With so many different types of wood flooring available today it is possible to become a little overwhelmed when considering all of the different options. As we’ve helped our customers find the right floor for their projects we’ve found that the following questions help narrow down the choices.
Factory Finished or Site Finished?
Factory finished or “pre-finished” wood flooring comes out of the box already sanded and coated, it just has to be installed and it’s done, where site-finished or “unfinished” wood flooring must be sanded and coated on the jobsite, delaying the use of the room. When it comes to convenience it’s hard to beat pre-finished flooring.
So why doesn’t everyone go with pre-finished? In order to compensate for slight variances between boards, most pre-finished wood flooring is milled with a tight micro-beveled edge. Site finished flooring does not need a micro-bevel since these slight variances in height between abutting floor boards are sanded out—this milling is called “square edge” and can give a site finished floor a more “seamless” look.
There are many different things to consider when trying to choose between pre-finished and unfinished wood flooring but for our customers it usually comes down to these two things: Those who don’t want to go through the relative inconvenience of sanding & finishing choose pre-finished and those who don’t like the micro-bevel of pre-finished choose finish-on-site flooring.
Solid or Engineered?
Solid wood flooring is made by shaping a tongue and groove into the sides of single pieces of wood. Engineered flooring is manufactured by laminating multiple layers or plies of wood together to form a single piece of flooring. The grain direction of these layers criss-cross to give the engineered floor greater stability allowing the installation of wood floors below grade, directly on concrete or over radiant heat systems. The top layer of wood, the surface you see and walk on, is often called the “wear layer.”
Depending on the product, the thickness of the wear layer will vary from just a thin veneer to a full 3/16 of an inch. These thicker top layer products can be sanded and refinished just like a conventional solid wood floors but veneer products cannot.
Strip or Plank?
“Strip” refers to wood flooring whose face is between 2 ¼” and 3 ¼” wide, while plank refers to anything wider. Even though the choice between strip and plank is often a question of style there are practical considerations: strip can be more economical and dimensionally stable (less likely to buckle or shrink). Because narrower boards move less than wider ones, solid strip flooring is a better choice over radiant heat systems-- consider engineered flooring if you still want a wider width and don’t want to give up your radiant heat.
Grades of Wood Flooring
Mills sort wood flooring into different grades, from clear to rustic. This sorting is visual—the “defects” and “imperfections” that exclude a piece of wood from a higher grade do not make that grade any less durable.
Because all grades of a species are equally strong and useable, choosing a grade is mostly an aesthetic decision: do you want a grade of flooring with natural character marks (knots) and greater color variation or do you prefer a cleaner, more consistent look?
As you shop for your wood flooring it’s important to remember that not all mills will have exactly the same standards when it comes to grading. At Higgins Wood Floors we buy from mills that meet & exceed the industry standards— for example our select & better will run cleaner and longer than some of our “discount” competitors. We understand that price is a big part of your selection process, but rather than sell you a lesser product by the same name, we’ve worked with our mills to bring affordable grades to market: our Builder’s Choice makes for a great looking floor at a great price.
Color, Texture & Pattern: Selecting Your Species
Each species has it’s own unique characteristics which reveal themselves as you browse samples-- you’ll quickly see what you like and what you don’t like. Once you decide what color, grain figure & texture appeals to you and compliments your décor you can consider other species with similar characteristics to see if they are better alternatives for your project.
Ready to start shopping? Simply
select “browse flooring” in the menu to the left or click here to learn more about shopping for your wood floor with Higgins Wood Floors.