Rooms adorned with hardwood floors exude a warmth and style unattainable with tiles or carpeting. As a design element, hardwood floors can convey tradition or modernity, depending on the wood used, the colors chosen, and the size of the planks. Newly available exotic woods from Africa, Asia, and South America can be used for the entire floor or for accents in the form of inlays.
As the name suggests, hardwood is a solid lumber that comes from trees such as ash, birch, cherry, maple, and oak. Hardwood is ideal for floors because it resists dents, scratches, and scuffs better than softwood materials. Consumers with the taste and budget for exotic woods may consider teak, mahogany, and tigerwood. Costs vary according to the wood selected, but generally, American lumber is cheaper than exotic wood imported from abroad.
Hardwood flooring may be solid planks of wood which come in various lengths and widths depending on the circumference of the tree from which it was cut.
The look of harwood flooring has become so popular that many processes have been invented to copy its rich allure without its high prices. Solid planks of any hardwood may be too expensive for many homeowners, but engineered, laminated or veneer flooring is available in hardwood replicas.
Engineered flooring combines an underlying plank to provide stability with a thin top layer of decorative wood. Laminate floors, on the other hand, use an image of wood printed on the surface of an aggregate product such as fiberboard. Veneer floors also use a base of high-density fiberboard but these are covered by a thin layer of real wood.
The type of warranty provided on hardwood flooring when it is purchased and installed will depend on a number of factors. Planks purchased directly from a lumberyard should be inspected on site and those with defects --such as discoloration and cracks -- should be rejected. Hardwood floors that have been manufactured usually come with a warranty ranging from five to 35 years to cover defects in production. Flooring installers may also provide additional warranties to cover any problems arising from the installation of the materials and homeowners should check on this important detail prior to signing a contract.
One of the greatest advantages of hardwood floors is easy maintenance. All they need is regular sweeping and washing with a damp mop to maintain their luster. Their durability is considered a sound investment by many homeowners -- they can be sanded and refinished multiple times over decades -- and has made hardwood the preferred choice of flooring for centuries.
The look of hardwood flooring is so popular with homebuyers that its presence will often increase the value of a home as well as lead to a quicker sale. People suffering from allergies and who must avoid carpeting will appreciate living in a home that has hardwood floors.
The high cost of hardwood flooring puts off many potential buyers but alternatives such as engineered and veneer wood have made it more accessible even to those on a tight budget. Installing a hardwood floor is also more costly than other options because special skills and tools are required.
All wood flooring is vulnerable to moisture and should be properly protected as even small amounts of water can deteriorate the material. For this reason, hardwood flooring is not always suitable for bathrooms or laundry rooms where moisture and spills happen frequently.
Other disadvantages include the noise when people walk on hardwood, but this can be managed by placing area rugs in high-traffic areas which will also protect the wood finish.