Frequently Asked Flooring Questions
Hardwood generally is one of the botanical groups of deciduous trees that have broad leaves in contrast to the conifers or soft-woods. The term has no reference to the actual hardness of the wood.
Unfinished flooring must be job-site sanded and finished after installation. Prefinished flooring is sanded and finished at the factory. Prefinished flooring may be an especially attractive option for remodeling, since the installation process is faster, simpler and cleaner. Unfinished flooring may provide more options for customizing color.
Laminate flooring is a tongue and groove interlocking flooring system that comes in either planks or squares. All of these floors have a wear layer, a decorative print film layer, an inner core structure, and some type of backing support layer — usually melamine. The print film layer is either fused or glued to the inner core. The print film can be a photo of any real floor. The wearlayer is applied to the decorative print layer to protect the pattern. Melamine resins are the main component of the wearlayer. The melamine surface gets its incredible durability from aluminum oxide. Aluminum oxide is almost as hard as diamonds and provides unsurpassed wear and stain resistance.
Engineered flooring is produced by bonding three or more layers of wood. The crossing of grain direction within the boards makes this a very dimensional stable product able to resist nearly all expansion and shrinkage from normal moisture changes. This is one primary feature that makes it suitable for use directly on concrete and below-grade application.
The floating floor system is when boards are glued together or “clicked” together tongue and groove installed over a foam padding Since the boards are not attached in any way to the sub-floor, the system is said to float. This system is very popular in multi-story residential applications since the foam underlayment provides a sound-deadening capability.
Parquet flooring can range from the very expensive custom-designed patterns to standard classic patterns to the less expensive “finger-block” type of parquet. Parquet is almost universally installed by gluing it to concrete or wood sub-floors.
Mills that are members of the National Oak Flooring Manufacturers Association sell unfinished oak strip flooring by the following grades: No. 2 Common, No. 1 Common, Select Plain, or Select Quartered, and Clear Plain or Clear Quartered. Clear flooring has a very tight color range and is virtually free of defects, but may have minor character marks. Select contains more natural characteristics, such as small tight knots and limited color variations. The Common Grades have a more variegated appearance (some say more character), because they contain more knots, color variations and other natural features.
Sanding and Refinishing performed to individual specifications. Custom Finishing of wood floors is performed in the home on the completely installed new floor, or to refurbish a previously finished floor. Custom Finishing permits the owner to select from a full range of stains and surface types; from shine to sheen and from decorator white (“pickled”) to Ebony.
Oil-based urethane comes in gloss, semi-gloss or satin, very durable, very hard. Problems are ambering over light colors, customers expect forever, scratching, poor intercoat adhesion, stain compatibility, more difficult to apply, difficult to repair, weather sensitive, and today, high solvent content or volatile organic compounds (VOC).
Waterbased-urethane is very durable but somewhat less than Moisture-Cured urethane; a little less glossy, or satin; some non-yellowing, crystal clear, fast dry, water clean-up, non-flammable, VOC complying, virtually odor-free, fast turnover to owner, easy application, recoats any existing finish except wax. The disadvantages are the cost today and the water causes grain raise that requires careful attention by the finisher and would present a less smooth surface. This obviously brings to mind the old ques-tion about using water on wood. The waterborne- finishes uses little water per square foot and the finish is applied thin so the water evaporates rapidly.
Moisture-Cured urethane is excellent in durability, most wear-resistant of all surface finishes, for the most part comes in gloss only. However, MCU is very expensive, smells horrible, very difficult to apply, extremely weather sensitive and loaded with VOCs.
Swedish Finish which is actually called Acid-curing urea formaldehyde; has excellent durability, fast dry, non-yellowing but smells like *#$@* (unprintable) very difficult to apply, very low flash point (highly flammable) high VOCs and very expensive.
Lacquers for the first time available in satin or gloss, but do not wear and BOOM! extremely flammable.
Wax oldest of all the finishes. Easy to apply, least expensive, fastest drying but very high maintenance. Remember Grandma and her knees? Wax in the long run will create build-up and must be sanded and recoated to totally remove.
Bleaching wood is done to lighten wood color. Bleaching is, at its best, unpredictable. Harsh chemicals are involved-the same ones that destroy wood and make wood come apart to produce paper products. To bleach an 18″ cabinet door made from one piece of wood is very different from bleaching, let’s say an 800 sq. ft. room on Oak flooring that has about 2000 pieces of different individual wood. Bleaching, therefore is rarely recommended.
Since the floor is being finished inside the home, it is impossible to achieve a dust-free environment. Sanding equipment are equipped with vacuums, the refinisher will sweep, vacuum and tack the floors, but bear in mind that the dust created is very fine-similar to drywall dust and stays airborne way after the refinisher has left, so expect some to fall onto the freshly applied top finish.
Each piece of oak flooring sands differently depending on its grain type (plain or quartered) making it virtually impossible for a completely flat surface. So do not expect a table-top finish.
In spite of the term “hardwood”, wood flooring will dent under high heel traffic (especially heel in disrepair). The finish that is applied will not prevent dents and scratches if maintained improperly.
New floors may start tight together, but wood as a natural product will continue to release and absorb moisture. This natural process will cause the flooring to expand and contract from season-to-season resulting in cracks between some of the pieces in your floor. Some stain colors such as white, show this process more than the others.
Wood floors in the long run will be much cheaper than carpet. Wood floors will last the life of the structure it was installed in. Carpet normally has a lifespan of 7-1/2 years at the most. Add the costs of having it steamed periodically and it will be very expensive and difficult to maintain. You have yet to see wood floors pulled up, rolled and dumped on the curb after 7-1/2 years.