Your Guide to Choosing and Caring for Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood flooring immediately brings to mind images of of elegance and classic style. Hardwood floors are a real investment for your home – they’re hardwearing, last for years and even improve with age.

I recently spent a weekend in a castle apartment in Taunton, which had wooden floors thoughout. And while I’m not sure I’d want flooring quite that uneven in my home, it did remind me how warm and welcoming a hardwood floor can be.

Wooden flooring is also ecologically sound, as long as the timbers come from sustainable forests. In the UK, you should look for flooring that has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) scheme – for further information, visit fsc-uk.org.

So if you’re thinking about wooden floors for your home, here are some of the things you need to be considering

Solid Wood or Engineered Wood?

Each plank of solid hardwood flooring is milled from a single piece of wood. It’s a natural material which needs to be nailed or stapled to a wooden subfloor, but which can last for decades if it is cared for properly.

However this also makes it susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity changes. This means it might not be suitable for use in areas like bathrooms and basements.

Engineered hardwood is made by bonding layers of hardwood, which gives greater stability. It also means that you can use this flooring in more humid areas of the house, as well as over concrete subfloors and heating elements.

Whichever you choose, bear in mind that hardwood flooring can be noisy if you use it upstairs. So you may want to add some rugs to deaden the noise of footfall if you put hardwood flooring in your bedroom.

Colour, Texture and Style

Hardwood flooring is an investment that can last for years. So when you’re choosing the floor for your home, don’t put too much weight behind what is trendy now.

The current fashion seems to be leaning towards darker wood flooring, but take time to consider what will look right in your home for the future.

For instance, you may want to consider:

Board Widths

Narrower strips will give the illusion of more space, while wider planks will give a more rustic look to your room. You may also want to consider traditional parquet flooring – its distinctive geometric design has a more formal look.

Extra-wide planks are becoming more popular too, as this can give a very rustic appearance.

Hardness

This is especially important if you live in a busy household with children and/or pets. Softer species such as pine tend to show up scratches more easily than harder species such as oak.

You may also prefer to choose solid hardwood in this instance, as it can be sanded repeatedly to remove scratches and dents. But with careful attention and good maintenance, your floors can stay looking good for years to come.

Wood Species

Different species of trees have different colours, patterns of grain and they vary in hardness. Some of the most  popular species are oak, cherry and maple – this is partly because they all offer great durability.

Colour

It’s a good idea to choose your wood flooring before picking out paint and wallpaper colours. Of course you can alter the colour by sanding down and revarnishing the wood. But that’s not a job you will want to do repeatedly.

Although the current trend is towards darker wood floors, you can choose from colours ranging from pale to black.

Consider the look and feel you want to achieve in your room as well as things like how much light the room gets. A pale maple floor will help to make a small room look bigger, while a darker cherry floor gives a warm look to the space. Oak is always popular, as it blends with virtually any colour scheme or style.

Texture

The texture of wood flooring varies depending on how it’s been treated. You can get hardwood floors that look shiny, or hand-distressed wood for a more rustic appearance. This also helps to disguise any damage that may occur from day to day use!

There can be a great variation in colour and finish between woods. So it’s a good idea to ask for a sample of the flooring before you place your order.

Caring for Hardwood Flooring

Your new hardwood flooring is an investment that can last for many years with careful maintenance. Indeed, the signs of wear and tear on your flooring will only add to its charm and character.

Every 5-7 years, you should sand down and resurface your flooring. Engineered wood flooring can usually be sanded once or twice, however solid hardwood can be resanded many times.

You can reduce the risk of your floor being scratched by grit by regularly vacuuming or sweeping with a soft brush. A weekly mop will also help, but make sure that the mop isn’t too wet. If your floor has a hard finish (varnish or lacquer), you may be able to add a detergent to the water – check with your supplier.

If you have pets living with you, keeping their nails well trimmed will reduce the damage to your flooring.

By choosing your flooring carefully, and looking after it well, your hardwood flooring can add charm and character to your home for years to come!

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