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.

Categories Hardwood

Three Signs You Need to Refinish Your Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors are known for many features; one of them is their longevity. A hardwood floor can last decades, if not longer. One of the main reasons they last so long is the finish. When hardwood floor is laid, it can then be stained. This stain will provide a richer color to the wood and help to enhance the look of the wood grain. The final step in the installation process is to finish the floor. The floor is typically finished with polyurethane.

Polyurethane can be oil or water based. The polyurethane is a liquid that eventually dries and forms essentially a hard plastic layer on top of the wooden floor. That plastic layer will slowly degrade over time. Once it is degraded to the point of exposing the wood, the hardwood will be in danger of being damaged. To prevent the wood from becoming damaged and keep your floors looking great, you need to keep a solid layer of polyurethane. Here are some signs the polyurethane is wearing thin.

1 – The Floor is Cloudy

Polyurethane comes in several different shades ranging from matte to glossy. Even a matte polyurethane can be polished to something resembling a shine. Over time, as the polyurethane degrades, it will become scratched and scuffed. Those scratches will prevent it from taking a shine. If you sweep and polish your floor and it doesn’t shine in certain areas, you likely have thin polyurethane.

2 – It Feels Rough

You might need to test this with bare hands or bare feet. If you are walking on your floor, you might even be able to feel where the polyurethane is missing. The hard shell of polyurethane should be smooth. The actual wood surface will be a little bit rougher.

3 – You Have Warping

If you notice warping or cupping in your hardwood floor planks, you could have a problem with your polyurethane coating. The coating is designed to keep moisture out of the wood. If moisture is getting in, it could be a problem with the polyurethane. Look for the other signs of missing polyurethane on the planks that are warping.

These are just three of the signs that something has gone wrong with your polyurethane coating. Lastly, you should probably have your floors refinished about every ten to fifteen years. So, if it has been longer than that, you might need to call an expert to apply a new finish.

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Categories Hardwood

How to Prevent Moisture Damage When Cleaning Your Hardwood Floor

A hardwood floor is fairly easy to maintain; generally, you just need to sweep it from time to time. If you allow dust and dirt to accumulate, it can begin to scratch the surface of the wood. From time to time, you’ll need to also mop the floor or clean it with a mild detergent. You’ll need to clean up different types of spills or pet urine occasionally as well. There is a danger to mopping the floor, though. The biggest threat to your floor is going to be moisture; if moisture seeps into the pores of the wood, it can cause the wood to swell, warp, or grow mildew. To prevent that, you need to be careful.

Check the Finish

The first thing you should do is sweep the floor. While you are sweeping the floor, you should look for thin spots in your floor’s finish. The floor is likely finished with polyurethane, but it could also be oil or wax finished. You need to make sure that the protective layer is thick throughout the entire floor. Typically, you can do this by running a hand over the floor to feel the polyurethane coating or simply look at the floor under the light. Even a satin or matte finish will reflect light more than bare wood.

Wring the Mop Well

If you decide to mop the floor, you want to reduce the amount of standing water as much as possible. You can do this by wringing the mop very well before you apply it to the floor. Soak the mop in the bucket, wring it until the mop head is just damp, and then mop up the floor. Also, make sure that you are not using a very acidic cleaner. Make sure it is a mild cleaner designed for hardwood flooring. That will protect the coating on the floor.

Check For Cracks

You need to also check for anywhere that moisture can get under the hardwood planks. The planks, if they are solid planks, are set into a subfloor. That subfloor can trap moisture, leading to floor damage. The most common places for cracks are between different planks or where the plank meets the wall. Make sure that they have not warped or changed to the point that they no longer fit.

Use a Cleaner

If you want to reduce the amount of water on your floor as much as possible, you can use a cleaner instead of mopping. That will keep the amount of water to an absolute minimum.

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Categories Hardwood

Should You Use Vinegar on Your Hardwood Floors?

A hardwood floor is a great-looking floor that can last for decades; however, they do require some maintenance to stay in good shape. The maintenance involves sweeping your floors regularly as well as cleaning it with something a little bit stronger. A mild detergent is typically sufficient to clean a hardwood floor. However, you might be wondering which substance is right for your floor. Many people who clean their own homes use some combination of vinegar and water as a standard go-to cleaning solution. It’s so simple to mix some vinegar with water to make a mild detergent. Others even soak orange peels or cloves in the water to add a different scent to the solution. Is this right for your floors?

Don’t Use Vinegar

It’s important to remember that when you are cleaning your hardwood floor, you’re not actually cleaning the wood. You’re cleaning the finish on the surface of the wood. Typically, this is a polyurethane finish, but it could be made of some other substances. Vinegar is an acidic solution. When you apply an acid to the finish on your floor, you will actually eat away at the surface a little bit. Every time you spray an acidic solution such as vinegar on your floor, you will be degrading the finish a little bit more.

It might not be noticeable at first, but the floor will begin to look cloudy. It will seem like it is more and more difficult to get your floor to a shine. Eventually, it will no longer polish at all. At that point, you’ll need to have your floor refinished.

Water Concerns

You need to be careful with a vinegar and water solution because of the water component as well. In fact, you should be cautious with any solution that uses a large amount of water. Water can soak into your hardwood or get underneath the planks. That can cause swelling, warping, and mold. If you use any cleaning substance that uses a lot of water, you’ll need to make sure that you do not saturate the wood too much. Also, make sure that you mop it quickly and get it completely dry.

Using towels or a dry mop is a great way to dry the floor. You can also open windows and turn on the fan to get the floor dry. You should keep in mind that a hardwood floor with a good polyurethane finish should be water and stain resistant. That means that it will not take a strong chemical to clean the floor.

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Categories Hardwood

Why Do Hardwood Floors Warp?

Solid hardwood floors are made of planks of solid wood that are installed on top of a subfloor. Eventually, the floor can become damaged by warping. The warping generally occurs in one of two ways; the planks either cup or bow. Cupping is when the edges of the wood planks bend upwards to form a sort of bowl shape. Bowing is when the middle of the wood plank bends upwards. They are caused by several different factors.

Heat and Moisture Cause Cupping

Generally, heat and moisture will cause your wood planks to cup. Since wood is porous, it absorbs moisture. It can even absorb moisture from the air. Heat also drives moisture into the wood more efficiently; therefore, very humid environments are most prone to create cupping. Furthermore, the wider and longer a plank is, the more likely it is to cup. That’s because the wider planks have less rigidity.

Therefore, experts will often recommend that you not install wide solid hardwood in your basement or other very humid areas.

Excessive Moisture Causes Cupping

Your floors can cup if you are not careful when you wash them. Many people choose to mop their floors. That’s a perfectly fine choice, but you need to be careful. The water used when mopping can warp the wood if you don’t dry it up. The best options are to wring out the m op so that it’s only damp when you mop. Then, make sure that you dry the floor after you are done mopping.

You can dry the floor in a few ways. You can mop it again with a dry mop if the area is pretty small. You can also use towels to dry up the floor. Alternately, you can open the windows and turn on fans to help dry the floor. If you have standing fans, you can aim them at the floor to speed up the drying process.

Sanding Can Cause Bowing

One of the best ways to address cupping that has already occurred is by sanding the wood flat again. However, you need to make sure that the floor and the subfloor are both completely dry before you do that. Otherwise, the floor might dry and then bow.

You should consult a professional if you notice bowing or cupping. Dealing with it can be very complex and time-consuming. A professional will be able to address the cupping, replace planks that can’t be repaired, and advise you on preventing it in the future.

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Categories Hardwood

What is a Wire Brushed Floor?

There are several ways that you can make your new hardwood floor look aged. Aged floors have become very trendy recently. You can see that with the trend towards live edge floors, hand scraped wood, reclaimed wood and more. One of the ways you might distress the wood is by brushing it. Essentially, the wood is brushed with a wire brush to scrape away some of the wood and create irregular blemishes. When applied to a complete floor, it can look great.

Wire Brushed Floor

Once your floor has been installed, but before it has been finished, you can brush the floor with a stiff-bristled wire brush. It can be brushed by you or it can be brushed at a factory. If it’s brushed by a machine, the brushing will look somewhat uniform. That will slightly negate the authentic feel of the wood. It will make it look more modern and not antique. If you want a great antique feel, you need to brush it by hand. Brush it with different lengths and pressures as you go over the entire floor. That will create the authentic look.

Then you need to choose the right finish for your wire brushed floor.

Choose the Right Finish

A wire brushed floor look antique and distressed because of the scratches that the wire brush creates in the wood. If you choose a high gloss wood finish, it will likely reflect too much light and make the scratches stand out too much. If the scratches stand out like that, they’ll look inauthentic. However, if you choose a matte finish, the scratches will blend and make the floor look somewhat cloudy. You need something that draws attention to the scratches without making them stand out too much. A satin or a semi-gloss are often a great choice for finishes for wire brushed floors.

If you want the wood to grow darker and richer over time, we should consider using oil or wax instead of sealing it with polyurethane. Oil and wax will darken the wood as they age.

Choose the Right Stain

If you’re looking for an authentic, antique feel, you don’t’ want to choose a stain that is too dark. Most antique home hardwood floors were not stained; therefore, anything that is a noticeable stain will look inauthentic. Something warm is a great choice. A warm color such as a deep amber will help your floor look great while also accentuating the wire brushing.

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