Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to frequently asked questions about hardwood flooring to help you select, repair, clean and maintain your floor. If you have other questions please contact us and our flooring experts will be glad to assist you.

Applications

Hardwood floors add an air of refinement as well as structural strength and even a sense of permanence to your home.

Are hardwood floors cost-effective?

Yes, hardwood floors can last for generations; real estate agents agree homes with wood floors sell faster and for higher prices.

Does wood flooring go well with most design styles?

Yes. Hardwood floors complement most any décor and interior designers agree wood flooring blends well with most decorating styles, and rated natural materials as superior to man-made materials in beauty, prestige, style, maintenance, and durability.

What’s the difference between prefinished and unfinished flooring?

Prefinished: advantages are faster and easier installation, minimal disruption to your home, fast cleanup time and usually less expensive labor costs because sanding, staining and coating are performed in the factory. Also, you usually get an extended warranty with prefinished flooring, and finish that is very scratch resistant.

Unfinished: Advantages are availability of more wood species, widths and cuts that can be matched to existing wood floors. Also, unfinished flooring allows for custom onsite sanding, staining and coating with a protective sealant after installation to achieve a beautiful unique floor.

There are so many wood species available, how do I select one?

Compare your furnishings with hardwoods’ natural colors, distinctive grain patterns and visual effects such as knots and mineral streaks; also consider texture, grain, cut and hardness (density) of different species – high household traffic may require a denser species or a handscraped texture. If you like, our flooring experts will be happy to help guide you through the selection process to create your perfect floor.

What is the most durable hardwood floor available?

The short answer is Brazilian Walnut with a Janka rating of 3680. The long answer is, all hardwood flooring is very dependable and resilient, and the quality of the finish on top of the floor is the most important factor in durability. Different species do have different hardness ratings. Although species do have different hardness scales, you would not notice any appreciable differences from one to another in your wood floor under normal wear.

What is meant by “below grade,” “on grade,” or “above grade”?

Grading refers to where the soil, or ground, meets your house. Basements, even walkout basements, are always considered below grade since at least one wall is below ground level. Your home’s first floor sits at ground level (except for a walk-out basement) and is considered “on grade.” Any floors above ground level are “above grade.” It is very important you know the grade level of the floor(s) you want to install. Engineered flooring is designed to work at any grade level, and traditional ¾” solid flooring is only for “on grade” or “above grade.”

Does wood flooring provide good acoustics?

Yes, many churches, schools and auditoriums request wood flooring for its warmth, comfort and acoustic benefits. Protection from footfall noise can be achieved by using an underlayment that also serves as an acoustic barrier. A properly installed floor over a good quality subfloor and underlayment should not squeak excessively when walked on.

How long do hardwood floors last?

Simple care and maintenance keeps solid wood floors looking beautiful for generations. They can be rejuvenated with sanding and refinishing every 10 – 15 years to retain their original condition and value.

Why do most gymnasiums have wood floors?

Just like in homes and businesses, wood floors provide more beauty, durability, comfort and value than other surfaces. Wood also has unique properties that allow athletes to compete on a supportive yet forgiving surface.

Installation

Hardwood flooring is extremely versatile, durable and can be installed in virtually any room of your home—except a room that requires wet mopping.

Where can I install hardwood flooring?

Engineered wood flooring is the best choice when installing below grade (in a basement) or over a concrete slab. However, traditional ¾” thick solid wood floor works great above grade, and in some cases may be used on concrete slabs (not in a basement) when glued down and used with appropriate moisture barriers. (To be sure you can glue your floor to concrete, verify with the flooring manufacturer and glue manufacturer.) Solid wood flooring should not be installed over radiant heat systems, but many engineered floors are compatible with radiant heat.

Which installation method should I choose?

There are three main ways to install wood flooring: glue down, nail down and floating. The method you choose should depend on where the floor is being installed, and over what type of subfloor. Traditional ¾” thick solid wood floors can be nailed or glued down over plywood, or glued down over concrete (not in a basement). Engineered wood floors can usually be nailed, glued, or floated over plywood or concrete, above or below grade.

What is a floating floor and does it move?

A prefinished floating floor isn’t directly attached to the subfloor. It has a foam underlayment on top of the subfloor to absorb sound and protect against moisture; the hardwood strips or planks are then laid on top. The flooring is glued or locked together with tongue and groove joints and the entire floor “floats” above the subfloor. It’s easy to install on nearly any surface. The “cushy” feeling you may sometimes feel with floating floors can be reduced or eliminated by ensuring your subfloor is as flat as possible—using floor leveling products—and a quality underlayment.

Since wood flooring expands and contracts seasonally, be sure to always leave an expansion gap around the perimeter of the floor—following the manufacturers installation instructions. (This gap is hidden by baseboard and base shoe and allows the floor to move without creating high spots or buckling).

What is “underlayment”?

Underlayment refers to the material placed between the subfloor and new floor.

It serves many purposes depending on the quality of the material. The primary purpose is to provide a moisture barrier. Some underlayments can also provide an acoustical barrier to make the new floor quieter when walked on—especially in multi-level homes. Underlayment should be used with every floor, and always according to the manufacturer’s installation instructions.

Is hardwood flooring suitable for a kitchen, bathroom or workspace?

Yes. Wood flooring can handle heavy traffic and the occasional spill while retaining its luster and beauty. Our finishes are designed to more than hold their own against heavy residential and commercial foot traffic. We do suggest using mats in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry room, and walk-off mats at all home entrances to protect against spills and tracking in dirt or other objects that could scratch the floor. If spills do occur, do not let them remain on your floor—just wipe up with a clean cloth or drymop.

Can solid hardwood flooring be installed in the basement?

No. You should never install solid hardwood flooring below grade; however, it is possible to install engineered hardwood floors below grade either by gluing down or floating over the concrete.

What is meant by “acclimate” a hardwood floor?

This refers to allowing your new solid wood flooring to adjust to your home’s average temperature and humidity levels in the room where it will be installed. Acclimation is a critical step in the installation process, and if skipped, can result in damage to flooring after it has been installed—damage that would not be covered under warranty. If, for example, you live in an area with high temperature and humidity swings, you probably would need to install humidity controls to help maintain a consistent environment for your wood flooring. There is no set time period for solid flooring to acclimate to your home. It is important for the installer to have a good quality wood moisture meter to be able to measure the moisture in the wood and know when it has reached equilibrium with the home.

Variances

Hardwood flooring is a natural product cut directly from trees and there are always natural color variations in the wood—no two trees or boards are exactly alike.

Why doesn’t my floor look the same as the sample in the showroom?

Although it should look similar, each hardwood tree differs from others and even wood from the same tree can show variance. Wood is a 100% organic material shaped by nature. No trees or boards are alike, and variation should be expected and appreciated as nature’s unique signature.

Why are there gaps between the boards on my floor?

Seasonal expansion and contraction of flooring boards is considered normal. There is more humidity during the summer months and your floor soaks it up causing it to expand. Winter months are usually less humid and the floor dries out resulting in gaps between boards. While considered normal, you can minimize expansion and contraction by keeping the humidity in your home between 35 and 55% by using an air conditioner, humidifier or dehumidifier.

Why is the floor beneath my area rugs and furniture lighter than the rest of the floor?

All wood flooring is more or less photosensitive, and some species are very sensitive to ultra-violet light. It’s important to prevent the sun’s rays from discoloring your floor by shielding it against direct sunlight. However, it’s normal for hardwood floors exposed to even indirect sunlight to darken or lighten after a while, so for consistency, rotate rugs and furniture to equal out the amount of sunlight exposure and variances will eventually fade away.

Will my new floor have color variations?

Yes. Lower flooring grades will have a larger number of character markings and color variations, but you can expect some color variation in all grades. Keep in mind that certain light stain colors can emphasize color variation, while darker stains can help to reduce the appearance of color variation.

Will my prefinished floor have a beveled edge?

Yes. Bevels are added to the sides of the board to soften the edge and help boards line up next to each other with even thickness for easier installation and structural stability. Bevels help to prevent the edges of the flooring finish being crushed when the flooring expands. This is why there are very few square edged prefinished floors. Some prefinished floors have bevels on all four sides of the board, and some only on the two long sides.

How do I restore my prefinished floor to look new again?

We offer many products and techniques that will bring your floor back to its original appearance; just follow the directions on the product label and your floor’s beauty will reappear. You can also hire a flooring professional to come in and screen off the top coat of finish with a buffer, and apply a new coat of finish which will eliminate surface scratches and restore the original shine and luster of your hardwood floor.

Environmental

One consideration that shouldn’t be overlooked is the contribution hardwood floors make toward benefiting our environment.

    Can hardwood flooring improve indoor air quality?

    Yes. Bacteria, dust, dirt and allergens cannot cling to wood flooring as they do in other flooring options; simply dustmop, sweep, or vacuum regularly and your wood floors stay pollutant free.

    Does it harm the environment to harvest wood and manufacture wood flooring?

    No. Trees are a natural, renewable resource that can be continually harvested and replanted without serious environmental impact.

    Also consider:

    • Wood floors last generations making replacement a nonissue
    • Wood floors use less water and energy to produce than other flooring options
    • Average annual net growth for hardwoods is greater than average annual harvesting
    • Indoor air quality is better with wood floors
    • Trees are carbon neutral and produce oxygen while storing carbon during lifecycles
    • At the end of its extended service life, wood flooring can be burned as fuel or recycled

Cleaning and Maintenance

First, check your floor to see how it’s sealed, since it’s the finish – not the wood type – that determines how you clean and care for your floor.

    Surface-sealed floors

    Most new wood floors, including our prefinished engineered brands, are factory sealed with urethane, polyurethane or polyacrylic. These are stain and water-damage resistant and easiest to care for and clean.

    Cleaning: Simply sweep, vacuum or drymop daily and sometimes weekly in high-traffic areas, and monthly or seasonally in low traffic areas, and you’re done.

    Mopping: You may use a slightly damp mop—never a soaking wet one—and mop in the direction of the wood grain.

    Tips

    • Use our professional cleaning products to remove occasional scuffs, heel marks, stains and spills without dulling the finish of your floor.
    • It is important to use cleaners specifically designed for wood floors only—cleaners designed for other surfaces, or with harsh chemicals or wax, will dull the finish, damage the finish or make it slippery.
    • Frequently sweep and/or dry-dust your floor with a microfiber dusting pad; electrostatic action attracts dirt and other debris which are the main cause of scratches.
    • Vacuum with a floor-brush attachment in between boards and other hard to reach areas.
    • Place attractive floor mats or rugs in areas for water splashes such as kitchen, bath and laundry room.
      Note, rubber-backed or non-ventilated floor mats or rugs can damage your floor; use only those made for hardwood floors and shake them out regularly. Use walk-off mats at entrances to the home to limit dirt and other debris being tracked inside.
    • Use a soft, dry towel to wipe up messes and spills immediately to avoid permanent stains.
    • Prevent scrapes and scratches by using floor protectors under furniture, and rugs in play areas to ensure children’s toys don’t scratch the floor.
    • Clean sticky spots with a slightly damp towel and wipe up any moisture left on your floor.

    Do not:

    • Use oils, waxes or furniture soaps or sprays.
    • Use straight ammonia, alkaline products or abrasive cleaners.
    • Use water alone or vinegar and water to clean hardwood floors.
    Penetrating-seal-treated and hard wax oil-treated floors

    These floors are finished with a penetrating seal or oil finish to soak into the wood grain and harden—such as our Vintage Loft collection. This floor type usually requires a specific cleaner for hardwax oil finish, and can also be spot repaired with additional hard-wax oil that is easily applied. Follow the maintenance guide for these floors.

    Cleaning: Just vacuum and/or sweep at least weekly. If a high-traffic area dulls between treatments, you can apply more hard-wax oil to the affected areas. Also consider applying a new coat to the entire floor annually.

    Waxing: Remove dust, dirt and old wax buildup with the recommended cleaning product; wipe with a soft cloth to dry the floor; apply a thin coat of appropriate hard-wax oil and let it dry; then, buff with a cloth or machine in the direction of the wood grain. Always follow the recommendations in the flooring maintenance guide.

    Tips

    • Use our professional cleaning products to remove occasional scuffs, heel marks, stains and spills without dulling the finish of your floor.
    • Use only cleaners specifically designed for wood floors—cleaners designed for other surfaces, or with harsh chemicals or wax, will dull or damage the finish or make it slippery.
    • Frequently sweep and/or dry-dust your floor with a microfiber dusting pad; electrostatic action attracts dirt and other debris which are the main cause of scratches.
    • Vacuum with a floor-brush attachment in between boards and other hard to reach areas.
    • Place attractive floor mats or rugs in areas for water splashes such as kitchen, bath and laundry room.
      Note, rubber-backed or non-ventilated floor mats or rugs can damage your floor; use only those made for hardwood floors and shake them out regularly. Use walk-off mats at entrances to the home to limit dirt and other debris being tracked inside.
    • Be aware dry heat during winter months can cause wood floors to shrink and crack. Consider using a central or room humidifier to keep the relative humidity in your home between 35 and 55%.
    • Use a soft, dry towel to wipe up messes and spills immediately to avoid permanent stains.
    • Prevent scrapes and scratches by using floor protectors under furniture, and rugs in play areas to ensure children’s toys don’t scratch the floor.
    • Clean sticky spots with a slightly damp towel and wipe up any moisture left on your floor.
    • For hard-wax oil finished floors, such as our Vintage Loft collection, use the recommended cleaners in the VL Maintenance Guide. If scratching or dulling appears, just rub more hard-wax oil on the affected areas, buff, and let dry.

    Do not:

    • Damp-mop waxed floors.
    • Use acrylic or water-based waxes or furniture cleaners.
    • Use oil soaps; the build-up will dull the floor’s surface and make refinishing difficult.

Of course we have everything you need to clean and maintain your hardwood floors. Just visit our products page and choose from among our professional floor care products. If you are unsure which products are appropriate for your floor, contact us and we’ll be happy to assist you.

Still have questions? Contact us and our friendly experts will be glad to help.