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Design & Lifestyle Hardwood Flooring

Design & Lifestyle Hardwood Flooring

Benefits | Step 1 – How to Choose | Step 2 – Design & Lifestyle | Step 3 - Other considerations

Step 2 – Design and Lifestyle

When choosing hardwood flooring, you need to consider the room and how it is used. It is important that your expectations for performance matches your selection. Look also at which species of wood you prefer, what colour or finish works best in your room, the style and appearance of the floors and the different grades and cuts of the flooring.

The room and your lifestyle
Type of room
What kind of room are you decorating? Flooring in a kitchen may necessitate a different finish or colour than a bedroom or a formal dining room. Consider also whether the room opens up to the outside and if dirty shoes might track through the room. As well, think about what type of transition you’ll have between the new and old floors and adjoining rooms.

Because all wooden floors can suffer from water damage, both solid hardwood and engineered floors are not designed for heavily wet areas like bathroom floors or laundry room flooring. Cupping (edges are raised) and crowning (centre is swollen, edges sloped down) are just a couple side effects of a water-related disaster. Kitchens, in general, are an okay place to install both flooring types as long as the floors are well-maintained and are free from standing water.

Some types of hardwood floors and finishes hold up better to heavy use. If the room will have a lot of foot traffic, children or pets, you’ll want to choose a harder species. Think about how the room will be used and what kinds of activities will take place there.

Room aesthetics
The size of the room, sight lines to the rest of the home and flow between rooms can all influence flooring choices. Consider also the lighting in the room, and how the placement of windows, skylights and indoor lighting affect the look of your floors.

Consider what is motivating your search for new floors. Is it a practical need for a new floor, a desire for a new look, for allergies or physical restrictions, or are you looking to increase the value of your property for resale?

Species and Performance
Wood flooring comes in a wide range of species, designs and colours. Its’ all a matter of taste but

a wood floor is for life. That’s why it’s so important to choose carefully.

Each species of wood has its own grain, colour and pattern. Your choice of species depends on your personal preferences and the look you want to achieve. There is a big price range within the variety of species as well. Some of the more popular species are Oak and Maple, Birch, Ash, Beech, Cherry and Walnut. Popular exotic woods include Brazilian Cherry (also know as Jatoba), Lapacho (also know as Brazilian Walnut) and Merbau. Different species have different hardness levels (measured by the Janka scale), which affect their durability.

Janka hardness scale for wood flooring species
The Janka hardness test is a measurement of the force necessary to embed a .444-inch steel ball to half its diameter in wood. It is the industry standard for measuring the durability of various species to tolerate denting and normal wear.

Colour and Finish
Wood comes in many different colours and tones, which can have a big influence on the appearance of the floor. Any species can be stained different colours to achieve different looks and effects.

Consider what look you want to achieve and how the floor colour plays into that aesthetic. Remember that hardwood floors last a very long time, longer than many home fashion trends, so choose a look that will have longevity. Think about the other features in the room and whether you’re looking to accent or contrast other colours in the room. The lighting in the room will also influence the colour so plan to look at a sample in the room where you’re planning to install the floors.


The finish, or sheen, of the floor affects the durability, look and feel of a floor. Heavy finishes provide more durability but reduce the feel and closeness of the wood. In days gone by, wooden floors were waxed, but today most are finished with urethane coating, which is tougher, easier to maintain and lasts longer.

Pre-finished vs. unfinished
Most floors sold today are pre-finished, which has the advantage of a controlled application resulting in a tougher finish. It is also more cost effective and performs better over time. Unfinished floors are still available, but once installed, these must be finished on site, so plan to be out of the room or home for up to five days for finishing.

The quality and durability of a polyurethane finish is determined by the quality and quantity of the polyurethane (minimum of 70-120 mil. per square meter) and the application procedure used, not the number of coats applied. You can tell whether a product has a good factory finish by checking that the stain reaches to the bottom of the joint to ensure a uniform colour, and that the stain is applied in the joints so they don’t absorb dirt and water, which would quickly darken. A well finished floor is consistent in color and finish from one box of planks to another.

Lighter woods are more likely to change colour or turn yellow from the effect of intense light or the sun’s rays, so some manufacturers mix a UV treatment directly into their polyurethane finish. An aluminium oxide finish provides superior toughness and abrasion resistance and is easy to maintain but difficult to repair.

Gloss Levels
As a general rule, high gloss floors show scratches and imperfections more easily. If the area you're covering is a high traffic area, especially areas well travelled by children and large pets, satin or lower gloss finishes are the best options. For a formal look or in a low traffic area, the high gloss choices may be appropriate.

  High-gloss offers a bright, smooth finish but increases the visibility of scratches, marks, dirt and dust.
  Semi-gloss provides a medium finish and is the most common.
  Low-gloss minimize the appearances of marks and scratches, keeping the new look longer.

Style and Appearance
Hardwood floors can evoke a wide variety of personal styles, including modern, classic, traditional, sleek, rustic, sophisticated or casual.

The style of your floors depends a lot on the width of the boards. Standard board widths are 2-1/4”, 3”, 3-1/4” and 4-1/4”. Wider boards can make a room look shorter, where thinner boards give a longer look to the room.

In recent years, wider boards have gained popularity for larger rooms, but note that wider boards of single-layer hardwood are more prone to movement of the planks, so multi-layered hardwood can be a better choice for a bigger-width look. See the Design Tips section for more details.

Edge detail
The way the edges and the ends of the boards are cut can influence the style as well. Options include square, eased, microbeveled and bevelled. For a dramatic effect, select a bevelled edge that emphasis the definition of individual boards. Square edges or ends create a smooth and seamless appearance.


The beauty of wood can be augmented by handcrafting, using a variety of tools to create a unique, antiqued look with wire brushes, chisels, planes etc.

Grades and Cuts
Understanding how the wood is cut from the tree and how each plank is graded for quality will help ensure that your floors reflect the design and lifestyle you desire.

Boards can be cut in three different ways:

The grade refers to the amount of variations in the boards, meaning how much they show mineral streaks, colour variations, natural wormholes and knots. Manufacturers often use their own names for the different grades, each of which creates a different look and style. While there are many variable, hardwood generally falls into one of four categories:

Benefits | Step 1 – How to Choose | Step 2 – Design & Lifestyle | Step 3 - Other consideration



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