1960s Modern Ranch / home / interior design

The Process Behind Choosing Hardwoods

03.01.17

The Process Behind Choosing Hardwoods

I planned for this post go live two weeks ago. (??!)  Client work and moving got in the way, but I have been adding to this post here and there over the past two weeks, so because of that, it’s pretty beefed  up with info on how we chose our hardwoods, a decision that I put no less than 900 hours of thought into.

It was by far the biggest, most daunting decision we made on the house for several reasons.  For one, it was the most costly change we made………that alone will keep ya up at night.   And then as we all know, floors can make or break a house.  Talk about PRESSURE !!  Those two factors alone turned into a crazy amount of ASKJDHFUIEWAFNKJAWE I put on myself and all of the sudden I thought was performing brain surgery on my mom in a life threatening situation.  Thankfully, Parker reminded me I wasn’t doing that.  He also made it clear that this decision was all mine.  Parker was really supportive of the process and did a nice job of ensuring me that whatever hardwood we purchased 2000 sq ft of would be absolutely perfect in our home.  I didn’t believe him, but I did believe that he believed that, which was a relief.  That way, if I ended up hating the hardwoods I could just pretend like I loved them and know that Parker really did love them.

There were a few occasions where I could be found pacing Lumber Liquidators asking to see 15 samples at a time to then ask if we could take those 15 said samples home to compare.  Once those samples were home, I would proceed to order 25 more samples only to lay them all out in our tiny rental house and pace up and down the row of hardwood samples.  If you’ve ever put hardwoods in your home (or any flooring for that matter), I’m sure you can relate.  It’s a decision that’s not taken lightly by most.  It’s also interesting how advising on hardwoods for someone else (client, friend) is nothing like advising for myself.  With someone else, I am able to take their space and how it will be used along with the overall style of the house/decor and narrow down what hardwood that person should choose.  I’m still confused why that process isn’t as breezy when I’m the client, but I think it might have something to do with studying/seeing a lot of different kinds of flooring done well, and wanting to mush all of those nice options together and “have it all” in our space.  It’s a sickness.

So how do you get it right?  How do you choose the perfect hardwood for your home?  You just do it. You do the research, you make a decision and LOVE it when it’s all installed.  But back up to that research phase…… Below are the factors that I considered (in the order that I addressed them).

Engineered Vs. Solid

When I started asking around as to what people preferred when it came to engineered vs. solid wood, most of the responses were, “We went with engineered because the sales person said not to go with solid. No one does solid any more.”  This is true.  Not many people are choosing solid hardwoods anymore because the durability of engineered just can’t be beat.  While no wood is meant to interact with water, an engineered floor will be much more resistant to moisture than a solid.  They’re also more stable.  Engineered floors are made with a top layer of veneer and then plywood sheets under that veneer layer.  The more an engineered floor cost, the thicker that veneer and plywood sheets are.  There are well made engineered floors as well as very cheaply made engineered options.  It doesn’t seem that a cheaply made engineered does much good….

So why I didn’t go with an engineered?? Why would anyone not go with an engineered after the above paragraph?  The ones I saw didn’t have the character I was after.  When I was doing my research, I read arguments like “engineered floors are so durable and won’t show much wear.”  That actually turned me off.  I want the natural patina over time from a solid hardwood floor.  Above all else, I wanted the floors to look like real wood.  I found that some of the engineered options I found actually looked and felt like laminate.  I’m not knocking on laminate here, but why would I pay MUCH more money for a flooring option that looks and feels like a laminate floor that I could get a laminate option for much cheaper??  I’m obviously not saying that all engineered options appear as a laminate.  Again, a well made engineered is a great product, but a cheaply made engineered isn’t worth the money imho.  Decision made, a solid hardwood it was.  And lesson learned: not all engineered (or solid) woods are made equally.

Wood Species

This was a pretty easy decision for me.  I wanted a wood species that was light yet warm.  Oak was an obvious choice as it is the best of both worlds here.  I actually did consider an acacia wood just a few hours before we placed the order but decided to go with my gut which told me oak from the beginning.  I do like the idea/look of acacia but feared it would be TOO much color variation.  We bought a box of each (oak and acacia), brought them home and laid them out.  The acacia was pretty but it scared me.  I knew I was using TONS of different wood tones through the decor and didn’t want my house to look too woody…………….

The Process Behind Choosing Hardwoods

L – R: Solid Finished 5″ White Oak, Solid Finished 5″ Acacia (discontinued), Solid Unfinished Oak, Utility White Oak

You can see from the photo above why I was intrigued by the acacia.  It looked really pretty on the sample (& was pretty in person too) but buying a full box and laying it out showed just how much variation there was, and that wasn’t the look I wanted.

So we went with the 5″ solid white oak (far left above) and are really happy with how it looks in the house.  The far two right options aren’t finished (you can see they have no sheen where the two left are a bit “shinier” but more on that below.

Also – we clearly went with a Lumber Liquidators wood.  They were really nice to work with and the salesperson (he knew us my name by the end) was accommodating and super knowledgeable.  LL had a no interest financing plan, which is a nice option to have with such a big purchase.  I’m not sure if they always offer financing, but something tells me they do.

Plank Width

I went as wide as we could afford if I’m being honest here. The wider, the better (imo) and also more expensive.  You can see here the difference in price of different plank widths that are all white oak solids.

While 2″ – 3″ plank is very classic and feels traditional (most original wood floors will be 2″ – 3″), I wanted our hardwoods to feel modern and “updated” for future resale.  I am incorporating quite a few traditional aspects in the decor, but I’m guessing the next buyer will want the “updated” flooring option as that seems to be what most people like.

Pre-Finished Vs. Unfinished

This was the doozy. I was 150% sure that I wanted an unfinished floor so that I could customize the stain and finish.  I was planning to go with this unfinished 5″ white oak option.  I wanted anything BUT a finish that felt plastic-y and laminate-y like and wanted to use a natural oil finish to stay clear from that route.  Some pre-finished floors have a super thick and shiny finish, which makes the floor extra durable, yes, but not what I wanted.  I didn’t want the floors to feel slick.  I wanted them to feel like WOOD without getting splinters.  The unfinished options are obviosuly cheaper, so I thought it was a done deal.  We would use a natural oil and that would be our finish/stain and we would have gorgeous natural looking floors and they would even cost less than the pre-finished option.  Wrong,  We were quoted for staining/finishing on site and the cost would have been more than going with a pre-finished wood.  I still thought about going that route, but decided it wouldn’t be worth it.  I was a little bummed, but I do love the pre-finished option we went with.  It has a bit more sheen that we would have with the oil finish that I wanted with the unfinished option, but I’m overall super happy with how they look in the house.  And who knows, maybe that unfinished option would have turned out terrible and that oil finish would have been a disaster.  That’s just what I tell myself when I think about what if….

The Process Behind Choosing Hardwoods

The Process Behind Choosing Hardwoods

Both of those photos are from my iphone but do show the true sheen/color depending on the time of day.

Installation

We have a concrete slab, so our options were glue-down or float. Installers prefer floating floors because it’s so much easier & faster than gluing down.  I read (and heard from a few people) that floating their floors created a hollow type sound when you walk on the wood.  I wanted the wood to feel very solid and secure (if that makes sense) so we went with glue down.

The Process Behind Choosing Hardwoods

Just wanted to throw that before shot in this post because before shots make me feel confident that we did the right thing with this house.  Installing new floors (no matter how big the project is) is a decision that most don’t take lightly but hopefully if you are in the market, this gave some insight.  Most people have different opinions on solid vs. engineered, finished vs. unfinished, wood species, plank width and instillation, but it’s important to know where you stand on each issue so that you chose the best option for you!

(I’m going to try to get more photos of the floors and add to this post!)

xx

 

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4 comments on “The Process Behind Choosing Hardwoods”

  1. I have a slab and thought real wood could not be used over concrete and I would have to have laminate.

  2. Love this post! I just spent the last week our local flooring stores getting quotes on different types of flooring. It really is insane how much there is to consider when making your flooring choice! It’s such an investment and there just feels like so much possibility for not getting it just right. I’m going for a similar look in my house so I look forward to seeing how your floors turn out. So far they are looking beautiful! 🙂

  3. Great post. We are also currently trying to pick wood floors. I have found a floor that checks almost all of my boxes (solid, oak/ash, color). The one thing holding me back is the level of gloss. Its doesn’t appear to have a thick finish (which is good), but it just looks too smooth or reflective or something. I am TOTALLY with you on taking the decision super seriously. I just know that we only get to do this once and its going to cost a lot of money, so I want it to be perfect. The manufacturer has offered to lower the gloss. We can pay about $300 for a sample of that. The $300 would then go toward our order. I’m just afraid to get the sample and then not like it. Part of me is having a hard time choosing because I don’t feel like I’ve seen every option that exists in the universe 🙂 Having to narrow it down to lumber liquidators was probably a good thing for you 😉 Check out these two posts if you want to see the floors we are thinking of

    http://www.ourcorneroftheworldblog.com/get-to-know-our-main-floor-and-see-how-floors-affect-everything/

    http://www.ourcorneroftheworldblog.com/starting-to-think-about-floors/

    Don’t judge our styl by our current 1st floor. The point of my blog is to record the work we do to change our builder grade house into something a little more special. We are just beginning!

  4. This is so incredibly insightful. My husband and I have been going on and on to try and figure out what color/width/style to go with, so it’s really refreshing someone who does this for a living struggles with the same decisions 🙂

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