Hardwood floors are a tasteful upgrade and often wise monetary investment for your home. They come in many different types of wood, finishes and stains, the varieties are seemingly endless! While we could write dozens of pages on the topic, we’re just going to stick to the basics for this article.One of the first things that needs to be addressed and that several people overlook when thinking about hardwood floors is:
Solid hardwoods typically need to be kept in a fairly stable environment with a humidity % ranging from 45-55% to help prevent expansion and contraction. The use of a furnace in the winter dries out the air in your home and can cause the hardwood to contract, leading to unsightly gaps between planks. In the summer humidity is higher and floor boards expand causing gaps to disappear. Too much moisture however can lead to planks buckling or even breaking. Due mainly to this factor, it is recommended not to install hardwood floors below grade (basement). Humidity in a home with hardwood floors is typically controlled with a central humidifier/dehumidifier device which is another cost you may need to consider when budgeting for your project. There are also engineered hardwoods which can accept a little more variance in humidity levels (40-60%), so this may be something to consider as well.
Cleaning and maintaining your floors
This is really quite simple. You can use either a vacuum or “Swiffer” type broom to help eliminate dirt/dust. For any other marks or spots that don’t come out this way a damp cloth is fine or use a specialized hardwood cleaner. Don’t use any of the following products (or products similar in nature): ammonia-based cleaners, acrylic finishes, was-based products, detergents, bleach, polishes and oil soaps, abrasive cleaning soaps or acidic materials such as vinegar. Also it goes without saying, don’t allow water to stand on your floor for any length of time, wipe it up immediately.
Buying from the homebuilder
We all know builders usually charge above and beyond what private contractors do to have upgrades installed in your house before closing. Some of these upgrades though are in fact “smart” upgrades, such as hardwood stairs. Although stairs can be done post-closing (and potentially for some monetary savings), it is a very messy and labour intensive job. It is often worth the extra couple thousand from the builder just to get this hassle out of the way. Floors on the other hand can often be had for significantly cheaper and be of better quality than what the builder offers with little to no hassle. The only issue might be trying to match the stain to your stairs, but often a perfect (or very very close) match can be done. If you plan to do hardwood floors post closing, make sure you specify to the builder that you want everything unfinished (or carpeted if you’re dealing with Mattamy, as they won’t leave a house unfinished). Remember, it’s also very difficult and messy to remove tiles.
If you don’t mind paying a bit more and really want hardwood and a move-in ready home then maybe builder hardwood is the best option for you. If you want to save some money and get a better quality product for less, do it after closing.
Different sizes, types and finishes of wood
These days, people seem to be trending away from the lighter hardwoods and favouring the darker woods for a more modern look. Of course the main point to consider is your own tastes, but for resale, the dark hardwoods are certainly appealing to a wider range of prospective buyers. Wider planks, especially the 5” and 7” planks, are also generally preferred although anything wider than 3” should be fine. As for finishes, I prefer a hand-scraped finish as it tends to better hide scratches and defects. An important thing to note when considering dark hardwoods; they will show scratches and dings more than a lighter wood, especially with a glossy finish. If you have a large dog, this will be an issue and is something to consider.