Choosing Hardwood Flooring
During the winter, even the most carefully installed wood floors tend to dry out and shrink. Customers begin to notice gaps between boards, and the phone calls begin. The floor behaves that way because of wood's relationship with moisture in the air (there's no accounting for how the customers behave, although educating them about gaps beforehand can help—more on that later). Air with a low moisture content, or low relative humidity (RH), causes wood to lose moisture. When wood loses moisture, it shrinks. What can we do about it?
To control winter-related shrinkage of flooring and the consequent gaps (what we used to call "cracks"), we have options.
Wood Options: Use the Right Flooring
Engineered flooring is supposed to be more stable than solid wood. From a technical aspect, this should be true. But many engineered flooring manufacturers restrict the use of their products to a certain RH (Relative Humidity) range. I've seen warranties that specify 35 to 55 percent RH or 40 to 60 percent RH as the acceptable range. If the flooring is exposed to conditions outside these ranges, the warranties are void. So using engineered flooring may be an option for reducing winter-time floor issues, but check the manufacturer's recommendations and warranty.
Narrow boards will shrink less than wide boards for a given change in moisture content (MC). A 5-inch-wide plank will shrink twice as much as a 2¼-inch-strip. So the size of the gap between 5-inch boards will be twice as big as the gap between 2¼-inch boards. More joints means more places to distribute gapping.
Maintenance & Care
Care and Maintenance
Maintaining your hardwood floors is easy. Dirt, sand, water and soap are a wood floors worst enemy.
•Sweep or vacuum with a hardwood floor head frequently to remove dirt and fine dust
•Clean up spills immediately
•Use felt pad protectors under furniture
•Use area rugs in high traffic areas
•Keep pets’ nails trimmed
•Avoid walking on your floors with high heels
•Use fabric entry mats to catch abrasive dirt and grit
•Maintain room temperature between 18 degrees and 22 degrees
•Install floor protectors on ALL furniture
•Use soap and water, commercial soaps or detergents, or general cleaning products that are abrasive and will damage the finish
•Use steel wool or other abrasive materials
•Use wax on a urethane-finished floor
•Any above usage may void warranty
When choosing hardwood flooring, you need to consider the room and how it is used. It is important that your expectations for performance matches your selection. Look also at which species of wood you prefer, what colour or finish works best in your room, the style and appearance of the floors and the different grades and cuts of the flooring.
Type of room
What kind of room are you decorating? Flooring in a kitchen may necessitate a different finish or colour than a bedroom or a formal dining room. Consider also whether the room opens up to the outside and if dirty shoes might track through the room. As well, think about what type of transition you’ll have between the new and old floors and adjoining rooms.
Because all wooden floors can suffer from water damage, both solid hardwood and engineered floors are not designed for heavily wet areas like bathroom floors or laundry room flooring. Cupping (edges are raised) and crowning (centre is swollen, edges sloped down) are just a couple side effects of a water-related disaster. Kitchens, in general, are an okay place to install both flooring types as long as the floors are well-maintained and are free from standing water.
Some types of hardwood floors and finishes hold up better to heavy use. If the room will have a lot of foot traffic, children or pets, you’ll want to choose a harder species. Think about how the room will be used and what kinds of activities will take place there.
The size of the room, sight lines to the rest of the home and flow between rooms can all influence flooring choices. Consider also the lighting in the room, and how the placement of windows, skylights and indoor lighting affect the look of your floors.
Consider what is motivating your search for new floors. Is it a practical need for a new floor, a desire for a new look, for allergies or physical restrictions, or are you looking to increase the value of your property for resale?