By Shannon Roxborough
With the seasons changing, now is the time to give some time and attention to indoor projects. One of the most satisfying and impactful DIY or professionally-done projects is installing wood flooring. Although new and well-maintained wood floors bring warmth and beauty to almost any home, wear, scuffs, scratches and discoloration over time can ruin your wood flooring classic good looks and inherent character. According to the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), wood floors remain popular options for bringing warmth and beauty to living spaces.
Best of all, wood flooring comes in a range of colors, textures, and styles to satisfy virtually any taste or decorating style, from traditional to transitional to modern. But, with literally dozens of species, grain patterns, thicknesses, grades and price points — from $.99 to $10 or more per square foot — to choose from, deciding on a wood floor can be daunting. To help make the process easier, here’s an overview of some of the more common types of wood flooring being used in homes today.
Traditional and naturally beautiful with a bold grain, red oak is the most common wood-strip flooring found in American homes.
With a fairly uniform, straight grain (that makes it popular for fine furniture), white oak is strong, hard and shock resistant.
Knotty with an amber-orange hue that gains a rich patina over time, it’s been a favorite in New England and Southern homes since the colonial era.
Immediately recognizable by its contrasting light and dark color variations, hickory is a tough flooring option that adds striking visual interest.
A naturally blond wood (that is often stained dark) with an interesting yet consistent grain pattern, ash is equally at home in Old World and contemporary settings.
Tropical offering like Brazilian cherry, Peruvian tigerwood, Australian cypress and black acacia are durable hardwoods with unique grains that are fast gaining popularity among style-conscious homeowners and DIYers.
A beautiful, eco-friendly alternative to slow-growing trees, this plant reaches maturity in about six years, producing an affordable and attractive flooring product that has broad appeal to consumers.
Salvaged from old houses, barns and commercial properties, reclaimed wood floors have a built-in history and old-world pedigree that make them good-looking conversation pieces that will continue to withstand the test of time.
REVITALIZING AND REFINISHING WOOD FLOORING
If you already have wood floors, one of easiest ways to freshen up your home is To give them a little TLC. Although most hardwood flooring is made from durable oak, foot traffic, spills and furniture can take a toll even the toughest wood species, leaving your floors lackluster with marring, scratches, scuffs, stains and dullness. Thankfully, there are a few ways to bring tired floors back to life. Here are three options to consider:
Though this is a time consuming and messy, dust-producing process, the best way to refine hardwood floors involves sanding floors down to the bare wood using a floor sander with progressively finer grits of sandpaper. A brush or roller is then used to apply a protective finish — usually in the form of several coats of polyurethane, a durable, moisture-resistant water- or oil-based coating. Big-box retailer Lowe’s offers step-by-step instructions for DIYers.
If you’re not ready for the work involved to refinish hardwood floors, consider screening. Similar to sanding but not as aggressive or labor intensive, screening is done by making overlapping passes with a floor buffer (polisher) outfitted with 60-, 80-, 100- and (finally) 120-grit screens (clog-resistant sanding disks) to remove the polyurethane. When that is finished, apply a new, clear finish.
For DIY enthusiasts who would rather not screen or refinish hardwood floors, a number of companies make products designed to revive tired hardwood floors and make them look better in the short term. Most of the systems involve prepping the floor with a good scrub and then applying a refresher to the surface with a mop. Floors with no polyurethane topcoat can be rejuvenated by cleaning and wiping on a natural finish, like tung oil or boiled linseed oil which is a penetrating sealant that soaks deeply into the wood’s pores.
Although there are ways to improve the appearance of most hardwood floors, the best way to preserve them is to combat their biggest enemies, dirt and abrasion, by vacuuming regularly and putting down runners and doormats near entryways.
Shannon Roxborough is a widely published freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in numerous national magazines, newspapers and websites. An avid home improvement enthusiast, he has more than a decade of DIY experience and previously ran a property maintenance business.