The Hardwood Floor Choice
Warmly carpeted floors invite us to kick off our shoes and relax, yet they can harbor a variety of unseen problems. By contrast, what we see of an honest hardwood floor is what we get.
Two of my children have dust and pet dander allergies, so cleanliness was a big factor as I considered the flooring of the home we moved into eight years ago. I had heard that carpet can never be completely cleaned, and may contain as much as 100 times the allergens of a hardwood floor. (source: e-healthy-homes). I’d lived with carpet since my children were born, and was eager to make the switch.
It’s great to know the allergens in our home are significantly reduced without the presence of carpet. Over the years I’ve discovered some additional advantages to hardwood.
Spills may stain carpets permanently, whereas they are cleaned from hardwood without a trace. Foot traffic will crush carpet fibers in high-use areas, but doesn’t leave a “path” on hardwood. Certainly, hardwood can be scuffed and scratched by heavy use; but I’ve found the wear and tear blends with my home’s shabby chic charm, adding to its relaxed, lived-in look without the ugly dullness of a damaged carpet.
To reduce wear and tear, we placed felt sliders on all furniture feet. These can be purchased inexpensively at any hardware store. Because rolling office chairs can’t be felted, these will wear off the finish. A thin throw rug is a possible solution.
Hardwood is a great choice for pet owners. Especially during the housetraining phase of a puppy’s life, hardwood spares the homeowner a great deal of trouble – and the residual smells that linger in carpets. Additionally, dogs tend to seek soft surfaces to eliminate, making the lawn a more attractive “bathroom” than the hardwood floor.
One drawback we notice with our pets is their inability to gain traction as they walk on hardwood. Our dog quickly adapted, clicking happily from room to room. Our guinea pig and rabbit stay on the throw rugs when released for exercise, so we take them outside.
Hardwood floors are easily cleaned. I simply vacuum ours. I found dust mops rather ineffective, as they are nearly impossible to shake clean thoroughly. I sometimes damp mop with a mild solution of hot water and white vinegar. (I prefer to use non-toxic cleaners whenever possible.) Although I have heard that vinegar is not recommended, I haven’t noticed any damage. Cleaning agents specific to hardwood are available, too, if vinegar is a concern.
Having heard horror stories about poor installation, I’m certain that the great skill of our installer has greatly enhanced my hardwood floor experience. A poorly installed hardwood floor, by all accounts, is a constant headache. Installation is not the area to cut corners. Hire the best expert you can afford. Unless you are experienced and talented at home projects, don’t attempt it yourself.
Preferable to laminate in its durability, hardwood can be expected to last many decades. When the floor shows the inevitable wear of scratches and marks, it can be sanded and refinished. However, the sanding can be brought no lower than the level of the nail heads, limiting the number of repetitions.
Depending on the expertise of the refinisher, a solid hardwood floor may last through four to seven sandings, with fifteen to thirty years between. An engineered wood floor can be sanded from one to five times, if done carefully. (Source: Hosking Hardwood) Clearly, a well-maintained, quality hardwood floor has a far longer life expectancy than that of the best carpets.
Different hardwoods offer varying levels of durability, but today’s manufacturers use impressive surface finishes that greatly strengthen any type of wood. I chose red oak, which is considered one of the most durable woods. The harder woods are more wear-resistant, but any wood will sustain scratches from furniture scrapes or heavy dropped items.
As of this writing, the cost of hardwood floors varies from around $3 per square foot for red oak to $5 to $6 per square foot for the more exotic species such as Brazilian cherry or African mahogany. While it’s true that the higher priced woods are exquisitely beautiful, in my opinion even the lowly red oak has its own radiant, natural beauty and quality that can’t be matched by the best synthetics. What advantages to hardwood have you noticed?