Hardwood Flooring Innovations

Nowadays, homeowners renovating their homes often look to wood flooring to replace existing floors. Hardwood is coveted by buyers, and its clean, inviting look makes it a neutral design element that goes with many different types of decor.

Today's hardwood flooring is not the hardwood of the past. There are many options from which to choose, including varied colors, types of wood, patterns, and inlays. In addition, innovations in sealants enable hardwood to be durable and hold up better against the daily grind.

About 25 years ago, a homeowner basically had to settle for wood flooring that was solid oak strips at 2.25 inches wide. The strips were nailed in place by a carpenter and finished on site. Now, more than half of hardwood is fabricated and prefinished at a factory and is much easier to install -- even by the homeowner himself.

The range of styles and colors is also very extensive. Planks can be chosen in thin strips or wider options. Native hardwoods are available, as are offshore woods from different countries. Finishes can also be customized with higher gloss or matte choices.

For homeowners interested in going green, hardwood flooring also presents many options. A growing trend is using reclaimed wood that is recycled and then refinished into new items. Lumber may be reclaimed from old buildings, railroads, barns, homes, and even river bottoms. The varied history of the wood adds to its aesthetic appeal.

It's important for homeowners to know that the price point for hardwood will vary depending on species and finish. However, the way the boards are cut will also be a consideration for homeowners. Plainsawn or flatsawn boards have growth rings that run at anywhere from 0 to 45-degree angles to the wide surfaces of the board, with lots of loops and swirls. Quartersawn boards have rings that run from 45- to 90-angles and are not as lively in pattern. Quartersawn boards will expand in thickness depending on moisture and temperature. Plainsawn will shrink and swell widthwise. Quartersawn tend to take wear better and more evenly, contributing to their typically more expnesive price tag.

Homeowners can also choose among engineered wood products, which are essentially several layers of wood veneer adhered to a solid backing of plywood and sealed. This layered construction can make engineered flooring more stable and durable than traditional hardwood flooring. That means it can be used in rooms where hardwood was long frowned upon, like basements and bathrooms.

Wood flooring will continue to garner mass appeal and be the preference of many homeowners. With new innovations and availability, there are more options than ever for discerning homeowners.