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Buying Guide: Shop for Solid Hardwood

Solid hardwood flooring is a natural option that adds timeless beauty and value to your home.

5 min read
Published on May 20, 2022

For centuries, the natural beauty of solid hardwood has adorned homes around the world. Showcasing all the patterns, colors, and textures of Mother Nature, this flooring has an appealingly warm and traditional aesthetic. With the huge variety of stains and finishes available, solid hardwood complements any décor while also being easy to maintain. It's a great option if you're looking for flooring with long-lasting beauty.

What is Solid Hardwood?

As the name suggests, solid hardwood flooring consists of planks made from solid wood. Domestic hardwood from North America and Canada comes from professionally managed forests containing trees that are prized for their timber. Many are deciduous, broad-leafed species such as oak, maple, and cherry. You can also find exotic species from around the world with the colors, grain patterns, and other properties that make for quality flooring.

Benefits of Solid Hardwood

Solid hardwood is the perfect choice for those looking to upgrade to flooring that has classic, enduring beauty while also adding value to their homes. With each plank, you’re getting a unique piece of wood with its own character and distinctive grain. You’ll find hardwood easy to keep clean of dust and dirt, and with this simple maintenance your flooring could last you a lifetime. That's why, at LL Flooring, many of our solid hardwood options are backed by a 100-year transferable residential warranty.

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a family plays on a solid hardwood floor
This hardwood shows warming, gold hues and the natural touch of its distressed texture. Featured floor: Bellawood Artisan Somersworth Oak solid hardwood flooring.

Appearance and Hardness of Hardwood

There are as many colors, textures, and grain patterns as there are species of trees. For instance, Red Oak has a slightly pink tint and a pronounced grain pattern, while White Oak contains more yellow and has a tighter grain. Exotic hardwoods like Acacia and Brazilian Pecan offer dramatic grain patterns and color variations that create striking accents to your décor.

You’ll also discover differences in hardness, as measured on the Janka Hardness Scale. No wood is completely resistant to scratches and dents, but you can use the Janka scale to determine the species that will best suit your lifestyle. Common Red Oak is the industry benchmark. Pines—which are softwoods—fall below that benchmark, so may not be suitable for busy areas. If you need something more robust, many exotic species such as Brazilian Pecan or Patagonian Rosewood rate high on the scale.

Finishes, Textures, and Sizes

Stains enrich the color of your wood and highlight its grain patterns and knots. At LL Flooring, we offer a wide assortment of finishes to match décors from traditional to contemporary. Whether you want deep, rich tones for your formal dining room or cool gray tones for your beach cottage, you’ll find an array of options. High gloss complements traditional formal looks, while low gloss lends a more casual modern feel. Choose unfinished flooring if you want to tailor your flooring to your space.

Textures bring both functional and stylistic benefits. For instance, distressed textures from wire brushing, scraping, and saw marks match casual or Old World styling. A side benefit is that those marks will help mask the nicks and scratches that happen with everyday life. Smooth hardwood, on the other hand, provides a fresh, clean look to a room. It's easy to wipe clean, making it convenient in areas that frequently get dirty.

The width of the planks can alter the effect your flooring has on the appearance of the room size. Narrow planks, particularly in darker colors, create a more traditional look. Wider planks create a more open, trend-forward feeling. Wide planks in smooth textures and matte finishes can bring a European-style ambiance to your space.

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bedroom with brown hardwood flooring
Rich tones of solid hardwood can transform a space. Featured floor: Bruce Slate Oak solid hardwood flooring - 5 in. width.

 

Hardwood Installation Tips

Your solid hardwood flooring can be installed either at grade or above grade, making it perfect for living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms. Below-grade areas, such as basements, are typically not ideal for hardwood flooring due to moisture concerns. For basement flooring, you might want to look at water-resistant engineered hardwood, laminate, engineered cork, or Hyrdocork options. You could also go for a wood-look tile or vinyl.

Solid hardwood planks have a tongue and groove profile and can be installed using nail, glue, or nail with glue assist methods. The average do-it-yourselfer will find solid hardwood a bit trickier to install compared to other types of flooring. We recommend professional installation for this job—why not let us do the hard work for you.

Acclimation

However you plan to install your hardwood floor, you’ll first need to acclimate the boards to the environment of the room. This is a crucial step that will help prevent future warping or gapping in response to the room's humidity and temperature. Elevate the planks on pallets and leave them for a couple of days or weeks, depending on the wood, to ensure that their moisture content becomes stable and similar to the surrounding environment. You can test the flooring with a moisture meter and meet the installation guidelines specific to your flooring.

Subfloor Prep

Your subfloor should be flat, stable, clean, and dry. Plywood is preferred. If you have a concrete subfloor, we recommend first installing a moisture barrier and then a layer of plywood. Whatever your subfloor, you might also want to consider underlayment. This layer of material lies between your subfloor and your hardwood and helps provide stability, support, and sound reduction. It will also serve as a moisture barrier.

Trims and Molding

Even properly acclimated hardwood can shrink and expand in response to seasonal changes in atmosphere. Because of that, you’ll need to leave an expansion gap between your flooring and walls. Use baseboard molding to hide the expansion gap and complete the look of your floors. We also offer a wide assortment of other trims and transition pieces including T-molding, thresholds, and quarter rounds, as well as complementary items such as stair treads and vent grills.

Maintenance and Value

Maintenance is generally simple—just sweep your floor with a soft-bristled broom or microfiber sweeper. Finished solid hardwood floors are not waterproof, and should restrain from wet mopping. Use an approved cleaner, such as our Bellawood Care Kit. For tough spots, use mineral spirits with a clean white cloth, followed by a damp cloth. We have a range of specialist cleaning products that will help you keep your floor looking as good as new throughout its life.

A well-maintained solid hardwood floor has lasting value that will grace your home for decades. When you shop at LL Flooring, you'll find a choice of solid hardwood styles that not only reflect your personal taste but that will work well with your lifestyle. Explore our full collection of domestic and exotic hardwoods in striking colors and textures to find the perfect fit for you.

Contact a flooring expert today, shop hardwood online, or visit your closest LL Flooring store to find out more. We're happy to help.

 

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