floor stain should match the other pre-existing wood finishes.

Whatever your color choice, the floor should then receive several coats of polyurethane to insure low maintenance.

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