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We'll start with the basics of hardwood flooring. In this
section, you'll learn about the initial things to consider when planning a hardwood flooring project. We'll cover important
facts on the Janka Hardness Scale, how your environment can
affect hardwood, recommendations for hardwood in different rooms of your home, parts of your lifestyle to consider, and basic
care and maintenance of your flooring. This Buying Guide will help you determine if hardwood flooring is the
right choice for you.
Throughout this guide, you'll read about hardwood flooring based on its Janka rating or the
Janka Hardness Scale. This rating is reached by measuring the force required for a .444–inch steel
ball to become halfway embedded into a type of wood. It's a good indicator of a wood's ability to stand up to normal wear and
tear and tolerate denting. When you're looking at the Janka chart, you will see woods rated from hardest to
softest. In the flooring industry, and especially North America, all woods are compared to the hardness of Red Oak, which
itself is a medium density wood. The Janka Scale can generally assist you in choosing a hardwood flooring
type with a certain level of hardness depending on your flooring project needs.
When selecting a hardwood type for your flooring project,
it is very important to be aware of your climate and environment. Hardwood flooring can be a considerable investment, so be
certain to take the following points into consideration when planning your flooring project.
Hardwood flooring is a natural product and therefore expands and contracts with changes in humidity and temperature.
Extremes in humidity or dryness can cause your hardwood floor to move or change shape and become uneven. Because of its
single layer construction, solid hardwood flooring is more susceptible than engineered flooring to expanding and contracting
with changes in humidity. Engineered hardwood flooring, with its multi–layered construction, is less prone to movement
from humidity and temperature changes. Learn more about the differences between solid and engineered hardwood flooring in
the "Types" section of this guide.
Recommendation: If you are concerned about the levels of humidity or temperature,
installing engineered hardwood flooring can be a better investment than solid hardwood flooring. Also consider investing in
a humidifier (for dry climates) or dehumidifier (for more humid climates) to keep the humidity steady in your home; it is
generally recommended that the relative humidity level is between 40% and 60%.
Some hardwood floors are sensitive to natural sunlight, and over time they can fade, darken, or
otherwise change shades. When speaking with a flooring or installation professional, be sure to describe the amount of
sunlight that your room receives through doors and windows.
Recommendation: To minimize uneven fading effects, consider hanging curtains, blinds, or
other window coverings where sunlight enters a room with hardwood floors. The areas under most furniture and area rugs will
normally receive less exposure to sunlight, so if slight color changes do occur, occasionally rearranging furniture and rugs
can help promote the floor balancing its color and tone.
With regular maintenance, most hardwood floors can handle ordinary household traffic. For installing
hardwood flooring in high traffic areas like entryways, highly–used hallways and kitchens, look for harder types of
wood with higher Janka ratings, as well as more durable types of surface finishes.
Recommendation: Be sure to take note of high traffic areas in your home before selecting your
hardwood. After installation, use area rugs for additional protection on your floors.
Although flooring is completely customizable to one's needs and preferences, consider the following recommendations for
hardwood flooring in specific home areas:
Hardwood floors are a classic choice for almost any room of your house, but consider choosing a harder wood with a
high Janka rating for particularly busy or "high traffic" rooms in your home. A durable finish may also be
considered for added protection; some hardwood finishes such as aluminum oxide and ceramic provide extra resistance to stains
Recommendation: Consider a light–colored wood to make a smaller bedroom feel larger, or a dark
hardwood for a warm and cozy feeling. Use felt or rubber furniture leg/feet protectors to avoid scratching the finish when
furniture is moved. Protect any particular areas of hardwood flooring in your office by using a chair mat, and maintain the
entire floor regularly. Take care when moving or bringing in new furniture by using floor mats and proper moving equipment.
It is generally NOT recommended that you install hardwood flooring in
bathrooms due to frequent exposure to moisture which can damage the hardwood; however, secondary or guest bathrooms that do
not receive daily use may be an acceptable option. Hardwood floors do work well in kitchens with the proper care. Due to the
possibility of spills, the perimeter of the flooring must be sealed to prevent moisture from getting under the hardwood.
Recommendation: Check with a flooring professional on recommended installation methods for hardwood in a
bathroom. Be sure to verify the warranty you are receiving from the manufacturer or retailer can include bathrooms. In the
kitchen, place mats below the sink and in other potentially wet areas, and always clean up any spills immediately.
In addition to climate–based environmental factors that should be considered in your new flooring search, your
lifestyle may affect the choices you make for your home.
Many hardwood floor warranties will NOT cover scratches, dents, or stains,
so do what you can to prevent pet damage to your flooring.
Recommendation: Keep your pet's nails trimmed and clean up accidents immediately.
Consider using pet water dishes with wide edges to prevent spilling, placing protective mats beneath food and water dishes,
and adding area rugs to high–traffic pet areas as well.
To better handle natural wear and tear from children in a home, look for hardwood floors that rank high on the
Janka hardness scale. Harder wood flooring is more durable in active areas of your home and can better stand up to
the possible dings or dents if hard objects are dropped on it.
Recommendation: Area rugs throughout your home can provide added protection of your
floors. Placing mats outside your exterior doors can cut down on dirt and debris tracked into your home making it easier to
keep clean and also protecting the finish on your hardwood floors.
For multi–level homes, keep in mind that noises and household sounds like footsteps or a dropped object can be
increased with hardwood floors. When purchasing hardwood flooring, be aware that both underlayments as well as certain
adhesives can be used for noise insulation. Two types of sound ratings are available to measure how well
materials can block or insulate sound: Sound Transmission Class (STC) measures airborne sound like speaking and music, and
Impact Insulation Class (IIC) measures impact sounds like footsteps or dropped objects against a material. Ask your
local retailer about products which carry with these sound ratings.
Recommendation: For maximum sound insulation, look for an underlayment (such as cork) that
is made specifically to reduce noise levels. When installing hardwood flooring on upstairs levels, engineered floating
installations are best, but confirm other options you may have with your installer. Determining STC and IIC ratings for your
projects can ensure additional noise level insulation.
If you require a wheelchair, walker, cane, or other accommodations, look for the hardest of hardwoods for your flooring.
Harder wood will better withstand dents and scratches.
Recommendation: Avoid high gloss finishes which can create slippery surfaces.
An important thing to consider when choosing new flooring is the maintenance it will require to keep it clean, safe, and
looking as good as the day you installed it.
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