Solid wood flooring will last more than 100 years, and the finish can be easily renewed when needed. Just having wood floors increases the value of your home.
Not too long ago, the only choice you had was the old-fashioned solid wood tongue and groove strips in maple or oak. Today, wood flooring can be planks from old barns, exotic woods, pre-finished engineered wood strips which eliminate the dust and disruption of finishing on site. You even can have wood laminate flooring, which isn’t wood, but looks like wood at a much lower cost.
SOLID WOOD FLOORING – Solid wood floors, although beautiful, can’t be used everywhere. They must be nailed to a sub-floor. This makes solid wood unsuitable for use directly over concrete.
Adding a sub-floor between the concrete and the wood flooring might result in a height problem where the floor meets an adjoining room. Moisture causes wood to expand, so it’s not appropriate in basements. Humidity can lead to squeaking and buckling.
The trend seems to be for homeowners to buy wood flooring with a factory-applied finish. This eliminates dust from sanding, fumes from finishing, and waiting before the floor can be walked on. Another benefit is that the factory finishes are usually much tougher than the polyurethane applied in the field.
The downside of pre-finishing is that since that floor doesn’t get sanded after it’s installed, there are slight bumps and dips where the sub-floor isn’t perfectly level, and where the flooring strips might vary slightly in thickness.
To hide these misalignments, flooring is available with V grooves so that when together, the edges aren’t touching and it’s difficult to notice any imperfections in alignment. Over time, these V grooves will catch dirt and darken, becoming a prominent feature in the floor. Not my favorite scenario.
Another advantage of finishing after installation is that you can have the floor stained to your liking. If you like the grain of oak, but don’t care for the yellowish tone of the wood, you can make it amber, for example. A professional finisher will know how to bring out the natural patina of the wood using boiled linseed oil or tung oil.
Most homeowners have hardwood flooring. There are also softwoods, like pine and fir, which are very attractive. These will get nicked up over time, but they’re meant to be lived on. The more beat up they get, the better they look – especially if you have a country or antique flavor running through the house. These work especially well as wider planks rather than the 2 1/2″ strips.
Prices for solid wood flooring vary from $8 to $10 per square foot for common species, to over $25 per square foot for the exotic variety. This same price range applies to engineered wood flooring.
ENGINEERED WOOD FLOORING – The advantage of using engineered wood flooring is that it can be used directly over concrete (because you don’t have to nail it during installation), or below grade (because moisture doesn’t bother it as much as solid wood). The wood look comes from a thin veneer of the selected wood, which is pressed onto several layers of substrate.