Just before my daughter was born, I found myself buried beneath a metric tonne of baby books and related websites, each one designed to prepare me for what to expect as a new parent. After all, being a dad is a pretty major undertaking. And I figured it would be better knowing more, rather than less.
But, because there is so much information out there, sometimes it was difficult to plow through it. Some of it very dependent on the personal viewpoints of the authors. So, in order to find my own way – which ultimately is what you’ve got to do as a new parent – I had to get down to the basics.
Well, ordering a new hardwood floor and having it installed is nowhere near as complicated as being put in charge of a little life. But, there is a lot of information floating out there as to what a new owner of hardwood floors should expect. This is particularly true in the light of the floor’s warranty.
Since we’ve very recently launched a line of hardwood flooring that offers a 50-year warranty, I thought I’d list a number of basic expectations that you should hold in your mind when it comes to owning, caring for, and generally observing your floor over a period of years. Here they are:
1. Expect your hardwood floor species to react the way nature designed it
Each species of hardwood has characteristics of its own. Maple, or an exotic species like Jatoba, is very hard. Alder and American walnut are not, by comparison to maple and jatoba. When it comes to things like indentation, and general wear due to everyday traffic over long periods of time, choose your species according to your own expectations of how a floor should look after a year or two. Also, know that some species are more prone to photosensitivity than others – they will change color over time. Remember, this is a natural material. It will, in varying degrees depending on the species you’ve chosen, mature. Just like a baby grows up, your floor will do the same (although it won’t ask to borrow the car).
2. Expect color variation
Continuing with this theme of natural materials, not every board will look exactly the same as the next. This is part of the charm of natural wood flooring; diversity. If you’re looking for a more consistant color, your vendor will be able to help you identify the hardwood floor grade you’re after to help you get there. But, even with the most pristine select grade in any species, there will be variation. And to strain my initial metaphor about becoming a parent even further, know that your floor is unique. And its uniqueness should be celebrated.
3. Expect expansion and contraction
Your hardwood floor needs to breathe, and needs room to expand. This is true whether the flooring is still in its box, waiting to be installed, or whether the flooring has been installed for years. It will move, whether you’ve planned for its movement on your subfloor or not. Make sure that when you’re installing it, that room for this kind of movement is allowed. Acclimate your hardwood flooring before it’s installed. And plan on an expansion gap when the flooring is laid. Like raising a child, the balance between encouraging independence and establishing stability is important. Emphasizing one too heavily can result in some pretty messy situations. Same with your floor!
4. Expect your environment to be important
Where you install hardwood flooring matters – VERY MUCH . Just as you wouldn’t plan to put baby’s crib next to the water heater, or place your teenager’s room in a broom closet, so it follows that you shouldn’t put solid hardwood floors in areas where it can potentially come to harm. Areas where moisture is likely, or where humidity is common, should be no-go areas for solid hardwoods. Some engineered hardwood floors do well in basement suites and in areas not specifically controlled for air moisture, for instance. But, always investigate whether or not the flooring you’re interested in is suitable.
5. Expect to include regular maintenance
When you’re a parent, it’s a lifetime gig. And the results are often at their best when you’ve been observant and have generally put the time in to ensure health and happiness. Same with caring for your hardwood floors. Over time, you can expect your floors to show signs of wear. But, you can keep them healthy by paying attention to them, seeing to minor spills as soon as they happen, keeping an eye on pets to make sure that they’re getting along with your flooring, and every once in a while treating your floor to something special – a refinishing job, for instance. As resilient as a wood floor is, ultimately when it comes to long-term health of your floors, a lot of that will depend on you.
With every warranty on a hardwood floor, there will be some variations. But, like my quest to prepare myself to be a dad, the basics, the things over which you have control, are important to keep in mind.