For a virtually guaranteed “wow factor” in any residential or commercial setting, nothing beats hardwood floors.

Compared to other surfaces, hardwood floors have longevity. They have been the default flooring option for hundreds of years and haven’t gone out of style yet. They are easier on your feet than other harder surfaces and warmer to the touch.

  • In many homes you will find wood floors used throughout the house, even bathrooms, utility rooms and mud rooms where other materials such as vinyl, ceramic or stone are often desired for their water-resistant qualities.
  • In commercial locations, wood floors create warm, inviting interiors in retail shops, restaurants, offices, and conference rooms, and public venues like museums, libraries, and auditoriums.

There are lots of choices in hardwood floors giving you plenty of ways to get the look that’s right for you. Here are some of the options:

Solid or Engineered Floors

Traditionally, hardwood floors made from planks of solid timber remain a popular choice especially when the desire is for a home with a traditional feel.

The other option is engineered flooring made of much thinner planks of wood bonded directly to other layers. You get the powerful look of hardwood, but without the shifting that occurs during seasonal expansion and contraction cycles. Also, engineered flooring can be glued directly to concrete and other surfaces.

(Note: Engineered flooring is often confused with laminate. They are very different. Laminate flooring is made of thin, pressed wood board with an image of wood on top covered by a clear “wear layer” to protect the image. With engineered wood flooring, the top layer is made of actual hardwood.)

Wood Types

Oak has always been the top choice in hardwood flooring.  It’s durable, takes stain well, has an attractive natural grain and is widely available. Walnut is softer than oak with a richer, warmer tone that makes it ideal when a darker finish is desired. Other hardwoods include hickory, cherry, maple, and ash. The choice largely comes down to personal preference in terms of color and grain.

Plank Width

A house dating to the 18thor 19thcentury is likely to have wide plank floors while a more modern home may have flooring installed in two- to three-inch strips. Increasingly, however, many people are once again returning to the older look. Generally, a bigger room can handle the aesthetic of wider planks.

The Grain Pattern

Logs can be cut in three different ways: plain-sawn, rift-sawn, and quarter-sawn—yielding three distinct grain patterns. You can exclusively source one or get them all mixed together. Again, choosing one over the other is a matter of personal preference: they all have their place in the world of floors.

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Get Advice on Hardwood Floors From ACS

While you are in the choosing your hardwood floors, we recommend a call to ACS. We can help guide you on any special considerations you need to keep in mind.

When you have narrowed down your choices, we can come to your location to measure and make an accurate estimate of the materials you will need—helping you stay within budget and not order too much or too little. This is especially important in situations when the flooring materials is being installed for the first time (i.e., a major addition or new construction.) In most cases, the amount of product needed will be greater than the actual square footage to take account of awkward angles or other situations that require specially cut pieces. We will also look for things like uneven sub-floors, odd-shaped rooms, awkward corners or seam placement considerations that may require special steps, like a customized cut, during installation.

A site visit will also give us the opportunity to identify any special issues involving heavy furniture, adapting to existing baseboards, etc.
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Prefinished or Site Finish

One of the key areas where ACS will work with you is in the selection of prefinished or site finished hardwood for your floors.

  • Prefinished: Prefinished hardwood flooring comes with the stain and topcoat already applied. You’ll know exactly what you’re getting and have an exact sample to use in coordinating other design elements such as textiles, wall coverings, and cabinetry. It also takes less time to install and is ready to be used just about immediately.  Prefinished is often the preferred option for installation over concrete, radiant heat floating floors, and floating floors.
  • Site Finished: On-site finishing gives you more control over the stain, sheen and ultimate look of your floor. Choose from custom patterns, borders, inlays, and medallions. You also get to choose from a broader variety of options in finishes, colors, and shades. Also, site finished hardwood floors can achieve a perfectly flush look that is superior to what is possible with prefinished products.

Type of Finish

Another important area where ACS works with clients is on the selection of the finish. With hardwood floors, you will ultimately be choosing between some form of oil or polyurethane. Oil penetrates the wood delivering a more natural look. It is more prone to stains and damage than polyurethane, but also more forgiving—scratches are less noticeable and easier to touch up. It requires and responds to regular maintenance. Polyurethane is unquestionably tougher. That means less maintenance. But when there is a problem, you may need to replace a board or recoat an entire section of floor.

Whether your choice is prefinished or site-finished, oil or polyurethane, you can be sure that ACS has certified, highly-experienced craftsmen on staff who specialize in delivering the highest quality results.

Preparing for Your Installation

To get ready for your new hardwood floor, you will need to take some steps before the installers arrive. For example, we typically recommend that the wood be delivered at least three days before installation to allow the wood to adapt to the moisture balance in your location. Dry climates often require longer acclimation periods. The inside of the location should stay at a steady 60 F to 80 F before and during installation. Humidity levels should stay between 30 percent and 50 percent.

For more information, be sure to consult our Preparing for Your New Floor Checklist.