Solid wood floors must be nailed to the subfloor, adding to the cost of installation and making them unsuitable for use directly over concrete. This, combined with sensitivity to moisture, which causes wood to expand, rules them out for basements. Changes in humidity can lead to squeaking and buckling.
Strip flooring has been the industry standard since the 1950s. Narrow -- typically
2-1/4 inch -- tongue-and-groove boards are blind nailed (with nails concealed in the edge) into the subfloor. Wider-width planks can be attached in the same way, or are sometimes face-nailed (through the top) into the subfloor, with the nail holes covered with pegs cut from the same stock.
More and more homeowners today purchase solid-wood floors with a factory-applied finish. That means no dust from sanding, no fumes from finishing, and no waiting before the floor can be walked on. Another benefit is that the aluminum-oxide finishes applied at the factory are much tougher than the standard polyurethane applied on-site. Generally, you can expect 20 to 25 years from a factory-applied, aluminum-oxide finish, versus 10 years from
For all their benefit, prefinished floors come with a catch: Because the floor isn’t sanded flat after the boards are installed, there are slight bumps and dips where the subfloor isn’t perfectly level and where the floorboards vary slightly in thickness. To conceal those misalignments some prefinished wood comes with eased edges slightly rounded corners, which create what amounts to small V-grooves between each board, giving the floor a distinctly manufactured look and dirt a place to collect.
Prices for solid-wood flooring vary widely based on the width of the planks, the wood species, and special effects such as hand-scraping or distressing. Exotic species and reclaimed flooring offer fresh options but at an additional cost.
If you expect your floor to take some abuse, hardwoods such as oak, maple, Brazilian cherry, walnut, and ash will be the most durable. But softwoods like southern yellow pine and fir are also great choices, as long as you’re prepared for dents and scratches. Softwoods are meant to be lived on, says residential designer Eric Moser, of Ridgeland, S.C. The more beat up they get, the better they look.
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