Hardwood floors bring much to the properties in which they are installed. They add a natural grace and beauty in addition to a sense of quality and luxury. They are enduring and don’t harbor allergens and dirt like carpet does. For all its advantages, though, homeowners should know what they are getting into before installing hardwood. Here is a quick overview of three of woods characteristics to inform your hardwood floor choice.
Every preschool child knows that wood is brown. Unless they are exploring their blue period, they will use the brown crayon for tree trunks and logs every time. In reality, however, wood offers much more variety colorwise. Natural wood ranges from almost white to red to golden to black, and homeowners have a lot of freedom when choosing the color they want their floors to be.
In fact, color choices extend beyond even woods characteristic hues. While the options are naturally diverse, they are made even more so with the option of stain. Stain preserves wood’s natural textured appearance but can be used to give your wood floors pretty much any hue on the spectrum.
Grain: Wood’s Characteristic Cut Above the Rest
Grain refers to the pattern of wood’s fibers, and it is just one of woods characteristics that has an abundance of choices. Grain is determined by how the wood is cut. This can mean parallel to the center of the tree’s pitch, as is the case with straight grain, or something a little less straightforward like interlocking or irregular grains.
What Is Grain Matching?
More common in cabinetry, grain matching is the process of lining up the grain between two pieces of wood. This is a nuanced process and almost certainly requires that both pieces come from the same tree. When grain matching is applied in flooring, grains can be matched either along the planks’ long sides or their shorter ones. This process makes for a cohesive and streamlined appearance along a floor.
The less expensive and finessed method is simply lay floor planks without matching up their grains. Non-grain matching is becoming more common, especially because it makes replacing damaged planks so much easier. Not matching can emphasize color contrasts between planks, an effect which some homeowners prefer.
Do or Do Knot
Everyone knows that texture is one of the most well-loved of woods characteristics. It sets it apart from more synthetic flooring materials. Beyond the texture of the natural grain, knots add even more visual interest. They have their pros and cons, and ultimately it is up to homeowners whether or not they prefer knots in their wood.
What Are Knots?
Knots are markers of where branches met a tree’s trunk. They appear like dark patterned rings or even holes in a plank of wood. The imperfections interrupt the grain’s natural flow, forcing it to bend or wrap around the knot. The effect created ranges from bold to soft depending on the size of the knot and the color of the wood.
Knots vary in number, size, and color. Generally speaking, trees that grow more slowly have more knots as their growing time is conducive to more branch growth. Knot size is dependent on how long branches grow before they are cut off. Branches that die and fall off usually leave smaller knots.
Every species responds differently to knots. Slow and steady trees like pine, cedar, and oak are more likely to have them, while trees like alder have lots of little ones, less than a quarter inch in diameter. Any wood that is listed as “knotty”—i.e. knotty pine, knotty cedar—is sure to have knots in abundance.
The Knot Problem
While knots are one of woods characteristics that really spice things up, that is not always for the better. Knots have a tendency to weaken woods structural integrity, especially as regards forces perpendicular to the grain. Since all force applied to wood floors is perpendicular to the grain, this can be a difficult workaround. One knot isn’t likely to crack your floors, but the more knots your wood has (and the larger they are), the more likely they are to present a problem.
The Best Woods for Flooring
Hardwood comes in many different species. Perhaps the five most common are walnut, cherry, hickory, oak, and maple because they hold up well underfoot, but this doesn’t mean you can’t choose a teak or even bamboo.
Ultimately, the best wood for your floor comes down to your preference. Take woods characteristics into consideration and consult a professional before making your choice. In addition to appearance, you must account for strength, durability, and endurance under environmental conditions like temperature and humidity.