Getting to the Heart of Hardwoods

Men laying new hardwood flooring

Its one of the oldest, most natural flooring materials available, so its no wonder wood has stood the test of time as one of the most popular choices among homeowners. Wood has earned a reputation throughout history for bringing versatility, depth and tradition to the home.
There is no substitute for real wood floors. The natural beauty of a wood floor is timeless, says William McDaniel, owner of Floors & Fine Interiors in Roswell. Wood floors increase the value of your home while giving you the warmth and beauty of nature. They give a home character, richness and a nice, clean look. You can decorate in any style with wood floorsit opens a space, he says.
McDaniel says most people who call him wanting to put hardwoods in their homes say the same thing: Ive always wanted wood floors. Theyre beautiful.

Wanting woods?
Ask yourself this:

Why do I want hardwood floors? What look am I trying to achieve? Antique? Traditional? Modern? Distressed?

In what rooms do I want to see hardwoods? What are the purposes/ functions of those rooms?

How will wood floors perform with my pets, children and guests? Do I entertain often? What is the flow of traffic through the house?

What type of subfloor does my home have? Is it concrete, plywood or particle board? Am I willing to remove/replace it, if needed?

Does my home have any water or moisture problems? Excessive exposure to water can cause wood to swell and crack.

Does sun shine brightly into the house? Bright light can cause some woods to amber and fade.

What type of wood appeals to me most?

What width of board or plank do I prefer?

Am I willing to care for wood floors as needed?

Source: Floors & Fine Interiors

Three easy steps to keep wood floors clean:

Step 1 : Vacuum or sweep to remove dirt and grit.
Step 2: Spray a terry cloth mop or an 8-foot-by-8-foot area of the floor with specially formulated cleaner.
Step 3: Wipe the floor, using a back-and-forth motion, with a mop or clean, soft cloth. Finish one area before moving on to the next. Be sure to clean the mop or cloth when needed, since excessively soiled mops or cloths may causestreaking.
Source: BonaKemi USA Inc.

Flexibility and Flow
The versatile beauty of wood floors was Pat Koehns motivation when she decided to put them down in her condo in The Oaks of Buckhead high-rise off Peachtree Street. She had carpet, tile and marble replaced with about 1,800 square feet of select-grade prefinished 5-inch boards of maple.
The mixture of carpet, marble and tile locked the rooms in the space didnt flow. The wood floors allow a natural flow of the space and caused the whole unit to look a lot larger and more open, Koehn says. The warm look and the ease of keeping it clean are other strong points, she says. In choosing the type of wood she would go with, Koehn says she did plenty of research, talking to floor design professionals about what would look right in the condo. She selected the wider boards because of their clean, contemporary look; she chose a light, natural finish so I can put anything with it and it will look good.
McDaniel says that versatility is a big part of the appeal of wood floors. Wood goes with any color, and all it takes to change the entire look of a room is a rug. Hardwood floors are a decorators delight, he says. The elegant simplicity of wood makes decorating and color-coordinating a breeze. Your floors will always be in style and will grow with your changes in sense and fashion.

Attention to Detail
Before you start envisioning your house with shiny, new hardwoods covering every floorspace, there are a few questions to ask yourself. The most important question, says Tad Provence, owner of The Floor Gallery & Interiors in Atlanta, has to do with what lies beneath the surface.
A beautiful floor put on an improper subfloor is going to bring tears later, because youre going to end up with a lot of expense, Provence says. If you dont make those critical decisions about the subfloor [before installing hardwoods], you get in trouble. In order to put down wood floors, a subfloor made of concrete, plywood or any solid, level material is needed. Provence says particle-board subfloors have to be torn out before wood floors can be put downthe material is just too soft and pliable to support the installation.
There are other practical aspects to consider, as well. Homeowners need to consider how change in elevationhowever slight it may bewill affect other aspects of the house, like baseboards, cabinets, doors, trim and transitions.

Take Care
Once all the important questions are answered and wood floors are installed, Provence arms his customers with the tools they need to take proper care of their new treasure. Todays finishes are the best ever, but you have to make sure you are ready to maintain them, he says. Each type of floor and finish requires a particular regimen of care, but Provence offers a head start with a care kit that includes a washable-head dust mop, an ammonia-based cleaning solution and a handbook on wood-floor maintenance. Youre making a commitment, because it is a long-term floor and you have to protect your investment, he says.

Hardwood dos
and donts:
DO vacuum or sweep the floor regularly.
DO remove spills promptly, using a soft cloth and specially formulated cleaner to clean wet spills. Use a vacuum or broom for dry spills and abrasives.
DO place mats at exterior doors to trap soil and grit from incoming traffic.
DO use area rugs on high-traffic pathways and pivot areas, such as the ends of steps and near doorways. Avoid rubber-backed or non-ventilated rugs.
DO use felt pads or floor guards on the feet of furniture.
DO keep the humidity in your home between 45 percent and 55 percent to avoid swelling and cracking.
DO keep your pets claws properly trimmer to avoid excessive scratches and gouges.
DONT let sand, dirt or grit build up. They can act like sandpaper and dull the finish of the floor.
DONT damp-mop most wood floors. Damp-mopping may be appropriate for some finishes; see manufacturers care instructions.
DONT walk on wood floors in high heels. They can cause severe damage.
DONT use wax, oil soap or other household cleaners on your polyurethane-finished wood floor. They can dull the finish and make refinishing difficult.

Source: BonaKemi USA Inc.

Endless Choices
Most people choose boards that are 2 1/4-inches to 3 1/4-inches wide, although 5-inch to 7-inch boards are often used. Popular choices of wood in the Atlanta area, according to Provence, include oak, maple, cherry, bamboo, teaks and even cypress. If theres a tree thats out there in the forest, it can be made into the floor, he says.
One of the most rare, and therefore most expensive, types of wood used for floors is antique heart pine. Robert Weed, owner of Roosterhead Antique Heart Pine and Brick in Rome, says the wood comes from trees that have grown over hundreds of years under a dense canopy in areas of Virginia and Texas. The wood once was harvested for use by English royalty. Weed says antique heart pine is used mostly for historic restoration projects and lavish country or mountain homes.
Antique heart pine is installed in the form of wide planks3 inches or widerthat usually are about 10 feet long. The grade of antique heart pine is determined primarily by the number of nail holes and knots in the wood.
Weed says its the richness, warmth, stability and patina of antique heart pine that sets it apart from other types of wood. Its trademark amber color is a result of the quick oxidation it undergoes as its being milled. You see that difference and you know. It would take regular pine floors 20 years to even look close to it, he says.

A Good Investment
No matter what kind you choose, hardwood floors are almost certain to add to the value of your hometo you as well as potential buyers, should you decide to sell. A really nice floor can make a real statement about your home. Its one of the best investments a homeowner can have, Provence says.

Grades of hardwood
NOFMA: The Wood Flooring Manufacturers Association, established in 1909, inspects wood used for hardwood flooring to ensure quality and grade. The NOFMA mark of certification indicates that wood is from a member mill and has met the associations standards for quality. Hardwoods are graded based on the number of knots, manufacturing marks, mineral streaks and other characteristics found in the wood.
The grades, from least expensive to most expensive, are:
No. 2 Common
(least expensive, most knots and other markings)
No. 1 Common
Clear (most expensive, least knots and other markings)

A perfect finish
At some pointtypically every five yearsyour urethane-finished floor may need to be recoated. Before a floor is given a new coat of finish, it is either screened (a process that roughs up the existing finish so it will accept another coat) or treated with special bonding chemicals. The new coat will fill in superficial scratches, increase the shine and eliminate evidence of traffic patterns worn into the floor. The process is best left to a professional, since application can be tricky.
Source: Enhance Floor Trends

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