Different Board Widths to Consider

Looking for the perfect type of hardwood floor can be an overwhelming process. People go to the flooring showrooms in search of the perfect color and type… most can begin to breathe easy once they have that ideal sample of wood clasped tightly in their hands.

If you’ve been considering installing new hardwoods in your home, you’ve probably thought about the wood species and stain, as those factors most obviously affect the look and feel of the room, but have you thought about the board width?

Don’t panic. Keep clasping your samples of hardwoods and read about your options:

Board width can be divided into two categories, strip and plank. Strip is less than 3” wide and plank is greater than 3” wide, usually getting as wide as 7” and sometimes even wider.

Strip flooring can be used to create almost any look by putting together the right combination of species, stain, installation pattern and furnishing. Strip flooring creates a running, linear effect that, much like a mirror or light paint colors, gives the illusion of a larger space. This makes it particularly appropriate if you are trying to achieve a contemporary look in your room, especially if you choose a select grade hardwood with a uniform color. It is the more common flooring option seen in both commercial and residential applications.

Plank flooring, with its wide boards, is more commonly used when trying to achieve a rustic or country look in the space. It, too, creates a linear effect in the room, but the width of the boards doesn’t expand the space as significantly. Although traditionally made from pine and thought of as the floor used in old farm houses or colonial homes, designers are starting to acknowledge the beauty of this option for contemporary designs as well.

Swedish Finish vs Water Based Finish

If you’ve decided to add hardwood floors to your home, or if you’re simply just refinishing your existing floor, you have a handful of decisions to make. In many ways, your flooring is an indispensable element of décor and the type or color you choose really depends on personal preference. But it`s the final finish – the protective coating – that determines how long the “look” will last. It also determines how long the floor will endure, and what kind of maintenance will be required.

Swedish finish is an alcohol-based varnish developed in the early 1950s in Scandinavia. In the United States, the finish has its biggest following here in the Pacific Northwest. And with our customers, Swedish finish is used 4 to 1 over any other finish.

It’s our opinion, that for good quality work and when the home owner is concerned about final appearance, the Swedish finish is the best choice. It has a fuller and richer amber appearance. Swedish is definitely the most durable and long-lasting option for finishing hardwood floors. And when it comes to cleaning, a light mopping is all that’s required to maintain the warmth and shine. In fact, it’s the most practical finish to use on hardwoods in kitchens.

The downside of Swedish finish, however, is that it contains volatile solvents which are extremely flammable and have a very unpleasant odor. We require that homeowners vacate their homes when Swedish finish is applied and it can take up to 3 weeks before rugs can be put back in place. Some manufacturers say it takes up to 3 or 4 months for Swedish finish to cure completely.

Often, customers ask us about finishing options other than the traditional Swedish finish. There are a growing number of waterborne (water based) finishes available on the market including some like Glitsa Max, Bona Traffic, or Basic Coatings Streetshoe. These have been widely used for over a decade.

Water-based finishes, when applied correctly, definitely offer results to match those of Swedish. The biggest benefit is the absence of the strong, irritating odor which makes it possible for a homeowner to stay in their home instead of sleeping somewhere else for the night.

The main drawback of a water based finish is that it can and often will raise the grain of wood, thereby causing the flooring to be a little rougher. To solve that problem, we’ve found that at least three coats of water based finish is necessary for filling the grain and protecting the hardwood. It also does have a slightly shorter life and a paler more natural wood color.

Hardwood Floor Installation Patterns

The installation pattern you choose for your space can have as much weight on the resultant look as the actual wood you put in. It will influence the way furniture will sit and the movement in the room. Although there aren’t that many options, they are vastly different from each other. Here are some various hardwood floor installation patterns to choose from…

The most basic and common installation pattern is straight. Wood boards are installed parallel to each other along the length or width of the room. This pattern is great for simple, contemporary designs as well as any other design that wants to use the beautiful look of wood flooring without showy installations. Basically, this pattern lets the wood speak for itself. This is also the least expensive of the available installation patterns, as it is the most straight-forward. All other patterns are more costly because of extra wood and longer installation costs.

Random installation is also installed in a straight-forward, parallel pattern but it uses a mixture of floor board widths. You can choose the ratio of wide to narrow boards, what widths you want to use, and how many boxes of each to purchase. This gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of shopping and could save you money if, for example, you buy left over boxes from discontinued series. This patterns often results in a rustic looking space, it adds a lot of movement to the room and gives it an energetic feel.

Diagonal pattern installation adds a touch of luxury and formality to a room without straying too far from traditional straight installation or adding too much to your final remodeling bill. Boards are installed parallel to each other but they are laid at a 45° angle to the walls.

Parquet pattern installation is in some ways a lost art. Parquet installation is the laying of wood in a repeated geometric pattern, often resulting in a floor that has the appearance of a checkerboard, sometimes with more complex patterns within each checkerboard square. The options for patterns are practically limitless. This pattern gives a room a very distinct and sophisticated look reminiscent of European grandeur. Traditional parquet installation is expensive and rare. It has now been replaced with prefabricated square modules with parquet patterns laid out in a wood veneer.

In a Herringbone pattern, strips of wood flooring are laid in a diagonal zigzag plan that looks like its name says. This pattern can be laid out in the traditional manner or with square modules, like the parquet designs. It gives the space a formal look reminiscent of old European flats as well as museum halls.

Any of these listed installation patterns can be complemented or finished off with a perimeter border or other decorative touches, including mosaics. These can be made out of wood, natural stone or alternative materials like glass and metal tiles. The perimeter border frames the room in which it is installed, a feature that works to separate the room from adjacent spaces and add formality to it. Inlays, like mosaics, add custom individuality and help to significantly sway the style of a room towards the classic.

Hardwoods in Bathrooms

When building or remodeling a bathroom, homeowners have shied away from using hardwoods as a flooring option. The mantra that designers and architects have stuck to is “wood and water don’t mix”.

The inevitably humid environment in a bathroom, as well as unavoidable spills and splashes, have the power to warp or cup the wood flooring. In some cases, the moisture renders the floor unattractive and can encourage the growth of potentially destructive and dangerous molds. While this is definitely a potential risk, there are ways around it.

To start with, it’s important to choose an appropriate type of wood to use. Choose a hardwood floor rather than a softwood floor, as softwood tends to absorb more ambient moisture, making it vulnerable to damage. Particularly resilient and strong woods that could work in the bathroom are oak, maple, cherry, ash, and hickory.

Swedish or polyurethane finishes on the hardwood floors make the floors resistant to average bathrooms – except, of course, unceasingly humid and wet conditions. This finish uses synthetic resin, plasticizers and other film-forming elements to form a watertight seal that remains intact, without peeling, when the wood expands and contracts.

Even with this finish, certain precautions need to be taken in the bathroom. For example, significant and even small spills should be cleaned up quickly. Leaks from the tub and toilet need to be addressed immediately… something that should be handled regardless of the flooring you choose, but particularly important with wood floors.

Other minor additions in your bath could add protection for your hardwood floors and make maintenance a little easier. For example, placing mats with rubber bottoms around the wet areas like the toilet, tub, or shower. These will give a permanent moisture absorber that will save you the trouble of running around paranoid and wiping up every tiny splash. It is also beneficial to hang dry your mats when they get wet to insure no water is trapped between them and the hardwoods.

Another similar solution is installing a strip of stone or ceramic flooring around the wet areas with hardwood in the rest of the space. This will provide you with a completely water resistant area in vulnerable parts of the bathroom while still adding to the overall design.

Hardwood floors give rooms the look of warmth and style that is unmatched by any other material. The physical warmth that the floors provide is also an attractive feature, especially on winter mornings when the cold ceramic tiles make getting up that much harder. Their unequaled versatility, style and adaptability have made them a prime material for every other room in the home, and now new finishes are making hardwoods in bathrooms a realistic choice as well.

Whole House Humidifier Reviews

Since we posted our article last month about ‘Winter Cold Causing Problems with Your Hardwoods’, we’ve had a handful of people ask us about different humidifier options for their home.

As we explained, along with the cold winter weather comes dry air. To stay toasty warm in our homes, we sometimes crank up the heater, which adds to the problem. While moisture causes hardwood floors to expand and cup, overly dry wood can cause it to shrink, gap, and crack.

Not only is dry air hard on our wood floors, it has many other damaging effects on our healthy… dry noses, cracked, itchy skin, and sore throats. It can also aggravate allergy, asthma, and cold symptoms. Sound familiar? A whole house humidifier can add just the right amount of moisture to your home to help protect your health and floors.

So how does a whole house humidifier work? It is installed directly to your central new or existing heating and cooling system. While continually monitoring relative humidity levels in your home, moisture is introduced into the air in the form of water vapor and is usually distributed via your heating and cooling system ductwork throughout your home.

Here are a few reviews of different whole house humidifier brands (just click on the picture for more information or to purchase from Amazon.com)…


Honeywell HE360A Whole House Powered Humidifier

This humidifier provides fan-powered flow-thru and whole house humidification with low maintenance. It has low water usage and is compact to allow mounting in more applications. This humidifier has easy installation and is considered to be the best choice for variable speed and multi-stage systems. It humidifies up to 4200 square feet and uses Vista model No. 714 filter pad.


Aprilaire 700 Automatic Humidifier

This newly designed model features a flow-thru fan powered technology allowing it be mounted in areas where space is tight. This Humidifier has a built in fan so a bypass duct is unnecessary. It has an evaporative capacity of 0.75 gallons per hour with a water flow through rate of 6 GPH and is capable of humidifying a tightly-constructed home up to 4,200 square feet in size.

American Cherry Hardwoods in Clyde Hill

We recently refinished the American Cherry hardwood floors in this beautiful Clyde Hill home. American Cherry is been a highly valued hardwood for centuries, and is famous for its wonderful reddish color that deepens with age as it is exposed to light.

Many people don’t know that cherry trees belong to the rose family. Also, Cherry wood used for flooring and furniture  does not come from the same type of tree that produces the fruit – it just belongs to the same genus of plants. With it’s unique grain pattern, Cherry wood is becoming increasingly popular to use for floors. While it doesn’t always take stains well, it is found to have colors that range from cherry in its natural state, to nearly black. The only downside of Cherry hardwoods is that it is a very soft wood that can dent or scratch easily.

This beautiful type of hardwood causes a lush, rich feel that is certain to dramatically transform any living space. Give us a call anytime for more information on American Cherry or adding any other type of hardwood floor to your home.

Winter Cold Causing Problems With Your Hardwoods? How Whole House Humidifiers Can Help…

During these cold winter nights, do you hear your house speaking to you? Yes, I’m talking about those creaking and cracking noises from your floors. Much like anything else in nature, your hardwood floors can get stressed, especially with drastic temperature changes. So when you hear those strange noises in your house at night, it’s probably your floors screaming at you, “Help me!”

So what stresses our hardwood floors in the winter time? Here in Seattle, cold weather forces us to turn on the heater. Heating dries out the indoor air and moisture is lost. Your hardwood floors have pores that gain or lose moisture in minimal amounts. While heating your home, moisture is gradually being removed from the hardwood flooring. As they lose moisture over the years, they shrink. While seasonal shrinking is very normal and expected, sometimes it can get severe and eventually the floorboards get to their breaking point, hence the crying out.

So how can you rescue your hardwood floors? If you are noticing the shrinking and drying, provide a constant level of humidification to the home environment by installing a whole house humidifier. For more information and reviews on different humidifiers, read our article ‘Whole House Humidifier Reviews’.

Also, check out our article on The Best Time To Install Hardwood Floors. Give us a call anytime for more information or to schedule your free estimate.