10 Tips on buying hardwood floors- from an insider

  1. Understand your sub-floor before you start

The type of hardwood you choose depends on the material of your sub-floor and its limitations. The material, whether concrete or plywood will also help determine the installation method –floats, nail, or glue. You must also investigate if the thickness of the hardwood will cause height restrictions, especially near the doors. The floor may also cause the height of the first of last stair to vary.

2. Determine general scope and objectives before you start

When hiring the contractor, you need to first determine which parts of your home do you want the hardwood flooring installed and the budgetary allowance. If you already have hardwood floor in certain rooms, it is best you match the species and color for a coordinated look. You may also choose to refinish the existing wood to your current choice.

3. Determine your general budget

It is essential you have your budget planned with an upper limit in mind. Only when you have your funds figured would you be able to decide on the type and quality of hardwood and the area you can cover. Also, hardwood flooring can be expensive and hence you may want to cover the home in parts, one room at a time. Also, if you have the budget in hand doesn’t have to imply that you choose the expensive option to spend it all.

4. Do some research on local flooring stores/contractors – involve them early in the process

Contact local agents, friends, and trusted advisors for contractors. You may also perform your research online or find trusted agents through Angie’s list for a small fee. If you search for a contractor online, ensure that you read reviews and testimonials before hiring them.

5. Beware that cheaper is not better

Often, we tend to go with the cheapest quote. While a company may be quoting half of another, please enquire into the grades of wood used and the method of installation. The inferior milling, knotted grades of wood often come at a fraction of the cost of quality hardwood. Avoid bamboo flooring as it cannot handle foot traffic or water exposure. Also, Big Box Stores are usually cheaper but offer mostly bamboo. If buying online, check shipment costs and return policies just in case the product does not turn out to be satisfactory.

6. Style considerations – what are your preferences?

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Your home needs to be made to your choice and thus you need to choose what you like best. Choose from various grains and colors based on the rest of your home and your liking. Also, you need to consider the thickness of the plank and the texture – smooth or distressed.

7. Family usage and pets

You must choose the wood according to the type of usage it will undergo. If you have pets and kids, go for lighter colors and satin finish as the scratches and footprints wont show. Also, oil based poly will tend to hold up better than water borne ones. You may want an extra coat of poly for longevity.

8. Pre-finished v/s site finished

You need to decide whether you want the wood to be factory finished or finished on site after it is installed. Pre-finished wood provides for easy and faster installation and is generally less messy and smelly. On the other hand the site-finished wood has a consistent color and smoother edges. You can also customize the color on the test and trial method. Also, it is preferred for kitchen and entryways as it is more impervious to moisture.

9. Special considerations

You may want to consider cost underlayment as a sound barrier if you set up in a condo and have restrictions on sound transmissions. These will require a floating floor.

If you have terrazzo, terra cotta or vinyl asbestos tiles, not only will the removal be costly but may require licensing to remove along with air quality testing. Also, the prep work will be a lot more to make the floor smooth, increasing the cost multifold.

In case of radiant heat, you may want to opt for engineered hardwood floors approved for radiant heat.

10. Plan ahead on your timing-many underestimate the time frame

It is a time taking process with around a week needed for acclimation of wood depending on the species. Account for the time of demo and installation and plan in advance to avoid delay when an important event is coming up.

It can be tricky to choose your hardwood flooring, and thus, if you’re confused it is best to consult an expert.

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