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02/17/2011 -  "Don't be floored by options when putting in wood flooring" by Martha Stewart

“Don’t be floored by options when putting in wood flooring”

Written by: Martha Stewart

 

There’s something reassuring about walking one wood floor. But choosing one for your home can feel anything but comforting, given everything there is to consider: the more than 50 species of wood, the many shapes and sizes of the boards, and the various surface treatments.

            The major decisions you’ll face throughout the purchase and installation process are outlines here; consider them all before you visit flooring showrooms or sit down with an architect. Once you’ve narrowed the options, listen to your instincts.

 

Milled material

            A floor’s appearance depends primarily on the material it has been milled from. Here are some common options.

  • Australian Cypress is characterized by its wavy grain pattern with black rings.
    • Pros: It can hold up to humidity.
    • Cons: Knots can cause splitting during installation. It is also fairly difficult to stain.
  • Reclaimed Lumber is wood that has been salvaged from old structures, such as barns.
    • Pros: No two floors are alike.
    • Cons: Reclaimed wood tends to be more expensive than other options, and is not as easy to finish.
  • Oak is the most popular flooring used in the Unites States,
    • Pros: Pairs well with almost any finish, stands up to heavy foot traffic.
    • Cons: Oak floorboards can turn black if exposed to moisture.
  • Santos mahogany is distinguished by its undulating grain patterns and deep undertones.
    • Pros: It takes finish surprisingly well. It’s also durable and moisture-resistant enough to be used in bathrooms.
    • Cons: Fairly rare, it’s thus more expensive.
  • American Walnut, also called black walnut, has been used for floors and furniture for hundreds of years.
    • Pros: Distinguished for its deep, purplish coloring and even grain pattern; stains beautifully.
    • Cons: Unlike Brazilian walnut, the American variety is relatively soft, and therefore not ideal for high-traffic spaces.
  • Pine has tremendous variety.
    • Pros: Among the most affordable flooring options. It’s also quick and easy to install.
    • Cons: Fairly soft and retains water; therefore it is not intended for damp or busy areas.
  • Brazilian cherry has a straight, consistent grain pattern and reddish hue that recalls the formality of fine furniture.
    • Pros: color deepens over, improving the appearance of the floor moisture- resistant and extremely hard-wearing.
    • Cons: Like other very hard woods, cherry is prone to splitting and is difficult to nail through, making it a challenge to install.
  • Natural Bamboo is technically a woody grass, so it has little grain pattern.
    • Pros: Because its shoots grow rapidly and are trimmed, not cut, bamboo is an eco- friendly material.
    • Cons: It is usually pre-finished, so it is more difficult to match to existing architecture.

Style

            The size and shape of the floorboard affects the finished look. Here are the three main options.

  • Strips are the most common and most versatile. They typically measure 1 ½ inches to 3 ¼ inches wide and 1 foot to 7 feet long.
  • Planks are anything wider than 3 ¼ inches. They’re usually less than 5 inches wide but can be as wide as the tree they come from.
  • Parquets are patterned wood tiles.

The Cut

            How a floorboard is sawed from the log affects its appearance, cost and performance.

  • Quatersawn boards bear a straight grain patter, are extremely stable and wear evenly. The milling process takes longer so these are the more expensive choice.
  • Plainsawn boards are more common than quatersawn boards and have a wavy grain pattern. However, in humid regions, gaps can develop between the boards.

Treating the Surface

            Floors can be pre-finished at the factory or finished on site after installation. Pre-finishing spares you from days of irritating dust and fumes, but the wood options are fewer. Keep in mind that darker floors, while striking, show scratches and dust more than lighter ones. Either way, boards should receive several protective topcoats.

 

Published in The Clarion Ledger, a daily newspaper printed in Jackson, MS, October 11, 2007

 
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