Solid Un-Finished Hardwood Flooring
Solid wood flooring refers to flooring that is milled from one stick of wood. Solid hardwood flooring is available in both raw unfinished or factory “pre-finished” with very similar milling profiles. The big difference between the two, other than the obvious “finish”, is that pre-finished hardwoods will have a slight eased or “micro-beveled” edge. What this means is when there is light glare on the floor you will see the small grooves between the boards. The reason for the eased edge is to compensate for variances in the sub-floor and slight height differences between each individual wood plank that naturally occurs during the milling process. When using un-finished hardwoods, any height difference between boards is sanded flush during the sanding and finishing process, which creates a smooth flat floor.
Most, but not all, solid wood flooring is 3/4” thick with a ¼” + above the tongue and groove. The thickness of the “wear layer” will dictate the amount of times the hardwood can be sanded and re-finished, with a ¾” solid, typically about 4-6 sandings is typical. This equates to a floor that could last 50-100+ years. Talk about getting your money’s worth; and that’s why a property appraiser will value solid hardwood flooring higher than most floor coverings.
The width of the boards can range from the most common, 2 ¼” strip, to wider boards that are considered “plank” floors. With wider boards it is recommended that the floor be directly glued and nailed/screwed to the sub-floor to keep the boards as flat as possible. On flooring 4” or less, blind nailing is sufficient to hold the floor down. Other benefits include the ability to replace boards fairly easily as well as hardwoods adding to the structural integrity of the space installed within.
Reasons for not choosing solid wood flooring:
- Installing in an area that has little control on moisture fluctuations. Some examples would include a basement, or a cabin that gets heated only partially throughout the year.
- Concrete sub-floor; solid woods floors must be nailed down. ¾” plywood can be installed to the concrete but this obviously will raise the finished floor at least 1 ½” above the concrete.
- Particle board was used a lot as an underlayment. The sub-floor will be plywood or decking which is under the particle board. Nails or staples will not hold particle board in place, so it must be removed in order to install a solid nail/staple down hardwood floor. This sounds way worse than it usually is. Particle board tends to fall apart over time; this makes it easier to remove and is a good reason not to leave it under your new floor. If the particle board is not removed, a floating floor would be the best alternative.
To sum it up, solid wood floors are the best option. Unfortunately, solid nail/staple down flooring won’t work with all climates and sub-floors and that is where engineered and floating floors step in to work where solid flooring can’t.
Wood is beautiful and warm, but if left unprotected, liquids and dirt will ruin the wood. That is why finishes are used. In the freshman years of wood flooring, oils and waxes were used to protect hardwood flooring. The problem with those finishes were that dirt would mix in with the wax/oil and wear down the woods surface quickly, leaving the only option of stripping the existing finish and applying new coats of the oil/wax, an often event.
In the 1960’s, polyurethane finish was developed in Sweden. With this technology of a thin, no-wax “plastic” coating, made wood floors much easier to clean, maintain and provided outstanding protection. Since the first “Swedish Finish”, companies have improved the technology to include water-based urethane, safe for installers and homeowners alike (which is what we use, unless otherwise specified).
The quest for a natural wood floor that is scratch resistant has given false hopes to people thinking that it exists. Although hardwood finishes are extremely durable, there is no natural material that is “scratch-proof”. Some finishes happen to be more durable than others, but never scratch resistant. A good quality finish will last 5-15 years, with no maintenance other than routine cleaning. The amount and type of traffic on a floor will determine how long and how well the finish will hold up. Using a cleaner that leaves no residue will keep the floor looking good and give the option of doing maintenance coats when the floor starts showing signs of wear. This is where solid wood floors shine in the fact they can be sanded to bare wood when the floor becomes esthetically un-pleasing. Floors that are coated with a finish applied at a factory, such as engineered hardwood, floating and solids are coated with several layers of aluminum oxide, which provides an extremely durable finish that is maintained the same way as site-finished materials.
The bottom line, wood is a beautiful gift from nature. They are the most abused part of a home, even with the best of care can show signs of wear. Our goal as a flooring contractor is to finish the floor with a product that not only looks great when the job is finished, but will last as long as possible and leave the customer with affordable options later on down the road to bring their wood back to life.