Before You Buy Hardwood Flooring

You’ve decided to go both timeless and timely with a beautiful new hardwood floor for your home. Congratulations! But before you hand over that credit card or sign that check, we suggest you review these important steps towards a smart purchase:

Each species of hardwood comes with its own unique characteristics. Color is determined by the species and from which part of the tree the wood is cut. Grain pattern is determined by the species and how the wood is cut. Natural variations in the color and grain are to be expected. Similar to natural stone, these variations combine to create your floor’s unique natural beauty.

Pre-finished hardwood floors come already sanded, screened and stained from highly efficient manufacturing plants. Multiple coats of urethane are sprayed on the hardwood boards, which are then UV dried to create a lasting finish. (UV drying isn’t something that can be done at home.)

Pre-finished hardwood floors can be screened and recoated in your home to rejuvenate their finish and revitalize their natural beauty.

Finish in Place
The term “finish in place” refers to having unfinished hardwood installed, sanded, stained and then finished with 2-3 coats of urethane right there in your home. Finishing in place can take a lot more time than installing pre-finished boards — and can make quite a mess. But the result is a level of customization and uniqueness that can’t be found on any store shelf.

If you decide to go with a finish in place floor, it’s important to consider that your floor will not be dust-free, as it’s impossible to create a “dust free” environment in your home. It's inevitable, some dust will fall onto the freshly applied topcoat of urethane finish. You may also discover sanding marks, brush marks and tiny bubbles after installation is complete. If these tiny imperfections become bothersome to you, know that finish in place floors can be screened and recoated at any time to revitalize their natural beauty.

Effects of Weather
Wood is a natural product that expands and contracts unevenly with changes in moisture and temperature. The result can be hairline cracks and/or minor variations in height or width. If you live in a wet climate, make sure your home is well insulated. If you live in a dry climate, consider the use of a whole house humidifier to minimize the effects of weather.

No subfloor is perfectly level. Hollow sounds may result when you walk on your subfloor’s dips or ridges. These imperfections do not affect the integrity or installation of hardwood floors.

UV Light
All hardwood floors will fade or change shades over time. Exposure to sunlight greatly accelerates this process. We recommend window treatments, as well as rotating area rugs and furniture regularly, to allow floors to age evenly from UV exposure.

The “cost per square foot” of your hardwood floor is just one aspect of the entire price tag of a new hardwood floor. Ask your retailer to calculate the total cost of your floor covering project. Here are some of the things he or she may include in the equation:

  • Furniture removal/replacement
  • Some retailers or installers may charge to remove (and then replace) furniture in the installation areas. 
  • Demolition/disposal of old floor covering
  • Unless your home is brand new, there’s probably an old floor covering that is going to need to be removed and properly disposed of. 
  • Sub-floor preparation
  • Depending on its condition (after removal of the old floor covering), your subfloor may need to be prepped for hardwood installation. 
  • Product delivery
  • Delivering your hardwood may not be included in the “cost per square foot” price. 
  • Installation
  • There will most likely be a “cost per square foot” to install your new hardwood floor. 
  • Materials required to complete the installation
  • Additional materials may be required to properly install your hardwood floor. 
  • Financing
  • Many retailers offer financing as an option of payment. Be sure to check the interest rate, minimum payment due and any finance charges if you choose to pay your purchase off over time.
  • In addition to your total project cost, annual cleanings are also recommended to maintain the beauty and life of your hardwood floor. Ask your retailer and/or consult the manufacturer’s warranty and care guide for directions on cleaning and maintenance.
How To Clean Hardwood Flooring

Your hardwood floor is installed. Your house finally feels like a home. But now what? How do you care for your new investment?  Read on.  Need floorcare products, or help from a local floor care professional?  Click here to find a professional hardwood flooring cleaning company in your area.

Meet Mat
Floor mats are a wonderful thing when it comes to hardwood floors. Tiny particles, like dirt, can act like sandpaper and scratch your wood. By placing a floor mat at each entryway and encouraging family members and guests to wipe their feet, the majority of dirt and grime will remain on the mat. Also put a floor mat or rug in any area where water could be splashed — like near the kitchen sink. This will hinder any possible water damage.

Note that rubber-backed or non-ventilated floor mats or rugs can damage your floor. Instead use floor mats or rugs made especially for hardwood floors and be sure to shake them out regularly.

Regular Maintenance
Along with a hardwood floor comes the responsibility of keeping it clean. The better care you take, the longer your floor will maintain its original beauty. Step one is to purchase a high quality broom so that you can sweep your floor regularly of dirt, dust and other particles.

Second step is a vacuum cleaner without a beater bar, to get in between the boards and other hard to reach areas.

Deeper cleaning techniques vary depending on the installation and finish of your hardwood floor. For “Finish in Place” hardwood floors, using an 8”x14” terrycloth mop with a rotating head that makes cleaning corners, under cabinets and along base boards as simple as pie is recommended.

Professional cleaning products recommended by your flooring retailer can be used to remove tough stains and spills without dulling the finish of your wood floor.

Cleaning Products
Hardwood flooring manufacturers of prefinished wood floors have specific recommended cleaning products for maintaining the wood floor's finish. It is best to use their recommended cleaning products and follow their instructions so you do not void your warranties. If you don't know the manufacturer of your wood floors check with your local flooring retailer since there are many different wood floor finishes today. Always test the cleaner first in some obscure corner, such as closet or pantry to make sure you are using the right product.

Dos and Don’ts

Don’t use a wax on a wood floor with a urethane finish

Do use cleaners that won’t leave a film or residue

Don’t use ammonia cleaners or oil soaps on a wood floor — they’ll dull the finish and affect your ability to recoat later.

Do use a professional hardwood floor cleaner to remove occasional scuffs and heel marks (just spray some cleaner on a cloth and rub the stained area lightly). Professional flooring retailers carry specially designed spray cleaners designed for today's hardwood flooring.

Don’t wet mop or use excessive water to clean your floor (wood naturally expands when it’s wet and can cause your floor to crack or splinter).  For information on steam cleaning hardwood floors, see our blog post on Floor Talk.

Do clean sticky spots with a damp towel or sponge

Do minimize water exposure and clean spills immediately

Hardwood Flooring Refinishing
Screen & Recoat: If and when your hardwood floor begins to look like it belongs beneath the feet of gold miners in an old western saloon, it’s time to consider screening and re-coating.

Screening is the process used to abrade or grind down your floor’s polyurethane finish. Next, fresh coats of urethane are applied. The result is a rejuvenated floor that looks as good as the day it was installed!

Sand & Refinish: If the damage to your hardwood floor is severe, then you may require sanding and refinishing. This process involves sanding your floor down to the bare wood and refinishing it. Only go to this effort if screening and re-coating doesn’t solve your problem. Replacement boards may be available so you don’t have to refinish the entire area. Be sure to go pro whenever you have work done on your hardwood floors!

Protect Your Investment
Color Loss & Shading: All hardwood floors fade or change shades over time. Like our own skin, hardwood’s exposure to sunlight may greatly increase this process and cause permanent color change.

Window treatments are recommended to shade your floors from the sun’s harsh UV rays. We also recommend rotating area rugs and furniture regularly, allowing hardwood floors to age evenly from UV exposure.

Scratching: To avoid permanent marks and scratches, it’s a good idea to cover furniture and table legs with flannel protectors. Be careful when moving heavy objects across your floor to avoid scuffing.

Pets: Likewise, trim your pet’s nails regularly and keep any and all other sharp objects away from your wood floors. Also, pet water and food bowls should not be placed directly onto a hardwood floor. Pet urine should be wiped up immediately and then wipe the area with a clean damp cloth.

Stiletto heels may be fashionable, but what’s not in fashion (or covered by your warranty) are the dents and dings they may cause to wood floors. 

Love your floors and your floors will love you back for a long, long time.

How Do I Choose Which Direction My Hardwood Should Run?

The first answer is, if you have solid hardwood, the wood has to be run in a particular direction. The hardwood should run perpendicular across the floor joists for more strength of the floor going over it. Not doing this can cause sagging of the hardwood and board separation.

If you are using engineered hardwood, you have the following choices below.

The second answer is personal preference; however below are some helpful guidelines to keep in mind. Often, it depends on what look you are trying to achieve.

The easiest way to make a decision is to look at the areas receiving hardwood and if there is a narrow hallway involved, then run the hardwood the long length of the hallway.

If you have hardwood in one large size room only, the direction is truly personal preference. The room will appear longer if the wood is run from one end of the room to the other.

If hardwood is in more than one room, but the rooms are open to each other, running the hardwood from the long end to the other end rather than from the front of the room to the back of the room will make the 2 areas seem larger.

Otherwise, the hallway will look chopped up.

Hardwood can also be installed diagonally or with a pattern such as a herringbone.



Here are two rooms – one with the wood running horizontal to the sofa and the other running vertically to the sofa. The first picture appears to have the wood running from the longest end of the room to the other lengthening the appearance of the room.

This is an example of wood being run across the room across the shorter sides. This does not lengthen the room as well as the images above.

When in doubt, don’t feel alone! You can always consult with your flooring salesperson or with your hardwood installer.