You’ve finally decided on hardwood for your flooring project; you breathe a sigh of relief. But wait. The decision making isn’t over yet. You are certain that you want hardwood. But do you want a hardwood look? The real thing? An intricate design of mini hardwood pieces? Below are hardwood basics to help you decide.
Solid hardwood: Archaic vibes and status
Genuine hardwood has long symbolized a solid, trustworthy quality. Hardwood, being an organic material, adheres to the principle of archaism. In archaism, roots, origins, heirlooms, and traditions are operative words. Think of vintage wine salespeople or antique dealers. They value in their goods old-world traditions and craftsmanship; often, the more archaic the object, the higher its status.
Hardwood is valued as it occurs in the natural world and cannot be manufactured. Its organic materials change over time; features like knots, grain variations, flecking, and other distress marks are considered marks of beauty and interest. Because solid hardwood occurs in the natural world and changes with time and the elements, it is considered a top-grade material.
Traditionally in America, darker hardwood has long been considered more archaic looking than light hardwood and originally conveyed an upper middle to upper class vibe (especially when covered with elderly and well-worn Oriental rugs). Archaic objects imply inheritance from a primeval past–and, when sold, command a higher price.
Species of hardwood: Oak, cherry, and maple species found in America are just the beginning; hardwood comprises 40% of our nation’s trees (http://www.hardwoodinfo.com/articles/view/pro/24/267)
Solid hardwood basics: Solid hardwood is cut from one solid piece of wood. Hardwood can also be reinvented over time. If you opt for ¾ solid hardwood, its thick top layer can be sanded and refinished about seven times. It’s not uncommon for solid hardwood to last for decades and even centuries. It has the highest structural integrity of all flooring materials and, because of its longevity, it pays for itself over time. Beware of quality in flooring, which can vary widely among manufacturers. Watch out for lower quality woods, which tend to feature poor milling and finish quality.
Engineered hardwood basics: Engineered hardwood was invented in the 1960s and has improved a great deal since its inception in terms of looks and durability. Engineered hardwood features a layer of solid organic wood atop several layers of other strong woods. All layers of wood are glued together.
Because of its relatively easy installation and greater affordability than solid hardwood, engineered floors are growing in popularity. Multiple wood species are available and can be customized with realistic effects. It can be difficult to tell the difference between engineered and the real thing; engineered wood is flexible and blends in with all types of structures new and old.
Engineered flooring material is a practical and versatile choice. With greater resistance to moisture than solid wood, you can install it in more humid areas where solid hardwood would be impractical. If you’re concerned about resale value, top-quality engineered flooring retains about the same value as solid hardwood. Of course, not all engineered flooring is equal and it also varies in width and thickness. The thicker the engineered flooring, the better, and the longer it lasts (the thickest engineered wood can be sanded and refinished between one and five times). Thinner engineered flooring that is maintained well has a life expectancy of about 20 to 30 years. Thicker engineered floors can last much longer.
Parquet flooring basics: Parquet originated in late-seventeenth-century France, invented out of a need for a better material than the marble found in most upper-class homes at the time. High-maintenance marble meant frequent washing; the heavy washing caused epidemics of rotten wood joists. When the affluent decided that enough was enough, parquet flooring offered an answer to their flooring needs.
Elegant and labor intensive to create, parquet floors were hand-cut pieces of hardwood in geometric shapes, from squares to triangles to more intricate shapes combined in sophisticated designs. The installation of parquet was as much visual art as a useful and durable flooring material. Parquet pieces were glued to concrete floors and then sanded and finished. Conspicuous waste was not an issue as parquet was only available to those who could afford it (and who could afford to employ servants to care for it).
Today’s parquet is available in as many species as solid hardwood, from cedar, pine and spruce to walnut, mahogany, and teak, and many, many more. Parquet’s three-dimensional designs add character to any building and offer an overwhelming number of choices. Quality and durability of the woods can vary depending on the manufacturer. These days, principles of organics are relevant in the production of the more expensive parquet. Patterns mime nature. Unnatural straight lines are minimized.
Parquet floors require the same care you would give solid hardwood; they clean up graciously from spills. Durable and long lasting, parquet offers something for every taste, from more traditional to more artsy looks. Keep in mind that you can get a range of parquet material, from top-grade expensive solid parquet (thicker and longer lasting) to more affordable panel parquet (thinner hardwood veneers glued onto plyboard).
Parquet is also rather easy to install. If done properly, it can have a distinctive look and, depending on the thickness of the wood, can last…and last. When you’re ready to sell your property, potential buyers will remember your uncommon floor design; you may well find yourself with a bidding war on your hands.
Janka Hardness Test: If you find yourself confused and overwhelmed by choices and species of wood, visit the Janka Hardness Test website. Janka rates the hardness of every species of wood (the scale ranges from 0 to 4000).