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Things You Didn’t Know About Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood Floors | 1 February 2019

When choosing new hardwood flooring, there are a lot of different things to consider such as species, colour, finish (stain or matte), wear layer, presence of protective coating and more. While these considerations are well known and recognized throughout the interior design and flooring industries, we understand that many of these variables may be foreign to those outside of these industries. At Atmosphere Flooring in Chilliwack, BC, our flooring experts are knowledgeable and experienced in all areas of hardwood flooring and can help answer questions like, “what the heck is a wear layer and why do people keep talking about it?”

Hardwood flooring species

Let’s start by talking about hardwood floor species. The Janka hardness test measures the ability of a piece of wood to withstand denting and wear. This test is only applicable to solid hardwoods, as engineered hardwoods are constructed from multiple layers of plywood. This means that engineered hardwood flooring doesn’t test the same way as a solid. That being said, it is a good rule of thumb to keep in mind that birch is one of the softest domestic hardwoods and hickory is one of the hardest domestic hardwoods.

In terms of wood hardness, this has nothing to do with the ability to scratch, but rather the ability to dent the hardwood. Appearance is another important consideration with hardwood floor species. For those that appreciate a more consistent look to hardwood flooring without obvious grain patterns or variations in colour, we would recommend looking at maple hardwood flooring. Other types of hardwood such as oak and hickory have more obvious grain and colour variations throughout.

Hardwood flooring colours

When choosing a colour of hardwood flooring, it is important to remember that trends will come and go. This is common throughout the interior design industry. Flooring colour trends are cyclical but returning trends are always slightly different from what they were previously. For this reason, we always recommend choosing a floor colour based off of personal feelings towards it as opposed to getting all caught up in floor colour trends. Ultimately, you want to be happy and comfortable in your own space.

Hardwood flooring finishes

When it comes to choosing a certain hardwood finish, terms like glossy, satin and matte are self-explanatory. Again, choosing the right finish for your hardwood flooring all comes down to lifestyle and personal preference. It is also important to ask yourself questions like, “will there be a lot of foot traffic on these floors?”. If yes, perhaps a matte finish will be best suited.

In cases where the home is more traditional in appearance, satin hardwood floors can compliment this. Glossy hardwood is another type of floor finish that is available. It is important to note that glossy hardwood floor finishes can vary from traditional to contemporary, with the proviso that water marks and footprints etc are not going to make it too complex to maintain the desired appearance.

Protective coatings for hardwood flooring

The 3 main protective coatings available for hardwood flooring are polyurethane, aluminum oxide and oil finish.

Polyurethane coating

Polyurethane has been around for a very long time. It develops an amber tint over time with exposure to air and sun, sometimes referred to as “patina”. Polyurethane coating scratches can sometimes be buffed out, and are not obvious. While it provides greater flexibility, it is less wear resistant than aluminum oxide. Although polyurethane has shine, it dries with less sheen than aluminum oxide.

Aluminum Oxide

Aluminum oxide coating fortifies and strengthens urethane, making it harder and less likely to scratch than polyurethane. When aluminum oxide is added to urethane, it strengthens the the protective coating. When you scratch a hardwood floor protected by aluminum oxide, it leaves what looks like a white powder which can be wiped away. The scratches can be more difficult to repair because of the durability of the aluminum oxide. Aluminum oxide dries clear, with less change to colour than polyurethane.

Oil Finish

Pre-oiled hardwood flooring provides a casual and natural aesthetic. While oiled hardwood flooring finishes are on trend, they are going to prove to be timeless. Oiled finishes penetrate the hardwood rather than coating it, which enhances the colour and grain, thus reducing the visibility of imperfections. Sandpaper and tinted oil will take care of most scratches easily.

Hardwood flooring wear layers

Wear layers are very important with hardwood flooring. A wear layer is the top layer of an engineered floor that gets worn over time from foot traffic, etc. The thicker the wear layer, the more opportunity you have to sand and refinish. If your wear layer is 3mm thick, you will likely only be able to sand it once or twice. If it is 5mm or thicker, you will possibly be able to sand it up to 5 times over its lifetime. If you are buying a hand-scraped or distressed floor, you will not be re-sanding and refinishing it, so the thickness of the wear layer becomes less important.

When it comes to choosing the right type of hardwood flooring, it’s important not to become overwhelmed with all of the options. Your hardwood flooring professionals at Atmosphere Flooring in Chilliwack are always available to help you with your selection and answer any questions you may have.