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Wood Flooring Options
Written by Elizabeth Wood
Editor In Chief, United Home Improvement


Wood floors are one of the most durable, appealing and affordable flooring options out there. You can choose between hardwood and softwood, with a wide variety of colors, grades, cuts, finishes, species and styles to select from. With proper maintenance, wood flooring can last the life time and increase the value of your house.

First you must decide between hardwood floors and softwood floors. Hardwoods come from leaf bearing trees and softwoods come from needle bearing trees. If you imagine your floor to take some abuse, hardwoods are your best option. Softwoods are a wonderful choice as well, but they are more susceptible to dents and scratches. However, it is often said that the more abuse softwood floors undergo, the better they begin to look.

Hardwood Floors:

• Oak: Most common choice for wood flooring. Durable, flexible, stain resistant. Available in red oak and white oak, red oak is light tan with a reddish tinge; white oak is light to dark brown.

• Maple: Easily availability, durable and resistant to marring. The color is light, ranging from a pale, almost silvery white to a warm light tan. Wonderful for heavy traffic.

• Brazilian Cherry: Deep red tones and the wide variability in coloring from board to board. Durable, flexible, moisture resistant, superior dimensional stability. American Cherry is more rustic.

• Walnut: Considered one of the most beautiful woods in the world. Ranges from golden brown to nearly black, with a very fine, even grain. Often used for borders.

• Ash: Very durable, ranges in color from dark brown to creamy white. Resists splitting and takes wear very well.

• Beech: Popular choice for gymnasium and other athletic floors. Warm red tones, resist splitting and damage.

Softwood Floors:

• Yellow Pine: Extremely durable and attractive with distinctive grain patterns.

• Fir: One of the softest of all woods. Very delicate, prone to movement and squeaking noises. Large gaps or cracks between boards, color differs with each board.

• Birch: Ranges in color from creamy pale white to the deep. Durable, mildly flexible, resists splitting and damage.

Wood floors can either be pre-finished or unfinished. Pre-finished floors are equipped with a tough factory finish and are very easy to install. Unfinished floors are typically less expensive, but installation is more difficult and because they are finished at the site, dusty sand procedures leave behind a mess.

There are several unique patterns to arrange your wood floors into. It is important, however, to know the dimensions of your floor before selecting a pattern. Always know the lengths, widths and thickness of the wood floor you have chosen.

Patterns vary from straight (plank or strip) to diagonal or to more complex designs such as parquet, herringbone and perimeter bordering. Parquet arranges the boards in a geometric design resembling a checkerboard. Herrington is similar to parquet but instead the wood is arranged diagonally. Perimeter bordering gives your wood floor a fashionable frame.

Wood floors come in just about any color, depending upon the stain you go with. Natural colors, such as oak and maple, are the most popular these days because they do not show the effects of heavy traffic as much as other colors. Other stains include; light, medium, dark, and custom. Keep in mind, every board is usually a bit different in color because each one comes from a different tree.

Other considerations include the species and grade of the wood. The species of wood is basically the “type” of wood. There are an estimated 50 different species of woods to select from, including domestic and exotic. Each species has a certain grade. The higher the grade the better quality of wood you will be receiving. Grading measures the hardness of wood and its resistance to wear.

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