Solid wood floors are unparalleled in their
beauty, warmth, and longevity. But they do have drawbacks,
primarily in price and in where they can be installed.
Solid wood floors must be nailed to the subfloor, adding to the
cost of installation and making them unsuitable for use directly
over concrete. This, combined with sensitivity to moisture,
which causes wood to expand, rules them out for basements.
Changes in humidity can lead to squeaking and buckling.
Eased edges have drawbacks
The aluminum-oxide coating on prefinished wood floors will last
longer than polyurethane applied on-site, but the eased edges
often found on prefinished boards can trap dirt and give the
floor a manufactured look.
Strip flooring has been the industry standard since the 1950s.
Narrow -- typically
2-1/4 inch -- tongue-and-groove boards are blind nailed (with
nails concealed in the edge) into the subfloor. Wider-width
planks can be attached in the same way, or are sometimes
face-nailed (through the top) into the subfloor, with the nail
holes covered with pegs cut from the same stock.
More and more homeowners today purchase solid-wood floors with a
factory-applied finish. That means no dust from sanding, no
fumes from finishing, and no waiting before the floor can be
walked on. Another benefit is that the aluminum-oxide finishes
applied at the factory are much tougher than the standard
polyurethane applied on-site. Generally, you can expect 20 to 25
years from a factory-applied, aluminum-oxide finish, versus 10
polyurethane finish. Like on-site finishes, most factory
finishes can be screened that is, scuff sanded and topped off
with a new coat of polyurethane.
Lovely and long-lasting
Most solid-wood floors can be sanded and
refinished numerous times, making them the top choice for
For all their benefit, prefinished floors come with a catch:
Because the floor isn’t sanded flat after the boards are
installed, there are slight bumps and dips where the subfloor
isn’t perfectly level and where the floorboards vary slightly in
thickness. To conceal those misalignments some prefinished wood
comes with eased edges slightly rounded corners, which create
what amounts to small V-grooves between each board, giving the
floor a distinctly manufactured look and dirt a place to
A soft spot for solid wood
If you’re considering a “softwood” floor (this one is southern
heart pine), you’re most likely to find it in a solid floor.
A benefit of finishing a floor on-site is that you can
custom-stain it, transforming natural oak’s yellow into a rich
amber, for example. The traditional mix of boiled linseed oil
and wax or a coating of tung oil will darken the floor, too, and
provide a period look you won’t get with urethane finishes.
Prices for solid-wood flooring vary widely based on the width of
the planks, the wood species, and special effects such as
hand-scraping or distressing. Exotic species and reclaimed
flooring offer fresh options but at an additional cost.
If you expect your floor to take some abuse, hardwoods such as
oak, maple, Brazilian cherry, walnut, and ash will be the most
durable. But softwoods like southern yellow pine and fir are
also great choices, as long as you’re prepared for dents and
scratches. Softwoods are meant to be lived on, says residential
designer Eric Moser, of Ridgeland, S.C. The more beat up they
get, the better they look.
How to Choose a Wood Floor Introduction |
Engineered Wood |