If you’re in the market for finished hardwood flooring, you have so many choices, it can be overwhelming. Solid planks or engineered wood flooring? Prefinished or sand on site? Domestic or exotic species?
It hasn’t always been this way. In fact, just a generation ago, solid plank flooring sanded and finished on site was essentially the only option for homeowners. Then in the 1990s, engineered and pre-finished alternatives entered the picture.
This variety makes it easier to find finished hardwood flooring that fits your taste, needs, and budget, but to navigate the multitude of options, you need to understand the fundamental differences between the choices. Here’s a brief primer.
Solid plank vs. Engineered
Despite the availability of alternatives, solid plank finished hardwood flooring is still the choice of many—and with good reason. It lasts longer than engineered hardwood because it can be re-sanded more times. It’s generally less expensive than good quality engineered wood flooring And with solid plank flooring, you know exactly what you’re getting, whereas with engineered wood flooring, you also have to consider the quality of the manufacturing process and the composite material that’s used below the top layer of genuine hardwood.
The quality of engineered flooring has come a long way, though. It’s not at all a matter of “solid plank is always better.” In fact, in many cases—such as in basements or high-moisture areas—engineered wood flooring is clearly the better choice because it is more stable. This stability also might appeal to you, even in areas where solid plank could just as easily be used.
You can find outstanding engineered wood floor products, particularly by consulting with a hardwood flooring company you trust, to help you evaluate the quality of the products you’re considering and recommend the best-performing engineered flooring.
Sand on Site vs. Prefinished
With both solid plank and engineered flooring, you can choose to have the flooring sanded on site, or you can buy flooring that’s been finished in the factory.
When done by an experienced, skilled hardwood floor installer, sanding on site—and then staining (if you want) and finishing—will provide a floor with more richness, depth, and character. And by sanding on site, you’re not limited to the finishes chosen by the manufacturer.
If you decide on prefinished hardwood flooring, it’s once again important to consult with a hardwood floor expert to find the best products on the market.
Domestic vs. Exotic
Today, there’s more availability of exotic wood flooring from other parts of the world than ever before, even as engineered hardwood. Exotic species provide a unique, luxurious look that appeals to many people. Some are also harder than any domestic species you’ll find. But the supply is still relatively limited compared to domestic hardwoods, and transportation also drives up the cost.
Point2Homes recently analyzed 300,000 real estate listings from 2012 to find out what words are most often used to describe homes for sale.
Not surprisingly, “beautiful” topped the list, but in the second spot was “hardwood floors.” That’s not surprising either—people love finished hardwood flooring, and it’s a great selling point. The fact that “hardwood floors” ranked second in Point2Homes’ list clearly shows that real estate agents have seen how much value home buyers place on hardwood flooring.
But hardwood floors’ contribution to a home’s value has many variables. Here are four to consider.
1. A lot of the value depends on where you live. For example, in areas where finished hardwood flooring is common, not having it could lower resale value. But in places where hardwood flooring isn’t expected, it might not add much value because home buyers looking in that area won’t (or can’t) pay extra for them.
2. A primary attraction of custom hardwood floors is that you can express your personality and taste. But if you chose an uncommon hardwood floor, you should realize that not all home buyers will share your taste, possibly increasing time on the market as you wait for just the right buyer to come along. On the other hand, a distinct floor can really pay off if you find a buyer who falls in love with that particular look and is willing to pay for it.
3. The value you get from your floors can’t always be quantified in the sales price. In many cases, finished hardwood flooring doesn’t make a home sell for more—but it does make it sell faster, which can have immense value.
4. Make sure you buy quality hardwood floors. Low-quality floors can go downhill to the point that the best option before a sale is complete replacement—and there goes your “investment.”
In some cases, the primary advantage of finished hardwood flooring in terms of home sales may be that you can sell your home faster, which is nothing to scoff at. But, although it’s not a given, you can most likely also offset some of the cost of hardwood floors when you sell your home.
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With our experience—and a state-of-the-art dust containment system—we are able to minimize the disturbance for homeowners when we refinish or install hardwood floors in an existing home. But even with the great care we take, there’s no getting around the fact that installation or refinishing can disrupt the normal routine of people living there.
So why be home at all?
Wouldn’t it be better to pack an overnight bag and kick back worry-free in a hotel while the work is done? Put up the “do not disturb” sign if you want. Sleep in. Lounge in the spa. Leisurely take in the local sites. Get away from the everyday. Then return home to be greeted by your reinvigorated home!
Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?
Relax While the Work Is Done
Well, that’s what we’re offering at Ralph’s Hardwoods. For eligible hardwood floor refinishings or installations in existing homes, we’ll treat you to a two-night stay at the Appleton Comfort Suites or the Green Bay Comfort Suites.
To be eligible, the project must be a minimum of $2,500.00. It must be scheduled for completion before Feb. 28, 2013, but that gives you plenty of time to get scheduled and enjoy your free stay. (The stay also must be before that date.) All you have to do is fill out this form and we’ll email you a redemption certificate that you can present to your Ralph’s salesperson. We’ll then mail you a gift certificate good at either Comfort Suites location mentioned above.
The Best Part of the Deal Will Be Waiting for You at Home
In the grand scheme of things, a stay in a hotel shouldn’t have any impact on your decision to refinish or install hardwood floors. The decision to invest in hardwood floors should be driven by an appreciation of how much long-term value and beauty hardwood flooring can add to your home.
We have a long history of superior customer service, and a soothing hotel stay while work is being done is simply our way of showing how much we value our customers. We hope you’ll contact us to discuss your hardwood flooring options, so you can experience for yourself the quality or our products, the skill of our work, and our dedication to customer satisfaction.
The hotel stay is the icing on the cake!
Is the cost of installing or restoring hardwood floors matched by a corresponding increase in a home’s resale value?
That’s obviously a vital question for homeowners who are considering new hardwood floors, especially in anticipation of putting their home on the market. If the existing flooring isn’t hardwood, then wooden floors installation to replace the old flooring stands a great chance of elevating resale value.
Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer. A multitude of variables can influence how hardwood flooring affects resale value, including these four common factors:
1. The type and condition of the existing floor (in cases of restoration).
If the floor is hardwood and in pretty good shape, but you re-sand and change the color to achieve a new look, the resale value gained will depend on the buyer.
If an existing hardwood floor is looks dull and worn, and you recoat or resand and finish it, then you’re adding some real value beyond aesthetic taste. An appraiser may recognize this value by rating the overall condition of the home as very good versus fair. A potential buyer, on the other hand, almost certainly will see the value of a new-looking floor versus one that will take significant resources (time and money) to rennovate.
2. The location of the home.
If you live or are building in an area where hardwood floors are common and expected, to not have them—or to have them in poor condition—could lower resale value. Therefore, installing, re-sanding, or simply refinishing can have a significant positive effect on a home's sales price.
On the other hand, wood floor installation or restoration in a neighborhood or region in which hardwood floors aren’t common isn't likely to result in a higher resale price because of the low demand for them.
3. The type of home.
If you install or restore hardwood floors in a low-price home, buyers probably aren’t going to pay extra for them because they can’t afford to.
Likewise, if you install expensive custom hardwood flooring in a mid-priced home, potential buyers may want hardwood floors but won’t be willing to pay extra for high-end or exotic hardwood.
In general, the most-positive effects on resale value occur when the level of extravagance is matched to that of the home.
4. Where the floors are in the home.
Because so many people suffer from allergies, hardwood floors in bedrooms can be a huge selling feature. Hardwood floors in the kitchen, because they are so easy to clean, are also highly desireable.
Value Beyond Resale
Keep in mind that resale value is by no means the only potential benefit of wood floor installation or restoration. There’s the likelihood that you’ll sell your home faster, even if it’s not for more. And of course—if you’re not selling right away—there’s the value of the sheer enjoyment you’ll get from having the hardwood floors you've always wanted.
Remember how great your finished wood floors looked when they were new? Take a good look at them now. Do they still look as beautiful? Or have they become dull and scratched?
You may not have even noticed this wear and tear because it happened gradually and you see the floors every day. But people who visit your home will notice. It’s the same phenomenon that occurs when you haven't seen a niece or nephew for some time—people who see them every day may only be vaguely aware of how much they have changed, but to someone who hasn’t seen them in a while, the change is dramatic.
And worn-looking hardwood flooring isn’t just an aesthetic problem—it’s a sign that the finish is wearing off. If the finish gets too thin, water can turn the floor grey, and the wood is highly susceptible to other damage.
So what can you do to restore your finished hardwood flooring to its previous splendor and provide the necessary protection for the wood? Will hardwood floor sanding be necessary?
When Refinishing Is the Answer
There are cases when a worn floor will need to be re-sanded, or even replaced if there’s not a thick enough layer of wood to allow for sanding. But often you can restore the beauty and protection to your floors by simply recoating them, which is of course the less-expensive option.
If you think you can get by with recoating, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does the floor have deep scratches, gouges, or areas of water damage in it? If so, hardwood floor sanding is called for. Recoating can’t fix or hide those problems.
- Have you cleaned your floor properly? Finished hardwood flooring should be cleaned with an approved cleaning product specifically designed for finished hardwood floors. If you’ve used oil soaps or furniture polish on your floor, the new finish can wrinkle or separate, so re-coating will not work and re-sanding is necessary.
- Do you want to change the color of your finished hardwood floors? To change the color of the stain, you’ll have to re-sand. That said, you can affect the appearance by recoating only. The finish determines the sheen—gloss, semi-gloss, satin, or matte— and tints in the finish can modify the color.
Of course, there are other considerations in deciding how to reinvigorate your finished hardwood floors. We’ll be glad to schedule an inspection to discuss your situation and determine whether recoating without sanding will do the trick.
As trees are harvested and milled into hardwood flooring planks, the way in which the wood is cut will greatly affect how the grain will look once the flooring is installed. So to achieve the look you're after, you’ll need to consider the sawing method used, as well as how wide and long the boards were sawn.
The Sawing Method
The technique used will have a considerable impact on the appearance of the wood’s grain. Most wood is “plain-sawn,” with logs being run through the saw lengthwise. This method produces the greatest grain variation between planks because the growth rings from the outside of the tree will be almost parallel to the edge of the board, while the rings from the inside of the tree will be almost at right angles to the edge.
If you prefer "straighter" grain rather than "swirly" grain, you can select a product that has been “quarter-sawn.” With this method, a log is first quartered, forming wedges with right angles to the center of the tree. Each quarter is then sawn from alternating flat sides of the wedge, resulting in planks that have well-aligned growth rings.
In the “rift sawn” method, logs are simply cut at right angles to the growth rings. This method produces the most-aligned grain possible, but it also wastes a significant amount of wood because of the wedges left over due to the geometry of the cutting—making this the most expensive method.
The width and length of planks also affect the grain’s appearance. Boards are usually cut in widths ranging from 1 ½ inches to a foot, and the wider the width, the more noticeable the grain characteristics will be. Wide boards—which have become a trend—also can make a room appear “shorter,” causing large, open spaces to seem cozier.
Length usually ranges from a foot to 84 inches. Longer boards tend to have a more formal feel, while shorter boards create a more “busy” and “everyday” ambiance--although this is most obvious with flooring that has beveled edges because non-beveled flooring is sanded flat, making the short boards less conspicuous as it is more difficult to discern where the planks join together.
With both width and length, you can choose to use randomly sized boards, which can add visual interest and are more informal—as well as less expensive! For these reasons, random-length flooring is very common and random-width flooring is increasing in popularity.
If you’ve decided to install sand-on-site hardwood floors in your home, or if you’re preparing to re-sand existing hardwood floors, you’re undoubtedly excited about how great your new floor is going to look.
But as you select a hardwood flooring expert to sand your floors, be sure not to overlook an aspect of sanding that’s far less exciting, but nonetheless important—the sander’s dust containment system.
Dust Can Be Avoided
A top-quality hardwood flooring sander will sand your hardwood floors and leave very little dust in your home, and that’s what you should demand. Always ask prospective sanders what dust-containment method they use.
The answer you want to hear is that they evacuate the dust out of the home into a trailer. In this system, hoses are attached directly to the sanding machines, and the dust is sucked by an extremely powerful vacuum engine straight into the trailer, eliminating nearly all dust created from sanding your floors.
Other methods also have hoses attached to the sanding equipment, but the vacuum machine is small enough to be brought inside, which means it has a less-powerful, less-efficient motor. And sanding without any dust control at all...don't even think about it!
If you’re having floors installed before they’re finished, the installation equipment can also be hooked directly to the dust evacuation system. This technology isn’t perfected yet, but its use can substantially reduce dust caused by old floor removal and installation of new hardwood floors.
Insist on Experience
Don’t hesitate to inquire about a company’s history of dust evacuation. Ask to see pictures or videos of jobs they’ve done, and talk with them to gauge their commitment and ability to keep your home as free of dust as possible.
Keeping dust from becoming a problem may seem like a minor consideration in the overall process of adding or re-sanding hardwood floors, but it won’t seem minor if you end up struggling to clean up persistent dust. Selecting the right hardwood flooring company for the job will allow you to enjoy your new floors as soon as they’re completed, without having to worry about the mess left behind.
Years ago you installed hardwood floors. They were stunning and added visual appeal to your home. For years you have lived on them and loved them! The ease of cleaning left you with enough extra time to actually put your feet up once in a while and actually enjoy the beauty of the wood.
As a family lives on any flooring surface, that surface will begin to show wear. The beauty of hardwood is that when the time comes to do something about the wear, replacement is not necessary. Your floor may be worn, but it is far from worn out. Some floors may even begin to look dated, and the same is true with wood. Again, the beauty of wood is that through special techniques and stains, we can "update" an existing floor. Homeowners who cherish their finished wood floors should be prepared to restore them when it becomes necessary.
So, how do you know when it is time to refinish?
1. The floors have begun to look dull and worn and just don't have the "life" they once had.
As you live on your floors they will eventually become worn and scratched. You may not pay much attention to the wear, and as you see your floors every day, the change doesn’t seem dramatic. But then, one day you walk into a friend’s home with freshly finished wood flooring—or you move a rug or bed and see what your floors looked like when they were new—and the difference between what they were and what they have become becomes painfully obvious.
Refinishing your wood floors allows you to recapture their original brilliance, thereby renewing the appearance and atmosphere of your home. Take a good look at your floors and then visit a hardwood floor showroom—if your floors don’t measure up to the beauty of what you see there, refinishing can remedy that.
2. You are ready for a change.
One fact of life is that our tastes contiually change and our home tends to change with them. New furniture or a whole new decorating scheme may have you looking at your floors, wondering if there isn't something you could do to update their look as well. It could be something as simple as changing the color or implementing techniques designed to minimize the grain. Did you know a hickory floor could look like this? Smoldering Hickory Or an oak floor like this? The Black Creek
If your hardwood flooring professional tells you they can't stain hard-to-stain woods such as maple, cherry, birch, hickory, or pine, you’re dealing with the wrong company. Though these woods are difficult to stain, it can be done with a little scientific know-how and a lot of experience.
3. Your floor doesn’t just look faded—it’s an eyesore.
Accidents are a part of life and over time, water stains, deep scratches, gouges, and grooves can happen.
If your flooring has unsightly damage beyond mild scratching, not to worry, it does not have to be replaced. Sanding the floor down to bare wood and applying more finish may be all that is needed. If the damage is severe, or perhaps you have moved a wall or two and some patching needs to be done, the floor can still look great!
When considering a sanding project, insist on a company that uses the best dust evacuation system available and make sure the unit operates outside the home. Otherwise, you’re in for a mess!
Learn more about Refinishing Services from Ralph's
The idea of dustless sanding sounds like a fantasy but it is real and has real benefits.
Don't let fear of dust prevent you from reviving a beautiful floor.
Older hardwood floors can reclaim their past glory with a professional sanding treatment. Many homeowners, however, are reluctant to commit to such a project because of the mess and hassle from all the dust generated in the process. Not looking forward to dust in light fixtures, drapes, or inside every cabinet, the dream of reviving those beautiful floors easily becomes abandoned due to the daunting after-project clean up. Keep reading...the solution is here.
Dust can be dangerous.
Even for homeowners who are prepared for the mess, the health risks of breathing in dust should be minimized. OSHA guidelines for wood dust suggest it is “a potential health problem when wood particles from processes such as sanding and cutting become airborne. Breathing these particles may cause allergic respiratory symptoms, mucoul and non-allergic respiratory symptoms, and cancer.”
The answer is simple - eliminate the dust before it gets into the air.
Dustless sanding is a highly beneficial option of which many homeowners are not aware. A state-of-the-art Atomic Dust Containment System is a vacuum that continually extracts dust and stores it outside your home in an self-contained unit. Dust is removed as it is created, helping maintain a healthy, breathable environment during and after the sanding process.
Be proactive, save yourself the frustration and preserve your health, and let the Atomic Dust Containment System work hard so you don’t have to. Your lungs and your sanity will thank you for it.
Photo by Jazz Guy. Available under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.