Hardwood floors have been a popular choice for years because of the warmth and rustic appearance they provide. You can increase the value of your home with the right choice of hardwood flooring. Learn more about the various construction options to help you determine what’s right for you and your budget.
Hardwood Flooring Construction
Hardwood floors can be installed anywhere in your home. There are various construction options that provide you with installation flexibility. They can also mitigate moisture when you have a high level of humidity.
The subfloor material and the level of your home (below, at, or above ground level) should be used to determine what construction of hardwood is best to install.
You will want to take moisture levels into consideration when you install hardwood floors as too much moisture can create gapping and warping issues. Moisture levels should always be kept within manufacturer recommendations so that you can mitigate some of the moisture effects. You can also choose to install a moisture barrier below the level of hardwood.
There are a few subfloors you can install hardwood over:
– Plywood (at or above ground level)
– Concrete (at ground level)
– Concrete pavement (Below ground level)
There are four construction options for you to choose from based on the subfloor.
- 3/4-inch Solid: This flooring consists of three-quarter inch thick pieces of solid hardwood flooring. It is perhaps the most typical type of flooring and can only be installed over plywood subfloors at or above ground level. Should you have a crawlspace, a moisture barrier should be used underneath so that you can control the moisture easily that may come through the ground and into your home. Note: Many solid floors can be sanded and refinished to maintain floors for a lifetime.
- 5/16-inch Solid: This flooring is a thinner version of the 3/4-inch flooring. It cannot be installed in a basement or on concrete below ground level because it is solid. It is thin enough, however, that it can be glued down to concrete at ground level or even installed over plywood at or above ground level. You can utilize urethane adhesives and moisture barriers are highly recommended when you are gluing down 5/16-inch solids. Note: Many solid floors can be sanded and refinished to maintain floors for a lifetime.
- Engineered hardwood: Engineered hardwood floors are a good idea when you are looking to mitigate potential moisture issues. They can be installed over concrete, too. There is a cross-layer construction to keep the floor from expanding as much as solid flooring. Engineered floors are considered more eco-friendly and are also less expensive because the hardwood veneer is only a few millimeters thick as opposed to being 5/16 or 3/4 inch thick. It’s also important to note that engineered hardwood is not the same as laminate, which simply has printed paper veneer glued to a board.
- Locking hardwood: Locking hardwood is also referred to as floating because it does not need to be stapled, nailed, or glued down. It is a type of engineered flooring that has a tongue and groove locking system. It’s commonly used for people who want to take the do-it-yourself approach. A moisture barrier can also be laid underneath before locking the planks in the place.
Considerations for Floor Style
Style is everything and you want to make sure you choose a hardwood flooring style that fits the design of your home.
Species refers to the type of wood that is used. Oak, maple, ash and cherry are some of the most common. You can also opt for exotic species such as Brazilian cherry or bamboo. There are distinct grain patterns for each species.
Color should be a top consideration. The domestic species come in many colors and can be stained. Exotic species often need to be exposed to sunlight to achieve their rich coloring.
Width refers to the width of the wood planks. Wide planks require fewer of them to cover the area of a room, minimizing the number of seams, too. Narrow and wide planks are available, allowing you to choose what you desire for a room.
Texture options include smooth, distressed, hand-scraped, and wire brushed to give a modern or rustic aesthetic.
Understanding Hardness Ratings & Defect Rates
The hardness of hardwood is measured using the Janka Hardness Rating. The test identifies the wood’s resistance to indentations. In order to obtain a number, the test sends a steel ball at the wood species to determine the level of force required for the ball to embed half of the ball’s diameter into the test piece of wood. If you expect your floors to take a beating, you want to use wood that has a high hardness rating (such as white oak or ash).
It’s natural for wood to have defects because it’s natural, after all. You need to know the defect rating of the wood that you buy. If the rating is 50% or above, you will need to buy twice the amount of wood than if it were 95% free of defects. You want to choose wood with low defect rates, too, so you don’t have issues with installation.
Installing Hardwood Flooring
There are several ways that hardwood flooring can be installed.
Locking/Floating is a common DIY product because glue, nails, and staples are not utilized. You simply have to roll the moisture barrier down and then “float” the floor over the subfloor by locking the planks in place. The advantage to this installation option is that the flooring can expand and contract easily with humidity.
Nails can be used at an angle through the tongue of the hardwood plank into the subfloor. The nail is usually hidden by the groove on the next row of boards.
Staples are similar to the process of nails, only with staples.
Glue will often involve using troweling glue on the floor and then setting the planks into the glue. There may be adhesive systems available that will also incorporate moisture barriers as a way of mitigating any moisture-related issues that could occur.
Note: There are various moisture barrier products that can be explored at the time of installation. The moisture barriers not only provide a barrier against moisture but also add padding to the flooring. Some are better than others for acting as a noise barrier, too.
Quotes will be based on the amount of wood you need, the flooring you actually choose (brand and hardwood construction, the hardwood grade, as well as the installation method that you choose. Understanding this will make it easier for you to make sense of a quote given to you. Further, it allows you to stay within a budget that works for you.