Types of Hardwood Floor Choices
Common choices are oak, birch, hard maple and pecan. Some beautiful foreign hardwoods, like Jarrah and Jatoba are also available. Some parts of the country use soft woods like pine. Imported Russian Pine is also gaining popularity in some parts of the country. The choice is up to you, however, in our opinion, American hardwoods cannot be beaten for their beauty, longevity, and value.
Just as important as the type of wood you select, is the quality of wood from which your floor is made. The Oak Flooring Institute (OFI), an affiliate of the National Oak Flooring Manufacturers Association (NOFMA), has developed an official flooring grading rules for NOFMA. Their guidelines state that Unfinished Oak Flooring should be made of the top four grades: Select, #1 and #2 and #3. Sometimes the top two grades are combined into a batch called “Select and Better”.
Unfinished Hard Maple, Beech, Birch and Pecan are divided into three grades: First, Second and Third. The top two grades are commonly combined into a batch called “Second and Better”.
The top grade of pre-finished oak flooring that is readily available is called Standard Grade. Tavern Grade, another grade of pre-finished oak, has a rustic appearance. It is sometimes combined with the Standard and Better to create bundles called “Tavern and Better”. The same is true for pre-finished beech and pecan Flooring.
In almost all cases, if you want the very top grade of these hard woods such as Unfinished Oak Clear Plain or Clear Quartered, Unfinished First Grade White Hard Maple, First Grade Red Beech and Birch, First Grade Red or First Grade White Pecan, or Prime Grade Pre-finished Oak Flooring, they have to be specially ordered. Interestingly enough, "Tavern and Better" Pre-finished Oak and Pre-finished Beech and Pecan flooring must also be specially ordered.
Pre-finished Hardwood floors Vs. Unfinished Hardwood Floors
Both are beautiful and have advantages. Choosing unfinished hardwood provides you with a much wider selection of wood and
gives you more control over the final look of the floor by having it finished onsite. The wood you select can be stained to your exact specifications. On the other hand, pre-finished or factory finished hardwood is manufactured under rigid quality control conditions by firms such as Mulican, Hartco, Robbins, and others. Bruce, Hartco, and a few smaller firms also use sophisticated high pressure techniques to create impregnated laminated hardwood flooring with exceptional beauty and wear characteristics.
Although pre-finished hardwoods are typically more expensive than unfinished hardwood floors, much of the difference in cost is eliminated because the wood does not have to be finished onsite. There are many top notch national and regional brand names available. Just because a brand is not listed here does not mean that its product is not of the highest quality. Some manufacturers make their flooring available in both factory finished and unfinished forms.
What are the differences between factory finished and job finished hardwood floors?
On the positive side, factory finished hardwood flooring have a much stronger and more durable finish. Factory finished hardwood flooring are often engineered, with the top hardwood layer attached to three to four layers of plywood. These engineered woods offer a more stable foundation and a range of benefits, which would be difficult for natural hardwood to have. Factory finished flooring is also quicker to install. On the negative side, factory finished hardwood flooring has a more restricted variety of woods, is slightly more expensive, and if an accident happens, it is a lot more difficult and expensive to repair.
Job or site finished hardwood flooring is less expensive and gives you a broader assortment of woods and finishes. Beautifully imported hardwoods like maple, Brazilian walnut, and rosewoods are only available as unfinished lumber. If the wood is finished on site, you can have any finish you desire. Furthermore, repairs are less costly and easier to do. Also, site finished hardwood floors will show off the beauty of the wood a lot more than a pre-finished hardwood floor.
Hardwood Floors Sub-Floor Choice
A hardwood floor can be ruined if it is installed on the wrong surface. Hardwood floors must be laid on clean, solid, flat, dry surfaces. Anything else is an invitation to disaster. Water and hardwood do not mix. If you want to lay a floor on a concrete slab, be sure to test the concrete for moisture before you lay the floor. New concrete has to cure for a minimum of sixty days up to two years before it is dry enough for hardwood to be laid. Also remember that a waterproof barrier, such as polyethylene film, paper felt, or vinyl moisture barrier, may have to be placed between the slab and the hardwood. Pre-finished flooring has a definite advantage in problem areas such as basements. Many are specifically engineered to stay strong and beautiful under very harsh conditions.
Are hardwood floors in the basement a good idea?
The rule always was that hardwood floors were not to be laid below ground level because of the moisture problem. Now a number of manufacturers such as Boen, Bruce, Hartco and Robbins have heard your pleas and developed revolutionary pre-finished hardwood surfaces, methods of sealing concrete slabs to block moisture and other installation techniques that permit some of their brands to be laid in your basement without problems.