FAQ: Hardwood

FAQ: Hardwood
  • What is the difference between solid and engineered hardwood flooring?

    This is best answered in our hardwood flooring video, but basically, with solid, boards are made out of a single piece of wood. A piece of timber is milled into the board, so the entire board is 100% the species that you have selected. Engineered hardwood is 100% wood, but it is not 100% the species you have chosen. It's made by bonding multiple layers of wood together, or forming a board out of particles, with the top layer being the species. Engineered woods tend to be stronger, and less responsive to the environment, so moisture and temperature don't affect them as much as they do solid wood.

  • Where can I install hardwood flooring?

    1. No wood flooring should be installed in an area prone to excessive wetness or humidity, such as a bathroom with a frequently used shower, or a basement that regularly floods, even slightly (look for something fully waterproof, or at the least very water and moisture resistant, for these places).

    2. In basements, or below grade (below ground level), you should only choose an engineered hardwood product, rather than solid, to control the expansion and contraction issues that come with the extra humidity. Those are the hard restrictions. After that, you will want to consider the traffic level in the room you are considering. If the traffic will be higher, you will want the floor to be harder. A rating system called the Janka Hardness Scale will help you make these determinations. Be aware that if your floor is not properly cared for, even the hardest flooring will show its wear. Also know that there is no wood grown on Earth which can withstand the jagged terror that is the High Heeled Shoe. It is the mortal enemy of all floors wooden, and should never, ever, ever be worn when walking on a hardwood floor. Never.

  • How do you select the species that is right for you?

    Your two biggest concerns with regard to species are durability and look. Consider how hard you need your flooring to be, based on the expected kind of traffic the area is going to handle. Consult the Janka Hardness Scale, and find the level of durability you need. Once you have ruled out the woods that are too soft, you can base your decisions on aesthetics. Different species not only have different color tones, but also different grain patterns, and levels of contrast between grain and the wood proper. You can order samples, and look deeper into your short list for specific considerations.

    This blog article has more detail - and pictures!

  • Can my hardwood floor be refinished?

    A solid hardwood floor can be refinished several times, extending the life of your investment throughout your lifetime. An engineered hardwood floor cannot be refinished as the top layer of the floor is too thin to stand up to the rigors of sanding.

  • What is the Janka Scale rating.

    We have an explanation with a nice picture right at the start of this blog post! (just click this)

  • What is handscraped hardwood flooring?

    "Hand-scraped" flooring means the surface layer is textured to look and feel more like an older style floor made by hand, showing a natural kind of wear. It still enjoys the modern finishes which protect the floor. Falling under the heading of hand-scraped are such style elements as sanding, denting or scooping the wood to create indentations, and creating little splits or holes (from non-existant worms).

    This blog post goes into even more detail:  What is Hand-scraped Hardwood Flooring?

  • Do I need a moisture barrier beneath my hardwood floor?

    Most installers will recommend an underlayment of either kraft paper or 15 pound felt paper, similar to what is installed on your roof before shingles during the flooring installation.

  • Can hardwood floors be repaired?

    Most likely, yes. Minor scratches or dents can be repaired with a touch up kit. More serious damage and required anything from a single board replacement, up to a few board replacement, or even re-sanding & refinishing of the floor.

    Here is a blog post with details on handling some specific issues.

  • Can hardwood floors be installed in a bathroom or basement?

    It is not recommended to install hardwood flooring in areas with high moisture exposure such as a bathroom or a basement. It is also almost a rule that solid hardwood can not be installed below grade (ground level).

  • Can solid hardwood flooring be glued down?

    No, solid hardwood flooring should not be glued down due to the amount of expansion and contraction that happens with solid wood. Engineered flooring can be glued down as it has very minimal expansion and contraction after installation.

  • How do I clean my hardwood floors?

    It is recommended that you clean your hardwood floors with a dust mop, or similar cleaning tools. You should never wet mop your hardwood floor as this can cause buckling and other moisture damage.

  • If I already have hardwood floors, is hand-scraping something I can do after the fact, or are the floors manufactured this way?

    Hand-scraping is only done in the manufacturing process. After a floor installation is finished, most attempts to hand-scrape are likely to wind up in a mess. During the manufacturing, each plank can scraped separately. On an installed floor, the scraping would go across planks. Instead of looking like a natural texture, it would come off as damage. This is in addition to issues with running into nails or staples in the scraping process. It’s definitely not the standard procedure, and we certainly can’t think of anyone to recommend to have that done.

  • If I already have engineered hardwood floors, is hand-scraping something I can do after the fact or are such floors manufactured this way?

    The answer is definitely “no” with an engineered hardwood floor. The top layer, your actual species of wood, is much too thin for that. You’ll just scrape off the surface layer of the wood species and color you wanted.

  • Is it difficult to replace a piece of engineered hardwood if it gets scratched?

    It depends on how the flooring was installed. Even though it will be hard to do if it was glued or nailed down, such a plank could be pulled up individually. Click-together floors are easier to lift, but they require you to start at the wall and unclick your way to the scratched plank, replace it, then re-click the rest of the flooring back into place.

    For more tips, see our blog posts 3 questions on a Dented & Scratched Engineered Floor and Flooring Links on Hardwood Surface Restoration.

  • How does solid hardwood compare to engineered hardwood when it comes to scratches and gloss?

    When the top layer of an engineered hardwood is the same species it would be for a solid hardwood, there should be no difference in scratch resistance. It's the same with the gloss level, which is all dependent upon the surface coating.

  • A slow leak seeped into my Hardwood Floor. Will this cause permanent damage, or mildew or mold underneath the floor?

    It's very possible. If moisture gets through the seams of the hardwood, the water will probably damage the cells and fibers of the wood. And yes, mold can grow and cause permanent damage if excessive water seeps through the planks. The best solution when this happens is to contact a floor covering contractor that specializes in hardwood repair and replacement, as well as an expert in handling mold issues. Wood Floor Doctor has a piece on immediate handling of such a spill when found which may also give you reasons to consider going to a professional. We're big on the Do-It-Yourself approach here, but this is an area where you may want to bring in the right people.

  • People do seem to desire “hand scraped” wood floors, but what comes into fashion also goes out (think avocado green bathrooms). What do you recommend as a good wood floor that would retain its value and stand the test of time but not break the bank? - posed to us by a realtor

    You want to purchase a hardwood whose species has a high Janka rating for durability. We frequently carry jatoba, rosewood, some of the harder teaks and several hickories that carry a high Janka Scale Rating. The hand-scraped look does not fall into the "fad" area. What falls out of fashion is exactly what you used for your example – color. Hardwood is not subject to fads as much as other flooring types. We have had hands-craped hardwoods for years, and they have always sold well. We don’t see that ebbing, as some trends do.

  • Is engineered flooring resistant to dog pee?

    In the strictest sense no. The floor usually called 'engineered' is engineered hardwood flooring, and hardwoods in general tend to not do well with moisture. They may have a surface coating that repels liquids, but those are rarely perfect, and there can be gaps between the planks.

    Other floors may be considered engineered though they are not named that way, laminates and some vinyl plank products. Laminates are better than hardwood, but still not perfect. The actual surface of a plank may be impervious to moisture penetration, but in between planks the moisture can get to the core of the boards if not cleaned up quickly. Your best bet is a vinyl plank floor, most of which are 100% waterproof. Being planks, they will have some area between where moisture can get through if left in place long enough, but the planks themselves will be unharmed (even in a flood), and can usually be taken out of the way easily enough to deal with anything that's gotten past the top layer.

  • Should I install sealed or unsealed hardwood on cement subfloors?

    Basically you'll get sealed almost no matter what, and here's why:

    1. On cement, you will use Engineered Hardwood only, no solid. If you want solid, you would have to first build a plywood subfloor at least 3/4" thick and seal that, effectively eliminating the cement question. 2. All engineered hardwood that we know of comes pre-finished ('finish' being the only seal we really talk about with hardwood flooring). If your concern is moisture protection, any pre-finished hardwood would be a better option than a hardwood finished on site for a couple of reasons. One is that factory finished woods usually have quite a few coats applied, sometimes 9 or more, where those in homes may only get three due to the time needed between coats, and handling the fumes. Another is that many pre-finished hardwoods have finish on the top and bottom of each board, while on site finish jobs would only coat the top.

  • how can I tell which engineered products are plywood and which ones are MDF construction?

    You would do this by looking at the side, getting a cross-section view, essentially. MDF is going to present at a single block. It's much closer to being a laminate floor than hardwood, just with a real wod top instead of a laminated image.

    Engineered floors are made of plies of wood (but not plywood, paradoxically) which are layered with their strand directions turned 90 degrees from each other. Looking at the sides of you planks, you'll see those layers.

  • How to remove the pen marks that come in cabin grade engineered hardwood?

    We demonstrated how to do this in a short video: How To Remove Grease Pencil From Flooring Without Chemicals

    That's a way to avoid options like steel wool or sanding paper, which could damage the finish. If you decide you need some liquid, check any documentation first, but for the less corrosive options, some have used citrus based cleansers or Goo-Gone. Mineral spirits could work well, but in some cases might affect the finish, Linseed oil is probably a no-go. It can leave a residue which will collect dirt, and chemically, it doesn't have what's needed to break up grease pencil (the common marking tool in hardwood manufacturing).