Sunday, April 1, 2012

Hardwood Flooring - Which Style Is Best For You?

Hardwood flooring is the hallmark of a beautiful home around the world and in any era. Natural wood has been used for hundreds of years to bring a timeless warmth and elegance to a wide range of housing styles from rustic to modern. Wood flooring is the platform upon which family life unfolds and is the ultimate environmentally "green" product that provides an earthy palette to home décor. It is naturally allergenic as dust and pet particles don't get trapped. Long before vinyl, tile and wall-to-wall carpeting was invented, natural wood flooring has been used for vintage homes. Although the initial financial investment is relatively steep, it is a long term investment that adds to the resale value of the home. Hardwood floors are easy to maintain with merely a damp mop and can be restored with sanding and re-staining to change the look of your home. They are also a gorgeous, natural backdrop for area rugs that coordinate with décor and hardwood is very complimentary to other flooring materials such tile, marble, stone and carpeted areas for a variety of textures in a home.

There are numerous types of wood that can be used for hardwood flooring, and one of the most popular is oak. White oak has a grey or golden tone that has a traditional appearance and is very durable. Red oak is less expensive and slightly less durable. However, the warmth of its reddish tones can be perfect for certain decors. Both oaks are light in color, which give a large space an open and airy appearance. The second most popular wood for hardwood floors is maple, and it comes in various grains. Birdseye maple has a pale color, fine texture and is infiltrated with swirls of darker "eyes," which are stunning. Fiddleback maple has distinct, parallel stripes that alternate light to dark, which gives it a wavy appearance. It is also used to make furniture and even stringed musical instruments...hence the name "fiddleback." Quilted maple is the most common and is tan brown in color and the grains are variegated with darker streaks. Due to their hardness and durability, both oak and maple are excellent choices for heavily used areas such as hallways, foyers and kitchens. They can be stained and varnished to provide a variety of looks from country to contemporary.

Another popular wood used for flooring is American cherry, which has a uniform, close grain and a wide range of colors from light beige to port wine. This wood oxidizes slowly over time with sun exposure and deepens in color. As it is softer than oak or maple, it is most suited for areas with less activity. Brazilian cherry is one of the hardest woods and is less expensive than American cherry. These two woods are sometimes combined for a spectacular flooring effect. Other beautiful woods that can be used for flooring are hickory, ash, teak, walnut, pine, birch, fir, rosewood, pecan and mahogany. Hardwood flooring is generally installed in a tongue and groove fashion. The wood planks can be cut in various widths and laid horizontally, vertically, angled and even in intricate patterns. Darker wood cut inserts and room borders can also enhance a home's elegance.

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