Hardwood Flooring Basics -

Hardwood Flooring Basics -

Hardwood Flooring 101

The New Hardwood Flooring

When you think of hardwood flooring. you may first think of oak or maple. Today however, there are many additional options with different types of species, and different finish and construction types.

With so many options and so much information, how does one know which hardwood flooring for them? Where do you start? As with many topics, its best to start at the beginning.

History of Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood as a flooring option was not really considered attractive until about the late 17th century, when it became fashionable for the French royalty and nobility to have in their homes. These were elegant and quite expensive, using parquetry and marquetry flooring, and were hand-cut and laid in elaborate 3-D patterns. So, for the common folk, the beaten ground floor was still the norm.

The great abundance of forests in the new world colonies made hardwood flooring more common. Plank floors were sometimes up to 2 feet wide and were mostly unsanded, unstained pine that would be timeworn and polished by the feet of the colonists. Contemporary hardwood floors are products of greater manufacturing to increase the useful life span and longevity of the beauty of the wood itself.

By the early 1800s, more parquet patterns were in use, but only in the richest homes. Wooden plank flooring remained the norm and was usually painted, and in the better homes laid in a tongue-and-grove configuration. More modest houses would have random width boards simply face-nailed to the joists. With the advent of tongue-and-groove milling, floors could be laid in a more level fashion before they were painted. This still required a lot of labor to install as well as to maintain.

The mass production of Hardwood flooring didn’t begin until the late 1800s and early 1900s during the Industrial Revolution. These floors were a far cry to what we have today. Hardwood carpet was sold out of catalogs and consisted of 1-1/2 x 5/16 inch strips of wood glued to a heavy cotton canvas and sold in rolls. These still had to be sanded with a hand sander attached to a floor broom and again were very time consuming labor. Also at this time Tung oils were introduced from China but dried slowly and had poor quality. These floors also still required a hot wax and buffing.

From 1901-1914, the tongue-and-groove wood plank flooring was most popular. Parquet was used as a border for carpeting (in those days, carpet was more expensive than hardwood). From the 1920s to 1940s, new, inexpensive, and easy-to-install flooring surfaces like linoleum and cork began to compete with hardwood. These types of floors became the more popular choice in the United States. Also at this time, polyurethane became the ideal no-wax finish of choice. This allowed wood flooring to continue to play a prominent role until 1950.

With the end of the World War II and the Baby Boom, hardwood flooring endured a steep decline. As new housing was built for returning veterans, the cost of broadloom carpet was included with the home loan. Hardwood was relegated to the role of subfloor, and was still installed, sanded, and finishedonly to be covered with wall-to-wall carpet. Soon the advent and use of plywood as a subfloor spelled doom for hardwood flooring, and for about 30 years it was all but forgotten. This caused many hardwood-flooring manufacturers to begin selling carpet just to survive, a trend that continued until about 1980.

Hardwood Flooring in the Modern Era

During the 1980s pre-finished v-groove flooring once again became popular, but was cheap and poorly made. However, with the economic and housing booms of the 1990s, hardwood flooring resurfaced as the leading choice of floor covering. Today, manufacturers have better quality control, managed forestry for conservation, and consistent supply. The introduction of engineered flooring has made hardwood flooring an inexpensive choice for many consumers, allowing greater flexibility as to where hardwood can be installed.

Hardwood flooring provides a hypoallergenic, easily maintained surface thats sure to increase the value of any home. There are also many new exotic hardwood species today that are available so that consumers are able to truly have as many design options and custom ability they can imagine.

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