From Oak Wood Flooring to Acacia: Choosing and Installing Wood Floors

When it comes to hardwood flooring one must choose suitable colors and patterns to accentuate the rest of the house and to fit comfortably with its aesthetic.



For a new homeowner or even an older owner who is renovating, choosing a material for flooring seems like a simple enough decision, but the truth is that there are a lot of options with quite compelling strength and weaknesses; even after you choose the material there are even more options regarding the type of flooring you want. When it comes to hardwood flooring, the issue remains; each type of flooring has its unique set of gains not offered by others. Not only that, one must also choose suitable colors and patterns to accentuate the rest of the house and to fit comfortably with its aesthetic.

While you might think that the last paragraph might make the choosing process out to be harder than it is in reality, rest assured that if you want your dream house to have the floor you always imagined it would, this guide will definitely help you get that flooring and install it yourself, as well. Whether it is Cherry, Walnut, Douglas Fir, Oakwood or even Spacewood that you want, this guide will tell you exactly what you need to know about it.


Choosing A Hardwood Floor


1. Solid or Engineered Flooring


- Solid Flooring

It is pretty much what it sounds like. It is made purely of solid parts of wood from the species of your choice. No additional materials are added to the plank.

Not only is it beautiful and will give your house a warm, cozy, ski lodge-like feeling, but it is also highly durable; with regular maintenance it can last you for an impressive amount of time.

On the other hand, since it is all natural, it is very expensive to purchase. Not to mention that it tends to get easily damaged by moisture so, a solid hardwood floor in a humid room would not be a good combination.

- Engineered Flooring

Composed of several sheets of wood layered over each other and pressed together between two layers of hardwood, engineered hardwood is known to be a versatile type of flooring.

The middle layer of wood is capable of responding properly to temperature changes by expanding or contracting without humidity causing damages in any way. In fact, you can go ahead and install it in the same room as your heating system.

Moreover, it is highly flexible due to its many layers which makes it a good fit for basements and similar surfaces. It is also cheaper than its solid counterpart.

On the downside, engineered hardwood will not get you a good resale value on the house and it does not last for as long as solid hardwood. In addition, you cannot apply any refinishing to the surface.







2. Species of your wood

After deciding on what style of hardwood flooring you want, you need to choose your species. Keep in mind that there are numerous species, whether locally grown or imported. Your choice should depend on what you want the overall look and feel of your floor to be like. Species mainly differ in hardness, color, grain pattern and finally, photosensitivity which is how susceptible the wood is to damage from sunlight.

One of the most popular species among house owners is an oak floor. The two main sub-types are white and red oak. While white oak is mostly desired because of the lack of the pink hues featured in red oak, both types are not only easy to deal with when it comes to stains, but also, they are of a fairly reasonable price due to their availability.

Another type is Walnut which is quite expensive and while it might not be entirely suitable for dining rooms or areas with a high floor impact rate due to its softness, it can be used anywhere in the house, throughout the year as it isn’t at all sensitive to sunlight. It is well known for its dark, rich color which allows for a darker finish, if desired.

As was said before, there are a lot more species that would take ages to fully cover in a way that would do them justice; maple, hickory, ash, teak, birch and so much more. It all comes down to you and what you like.


3. Finishing options

The two options you have are either a pre-finish or a site finish.

Prefinished hardwood flooring comes with the final layers and coats already applied; it is already sanded and ready to be installed. What makes it a desirable option is that people get to know exactly how their flooring would look before going through with the purchase and installation; an option picked mostly by most people who prefer to have everything sorted out because then, they can coordinate the entire color scheme of the house.

On the contrary, a site finish is done on site after installation. It is usually done by a professional after installation. Although it is a risk to put full trust in a contractor to get you the color you have in mind, when done properly, you end up with an amazingly accurate outcome that according to experts, is smoother than prefinished floorings because of the sanding technique used.




4. Types of finishing

Despite the fact that there are too many ways for finishing a hardwood flooring, if one was to group them, the two categories would be oil and polyurethane.

As you probably know, the oil seeps through the seams in the wood and gives off a natural vibe. Polyurethane, though, forms some sort of protective coating over the wood which increases its durability.

When using oil, keep in mind that you will need to maintain the coating regularly for that warm, soft look; unlike polyurethane which lasts longer but requires more time and effort to apply.


5. Panel Dimensions

There are two types of panels. The smaller ones are called strips while the ones wider than 3 inches are called planks. It is a small detail; yet, it can make a big difference. For example, while using wide planks is perceived as a classier, more luxurious option and is recommended for spacious areas, if put in a small room, planks can cause an imbalance in the overall atmosphere of the room. On the other hand, using strips in a small area can give a feeling of roominess but might not give a nice feel to larger rooms.


6. Grain pattern

Grain patterns differ from not only one species of wood to another, but also according to the method used to cut the logs which can be either plain-sawn, rift-sawn or quarter-sawn. But, you don’t have to worry about choosing the wrong pattern as there is no wrong choice and also because most manufacturers sell flooring in mixes of all ways.

If you want the familiar grain pattern that everyone knows, you should go with plain-sawn. The method is generally less expensive than the other two and well known for resulting in cathedral patterns.

Quarter-sawn logs, on the other hand, have a remarkable pattern of straight lines shooting across the log which is similar to the pattern produced by rift-sawing except that rift sawing is more expensive because it eliminates any impurities to give a more uniform look; a look that fits perfectly in some areas and feels out of place in others.




Installing Hardwood Floors

Of course, you always have the option to hire a professional crew to do the job for you, but if you are one for handy work, installing your own hardwood flooring would be quite the adventure. In addition to it being a lot cheaper than hiring someone, by the time you are done with installing the panels, you would be filled with pride because of what you had accomplished. Believe it or not, it would add a huge sentimental value to the house.


In case you decide to take on the challenge and go through with the installation process, here is how to do it:


What you are going to need

The type of hardwood you have usually dictates what tools you will be needing. It is highly recommended to take a look at the instructions that came with the flooring to make sure all the tools you will need are there.

That being said, there are some essential tools that you will most probably need, regardless of the type of flooring you have. First of all, a pneumatic flooring nailer to nail the wood panels to the subfloor. Second, you will need a drill for the obvious reason of making holes. You should also keep a hammer and some nails around just in case. Finally, a saw and a pry bar to fix any mistakes or make tiny adjustments, hopefully you will not need to do that but, for the sake of preparedness.

Once you have your tools, it is time to get to work.


1. Prepare the subfloor

The subfloor is what the flooring would be laid on so, it needs to be uniform, clean and of good structural integrity. Which should be the case after filling all the places that are too low and sanding those that are too high. And if you happen to find any squeaking, a simple drywall screw through the subfloor would put and end to the issue.

2. Determine the most suitable method of installation

It usually varies according to the dimensions of the panels as in thickness and width among other factors like the type of hardwood flooring and the area where it will be placed.

The most common process, as mentioned before, is nailing the panels to the subfloor but, there are also other noteworthy techniques like gluing, fastening or even floating.

The most important thing is to make sure that the job is done right because the flooring should last you for a long while so, it needs to be properly installed with as much accuracy and finesse as possible.







3. Acclimate the flooring

A very important step of the installation process is letting the flooring sit in the room where it will be installed. The point is to leave the flooring for enough time – several days will do – for it to get used to the climate as in allowing it to freely expand and adjust for the effect of the humidity and other climate factors.

This prevents the wood from moving later on after being installed, which will preserve the wood, protect it from damaging and decrease the amount of seams created in the floor later on.

Take extra care during this step when dealing with solid hardwood because it isn’t as flexible as engineered hardwood. It will sustain more damage. Hence, when you move the flooring in the room of your choice, remember to directly subject the panels of the air.

4. Prepare your space

We have covered how to prepare your subfloor, but the fact of the matter is that some choose to lay down their flooring over their existing floor so for that they have to take special measures. For example, they need to make sure that there is enough room for doors to move back and forth and that the extended height of the floor wouldn’t get in the way.

For existing wood floors, you have to remove the finish or sand it off first and then you can begin treating it like a normal subfloor by fixing loose panels and making sure the floor is flat and clean enough.

Then, what you should do is measure the room while allowing a 5% additional increase to be safe. You never know when you may need an extra half a panel here or there.


5. Get to installing

If you need to roll anything under the flooring before you start, that would be the time.

It is often suggested to keep floor pieces parallel to the longest wall and make your way from left to right. Furthermore, you should use spacers to account for possible expansion because as much as the acclimation will help, it is impossible to foresee climate change and how wood would react to that change.

Speaking of walls, a pneumatic nail gun would not fit in the space between the first few panels and the wall which is when the drill I mentioned above would come into play. Simply use the drill to make the first few holes until you can place the nail gun.


6. Final touches

A time consuming process like this might leave you exhausted and frustrated by the end. Don’t be tempted to rush the last few boards because they are quite important. When you are about to finish, take note of all the places needing tiny board pieces as well as visible nail holes.

You will need to cut off parts of a board to fill those gaps. As for the nail holes, wood putty would suffice; just be sure to get it with the same color as the floor.

As you now see, choosing and installing hardwood flooring has so much more to it than just picking the most popular wood species you know and putting it on the floor. It is an amazing process that ought to be taken as a pleasurable activity rather than a troublesome task.







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