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Categories Hardwood

American Hardwoods Are On the Rise Again

For a long time, American hardwoods were considered less desirable than imported hardwoods. Imported hardwoods, also known as exotic woods, were considered to be the pinnacle of hardwood construction. While there are some types of imported hardwood that offer benefits not common to American hardwoods, for the most part, American woods are perfect for every installation. The prestige of imported wood is often simply the price and the rarity. There are benefits to domestic hardwoods.

Sustainability

One of the reasons domestic hardwoods are on the rise again is because consumers and producers both have become more concerned with sustainability. Sustainability is the idea that wood is a renewable resource but it does not replenish naturally as quickly as consumers consume it. Therefore, the company that feels the trees or the one that buys the felled trees must do everything they can to replace the trees as quickly as possible. There are ways to do that.

One such way is for a company to take care not to cut down more trees than they need. In the past, companies would speculate on how much they might need and end up removing far too many trees. Now, they are more conservative with their logging. Also, cutting down certain trees has less of an impact. For example, new trees are often starved of sunlight by the canopies of larger trees. Cutting down one larger tree might allow multiple smaller trees to grow.

Lastly, companies can simply plant new trees to replace the trees they cut down. That is a gesture of goodwill, but it’s also simply a way for them to have a crop in the future.

Cost

Another advantage of domestic hardwoods is that they are often less expensive than imported hardwoods. They’re less expensive for several reasons. For one, the United States is simply larger than most other countries and therefore has more forest than most other countries. Also, the shipping is not as onerous to move something through the United States. There are no import or export tariffs or borders to cross. That will reduce the price and the shipping time.

Options

There are certain options, such as black wood, that are not quite as common for domestic woods. However, that does not mean they’re unavailable. The United States has every kind of climate, which means it has a diversity of trees that are unmatched by any imported hardwood from anywhere in the world.

Categories Hardwood

How to Find an Environmentally-Friendly Hardwood Floor

Hardwood floors are some of the most popular of any kind of flooring. They have been used since the time of antiquity. Wood is a great choice because it can be cut, shaped, and styled to fit just about any home. It is long-lasting, insulating, and attractive. If you want a floor that will last for a long time, you can’t go wrong with hardwood. However, hardwood does have a significant drawback. In some cases, the hardwood can actually harm the environment. Obviously, hardwood is sourced by cutting down hardwood trees. There are ways to mitigate the damage that might do to trees; some companies even improve the environment with every floor they sell.

Diseased Trees

As living entities, trees are susceptible to damage from pests, fungus, and disease. There are ways to limit these problems, but in some cases, trees become hopeless afflicted. For example, emerald ash borers are a pest that infests and eventually kills ash trees. They’re very difficult to guard against. For that reason, ash trees that become infested are cut down and removed from the area. If they’re not, they’ll infect more trees. Some hardwood flooring companies specifically use wood from trees infested with ash borers and other pests. Alternately, the wood might come from trees that have diseases such as citrus greening or other incurable illnesses. If you buy these trees, they’ll actually be improving the environment by removing dangerous trees.

Fallen Trees

For many different reasons, trees will die. Many of them will fall as a result. Some timber companies specifically source fallen trees or dead trees. Removing these trees from the forest can improve the undergrowth and improve sunlight getting to saplings. That will help grow new healthy trees.

Salvaged Wood

Most sustainable companies do what they can to reduce the number of trees they cut down. If they can salvage wood, they won’t have to cut down any trees. Salvaged wood can come from many different sources. The simplest option is to salvage a used hardwood floor and install it in your own home. Alternately, the salvaged wood might come from scrap wood, construction projects, demolition projects, or wood shipments that were damaged.

Some types of salvaged wood are actually more valuable than any kind of new wood. One such example is milled lumber that fell off boats decades ago. It has sat at the bottom of rivers for decades and now has character that cannot be replicated. This wood is sustainable, responsible, and very valuable.

Categories Hardwood

The Ancient Flooring Techniques That Are Trending Again

In the ancient world, the most common type of flooring was dirt. In ancient Rome, all but the wealthiest citizens had floors made of dirt and straw. Some of them had animal hides, leather, or cloth draped over the floor. Some would use shards of pottery, stone, and sand. The shards and stone would be ground into the floor until it formed a hard surface; this was the earliest origin of pavement. The wealthiest Romans had floors made of stone and hardwood. In the New World, forests were so abundant that hardwood floors were fairly common for colonists. Interestingly, the ancient Romans, ancient Egyptians, British imperials, and American colonists all created their hardwood floors in about the same way.

Floors were laid from straight planks of wood. The floors either just sat on the ground level, or they were built onto a subfloor. The ancient Romans, for one, utilized subfloors. Then, they would smooth the floor with hand scraping and literally sanding the floor. The sanding process left tiny scratches all over the floor.

Wire Brushing

Before the invention of sandpaper, the process for sanding a floor was to literally cover it in sand. Crafters would pour a bunch of sand on the floor. They would then rub the sand on the floor until the floor was smooth. It didn’t sand as smoothly as sandpaper and an orbital sander from the modern era. So, that meant there were tiny scratches all over the floor. The floor would then often be left bare. The oils from feet would eventually soak into the wood to create a waterproof finish.

Wire brushed hardwood now replicates the look of that antique sanding process. A wire-brushed floor can be brushed by hand or by a machine. Basically, the floor is brushed with a stiff-bristled brush to create billions of minute scratches. If done by a machine, it won’t add much expense to the cost of your floor. If done by hand, it will better replicate the random scratches of ancient floors.

Hand Scraping

The other way to smooth wood was to use a draw knife to scrape away the top layer of wood. The floor can be brought fairly smooth when you do that.

Both of these different techniques fell out of favor in the 1930s when sandpaper was made available in basically every hardware store. Hardwood flooring fell out of favor after WWII. These techniques have just recently become prominent again.

Categories Hardwood

How to Match a Blue Hardwood Floor

Blue hardwood floors are still very unconventional but they have been growing in popularity steadily over the last few years. They look poised to become popular in coming years. The trend towards blue hardwood floors is influenced by several factors. For one, hardwood floors have become more readily available in recent years. That means that many people have had the opportunity to adapt and change common hardwood floors into something new and innovative. Furthermore, blogs and social media have encouraged many designers to think outside of the normal parameters of flooring. That means that they’ve been experimenting with floors, textures, and with matching those floors. Matching a blue floor is a very difficult task, but it can look great if you do it well.

Matching With Cabinets

If you have other wooden thing in your home such as wooden cabinets, you should consider matching the cabinets with the floor first. Matching different woods is an important step to creating an entire design scheme. There are two basic ways to match something as bold as a blue floor. You can offset it with muted neutral colors that will make the floor stand out; alternately, you can choose another bold color to match the blue and create a very bright room.

Matching a blue with another bright color such as red can create a very bold and exciting look; however, you run the risk of the room looking almost like a panel in a comic book. If you want that, then it works out great. The floor serves as the biggest canvas in the house. For example, that might be a great choice for a child’s room. However, if you want the room to be subtle, you should choose something muted to match the floor. A navy blue floor will match a bright blue floor very well. White or tan will also work very well. Basically, any color that you can match with a blue dress shirt, you could match with a blue floor.

Choosing a Blue

Choosing the right blue for your floor is important as well. There are several options. You could choose a very light blue that subtly hints at blue. That will make a room look brighter but it won’t draw much attention to the floor. A bolder blue stands out better but is more difficult to match. A some blues trend towards green, whereas others trend towards purple. Either is a great choice. If you have a warm interior design, trend towards purple; if your interior is cool, trend towards green.

Categories Hardwood

A Few Cost-Saving Ideas For Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood floors have long been the most desired floors that you could choose from. For centuries, hardwood has been used to create long-lasting floors that have stood the test of time in terms of resilience as well as style. However, there’s one thing that can hold back many people from getting the hardwood floor they really want; that’s the price. Hardwood is not the least expensive of all flooring options, especially in the age of synthetic floors. However, there are several things you can do that will keep the price of your hardwood floor low. When you consider the resilience of a hardwood floor, you might even save money. Also, hardwood floors have been shown to increase the value of a property; thus, they’re an investment. So, here’s how you can save money on your hardwood floor.

Multiple Batches of Wood

Hardwood flooring planks are sold in batches; ideally, the batches of wood are from the same tree. They are batched because they are of the same quality, the grain matches, and the color is similar. However, it can be difficult to find a single batch of wood that covers your entire floor. That means that small batches of wood are oftentimes discounted because they’re less useful. If you want to save money on your hardwood floor, you could choose several discounted batches of wood.

The small batches of wood won’t cover your floor, but you can mix and match them to create a multicolored floor. When you are mixing multiple batches of wood, you should actually try to find batches that don’t match at all. If you try to find batches that are similar, it might look like you made a mistake. If, on the other hand, you choose drastically different batches of wood, it will look like a deliberate stylistic decision.

Burn Pile

At construction sites or hardwood flooring manufacturers, there are often piece of wood that are not fit for production. The pile of these discarded pieces is often called the burn pile because they’re going to be discarded. However, many companies don’t actually burn them anymore. Instead, they sell them as factory seconds or factory rejects. If you choose them, you’ll save a considerable amount of money on your wooden planks.

The factory rejects will be have cosmetic problems that are often thought of as flaws but work great if you’re trying to design a rustic look. Some of them will have structural defects that will require you to discard them, but most of them will be usable.

Categories Hardwood

Explaining the High Variation Wood Flooring Trend

Over the past few years, trends in wood flooring have been heavily influenced by designers and their publications. In the past, ideas were a little stale because the only people capable of influencing designers were magazine publishers. Now everyone with an internet connection can be a designer and influencer. That means that many of the new wood flooring trends are slightly more unorthodox than past decades. One of those trends is high variation wood flooring.

What Is It?

There is also a trend towards lower variations in wood flooring but high variation wood flooring means that your individual planks are very different from one another. For example, a low variation wood floor might involve planks of all white oak with different sources. Alternately, it might be white oak and some other wood of similar color and grain. High variation, on the other hand, involves wood that is different in color and species. So you might have several planks of lightly colored white oak alongside darker red oak and even some planks stained a third color. The high variation is supposed to achieve a few purposes.

Why High Variation?

The first, and most obvious, reason for a high variation wood floor is the look of it. If you like the look of many different kind of wood forming a mosaic on your floor, this is the trend for you. The varied planks of wood serve to create patterns and visual movement without being distracting. They draw the eye without being bright or showy like a bold color or a striking grain pattern.

There are also practical benefits to the high variation trend. If you’re buying your hardwood flooring planks on discount or from a secondhand seller, you might have a limited supply of one kind of wood. That’s not a problem if you’re choosing to go with a high variation look. If you’re looking for the high variation look, you can buy two, three, or even more different kind of wood. Mix and match them as you’re laying down your floor to create the look.

The high variation lok also makes it easier to repair your hardwood floor. If the floor is not made with a pattern but instead has random variations, you can remove a damaged plank without making a big difference. You don’t even have to worry about it matching the surrounding planks.

The high variation trend is popular because it looks great; it’s also popular because it has practical; benefits.

Categories Hardwood

Why It’s So Important to Take a Hardwood Flooring Sample

When you are shopping for hardwood flooring, you need to avail yourself of the hardwood flooring samples. In many places, the sample will even be free. Typically, the sample is a piece of a hardwood plank; it could even be an entire hardwood plank. You should take the plank home with you and recreate all of the common conditions in your home. That means opening the blinds, turning on the lights, smudging it with a thumbprint, and so on. Here is why.

Light Temperature

Light temperature, also called color temperature, is a scientific term that involves measuring the color of light emitting from a theoretical radiator of heat. Essentially, it means the color of different kinds of light. For example, a typical incandescent light bulb is a warm orange color that is about 2700K. A bulb designed to mimic daylight is usually 5600K. However, the color temperature of daylight actually changes depending on the time of day, the cloud cover, and the amount of pollution in the air. So, sunrise and sunset are usually warm colors near 2700K. High noon is closer to about 5600K but it can even be as much as 7000K. The higher the number, the cooler the color.

A 5600K daylight bulb is generally pretty neutral white light. So, you should bring the wood sample home and place it under several different kinds of light. If you open your blinds or curtains regularly, make sure to do that in the morning, during the day, and at sunset. That will tell you how the wood looks under different daylight conditions. Also, turn on your normal lights to see how it looks.

Light Sources

The source of light matters as well. For example, a 5600K fluorescent bulb might emit what looks like white light. However, the undertones of the light are different. A fluorescent bulb has blue undertones; that can make a tan hardwood look greenish. It can also make a reddish hardwood look purple. That’s a good thing to know before you invest in an entire floor.

Decor

You also need to figure out if the wood you choose complements your decor. A lightly colored white oak might look great in the store and might even work great with your furniture, but it might actually clash with lightly colored walls. The white walls could serve to wash out the light floor, making everything look sort of bland. Similarly, a dark wood might not work well with other dark decor; it could make the house look too dark.

Categories Hardwood

So You Want Black Hardwood Floors

Black has always been a popular color for hardwood floors, furniture, and many other applications. Many people choose to stain or paint their hardwood; however, if you want the most authentic and natural look, you need a black wood. There are woods that have black grain patterns, woods that have black wood, and woods that are so dark brown they’re almost indistinguishable from black. The most common is probably wood that is so dark that it looks black. These are also some of the most visually dynamic types of wood. They tend to change their shades somewhat depending on the amount of light and the temperature of the light. If you want something that is very unique, here are the different types of black hardwoods used for floors.

Ebony

Ebony is actually a species of hardwood that comes from one of several different trees. Most of them are sourced from Africa. The heartwood of ebony is typically completely black with little visible grain or variation in the color. It’s also naturally high in luster and very dense. The sapwood is slightly less dense. It’s usually a little bit lighter in color with dark grains running through the wood. The grain pattern is typically straight.

Ebony is one of the most expensive hardwoods commercially available; that’s because it’s rare, must be imported, and is very popular for anyone searching for a black floor.

Black Walnut

Also known as American walnut, black walnut is a very popular wood for flooring because it is a domestic that often looks more like an imported wood. It is available in a dark brown to almost purplish color. Depending on the wood, it can even look black. It is very workable and durable; it makes a great floor as well as great furniture. The grain is typically pretty straight but some trees have very wavy patterns.

Wenge

Wenge is an imported wood that’s very popular in home design magazines and blogs because of its beautiful color. It is typically available in a deep chocolate color that will darken over time. A well-aged wenge floor can look very close to black depending on the light temperature in your home. The wood tends to be striated with different colors that provide a very dynamic look to the flooring.

These are just a few of the most common types of dark brown or black woods for flooring. You can also choose engineered flooring that is stained black.

Categories Hardwood

Do You Have to Finish a Hardwood Floor?

The short answer is, no. You do not have to finish your hardwood floor. Most hardwood floors are stained some color that enriches and deepens the natural color of the wood. They’re then finished with a polyurethane or a varnish on the surface. Alternately, they might be finished with a penetrating oil that seeps into the wood. You don’t have to do that, though. It’s not as common as it used to be, but you can leave the floor unfinished. These are often called raw floors or bare floors. Stains and finishes keep out dirt and moisture, though. Why would you leave your floor bare?

Why?

The main reason people leave their floors bare is so that they will absorb dirt and moisture. It might seem counterintuitive since you’ll have to clean your bare floors regularly. However, there’s no way to eliminate all dirt, oil, and dust. Oil and moisture from your skin and from your pets will seep into the wood. Dirt tracked in on your shoes will get ground into the pores of the wood. Spilled drinks will stain the floor if they’re not cleaned up immediately. All of these things are prevented by finishing the floor. However, they’re also the exact same things that give antique floors their desirable patina.

Rustic, distressed wood and reclaimed wood typically have watermarks, oil stains, runs in the finish, and other imperfections. If you want these for your hardwood floor, the easiest and most authentic option is to let them happen naturally. Oftentimes, these imperfections happen to reclaimed wood because the wood was not finished when it was installed long ago.

Finish Later

After several years, you might notice that your floor has taken on a lot of character from being unfinished for so long. Fortunately, there’s no reason you can’t finish your floor later. You can seal in all of that natural aging and patina. You can even enhance it with certain types of stain that will deepen and enrich the colors of the wood.

The main concerns with bare wood are being safe and keeping it clean. If you sand your floors smooth with a very fine grit sandpaper, there’s no reason it will give you any splinters. You’ll clean the raw wood floor with dry methods. Sweep and vacuum it. You can even use a mineral oil or a wax to clean it, but you should know that will act like a temporary finish for your floor.

Categories Hardwood

Are There Any Benefits to an Unfinished Wood Floor

You can buy your hardwood floor or one of two ways: you can buy it unfinished or prefinished. Prefinished floors are made from planks that are stained and sealed in a factory. They’re then brought to your house and installed. Typically, they have beveled edges or tongue and groove joints. They’re nailed into place or even allowed to float on a subfloor. They’re quick to install but you have limited options. You also will have a difficult time matching a replacement plank should you need to replace one or more of them.

Installing an Unfinished Floor

An unfinished floor is also known as a site-finished floor. These are pieces of wood that are delivered as bare stock. They have been sanded to be workable but still need a final sanding. Also, they do not have stain or finish on them. So, why would you choose that?

You would choose an unfinished floor if you want to see what the stain might look like in your house. With prefinished wood, it might look different in the store lights than it does under your living room lights. You’ll be able to test the stain on a spare piece to make sure you like it if you choose unfinished flooring. Also, the subfloor is not always completely level. So, an unfinished floor gives you the option of installing the floor and then sanding it so that it’s perfectly level.

Finally, an unfinished floor is more easily repaired since you can replace the damaged plank with an unfinished plank. Then you can sand, stain, and seal it in place to match.

The Options

There are limited options with a prefinished floor. They’re basically stained and sealed in a way that is most likely to sell. So, if you want something outside the box like a blue floor, you’ll need unfinished hardwood and a lot of blue stain. Alternately, if you want to mix and match your flooring, you’ll have that option. Many people are choosing to make their floors look rustic and cabin-grade by mixing and matching different stains and finishes. Mixing gray stained planks with greige planks, for example, can give you the appearance of an antique patina. That’s not as easy to do with prefinished wood.

The major caveat is that finishing your flooring on site is a big job. It is messy and smelly, and you’ll have to stay off the floor for several days.

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