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Gaining a better understanding of the terms and definitions associated with
hardwood floors can better prepare you for your own hardwood flooring project. Before you begin your
search, you should know what to look for when buying hardwood floors. This section provides a quick and easy breakdown of
valuable things to know about hardwood flooring, including varieties, finishes and textures.
Individual pieces (strips or planks) are cut from a piece of solid hardwood in one of three ways:
Engineered hardwood flooring is constructed using layers of hardwood and other materials, with a top
layer of finished wood. The top layer of engineered flooring is called a veneer.
The number of times your engineered hardwood floors may be sanded and refinished depends on the
thickness of the veneer. Generally, veneers that are less than 1/8" thick can be completely sanded and
refinished only one or two times. However, if your flooring just has minor scratches, the process of screening and coating
can be done several times. In screening and coating, only the finish is sanded (or "screened") off of the top layer and new
finish is applied.
Veneers are constructed one of two ways:
Hardwood flooring is referred to as being either strip or plank. These terms refer to
the width of the wood.
Domestic hardwood is a term used
to describe hardwoods from North America. Popular North American hardwoods include White Oak, Red Oak, North American Maple,
North American Cherry, Hickory, Black Walnut, Ash, and Beech.
Hardwoods sourced outside North America are often more expensive than domestic woods, with greater variation in color
and grain. Some well–known exotic hardwoods include
Teak, Brazilian Cherry (Jatoba), Brazilian Walnut (Ipe),
Tigerwood, Santos Mahogany, Cumaru, Merbau,
Wenge, Patagonian Rosewood, and African Mahogany.
Smooth hardwood floors will have an overall even look and feel to the grain,
appearance, and texture of the finish.
Hardwood floors with a distressed texture have an "old world" appearance as they look weathered and
worn. Distressed flooring is deliberately but creatively beaten and made to have an older or more broken–in feel for
this particular style preference.
Hand–scraped hardwood flooring is different from distressed; this flooring texture can be created
by hand or machine. Hand–scraping creates an uneven pattern of waves or soft ridges which give an aged appearance, but
are not necessarily distressed.
Wire brushes remove sapwood and other soft areas of the wood to give the flooring a deeply grained look
Parquet flooring consists of pieces of hardwood laid in a decorative pattern. The pattern will always
be geometrical or angular. The herringbone pattern is the most recognizable type of parquet floor.
Inlaid borders or medallion patterns can add visual interest to your hardwood floors.
Inlays are usually done by using a different type of wood than the main flooring.
A pattern is taped onto a hardwood floor and stained over with a lighter or darker stain, revealing a
pattern when the tape is removed.
Materials like ceramic tiles, marble, aluminum,
copper, and brass can be inlaid to your hardwood floors for a unique look. With a qualified
craftsman, design options with mixed media are limitless.
A very small angle is cut on the edges of hardwood pieces so when placed together, minor imperfections
in the subfloor are offset to create a level appearance across the flooring.
Corners are cut at an extreme angle, creating a deep V where the planks align, creating obvious grooves
and a distinctive look at the surface.
Edges are cut at 90º angles so that when placed together with other pieces of flooring there is
smooth transition and no groove between the edges.
Distressed or hand–scraped hardwood floors have irregular edges to match the irregular distressed
or hand–scraped patterns.
Pre–finished hardwood floors are sanded and finished at the factory before delivery and
installation. Unfinished hardwood flooring is sanded and finished after installation. Known to be tough and durable,
pre–finished flooring is usually given several coats of UV finish. Some are available with aluminum oxide finishes for
Unfinished hardwood floors need to be sanded and finished after installation. They are usually not
recommended for do–it–yourself installation due to the time and skill that goes into completing an unfinished
hardwood flooring project with a correctly applied finish.
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