Everyone loves hardwood. Yet when many people see how much it costs and how hard it is to maintain, they become dissuaded. But how much of the hype is true – and is it really that hard to keep looking new? Before you decide on hardwood, let’s get the details straight, and then make a final verdict.
Why hardwood floors?
Not quite sold on hardwood floors for their natural aesthetic? There are plenty of practical benefits, too.
- They increase your home’s value. Homes with wood floors sell faster and for up to 10% more than homes without hardwood floors. This makes a lot of sense – even if you don’t see the value per se, it could be a worthwhile investment.
- Inspires confidence in potential homebuyers. A discerning homebuyer will look for indicators that your home is in good shape when it comes time for you to sell. Well-maintained hardwood floors are one such visual indicator. Many aspects of a home, like plumbing or the integrity of the foundation, are hard to inspect while buying. If your hardwood floors are ten years or older and still look new, it’s safe to assume the house as a whole is in good shape.
- Resilient. Real hardwood floors, when installed properly, can last for over 100 years. Like all flooring, hardwood can stain, scratch, dent, and lose its color. In contrast, hardwood can be sanded or refinished, extending its life.
- Simple cleaning routine. Everyday cleaning isn’t complicated. Sweeping and mopping will keep dirt and grime from building up. You can even vacuum with the appropriate setting to pick up dust.
- Goes with almost everything. Hardwood looks good with just about any theme or style for your home. Your choice of wood and how it is stained can match the color of just about any room. Plus, wood tends to add character to a room, which can help warm a white room or cool a dark one. It only needs to be kept away from moisture and heat, such as bathrooms or basements.
Misconceptions About Hardwood
Not everything you hear about hardwood floors are true. Here are a few myths we can put to rest:
- Hardwood makes a room feel cold when compared to carpet. It’s true that carpet retains heat and more obviously makes a room feel warmer, but a rich finish on red oak easily does the same.
- Hardwood is too hard to clean. Hardwood, when swept regularly, doesn’t require much more attention than other types of flooring. Tile and carpet need periodic steam cleaning, too; hardwood doesn’t.
- Hardwood is damaged too easily. Natural wood does indeed show scratches and dents more prominently. Yet, sanding or refinishing can remove them from sight. In addition, distressed hardwood can disguise or hide small imperfections more easily.
- Hardwood gets dirty too quickly. Believe it or not, hardwood gets dirty at the same rate as other floors. It’s only a bit more obvious on hardwood. Despite this, sweeping once every few days is sufficient for most homes.
What are the different types of hardwood flooring?
Choosing your hardwood flooring is not as easy as it may seem at first. Below are some of the options for hardwood flooring.
Solid vs. Composite Hardwood
Solid hardwood flooring is a solid piece of wood from top to bottom. This type of hardwood lasts longer and can be sanded down and refinished, as mentioned above.
Composite or engineered hardwood flooring has real hardwood on the visible surface. The backing and core material are usually made up of layers of plywood compressed together. This type of hardwood is more moisture resistant but is not usually considered “true” hardwood. This is because it cannot be sanded, can warp over time, and is usually glued or stapled as opposed to fitted to a floor. It is also not possible to refinish composite wood too many times, either.
Type of Wood
The main factors to look for in a hardwood species are grain pattern and durability. Color also plays a role, though a finish will have more of an impact in this area.
Maple and red oak are the most durable, and for that reason are also the most common type of hardwood floors. Exotic woods like mahogany are not as durable and need extra care, but have a more striking grain pattern.
Much of hardwood’s characteristic shine and color come from the finish. The finish also adds a layer of protection to otherwise vulnerable hardwood.
Aside from the wide variety of finishes that affect the final luster and color, there are two categories of hardwood finishes. Site-finished hardwood gives more options for color and allows finishing to be done after the boards are fitted. Prefinished hardwood can simplify installation and speeds up the process of doing your floor.
Many people don’t even consider the width or style of hardwood boards. However, it often adds the most character. Wide planks add a rustic appeal, while narrow boards suit more formal settings. Geometric designs also add modern sensibilities to a classic type of flooring.
Even if the hardwood you are buying is brand new, you can still make it look antique or reclaimed. By distressing hardwood, even newly cut wood can be given character and look more distinguished. This is all done without actually damaging or aging the wood. Distressed hardwood is a good choice for hiding future scratches or dents. If you have pets, young children, or your spouse is a bit of a klutz, you can hide the damage before it happens.
Cleaning Hardwood Floors
To really maintain the character and value of hardwood, it needs to be maintained diligently. Here are our tips for getting the most life from your hardwood floors:
- Sweep hardwood every other day to pick up dust, hair, and dirt, or at least twice a week.
- Mop your hardwood floors once a week to keep them clean and free of stains.
- Use a dust mop or a damp mop when cleaning hardwood. A soaking wet mop will cause water to sit on the hardwood, which can lead to permanent damage.
- Dry floors with a clean cloth once you’re done. A good system is to mop a section of your floor, let it dry and move on to another. Then, dry the first area before moving on to the third. Repeat this process until you’ve done all your hardwood.
- Don’t use oils, waxes, floor cleaners, or furniture sprays. Unless a floor cleaner is specifically suggested by the floor finisher, assume that it is not good for your hardwood floor. They are usually designed for a particular type of finish. If it doesn’t match, it could leave residue or damage your floor.
- Also avoid ammonia, alkaline products, abrasive cleaners, vinegar, and lemon juice. Your best bet is simple soap and water, or a recommended cleaner from your floor finisher.
5 Bonus Maintenance Tips
- As you might imagine, wood is an organic product. That means it thrives in an environment suitable for other living things. A room with 35% – 55% humidity at room temperature. Keep your HVAC active at all times to ensure major fluctuations don’t occur.
- Regularly trim your pets’ claws and put down rugs at various entrances to a room with hardwood.
- If you have to move a heavy object across hardwood, use a dolly or lay down a protective layer of plywood.
- Avoid using a Roomba or similar cleaning device. There are too many examples to count of a Roomba gone awry on hardwood. Even if you lower the settings to avoid scratches or damage, they can sometimes become stuck and run rotors across your floor.
- If possible, adopt an “Asian attitude” toward shoes. Cleats and heels are more obvious culprits for hardwood damage. Yet even dress shoes and boots can wear down or dent hardwood in high-traffic areas. Removing shoes before walking across a hardwood surface will preserve its finish for years to come.