The first thing consumers should look at is the room they want to use hardwood flooring in and whether it is suitable for that specific application. The wood flooring construction, wood specie, color and even the type of wood finish are all important when deciding which hardwood floor to buy for your particular room environment. Also, what the floor is going to be installed over is another important factor in selecting the right floor as well. With so many things to consider it is easy to see why so many homeowners are puzzled when trying to choose a hardwood floor.
To begin with you need to look at where you plan on installing your new wood floor. Some wood floors are limited in where they can be installed. This is especially true for the 3/4" solid wood floors. Because the 3/4" solid wood floors are more susceptible to moisture they are generally not recommended for basements or installing over concrete slabs. To help you determine which wood floors you should look at see the chart below. The installation method also can determine where are floor can be used, so be sure to review the section on installation methods.
Before choosing a hardwood floor style you need to know what type of sub-floor is in the room. This will dictate which types of hardwood flooring you can use. For example: you might have a concrete slab, or a particle boad sub-floor, or maybe you want to go right over the top of an existing floor. Some particle board sub-floors are only suitable for floating a hardwood floor over the top of the particle board. This would mean no nail down flooring could be used. also, a concrete slab presents its own set of issues and requirements in order to install hardwood flooring in that room.
Consumers looking to use hardwood flooring in the homes have the option of choosing either a solid, engineered, or longstrip type wood floor. Some engineered wood floors require no glue to interlock the planks together and these floor are designed to float over the sub-floor. While other wood floors require special mastic, nails or staples to secure the wood planks to the subfloor underneath. Although the end results may look the same there are distinct advantages and reasons for using the different types of wood floors under different situations. See also: Type of Hardwood Floors.
Many people refer to Longstrip Engineered Floors as Floating Wood Floors, even though these floors can generally be stapled or glued-down as well. Engineered wood floors that can be floatied are ideal for going over many different types of sub-floors (including fully-cured, dry concrete slabs). That's because these type floors are never directly attached to the sub-floor. Many of the newer engineered wood floors for floating installations do not require any glue to lock the tongue and grooves together. Instead these floors have a uniquely design interlocking tongue and groove system that secures the planks together. These wood floors are often confused with laminate floors. The big difference is the glueless hardwood floors are real wood, not a printed photo made to look like wood planks.
Water or excessive moisture and wood floors don't go well together. Wood swells with high moisture levels which will cause wood floors to cup and buckle and the grain to be raised. Always check the moisture level of the substrate (concrete or wood) before selecting a wood floor. Use a moisture meter to test the moisture levels in both the wood flooring and the substrate you are going over. Acclimate the hardwood prior to installation, use proper expansion gaps and follow the manufacturer's recommended installation procedures. If moisture levels are too high do not install hardwood flooring.
Many parts of the country have homes built with concrete slabs on grade. Others have walk out basements, or full basement rec-rooms with concrete slabs. For these situations homeowners need to understand how and when to use hardwood flooring over a concrete slab. Not all concrete slab areas are suitable for hardwood flooring. Be sure to test for the presence of moisture before choosing hardwood flooring. Solid wood floors are not normally recommended over concrete slabs. The slab should be dry, clean and well cured. New slabs should be cured for at least 60 days and then tested with a good moisture meter. When in doubt, check with the flooring manufacturer to see about floating a hardwood floor over a concrete slab. Be sure to acclimate the wood planks before installation and check the slab for moisture content. For more detailed information see: How To Install Hardwood Floor Over Concrete Slab.
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