Wood Floors: A popular choice

Wood floors are more popular than ever. I find my clients to be attracted by their visual warmth and simplicity. They express a clean and uncluttered sensibility. Today there are a myriad of options available.


There are two types of wood floors available; solid wood and engineered wood. Solid wood is as it sounds, is solid real wood through and through. Engineered wood floors are veneers pressed onto a dimensionally stable plywood backing. Advantages of engineered wood floors is that there seem to be endless choices of varieties of species available. This is because engineered wood are veneers backed with dimensional stable plywood. The veneer is about ¼ inch thick making it possible to produce less costly floors of unusual species where the cost of a solid plank of this species would be cost prohibitive.  There is something to suit every taste,including both domestic wood species such as oak, walnut, birch, cherry, hickory, pecan, maple, and exotic wood species including Brazilian cherry, tigerwood, sapele, santos mahogany, acacia, and cabreuva. Engineered floors look like solid wood, are faster to install, and are less prone to moisture damage because their plywood backing is dimensionally stable. They do not expand and contract so gaps between planks will not appear. An engineered wood floor can be installed immediately upon delivery, solid wood floor planks acclimate to the environment in which they will be installed. This is so the moisture level of the boards adjusts to the relative humidity of the room. Usually, this takes 3 to 4 weeks. If installed too soon the floorboards may shrink leaving gaps between the boards. The big advantage of a real wood floor is that it can be refinished as needed. An engineered wood floor, because it is a thin veneer of wood have a limit of there ability to be refinished. They can be only be sanded a couple of times before the plywood backing becomes exposed. It is for this reason that I prefer real wood in most applications. In small spaces or rooms with very little traffic, the impact of an unusual species in engineered wood may well be worth the risk for the drama created.


The plank size of your wood floors will help set the mood of the room. The pattern and texture created by a thin plank is differernt than that of a wide plank.  I rarely specify a floor less than 3”. Planks thinner than these lose the qualities of the wood grain. The exception to this rule is patterned floors such as herringbone and parquet patterns where a thin plank may be desired for effect.


The woods natural color and the color of the stain used also impact the feeling of the room. Always look at stained samples of wood planks in the room. Make at least 4 samples. Generally, I find that darker colors recede and make a room feel larger. This may be a good trick to utilize in a room with low ceiling heights. The amount of light in the room must be considered, however, and the stain adjusted accordingly. A light floor such as ash of bleached oak can be dramatic in a large space such as a loft, especially with walls painted white.


It is also important to think about furnishings. If your taste tends to run towards modern furniture with simple lines with simple materials or industrial materials, a plank with active, rich wood grain will provide a sophisticated counterpoint. If your furniture is mainly wood and its design is intricate a simple wood species such as walnut or oak would better suit.

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