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Choosing The Best Hardwood Floor

With over fifty species of wood to choose from, determining which one is best can seem like a daunting task. The easiest way is to decide first what look you want. Other than the type or species of wood, three other factors determine the appearance and cost; grade, cut, and finish. The grade is determined by color, differences in grain, and the presenge of imperfections such as knots, wormholes and saw marks. There is no universal grading system because each type of wood has different standards for ideal color and grain uniformity. As a rule, wood is more expensive if it has more consistent color and grain.

For informal rooms, some prefer the inconsistency and interest gained by such flaws as knots. Most wood for flooring is plain-sawn. Quarter-sawn and rift-sawn boards generally have a denser, straighter grain.

Boards that are purchased unfinished are usually less ex-pensive. Today you are more likely to find pre-finished boards. Many have as many as six coats of finish, compared to site-finished floors with two or three coats. Because pre-finishing has been done in a controlled environment, the products come with longer warranties. Other advantages to pre-finished flooring are there will be no sanding dust or finishing fumes during their installation.

Hardwood is being installed in every room in the house today, even in the more humid environments of the kitchen and bath. It is highly recommended that you put a throw rug by sinks and tubs to prevent excess water from damaging the floor. Also wipe up any spilled water quickly.

Wood floors are not as ideal in bathrooms where showers are taken daily, especially by children, because there is often too much water on the floor and too much variance in the temperature and humidity. To help you decide which wood is best for your home or business, here are the pros and cons of the five most popular types. Red Oak is the most common wood sold. It has a coarse, even and sometimes rippled grain. The color is a very subdued pink.

It looks good in traditional interiors and is more refined than pine. Oak is a hardwood that resists splitting during installation. It stains well and holds up to heavy traffic. Because is can cup or turn dark, it is not the best choice for kitchens and baths. Pine offers lots of character for a lower price that oak. It has a more distinct grain pattern that ranges from swirls to stripes.

The colors vary between tans, browns and yellow. Some customers choose pine for its black sap stains and clear or pink knots. Because it is easy to nail and resists splitting, it is less expensive to install than other species. Because pine is not as hard as oak, it is not suitable for damp or high-traffic areas. Brazilian Cherry is salmon colored and has a medium spaced grain pattern that darkens with age, especially with sun exposure.

As a wood used in many fine furnishings and cabinets, it is perfect in formal settings. Cherry is more than twice as hard as oak and is moisture resistant, so it will hold up in kitchens, baths, hallways and entryways. Because it is so hard, it splits more often during installation, making it advisable to order ten percent extra to allow for waste. Australian Cypress has a wavy, busy grain pattern. It comes in both brown and cream hues.

The dark knots that often mark cypress give it a rustic look, ideal for traditional designs. Because it is slightly harder than oak and handles humidity well, it is fine to install in busy, humid areas. Because the knots weaken the wood, causing splitting during installation, order an extra ten percent. Like cherry, cypress can be difficult to stain. Bamboo is technically a woody grass.

The only pattern is the square burl pattern from the nodes along its shoots. The color is a yellowish blond. Because of its uniformity, it is best used in sleek, contemporary interiors.

It is a perfect choice for the ecology minded customer because bamboo shoots grow very fast compared to trees. It is hardwearing and water resistant. Because sanding is difficult, it is nearly always factory finished.

Terry Gates is a freelance writer with experience on flooringand hardwood floors.

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