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All About Solid Hardwood Flooring

by Jeff Hosking – Hosking Hardwood Flooring
© 2004 - 2012, Copyright protected. All Rights Reserved

Solid Hardwood Flooring

Perhaps one of the most desired and treasured part of a homes décor in consumer’s minds is a home that has hardwood flooring. Ask any home realtor they will confirm that a home that has hardwood flooring will sell faster and for more money. Hardwood flooring will add warmth and beauty to any home and it is the most desired floor covering and will increase the value of any home.

The real value of hardwood flooring

If you stop and analyze the true value that quality hardwood flooring can add to your home it’s a real deal. You can spend $20,000-$80,000 for kitchen cabinets that do not have anywhere near the amount of square footage of valuable wood compared to 6-7 rooms full of solid wood flooring for about $8,000-$10,000. Hardwood Flooring will add warmth and beauty throughout your home. You can refinish or re-coat solid Hardwood flooring several times, which adds to their appeal and to their long life. There are solid hardwood floors that are well over 100 years old and are still in good condition.

There are hundreds of styles and colors available

When we think of a solid Hardwood flooring we generally think of the standard strip red oak wood flooring that is 3/4" thick by 2 1/4" wide, but solid Hardwood flooring is also available in various sizes from 3 to 6 or more inches wide (called plank floors). Prefinished versions of solid wood flooring are available in various thicknesses from 5/16" - 3/4" thick are sold as random lengths anywhere from 12" - 84" long.

If you need flooring a particular size not commonly available in prefinished versions then you can obtain Custom Milled Unfinished flooring in sizes less than 2-1/4" wide or wider than 6" wide which are available in different thicknesses made to order. Custom Milled unfinished flooring lengths can exceed 12' long.

The most common Hardwood flooring species used for solid wood floors are Red Oak Hardwood flooring, White Oak Hardwood flooring, and Maple Hardwood flooring-- but many other species are offered.

Solid Prefinished hardwood flooring is not difficult to install and if you use factory prefinished flooring where the finish is applied at the factory and has cured, you will be able to move your furniture back in as soon as the flooring is installed.


What to expect when choosing a hardwood flooring style

One of the tips in choosing quality solid wood flooring is to know what you’re purchasing there are several grades that have their own particular price points and visuals. Prefinished flooring is available in most all wood species and stain colors. It is important to remember that wood flooring is a product of nature and no two pieces are a like. Wood flooring is not perfect and it is recommended that you purchase 5-10% more than you need for cutting and culling waste. For more information on What to expect check our article on Customer Expectations.

Important tips on installing your new hardwood flooring

Remember: Even the best wood flooring will react to the presence of moisture. In the dry winter heating months, moisture leaves the wood causing the floor to contract, which can leave unsightly gaps between each plank. In the summer months when the humidity is higher the wood will absorb excess moisture and expand and the gaps will disappear. If there is too much moisture it may cause the wood planks to cup, or buckle. This is why it is important when installing a wood floor to acclimate the wood to the home from 4 to 7 days or more prior to installation and to leave the proper expansion gap around the perimeter and at all fixed objects. It is also important to keep the home's relative humidity level at between 30 - 50% or what the manufacturer recommends. Doing this will help minimize any movement within the wood flooring later.


Solid wood floorsWhere can solid hardwood floors be installed

Solid Hardwood flooring is sensitive to moisture and it is not recommended to install these floors below ground level, or directly over a concrete slab due to these areas having higher concentrations of moisture. Solid Hardwood flooring are for nail-down installations only, with the exceptions of a few manufacturers that state you can direct glue down 5/16 inch thick solid Hardwood flooring such as the Bruce Natural Choice.


Frequently Asked Questions

Solid wood cutQ. What is the advantage of using solid Hardwood flooring over the other types such as an engineered hardwood flooring, floating wood floors or glue down engineered flooring?
A. 3/4 solid Hardwood flooring has a thick 5/16 top wear layer that can be sanded and refinished new again up to 7 times and can last well over 100 years. Solid Hardwood flooring also adds structural strength to a floor system due to its 3/4 thickness and interlocking Tongue and Groove milling. If you have a wood subfloor you would most likely want to use 3/4 solid wood flooring.

Q. Does it matter what size width board or color to use? Is one width better than another?
solid wood floor cross cutA. No, I would suggest using whatever width board you would like to have. The big swing for the last 15 years has been to go with a wider 3-1/4 inch wide board instead of the standard 2-1/4 inch wide. The rule of thumb is a narrower board will give you a more formal look and feel to your home. A wider board (over 4 inches wide) gives off a more Country look and feel.

If you are putting a new Hardwood floor in either a kitchen or a new addition and have an older standard 2-1/4" wide (strip) Hardwood flooring in adjoining or abutting room areas, I might suggest using a 3" or wider board so there’s a defining difference between the two floors. Trying to match the older flooring grade and color may be very difficult to do and it can come out looking mismatched.

Floor color is a choice that would have more to do with your personal tastes and décor. A natural light colored wood flooring will go with any décor and will lighten up any room. I usually suggest not using dark colored Hardwood flooring if your room decor is very dark.

Q. Can I use a Solid Hardwood flooring in my basement?
A. Sorry, basements are known to have higher relative humidity due to being under the ground, a Solid Hardwood flooring can absorb this excess moisture and expand causing the floorboards edges to cup or buckle. It is not recommended to use a 3/4 Solid Hardwood floor in any damp areas or any areas where there is a higher relative humidity then 55%. I recommend engineered wood flooring, or floating engineered flooring for these areas because they are manufactured to be more stable.

Q. Can I Glue down solid Hardwood flooring over my concrete Slab?
A. No, 3/4 solid Hardwood flooring can expand and contract more than engineered wood flooring. I would not suggest direct gluing down any 3/4-inch thick solid Hardwood flooring to any surface, the adhesive bond might not allow the solid wood flooring to move or breath normally and can cause the wood flooring to distort. As I have mentioned above some manufactures allow direct gluing down on their thinner solid wood flooring.

If the concrete slab is dry you can lay a 4-6 mil plastic vapor retarder or rubber moisture barrier down on the concrete for a moisture barrier then build up the floor using two layers of 1/2 inch plywood or sleepers and a plywood base and cover that with 15lb black felt paper, then nail/staple the solid Hardwood flooring down on top.

Q. Where can I use 3/4 solid Hardwood Flooring and what do I use to fasten it down?
A. You can install 3/4 solid wood flooring over any wood subfloor on or above grade. You can only fasten it down using either cleat nails or staples, to make the job easy both would require the use of a wood floor nailer (rental store). You can also install Hardwood flooring over Vinyl flooring as long as it is over a wood subfloor.

Q. Are all Brands of Hardwood Flooring the same?
A. No, like anything else you purchase there can be big differences in quality between brands. Some manufacturers use a lower quality wood and produce very bad milling. Their finish quality can also be poor. I suggest staying away from names you have never heard of and use the best Hardwood flooring manufacturers that have been around for a long time. They will be the ones with a proven track record and who will generally stand behind their wood flooring and will be around for the next 100 years.

Q. Can I install my own Hardwood Flooring?
A. Yes, Installing Prefinished Hardwood flooring is not difficult—if you can measure, cut and nail a board, then you can install our wood flooring. It is an easy and rewarding way to save a lot of money—doing it yourself. Our Hardwood flooring comes with easy to follow instructions. Standard tool knowledge and common sense would naturally help. Once you have installed a room using prefinished Hardwood flooring you can move right back in. If you purchase your wood flooring from Hosking Hardwood flooring we will take the time to walk you through your installation.

Q. How much Hardwood flooring do I need to order? Why do I have to add 5% to my square footage?
A. We provide easy to follow instructions as to how to measure your rooms, see our Measuring Tips page. It’s important to remember that all Hardwood flooring manufacturers recommend adding 5% to your actual square feet. This added 5% is recommended to cover boards that you may not want to use that may have gotten by the inspection process at the factory and for cutting waste.

If you want to run the Hardwood flooring at a 45-degree angle in the room then you would want to add approx 15% for a waste factor for the added cutting waste.

Q. What tools am I going to need to install Hardwood flooring?
A. You will need some small basic tools—a combination square, miter saw, hammer, 8-penny finish nails & nail set, drill, jig saw, small table saw, a Hardwood flooring nailer with cleat nails or staples, a pull bar, and a few packages of small wood shims. All of these items are available for purchase at your local lumberyard or for rent (inexpensively) at your local rental store. Easy to follow Installation instructions are either included in every carton of flooring or through us.

Q. What are the benefits of using the best Prefinished Hardwood flooring rather than Unfinished wood flooring?
A. Purchasing factory prefinished Hardwood flooring eliminates the time consuming chore of having to sand and refinish the unfinished flooring after it has been installed. Most of the wood flooring brands we offer also have a variety of stain colors to choose from which are coated with the durable 7- 10 coats of Aluminum Oxide finish. Aluminum Oxide finishes can only be applied in a controlled factory environment and are far more durable for wear than any finish that can be purchased in a hardware store or home center. Using prefinished Hardwood flooring allows you to move right back in as soon as a room is installed. No Waiting days for any finish coats to dry!

Installing unfinished Hardwood flooring is also easy to do, but would require a series of additional steps of going out and renting all the heavy sanding machines and learning how to use them. You would also have to purchase all the sand paper, finish, brushes etc. It can get a bit messy and unless you know how to run this machinery you could gouge and damage the wood. Applying the finish to the floors after the sanding would also require several days waiting for finish coats to dry before being able to move back in.


Grades of Prefinished and Unfinished wood flooring and how they compare...

When a log is milled into Hardwood flooring at the factory the wood is picked for grade (appearance). The better or more uniform the appearance the higher the grade. Both Prefinished Hardwood flooring and Unfinished wood flooring have similar grading but the names may be different depending on the manufacturer. Starting from the top, the Clear grade is the very best of grades having the most uniformity in color (within its wood species) and longest board lengths of up to 7 feet long (depending on the manufacturer). The lowest grade is the most economical in cost is called “Shorts” or “Cabin or Tavern” grades, which means there can be quite a bit of color variation between the boards and the board lengths, are about 8 - 34 inches long.

Other wood species—such as Maple—have their own grading rules. Manufacturers do have some degree of variance within standards and not all wood flooring manufacturers belong to the National Oak Flooring Manufacturers Association (NOFMA) They may use their own guidelines when manufacturing their Hardwood flooring.

Common Grading Names

Prefinished Hardwood Flooring Unfinished Hardwood Flooring
Clear Grade: Is the very best hardwood flooring grade which has the most uniform color, longer lengths, virtually no blemishes or knots. Clear Grade: Is the very best hardwood flooring grade with the most uniform color, longer, lengths, virtually no blemishes or knots.
Select & Better: Is the next best wood flooring grade with uniform color, longer lengths virtually no blemishes or knots. Select & Better: Is the next best wood flooring grade very uniform color, longer lengths, virtually no blemishes or knots.
Select or Exclusive Grades: Boards starting to show the natural character such as lighter and darker boards, may have shorter board lengths, infrequent small pinholes and tiny knots possible. #1 Common: Board starting to show the natural character such as lighter and darker boards, shorter board average, pinholes and knots are present.
Traditional, Antique, Character Grades: Boards show a lot of natural character such as light and dark boards, pinholes and knots possible, small checks allowed. Overall board lengths are shorter depending on style manufacturerd. #2 Common or Rustic grade: Boards show a lot of natural Character such as light and dark boards, larger knots and checks allowed. Over all board lengths are shorter.
Tavern or Cabin Grade: Lower costing Hardwood Flooring that can show a lot of character such as light and dark boards, lengths of boards are shorter approx 24" average. Pinholes and knots can be quite evident. Utility Grade or Shorts: Boards show a lot of natural character such as light and dark boards, lengths of boards are extremely short approx 16" average, knots and pinholes are quite evident.

Review on the benefits of using solid wood flooring

  1. Lifespan anywhere from 80 to over 100 years.
  2. Due to its thickness, it can span slight differences in subfloor height without flexing when walked on.
  3. Produces a good solid floor structurally.
  4. Usually available in longer lengths than engineered flooring.
  5. Usually less expensive than a high end engineered flooring.
  6. Can be sanded and refinished multiple times if needed.
  7. Hardwood flooring is the only floor covering that increases the value of your home.
  8. Hardwood flooring does not cause allergies; recommended to use by allergists.

More Frequently Asked Questions About Hardwood Flooring

Before you purchase your flooring, please read our other articles:
All About Floating Engineered Wood Flooring
All About Subfloors
All About Installing Hardwood Flooring Over Radiant Heat
Need Help Finding The Right Flooring?
Home Depot and Lowe's Rely on Hosking Hardwood for Answers

At Hosking Hardwood Flooring we only sell 1st Quality Hardwood Flooring—we do not sell 2nds, or mis-milled flooring.

See JEFF HOSKING'S BRAND RATINGS: wood floor rating on product styles within this site.

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Web Page: All About Solid Hardwood Flooring
Overall Rating: 4.8 stars - 35 reviews

Date: March 23, 2017
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Very well explained . All the question I had all solved. Thanks.
Date: March 3, 2017
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Glad I found your site.
Date: December 9, 2016
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Just what I needed to know! Awesome!!
Date: December 9, 2016
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Wood flooring is measured by the face of the board. Commonly 2-1/4 wide. Over the years wood flooring has also been manufactured in different width such as 2-1/2 wide (which is an older style). To duplicate that width now the flooring would have to be custom made for you.
Date: December 9, 2016
Page Rating: (4.5/5)
How is the width of the plank measured for tongue and groove boards? Is the tongue and/or groove portion included? I have boards that are clearly 2.5 inches wide when measuring across the finished surface. But, nobody seems to carry that. Subtracting the 0.25 inch representing the groove leaves me with the common 2.25 inch plank. Is that the case? Or is there actually a 2.5 inch plank somewhere?
Date: November 18, 2016
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
This is a great article! We install award winning solid wood floors in the DFW area. It is very true that homes with solid wood floors sell faster and for more than the asking price which is a triple benefit to the the seller, since homes that stay in the market long lose value.
Date: October 1, 2016
Page Rating: (4.0/5)
Your article was very good. I have installed tongue and groove floors before, and your prelim instruction were good. I would have liked to seen a price range if I wanted to have the floor professionally installed. Example: $2-$4 per sq foot. I have no clue
Date: June 7, 2016
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Great descriptive article. One of the best I have read!!
Date: March 3, 2016
Page Rating: (4.5/5)
Thank you. Was not familiar with name of the refinished flooring
Date: February 21, 2016
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
This article is very informative, easy to understand.

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