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Hardwood flooring Q&A

We have been knee deep in renovation land over here all summer long.
Some big changes, some little changes
but ch-ch-ch-changes happening here and there.


And one of the things on the list to refinish/replace/repair
were the hardwood floors.


We have original old hardwood flooring in the house
but a lot of it is underneath old linoleum which means it isn't getting touched.
My stepdad used to oversee huge environmental issues such as oil spills, old mine clean up, etc.
and thankfully we got some great advice when it came to cleaning up that old linoleum.
Which was to leave it alone.
And so, over the top went a layer of engineered hardwood.
And I have a confession.
That engineered hardwood was terrible.
As in, my high heels left dings in the wood everywhere.
And it was dull and flat.
It made me crazy. 
But it was an inexpensive and safe fix to what could have been a huge problem.

Fast forward to now.
We have been looking at redoing our hardwoods AND redoing the engineered.
You know my hardwood refinishing struggles.
The layers of wood we can't go any further down on since they have been sanded down several times
and we have no subfloor.
Welcome to 1940's construction.
And so, we decided to look at a new floor.
Off to Lowe's we went and while researching for the right finish, color, style, width, thickness.
tongue and groove or lock and click...
you name it... 
I put together some of my most asked questions
and the answers I found.

#1. Finish

Did you know that there are so many options of finish for hardwood now?
When we looked before-and did the addition- it was glossy or medium glossy.
Now, you are hard pressed to find glossy. 
There is hi gloss, low gloss, rustic,  scraped, reclaimed, medium gloss and then some.


#2. Color

When we moved into the house, the hardwood floors were not only damaged
with old pet and water stains, weathered areas from the broken windows
and a major lack of being cleaned or polished over the 60 years since they were put in.
They were also a lovely shade of 'orange' stain.
 You know the one
It is an older color they used that I think they thought would warm up the wood
that already has a ton of warmth... 
but just ended up yellowing and looking more 
'orange' than anything.



So that was out.
I have always been partial to dark and dramatic floors.
They speak to me. I love their deep color and extra amount of drama.
But... did you know that dark hardwood floor is the hardest to keep clean? 
It is like a black car. 
Water spots, swirl marks, teeny tiny bits showing up.
Once again... I re-thought my choice.
and I started to look at other options for color and depth of color that spoke to me.


#3. Wood Species

I thought there was oak hardwood. 
And maybe maple. 
Done. 
But when researching- I found a whole world of hardwood flooring out there.
There is bamboo, birch, red oak, white oak, maple, tigerwood, walnut, etc. etc.
And each and every one of them has different qualities.

Like more pronounced grain.
Less pronounced grain.
Which makes a difference in the overall appearance of the floor.
Do you want movement and interest?
Or smooth and clean lines?

And can we talk about this new and interesting idea of putting in
'Hand scraped' and 'distressed' hardwood flooring?

#4. Hand Scraped Hardwood

Did you know that in my living room... 
I have flooring that looks Just. Like. This. one.


It has dings. Dents. Raised areas and distressed areas. 
Areas with less stain, more stain, old stains we never could get out even with refinishing several times
and places where the grains show through more because the walnut stain we used didn't soak in as well.
It is a premium, done over 75 years 
'Distressed' hardwood floor.
And now- you can just walk on into the store and buy just that
and add instant character to your home.
I am serious.

I had no idea. 
I have lived in the old and original hardwood world for years
and then I find out- I was really just living under a rock.


#6. Edges

And on top of that you have to consider the edge finishes.
Beveled. Micro-beveled. Pronounced. Smooth. Scraped.
The bevel is more noticeable- as in the photo below.


The ends and edges don't create a 'smooth' finish.


#5. Width & Thickness

Hardwood used to come in 2-3" strips and that was it.
Now there are 3", 5", 7.5" 10", 12" and- can't decide? 
There is even varied width for that delicious 
make do look that everyone loves.
Who.Knew.


And you can get traditional solid thickness with is 3/4" thick hardwood- 
or an engineered which is a smaller layer on top of a more stable base.
It depends on where you are installing- in areas prone to moisture- 
traditional hardwood doesn't do well because it will twist and swell up and buckle. 
Yes, this has happened to us.
We called it a 'speed bump' in the hardwood.
 Not fun to repair either.

The other thing to consider is your preference for refinishing down the road. 
Engineered of today depending on the thickness you go with can be refinished a time or two
but not all are created equal. Something to pay attention to.


So with so many choices- 
so many colors, finishes, widths and features to choose from
how in.the.world. do you decide which is right for your home?

Here is what I learned.

Color

I love it- but it is much harder to keep looking clean on a daily basis.
Light is airy and simple 
but I feel it is a bit modern to me.
I think the middle ground is where it is at.

For me, dark floors 'ground' a space.
Others would disagree and say they 'weigh a space down'
Light floors seem to float- I don't feel like the room feels right when the floors 
are almost as light as the white walls.
But that is all a personal preference.
So my advice- go with what you love the look of.
And think about your color preference on your walls and furniture.
Do you have all crisp whites? 
LOVE with dark or medium floors.
Or are you more colorful and patterned? 
A lighter floor may work better to update your space.
And can we be honest? The lighter wide with floors look amazing in the Giannetti home.
So- there you go.


Finish

I love hi-gloss. Not going to lie.
It is my nemesis. And it is always waiting for me to tackle it again.
Every time I take photos in the house- I clean the floors and wait for the shine.
And it doesn't like to shine.
So I add the 'shine' polish to give it a boost- which contributes to build up issues 
and even less shine. 
And aggravates me to no end.


So... I might be letting that one go.
I realized that I do live in the country.
Surrounded by acres of land, dust and dirt
animals and more- 
and not to mention all that pea gravel just outside the back door.
I probably should be having more of a reclaimed floor than a beautiful elegant polished floor
to save my sanity if nothing else.


Width

I am a less wide or more than huge wide kind of girl.
To be honest- a 5" width looks like a laminate to me.
And there is nothing wrong with a laminate- but if I am putting in hardwood flooring
I want it to look like hardwood flooring.
So I would say go with a 2.5 - 3" or go with a wide width.

Edges

I like the look of a bevel. 
More pronounced ends and edges feel 'older' to me.
Be aware that bevels will catch dust and bits of things though.


Wood  Species

I am a patina girl.
 And I love to see the grain of the wood.
So for me- hardwoods that are more soft and flat /smooth in appearance just don't emit the same 
texture and drama that oak does. 
But with so many other options- there are many ways you could go.
Super detailed, busy woods, lots of variation or color or smooth and simple type woods.
It really depends on you and your home and the look you love.

So if you are here reading even now...
what have I learned?

I have learned way more about hardwood flooring than I ever imagined.
And I drove my husband and son crazy while deciding. 

So, my best advice to you for choosing the right hardwood
is to go to your local Lowe's and chat with the flooring folks who
are extremely helpful
and if you can't see something in person- best not to wing it- 
order samples- and a lot of them.
You can't get an idea of what something looks like in your house with a 3x3 or 8x8 square.
Trust me. 
This is a big decision.
Take a box home with you and
 lay a few pieces out and look at them during the day and evening light.
And then decide. 
I may have done that at the urging of one of the sales folks
and it absolutely made a huge difference in feeling confident about the color, style decision.


No matter if you go light, dark, medium, glossy, distressed, scraped or beveled
flooring makes a big difference in the look and feel of your home.

So after staring at sample chips and pulling my hair out... 
I did decide. 
More coming soon.


And if you are looking for new hardwood flooring- check out the selection at Lowe's


Disclosure:
I collaborated with Lowe's on flooring
but all opinions are my own.








9 comments

  1. Hi Courtney, thanks for the hard wood flooring information. Upon facing a long overdue remodel, I anticipate I will need to probably replace all of my 1946 era oak floors due to the same issue of having had them previously sanded and re-sealed. A few nail heads popped up during the process that we had to reset. Not a fun job. Good call on going for a more medium color. They are easier to maintain. As an owner of a black vehicle I have enough cleaning to contend with! I will truly consider your comments about the width of the flooring. I think that is critical so that the floors have a genuine flow with the character of the home. I can't wait to see your unveiling! Our homes are of similar vintage, so your photos are very inspiring and helpful for me!

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  2. I LOVE my hardwood hand scraped dark variable board flooring...wow that is a mouthful!
    Agree dark floors show a lot but I still love them.

    Congrats on your position with Romantic Homes. Looking forward to your ideas being reflected.

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  3. I too am ready to "re-do" my master bedroom floor... right now I have carpet, I should say "stained carpet".. I absolutely despise it.. I'm looking into vinyl plank flooring since the master bath is right off the bedroom.. The selections are so numerous it is almost impossible to remember the pros and cons of each type....

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  4. There's so much to consider, something that's hard to care for and a huge investment. Thanks for sharing your decision process with us. It's a lot to take-in! I know the folks at Lowes were helpful. I love how they stand-by their work, too. When we remodeled our kitchen, Lowes did it all (well I painted my kitchen island pink), and they did an amazing job.

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  5. Hi, Courtney. I live in the country, surrounded by horses, cattle, and wildlife, where the nearest paved road is three miles away. I also have a Springer Spaniel that sheds enough to build a new dog every week.

    Several years ago, I fell in love with 2-inch micro-bevel dark hardwood flooring and had it installed in my kitchen. Keeping the floor clean was a constant chore until I bought a non-motorized spin mop. I use warm water with no soap, and the sheen looks the same as when the floor was new.

    I had the rest of the floors done a few years ago and do not regret my choice. I have found that settling for a second, or more "sensible" choice, means I will never be completely happy with it.

    I can zip through the entire first floor of my house without exertion, and there's so little dampness on the floor that it dries within a couple minutes. If the water starts to look a little dirty, I change it and rinse out the mop. I would dry sweep the floors nearly every day because of dog fur, no matter the color of the floor.

    Recommendation – Buy enough flooring for future projects. Colors are discontinued regularly. I had to find a suitable substitute after my original floor color was discontinued.

    Micro-bevel – I still love the way it looks; however, some edges are showing wear so I use a permanent touch-up pen on them ... never a wax pen because it smudges, and color comes off on stockings.

    Hope my experiences are of some value to you and others.

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  6. I love our hardwood floors and don't need to replace them, but my daughter is currently going through this difficult process. I am waiting with interest to see what you have finally chosen.

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  7. Wow - your comments on choosing the right hardwood flooring could not be more timely. You have addressed every one of our concerns. Thank you.

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  8. Thank you! We recently had hardwood flooring installed in our first floor and it is such an amazing difference! I have dreamed and considered it for so long that when my husband agreed now was the time I was ready. I had already learned of a very reputable installer, knew I wanted the classic choice of red oak in gunstock and 5inch planks. AND upgraded baseboards of 51/2inches. You are absolutely right when you advise others to go with what they love. You did a wonderful job of listing pros and cons. I look forward to seeing your choice!

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  9. Great post. Thanks for sharing. We went with a mid tone. I'd love to do more of the house though.

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