The most popular types of wood flooring

We get a lot of questions about what is the most popular type of flooring that people put in their houses, so I figured I’ll share what we see.

By far, the most common flooring is oak. I’d say 90% of new installation is this wood. The most popular type of oak flooring is red. I’d say 2 out of 3 customers choose it. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just easier to get… I personally prefer white oak: it looks so much better, especially with age. It’s like wine: the older it gets the better. But that is just my preference and I have nothing against red oak.

Prefinished or unfinished oak? Unfinished in 70% of all cases. Prefinished was pretty popular up until last year, but for some reason not any more.I think the reason here is that sometimes it’s cheaper to install an unfinished wood and get it sanded than buy a prefinished wood. Plus, finished flooring looks much better in my opinion.

The most popular width of unfinished oak: 2 ¼ inches. Why? Why not? It looks great, the cheapest of them all, and from professional point of view is much easier to deal with.

The second spot I’d say belongs to fir and pine.  While I have nothing against these wood species, I think it’s not very practical to use them as flooring. Reason? They are soft, which means that they scratch easily and you will have to redo them more often.

The third place: maple. This is actually a pretty hard wood, but it is very expensive and looks terrible when finished,imo. It’s just plain white and yellows up a bit with the time. I definitely wouldn’t use this wood in my house even if I would get it for free. Again, nothing wrong with the wood, just personal preference.

History of hardwood floors

The floors in our houses are an important part of the home. Floors provide comfort, warmth, stability, and even a certain amount of protection from outside elements. In addition to providing stability and comfort to a home, floors can also provide a better aesthetic design—whether a floor is patterned, tiled, or even painted.

Hardwood flooring is a type of flooring made from wood, and although today it is relatively common in most Western homes, this was not always the case.

Up until the mid 17th century, most houses in European countries did not have any sort of real floor on the ground level of their homes, shops, businesses or other buildings. The ground floor was typically just cleared and beaten earth that would be swept and kept as tidy as possible. Most homes had mats at the front of the doorway, to avoid the floor getting muddy. If a building had a second floor—a luxury for any homeowner—that floor was made from planked, usually plain wood. Sometimes these planks were two feet wide or more! Wooden floors were simply too expensive for most people to use on the ground floor of their homes. Wealthy and royal people more often used marble and other luxurious material for their flooring, because wooden floors were often rough and synonymous with the working poor’s two story shacks.

However, in the mid 17th century, hardwood flooring began to be seen as something more desirable in homes by the elite. Wooden ground floors, which were considerably rare before 1625, were now much more common place in wealthy homes and were considered fashionable, sturdy, and attractive. One of the reasons for the newfound popularity of hardwood floors among the wealthy was that wooden floors could be customized to a greater degree than marble or other rough material. For example, intricate designs could be carved into the hardwood floor.

Different colored woods could be laid out next to each other, creating an attractive contrast. The entire floor could be also stained and polished to create a very elegant and expensive look. Some floors from this period still exist due to their extreme high quality and sturdiness. However, the “middle class” version of the newly popular hardwood floor, which were put together more cheaply and were often simply painted with designs if they were decorated at all, have not held up as well over the years and very few are to be found intact today.

Even with the increase in popularity of hardwood floors, it was not until the Colonial Era in North America that sturdy and attractive hardwood flooring went from a luxury of the elite to something commonplace in most homes. This was because of an excessive abundance of trees found in North America, which could be easily cut and put together to create stable hardwood floorings for ground floors and additional floors. The wood could also be exported to countries in Europe. The move from earthen floors to hardwood floors not only made homes more attractive, but it kept a home’s inhabitants much warmer, because their feet would no longer be touching the cold natural earth. These colonial hardwood floors were usually not sanded or polished due to the cost of such undertakings, unless the inhabitants were wealthy and could afford such a luxury.

As the 19th century began, more and more intricate designs were used to decorate hardwood flooring. Carvings, paints, and even stains and polishes in a variety of color were all popular ways to customize hardwood flooring for your home. Hardwood floors could even be installed with particular patterns in mind! Hardwood floors were especially popular in growing mansion homes in the United States and England. However, they were still incredibly popular with middle class home owners who sought to have attractive flooring, even if they couldn’t afford a gold finish to their floor. Even poor home owners enjoyed a good hardwood floor, though it often went unpolished and undecorated to keep costs low.

Hardwood flooring had gone from a rare luxury to something that was common in most homes.

But the popularity of hardwood flooring did not last very long. During the early 20th century, hardwood flooring production went from a niche business to being mass produced, because of advancements in factory production. This unfortunately spelled disaster for the reputation of hardwood flooring. Before the mass market production of hardwood floor materials, the cutting and processing of the wood used for hardwood flooring was done by hand, and usually by tradesman who were extremely skilled in their profession. But when the materials began to be produced en masse, the quality of the wood declined. Cracks, unwanted lines, or simply poor material was common. And not only did the quality of the processed wood decline, but the installation as well—rather than pay a skilled artisan a fair wage to properly install a wooden floor, ordinary men looking for work were paid cheap wages to do the same job. “Anyone can do it,” as many advertisements for hardwood floor installers read. Most of these cheaply paid workmen had no clear idea on how to properly install the hardwood flooring. As a result, they often made many mistakes during installation, causing the floors to be improperly and poorly installed. A floor that should have been stable and should have lasted for generations would crack or shift or bruise, if not be broken entirely. All sorts of disastrous mishaps were caused by poor installation and quality. And unfortunately, because many homeowners pass down their homes from generation to generation, each new generation is stuck with poor flooring that is difficult to fix without spending thousands and thousands of dollars. Most hardwood floors installed during the early 20th century by such poorly skilled workers have not survived into the 21st century—quite an embarrassment, considering that even some wooden floors from the 17th century have survived the test of time!

The advent of other floor materials such as linoleum and cork also helped in the decline in the popularity of traditional hardwood flooring in homes. Carpets and other finishing were now installed over the hardwood flooring, to reduce any association with the “cheap floors.” Linoleum and cork flooring were also much easier to maintain.

But, all is not lost for hardwood flooring. Many companies have been striving to once again provide high quality, sturdy, attractive hardwood flooring for homeowners who want to forego carpeted flooring. They take the time and care to train installers properly, making sure that they are not making mistakes when installing hardwood flooring in homes. And with such advances in modern housing technology, wood floor stains and polishes are easier than ever to maintain and keep looking brand new.

Improvements in installation techniques and quality ensure that the hardwood floors installed in 2011 should last for years—hopefully even centuries, like their predecessors—to come.

How to remove compound dust from hardwood flooring

I’ve seen it happen many times: floor get refinished and then homeowners decide to paint.

That’s not a problem if you have red rosin paper all over the floor, but if you don’t, it could be a problem. If the paining job involved sanding the whole floor could be covered with the compound. You could wash your floor with water time and time again, but once it’s dry the powder will still show.

A couple of people actually called us to come and buff and coat the floor for them again after we sanded it due to the lack of luck to wash the powder off.

Here is the advice which will save you a lot of money and effort: try ‘Bona’. Just add it to the water, wash the floor just like you normally do and you should be all set. This cleaner should take care of the powder after the first use, but even if it didn’t and the second wash is required, you will see the significant difference in the floor before and after ‘Bona’.

I know we saw…

Sawdust is flammable.

The reason I’m writing this article is because a lot of homeowners don’t know how flammable the sawdust is.When the floors get sanded a lot of it is created and in most cases all of it goes into the trash bag.In many cases people want to leave it inside the house or garage, until the garbage pickup day comes and the bag will be taken care of.

What homeowners don’t realize is that this stuff can catch a fire in no time and as a result the house will be burned down.A couple of friends of mine told me some interesting stories about the sawdust.One was going to throw a trash bag in the city dump, so he put it inside his truck, but he was going to run some errands first, so left it there for a few hours. The day was pretty hot, so the dust started to burn and he didn’t realize what’s going on until he looked back.Another friend told me that the same thing happened to him, the only difference was  that the trash bag was outside in his yard.

But by just putting the sawdust outside your house you won’t solve the problem.Somebody could throw a cigarette butt at it and again it’s going to catch a fire.It is recommended that the the bag with the dust should be placed outside the house at least 4-5 feet away from any building.

Remember, the flooring contractors insurance is very high and it is mainly because a lot of houses were burned down over the years and one of the main reasons of fire is a sawdust.

Moving back your furniture, after the floors are done

People ask the question about when can they move the furniture back a lot, so here is the answer.

After your floor has been installed, if it is a prefinished type obviously, you can move back in pretty much right away: finish was applied on this wood a while ago, so it had plenty of time to cure even before you bought it.

After the floor just been refinished, the manufacturers of polyurethane normally recommend to wait a week before putting the furniture back on the floor. If it would be my floor, I would probably wait 2 days and then moved back in. The reason is simple: they say that in the first 24 hrs., polyurethane is 40% cure(it is good to walk on the next day for the oil-based and the same day for the water-based products), and then it is an additional 10% per day, so unless you have something really heavy(tables,chairs and beds are fine),you’re good to go 48 hrs after the job was done.

Just one thing to remember: do not drag, or roll your stuff across the floor(this happens a lot when the kitchen floor is getting done, normally with the fridges): you are going to leave huge gouges, which means that you’re going to re-sand your floor again, because this is the only way to get rid of them.

Getting your house ready for the floor guys.

A lot of homeowners ask me about what should they do to make a space ready for the floor guys, so I decided to write about it.

Well, first and foremost: move everything from the floor that will be sanded: there is no way for the floor guys to work around the furnite, not to mention that it’s going to be all dusty once they are done. If you will get the floors done in the closet, please clean it up completely: the clothes that are hanging are not going to be on the way, but more then likely you will have to wash them afterwards, since they will be very dusty.If there is no way for you to move the clothing, at least make sure that it’s covered with plastic.This also applies to the pictures on the wall and the curtains.Pay very close attention to the electronics, such as TV’s and phones: dust is a killer to them.

When the floor guys show up, make sure they seal the areas that they are not working in and put the plastic in the door frames and over the kitchen cabinets (very important when you do the kitchen).

After the job is done, you should expect some minor dust in the rooms that have been done, but everything outside the working space should remain completely dustless.Follow these easy steps and you will save yourself a lot of time cleaning the house after the floors are done.

What to do first: paint the room or sand the floors

Every time somebody does the home improvement project this is the question that they come across.

Many times a lot of people asked me this question.If you paint first, then the floor guys will damage or scratch the baseboards.If you refinish the floors first, the painters could spill something on the freshly sanded floors.Not to mention, that somebody could scratch the floors, even if you will cover them.

Well, the truth is, you can do it both ways.My advice would be, if you decided to paint first, to finish all you need, except for the baseboards.Just prime them.You can paint them later, after the floor guys are done, or almost done, before the last coat of polyurethane.If you’d like to sand the floors prior to painting, ask the floor company to apply only two coats of poly, paint everything and do the final coat afterwards, because before the final coat is applied, the floor needs to be buffed, so if there is a minor scratch or a little spill, it should come off. When I say a minor scratch, that exactly what that means.If you think that you can drag the fridge across the room making a deep gauge and the buffing will take care of it, you are very wrong.It will never happen.You will end up either living with this, or refinishing the room again.

No matter what you decided to do first, if you will plan everything and be careful, everything will go just the way you wanted.