11 Sep 2012

Original and Modern Hardwood Floors

Atlanta Flooring Comments Off

Older homes are outfitted with impressive examples of old-school hardwood flooring.  The variety and quality of wood that was available in the past allowed tradesmen to install high-quality flooring as a standard feature in most homes.

Oak was considered a premium material, even then, so it is seen less frequently than some other types of wood.  Special Oak planks and strips that are cut on the bias are said to be ‘quarter-sawn’, and showcase tight patterns of grain that provide cross-sectional views of the original timbers.  Quarter -sawn Oak flooring is an early-century hallmark of Craftsman architecture.

Dark woods like Mahogany and Walnut were applied as accents or inlays in some high-end installations, and even sometimes used to do entire rooms.  To create natural contrast, Maple, Ash and other light woods were used at thresholds where dark-floored formal areas transition into hallways and casual quarters.

Because wood was abundant, and skilled craftsmen were adept at using it, some old hardwood floors are like works of art.  Precisely fitted planks were pieced together in staggered patterns designed to highlight the natural wood grain. Seams occur randomly, so hardwood floors are as stable as they are beautiful.  The same type of construction with narrower board-widths is called strip flooring.

The thick wooden slats of traditional hardwood floors can be sanded and refinished multiple times to create fresh surfaces.  If your home is equipped with original hardwood floors that need to be redone, consult with a professional contractor, to determine the best way to return your floors to like-new condition.

High speed sanding is the most frequently used method for removing the thin layers of varnish and wood that make you floors appear worn.  Drum sanders and large-scale random orbital units provide consistent results in the hands of professionals.

Once the outer layers of finish have been stripped away, you may choose to darken your plank or strip flooring by adding a colored stain.  Even floors made of Maple and other light colored wood can be stained to reflect your taste for darker woodwork.  Whether stained, or left natural, hardwood refinishing is not complete without a couple topcoats of polyurethane or other durable sealer.

Modern Hardwood Flooring Options

Hardwood flooring is still available in traditional solid planks and strips, with time-tested installation methods still being practiced by builders and installers seeking to add the warmth of hardwood flooring to their projects.  Today, thick boards of premium hardwood are expensive, so technology has stepped-in with solutions that use less wood.

Engineered wood products are great for new installations and renovations, where sandable original wood floors are not present. The manufacturing process affixes a very thin layer of your chosen hardwood to a less expensive backing material.  Once installed, only the uppermost layer is visible, creating the appearance that the entire board is solid hardwood.

By using such thin layers of wood, manufacturers are able to make flooring from uncommon species that expand your design options considerably. And some engineered products are still thick enough that they can be sanded once or twice, in the same way you’d refinish your original hardwood floors.

Underfoot, engineered floors feel like traditional hardwood.  For a softer feel, shock absorbing underlayment can be installed below the flooring, to create a more resilient snap for your feet.

For durability, some wooden flooring materials are impregnated with acrylic.  The naturally porous wood soaks up the hardener and then dries to a rock hard surface, without sacrificing the visual appeal and authentic sensation of regular hardwood floors.  For high traffic areas, acrylic impregnated boards wear like commercial grade goods.

Whether you select natural hardwood planks, strips or engineered products, there are custom options you can choose from, to help you fine-tune the appearance of your floor.  Wood varieties and stain colors are available to match-up the flooring to your home’s existing woodwork. Prefinished versions are available in popular styles and colors, or unfinished boards can be stained to match your color precisely.

The topcoat, or finish coat on your hardwood floor can be glossy or matte in appearance, with extra coats added to high traffic areas.  Natural oil-rubbed finishes can also be achieved to create slightly weathered appearances.

Factory finishes prove to be very durable and have become popular with homeowners who don’t want to hassle with sanding and applying clear coats.  Take advantage of prefinished boards whenever factory finished stock items meet your design needs.

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