Flooring 101


Which type of wood floor is right for me, solid, engineered or laminate?

Solid hardwood floors is exactly what the name implies: a solid piece of wood from top to bottom. The thickness of solid wood flooring can vary, but generally ranges from 3/4” to 5/16”. Solid wood can be used in any room that is above grade (above ground). One of the many benefits of solid hardwood flooring is that it can be sanded and refinished many times. Solid hardwood floors are ideal in family/living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, and even kitchens and powder rooms. About the only place you can’t use solid wood flooring is in the basement, but there’s a solution for that area too.

Engineered wood floors are real wood floors that are manufactured using multiple layers of wood veneers. The layers that you can’t see can be of the same species, or of different species. The grain of each layer runs in perpendicular directions, which makes it very dimensionally stable. This means that the wood will expand and contract less than solid wood flooring during fluctuations in humidity and temperature. The top layer of engineered wood floors consist of high-quality wood. Engineered flooring can be nailed or stapled to a wood subfloor, or glued down to a wood subfloor or concrete slab. This makes engineered wood floors ideal for slab and basement installations, but they can be used in any room either above or below grade. While this type of flooring can be sanded and finished, it cannot be done as many times as solid wood flooring.

Laminate floors are a multi-layer synthetic flooring product, fused together with a lamination process. Laminate flooring simulates wood with a photographic applique layer under a clear protective layer. The inner core layer is usually composed of melamine resin and fiber board materials. There is sometimes a glue backing for ease of installation. Laminate floors have the advantages that they are durable, as compared with carpet, and attractive, at a lower cost as compared to natural floor materials.


My room is 400 square feet, but we’re being told to order 450 square feet of flooring.  Is this really necessary?


Yes. As a general rule, you should plan to order 10% more flooring than is needed for the installation of solid hardwood or engineered wood floors. Much of the material will be cut to fit the exact space, and once the boards are cut, they likely cannot be used elsewhere in the room because the end tongue or groove will have been removed. Once that happens, that board can no longer adjoin with another board, so there is some waste involved.  

You may need to order slightly more or less depending on the room. For example, if you need to work around stairs, a bay window, a fireplace, and a closet, you may need to have more than 10% overage, but if the room is square with no interruptions, less than 10% may work. Your contractor is your best resource for helping you estimate the material that will be needed to complete the job.


Maintenance of natural wood and laminate floors


Surface finishes of engineered and solid hardwood floors like polyurethane require only simple care. Just dustmop, sweep, or vacuum regularly. Always follow the manufacturer's cleaning recommendations if known. Never wax a surface-finished floor, and never use vinyl or tile floor care products on any wood floor. And never use self-polishing acrylic waxes on wood floors. These waxes cause wood to become slippery and dull. You may generally use a dampened (near dry) mop to maintain a wood floor; however excessive moisture will cause damage. Standing water can dull the finish, damage the wood, and leave a discoloring residue. If water spills on a wood floor, immediately wipe it up with a clean cloth. Place mats and throw rugs at doorways to help protect wood floors from grit, dirt and sand. Place felt pads under furniture legs and vacuum/dust your wood floor regularly.

Laminate floors are also very simple to keep clean by sweeping, dustmopping, or vacuuming regularly. As with a natural wood floors, don't allow water to pool on a laminate floor for long periods of time. When thorough cleaning is needed, use a damp mop with a specialized laminate floor cleaner. Never wax, lacquer, sand, or refinish your laminate floors.


Common Hardwood Myths


1. Can I have wood floors installed in a kitchen?

Kitchen has become a popular room in the house for hardwood floors. As long as you do not treat it abusively, hardwood floor is a perfect choice.

2. Damp mopping is the best way to clean a wood floor.

Say no to the bucket and mop. Excessive water causes deterioration of the wood and the finish. There are wood cleaning products in the market that are compatible with urethane finishes.

3. Hardwood floors should not scratch or dent.

Given enough applied pressure or resistance, you can still scratch or dent all finishes and all wood. The higher the gloss finish, the more it will show the imperfections. Scratches and denting are not covered by any warranty.

4. High heel shoes will not damage a wood floor.

High heels or spiked heels strike the foor with more force per inch than an elephant's foot.  They are damaging to any wood floors.

5. When wood floors warp or cup, it is because the wood flooring is defective.

Warping and cupping are moisture related issue (excess moisture or over drying). It is not covered by any warranty.

6. If my wood floor changes colors or fades, it is because the finish or wood is defective.

All wood floors, especially exotic species, can experience color change overtime. It is just a natural character of wood. Manufactureres do not warrant against the nature of wood.

7. I should be able to use every piece of wood I purchase.

A tolerance of up to 5% is allowed for defective boards, natural or manufacturer related, based on the total purchase; up to 10% for the exotics. If board width size seems to be different during installation, place boards of the same width size together in the same row.

8. If I find a defective board after the floor is installed, the manufacturer will replace or repair it.

No. It is the responsibility of the customer or installer to inspect the floor to be installed and be selective in choosing each board in quality, grading, and natural color variation before installing it. Once installed, the floorboards are deemed to be acceptable to both the end-users and the installer.

9. If my floor shows gaps between boards in the winter months, it is defective.

Almost every wood has some separation in between boards. In winter, wood flooring loses its moisture and shrinks; and most gaps normally close in the spring. At all time, indoor humidity levels should be within 30-50% and temperatures should be between 60-80F. 

10. Kitchen floor cleaner with vinegar, ammonia, or abrasive cleaners are the best products to use when cleaning my floor.

These kinds of cleaners can dull and damage your wood floors and void warranties. Check cleaning products that are compatible with urethane finishes.

11. It is best to keep the relative humidity low or dry in my home.

National Wood Flooring Association recommends a relative humidity of 30-50% and a temperature of 60-80F with a continuous flow of air across the floor.

12. My floor has more different colors and grain variations than the store sample, so I must not have received what I ordered.

Remember, wood is a natural product. No two boards will be the same. And that is why your floor is so unique.

13. All hardwood species and wood floors have the same hardness factor.

No. All wood can dent or scratch under various conditions. Please refer to the Janka scale for different hardness of the wood. The higher the Janka number, the harder the wood it is. And the harder the wood, usually the longer acclimation time it will need for the wood to get to the proper moisture level for installation.

14. It is always best to use my vacuum with a rotating brush to remove grit and debris from my wood floor.

Please make sure your vacuum is designed with wood floor compatible parts. Hard bristle brush beater bar can scratch and damage any wood floors.

15. My roller chairs should not damage my wood flooring.

Roller chair wheels equipped with hard plastic or metal rollers can damage your wood floor. Barrel-type rollers made of non-marring rubber are recommended.

16. Tables, chairs, and furniture should not scratch or dent my wood floor.

Not true. Place adhesive felt furniture pads on the legs of all furniture to prevent scratches and dents.

17. Wood floors require a lot of time and effort to maintain them.

You can keep your hardwood looking like new simply by sweeping, spray and dry mop your floor. Use only products compatible with ureathan finishes.

18. Will wood floors increase the value of my home?

It is an investment that will add considerable value to your home and for resale value.

19. Wormholes, mineral streaks, and knots are defects in wood.

Wood is a natural products. these character marks are allowed in most grades. If a board is undesirable to you, tell your installer not to install it or cut it out. All manufacturers state that the responsibility for final inspection and approval is that of the consumer and the installer. Once the board has been installed, it is deemed to have been accepted by the consumer and the installer. No claim for an installed board that is visibly defective will be honored.

20. Wood floors that are sanded and finished at the job site are more durable than a factory manufactured finished floor.

Factory finishes are much harder than any product site-applied, requiring air-drying. Sand and finish floors show more scratches.

21. Repairs are easier to make on a sanded and finished floor than a prefinished floor.

You can replace prefinished floor one board at a time. For sand and finsih floor, you can sand and finish a specific board but it may not match the stain and sheen of the rest of the floor.

22. I have heard the oil-soaps are the best way to clean my wood floor.

They can cause the top finishes to yellow, alligator or crack.

23. My wood flooring can be delivered and installed the same day.

Acclimation of wood to normal living conditions is required regardless of species. A relative humidity of 30-50% with the HVAC fan left in the ON position to allow a continuous air flow across the floor and a temperature of 60-80F are recommended. There is no set time of how long your wood should acclimate. You should always perform a moisture test on your wood before installation. Most engineered wood floors require 24-48 hours for acclimation. Please refer to the specific manufacturer installation guideline.

24. I only have white oak and red oak to choose from.

Although White Oak and Red Oak floors are still very popular, there are so many other beautiful species to choose from such as Cherry, Maple, Hickory, Exotics, etc. 

25. When my wood is delivered can I store it in the garage, out of the weather?

No. Uncontrolled moisture environments should be prohibited. It can cause your wood floors to swell or cup. And it will void your warranty.

26. Wood floors cannot be installed in a basement on a concrete floor.

Not exactly. Engineered wood floors that have cross-grain ply construction are very stable and are good for use over concrete floor. However, your concrete floor should not have excessive levels of moistures.Concrete installations normally require moisture vapors. 

27. I expect to get a wood floor to be all the same color, like the store sample.

Wood is a natural product, and the wood boards never repeat. A small sample from the store could never completely represent a fully installed floor. 

28. I expect my floor to have a "table top finish".

Wood floors are not tabletop materials. However, you can do sand and finish floors to acheive the table top like finish.

29. Hardwood floors are indestructible.

No. Even concrete floor will be destroyed with enough pressure. Your usage and maintenance habits will determine how your wood floor wears.

30. Engineered floors are not "real wood" floors.

Engineered floors are considered as real hardwood floors. They have a real wood veneer layer with a multi-layer cross grain construction. Unlike solid hardwood, it is ideal for use over concrete.

31. If I get down on my hands and knees, I can see all kinds of small defects.

Product claims are determined from a standing position.

32. My basement, crawl space, or concrete slab looks dry so I should not have any problems with a new wood floor.

Moisture has a lot to do with installation complaints. It is necessary to do a moiture test and use moisture preventive procedures before installation. Moisture related issue is not covered by the warranty.

33. I have radiant heat, so I can't install a new wood floor.

A lot of the laminate and engineered products work well with radiant heat floor. For solid wood, always shop for stability. Always make sure  you follow the radiant heat manufacturer's instructions.

34. I was told to re-seal my hardwood or bamboo after installation to protect it against pet urine, vomit or spills.

Regular cleaning practice is recommended. Re-sealing your wood floor will void the warranty.

35. The area is prone to moisture and/or high humidity, can I still have a wood floor?

If you want to install wood floor in bathroom, engineered hardwood would be a better choice than solid hardwood. 

37. Is your aluminum oxide floor finish harmful?

Aluminum oxide added to the finish is cured and is safe to use. However, it is recommended to cut your boards outside because it is the only time aluminum oxide and wood dust can have a respiratory effect on people.

38. Do I have any way to get my technical questions answered?

You can give us a call, and we will try our best to answer your questions. You can also go onto NWFA website.

***Common Hardwood Myths is Sourced from Lumber Liquidators***


For more Flooring 101 information, please visit the consumers' website of National Wood Flooring Association www.woodfloors.org.