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Comparing Hardwood Floors: Appearance

Posted on Thu, Jan 24, 2013 @ 11:01 AM

In our two previous posts about how to compare hardwood flooring, we discussed the quality of various types of wood and how to have floors installed to reduce the likelihood of cupping, crowing, or gapping.

Knowledge is critical in choosing the right hardwood flooring for your home, but let’s face it—appearance is what drives our selection. Hardwood floors can be used in a myriad of beautiful ways to enhance a home’s interior design and to express the personality of a homeowner. That creative flexibility is what gets homeowners excited.

You may desire an elegant look, or you may be after something rustic. You might like the traditional look of hardwood floors, or you may want to make a bold statement. Hardwood floors can provide whatever appearance you seek.

Hardwood flooring offers such a wide range of options because there are so many variables that go into its appearance. As you decide on the appearance you want, you’ll can enjoy selecting the following:

  • Species—Each species projects a different feel. For example, maple, with its light grain, is a popular choice among homeowners who desire a contemporary look. On the other hand, oak and ash, both of which have heavy, bold grain, are common choices for people who want a more casual appearance. Open grains tend to create a cozier feel, while closed grains are sleeker in appearance.
  • Color—Another difference between species is color. You can choose to leave the color natural or to stain it. With staining, color can be adjusted in innumerable ways to help achieve the look you desire.
  • Sheen—A glossy finish tends to project a more formal atmosphere; whereas the natural look of a satin finish will feel homier and disguises wear and tear better.
  • Grades—Each species of wood is graded, from the clearest grade to the most rustic. The higher the grade, the more uniform the wood will be. The lower the grade, the more color variation you’ll see, as well as more knots, mineral streaks, and wormholes. Some people like the character of lower grades, so higher is not necessarily better—it all depends on your taste.
  • Width—Wider planks, which are becoming increasingly popular, tend to create a more casual appearance, while narrow planks are more formal. Narrow planks also work to “lengthen” a room. Many homeowners choose to use random-width boards to create a less formal look.
  • Length—Longer boards are generally used to create a sense of elegance, while shorter boards are the more casual choice. As with width, a mixture of board sizes is a frequent choice (in part due to lower cost), and unless the floors have beveled edges, will be almost unnoticeable.
  • Sand on Site or Pre-Finished—With sand-on-site custom hardwood flooring, the stain and finish are applied after the sanding, so you can specify exactly the color and sheen you want. The beveled edge that is almost always seen on a pre-finished floor is absent in sand-on-site floors. If you prefer pre-finished flooring, there’s an abundance of quality pre-finished products on the market, including distressed and hand-scraped finishes. So you can most likely chose pre-finished flooring without sacrificing your aesthetic vision.
  • Solid or Engineered—The decision to use engineered flooring is often driven by stability issues (as discussed on our last post), but there is an appearance factor as well. Engineered flooring typically is made with beveled edges to lessen the visibility of small differences in milling thickness and subfloor irregularities, and many people don’t like this look. On the other hand, some people love beveled edges. We’ll repeat our mantra—it’s all about your taste.

This concludes our three-part series on comparing hardwood floors. We hope you’ll visit us in our showroom to learn more about how you can select the floor of your dreams.

Ralph's Essential Guide to Selecting the Perfect Hardwood Floor

Topics: hardwood floors & interior design, about hardwood floors

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