Wood flooring is becoming a really popular option among discerning buyers. It looks beautiful and elevates your home to a stately standard. In the past, buyers were afraid of using wood on their floors because it needs a lot of care and maintenance. While it’s more finicky than tile or concrete, its care routine is not as bad as you’d think. Just sweep or vacuum once a day to get rid of surface dust, and mop once a week with a damp mop wrung out of soapy water. The mop should be as dry as possible, and the soap should be natural.
Avoid commercial wood cleaners, because they often have harsh chemicals that can ruin your floors. Every three months or so, refresh the oil on your wood floors. Refresher coats work fine with just one or two layers. You should also apply annual maintenance paste. For daily use, you might place a runner in high traffic areas, just to reduce wear and tear. Place felt pads beneath furniture feet to prevent scratching the floor when the furniture drags.
Every 7 to 10 years, you can sand the whole floor and re-apply your chosen finish. The number of coats will depend on type of oil you’re using. Natural oxidised oils need more coats, with lengthy periods of drying between. Tung oil requires 5 to 7 coats while linseed needs as many as 20. You need a few days between coats to let it dry, and before an additional coat, you have to sand the floor.
Common Hardwood Options
Wood floors can either be solid or engineered. Solid floor boards are carved from solid blocks of wood. Engineered floor boards have a thinner block of wood at the top and the bottom, while the middle layers have compressed plywood, pulp, recycled planks, or block-board. The layers are firmly glued together to form a stable surface. Some suppliers use solid wood for the middle portions too, so you have a series of slim solid boards that are permanently fused. Around the world, popular choices for hardwood flooring include:
- American red oak
- American white oak
- Brazilian walnut
- Brazilian cherry
- European oak
- Santos mahogany
Engineered wood flooring is more affordable than solid wood, but it has the same look and its care routine is similar. The only difference is solid wood can last generations and withstand multiple sessions of sanding and buffing. Engineered wood can take maybe four or five sanding sessions before it wears down, so depending on how well you look after it, an engineered floor can last three decades to half a century. Also, because it comes pre-finished, you can install it faster than solid wood, which has to be treated and dried after installation. You’d need to leave the house for a few weeks for the oiling and drying process to complete.
Red oak is considered the most ‘traditional’ form of oak flooring. It has a rich ‘red’ hue sometimes described as ‘blonde with reddish-pick undertones.’ So basically, it’s a strawberry blonde by hair salon standards. Red oak has a hardness rating of 1290 on the Janka scale, and its grain has a course texture. Because of its gorgeous colouring, it works best with a clear finish that enhances its natural tone. One if its most valuable qualities is its increased resistance to gapping and cupping. Weight-wise, it’s a lighter, milder wood.
White oak has a paler hue and a harder Janka rating (1360). While red oak has open pores in its growth rings, white oak has pores that are partially plugged with tyloses, so it’s denser. This makes white oak more water-resistant and stain-resistant than red oak. As a result, it resists decay and rot better, because it doesn’t let as much moisture in. This makes it slightly more expensive, but it’s great for poolside decks and outdoor use. Red oak works better indoors. On the trees themselves red oaks have broad, pointy leaves while white oaks have narrower leaves with rounded edges.
Weather patterns in Europe imbue their oak trees with different qualities. They grow more slowly than American oaks, so they’re harvested at a later stage. The extended growing time makes them denser, and gives them a higher volume of naturally occurring tannins. It’s recommended to finish them with natural oils, to retain their inborn beauty.
European oaks have growth rings that are tighter than their American cousins. This makes the wood grain pattern prettier and more distinct. Woodworkers find European oak easier to manoeuvre, because there’s minimal colour variation between trees, and their hue is darker in general. Its thinner sap wood means you can cut boards that are wider and longer. Customers like that. It’s harder, more durable, and less prone to expansion and contraction.