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Wood Flooring Questions Answered

Wherever you are in the floor buying or owning process, we know you have questions and that’s good, because we have answers.

We have pulled together some of the most frequently asked questions about each aspect of flooring to give you the information you’ve been looking for.

Where to Install Wood Flooring

Can wood flooring be laid over tile?

We do not recommend laying wood flooring down directly over tile. Instead, remove the tile first and lay the wood flooring directly on the subfloor.

Can wood flooring be laid over concrete?

Good news – engineered wood flooring may be laid over concrete. We do not recommend placing solid wood flooring on concrete.

Can wood flooring be laid over carpet?

If you are changing from carpet to wood flooring, you will first need to pull up the carpet. You may then lay the wood flooring onto the subfloor.

Can wood flooring be used in a bathroom?

Solid wood flooring should not be used in areas prone to moisture and standing water (like a bathroom). If you have your heart set on a wood floored bathroom, talk to us about whether our engineered flooring may be a fit for you. Engineered flooring has a greater resiliency to moisture than solid flooring.

Which wood flooring can be used in a kitchen?

Daily life in our kitchens includes incidents like food spills, dropped knives, and water splashes. Wood flooring can certainly be a part of your kitchen as long as you are strategic about your choices.

If you are concerned about water spills and excess humidity, we suggest engineered flooring rather than solid.

When selecting a species of wood, a harder wood with a higher Janka scale rating will dent less easily. Species such as oak and ash are excellent choices for their hardness as well as their patterns which help to visually disguise any dings from dropped pots and pans.

Finally, rather than a polished finish, you may wish to go with something a little more textured so that any surface damage which does occur simply blends in and adds to the character of the flooring.

Engineered Wood Floors / Solid Wood Floors / Laminates

Are laminate wood floors real wood?

Laminate is not considered “real” wood.

Laminate floors are made using planks comprised of multi-layer synthetic materials. They are designed to emulate the appearance of real wood. This is accomplished by means of a printed texture panel adhered to the top of inner fiber board and melamine resin layers.

What is an engineered wood floor?

An engineered wood flooring plank is made from a series of backing layers under a top wear layer. Each of these layers is comprised of real wood. Our engineered flooring planks come with your choice of 9-layer or 11-layer backings made of Baltic birch and a top wear layer in whichever species you select.

How is an engineered wood floor different than laminate?

Laminate flooring is made of artificial materials pieced together to resemble actual wood.

Engineered wood flooring is comprised of layers of real wood designed to achieve better dynamic stability and versatility while still giving you a real wood floor.

How does solid hardwood flooring differ from engineered?

Construction: A plank of solid hardwood flooring is made of a single piece of wood. Our engineered flooring planks have your choice of 9-layer or 11-layer birch backing under a top wear layer of your choice of species.

Versatility: Engineered flooring is designed to be able to be used in areas where solid flooring would not perform well. This includes over concrete and radiant heat sources as well as in rooms with less stable humidity and moisture levels. The backing layers have greater dynamic stability which allows this type of flooring to be more resilient.

Cost: An engineered floor is generally less expensive than a solid wood floor.

Durability: Both our solid and engineered floors are designed to be able to be refinished multiple times. Engineered floors will tend to be more durable than solid floors in rooms with more volatile temperatures and humidities.

What is a “wear layer” and why does it matter?

The wear layer is the top layer of the plank which we walk on. It is the part which can be resurfaced when you want to revitalize older planks or to change the look of your flooring.

The thickness of the wear layer is important because the thicker it is, the more times your floors can be refinished.

Do engineered flooring planks contain toxic chemicals?

Some manufacturers do cut corners and use toxic binding agents like formaldehyde to adhere the backing layers to the wear layer.

We don’t want toxins to off-gas into our homes and we understand that you don’t either. Our engineered flooring is formaldehyde-free and emits no harmful VOCs.

Plank Width

How can I make my small room look larger?

Random width planks are an excellent way to create the optical illusion of a more spacious room. The variations in width cause our eyes to move from plank to plank and voila – a small room appears larger.

Lighter colors will also give a more open, airy appearance than darker colors.

Should I use uniform or random plank width?

Plank width is primary a personal aesthetic choice. Uniform width planks tend to be the most popular options. They create a very spacious, polished feel. For a cozier, rustic look with casual flair try going with random width planks.

Wood Species

What are the different characteristics of softwood and hardwood?

Definitions

The terms “softwood” and “hardwood” can be a bit confusing, especially since a softwood is not necessarily “softer” or less dense than a hardwood (although this is generally the case).

The technical difference is that trees classified as hardwoods produce seeds with coverings and softwood trees produce seeds without coverings.

Hardwoods also lose their leaves during the winter while softwoods don’t, so the easiest way to remember a hardwood vs a softwood is to think of softwoods as evergreens and hardwoods as deciduous trees.

Softwood characteristics

  • Tends to be less expensive than hardwood
  • Trees have a faster rate of growth
  • Tends to be less dense/hard than hardwood
  • Less fire resistant

Hardwood characteristics

  • Tends to be more expensive than softwood
  • Trees have a slower rate of growth
  • Tends to be more dense/hard than softwood
  • More fire resistant

Lighter colors will also give a more open, airy appearance than darker colors.

Which wood flooring is best for dogs?

Dogs and wood flooring can co-exist as long as careful consideration is given to the species and finish of the wood.

Our dogs’ claws can dent softer woods, so we recommend choosing one of the hardest woods (as indicated by a high Janka scale rating). Hickory and maple  are two excellent options.

Claws can also scratch a smooth finish, but they will blend in and even add to the look of a more casual, distressed style.

Which wood flooring is the most durable?

One of the key indicators of a floor’s durability is its density. Denser, harder wood is more resistant to denting and scratching. The Janka scale measures each species’ hardness and assigns it a number. Species with higher Janka scale numbers are harder and more durable.

Lighter colors will also give a more open, airy appearance than darker colors.

Which wood flooring is the hardest?

Hickory (with a Janka score of 1820) and maple (with 1450) are our two hardest hardwoods.

Which wood flooring goes best with maple/oak/cherry cabinets?

A popular interior design choice when dealing with wood cabinets as well as wood flooring is to paint the cabinets. This creates a mix of colors and textures that adds visual appeal.

Color contrast is important, so if you have darker cabinets, we suggest a lighter floor. Lighter cabinets can complement a darker floor.

If you don’t want to paint your cabinets, try sticking to creating a contrast with different finishes on the cabinets and flooring rather than attempting to match your flooring to your cabinets.

Wood Floor Grades and Cuts

Is one grade of flooring "better" than another?

The "best" grade of flooring is the one that fits the style and feel of your room.

Premium: Achieve an upscale feel with the uniformity of premium grade flooring.

Select: Create visual interest while maintaining an overall cohesive aesthetic with select grade floors.

Character: Embrace a rustic, casual vibe with unique color and pattern variations.

What is end-matched flooring?

End-matched flooring refers to the practice of cutting a tongue/groove on the end of each plank. This allows the planks to fit snuggly together when they are installed. End-matching speeds up the installation process and reduces labor costs by eliminating the need for on-site trimming and fitting.

All of our planks are end-matched.

What do “plain sawn,” “quarter sawn,” and “rift sawn” mean?

These terms describe the ways in which a log may be cut into flooring planks. Each cut creates a unique grain pattern in the planks.

Plain Sawn: Plain sawn planks are the most common cut and can be recognized by their dramatic cathedral arch pattern. The log is cut parallel to the growth rings to achieve this look.

Quarter Sawn: Quarter sawn planks display both straight grain and medullary ray (flecking) characteristics. To produce quarter sawn planks, the log is cut perpendicular to the growth rings. The inner 2/3 of the log then displays quarter sawn visual characteristics.

Rift Sawn: Rift sawn planks are desirable for their uniform grain appearance. They are created from the same cut as the quarter sawn planks, however the rift sawn traits only appear in the outer 1/3 of the log. This makes rift sawn planks the most rare and difficult to produce.

Wood Floor Finish

Can maple floors be stained?

Wood species and cuts with regular density accept stain more evenly than those like maple with irregular density. While an irregular absorption of stain can look charmingly rustic on certain species like hickory, it tends to not be as visually appealing on a very light wood like maple.

The most popular finishing options for maple are tung oil and a clear water-based finish which allows the natural maple color to shine through.

Can wood floors be painted?

Paint masks the inherent beauty of wood flooring. A painted wood floor hides the color and much of the grain of the wood. We do not recommend covering up quality hardwood flooring with paint.

That said, if you do wish to paint your wood floors, look for high quality paints specifically designed for floors. The most common sheen choices for painted floors are satin and semi-gloss.

Can wood floors be re-stained a different color?

Wood floors are able to be re-stained in a different color than the original. This is accomplished by sanding down the floor and applying the new stain.

What is a “pre-finished” floor?

A pre-finished floor has your chosen finish applied, dried, and cured at our facility. When your flooring arrives at your home, all that is left to do is install it.

Pricing and Ordering

What is a cutting allowance and why do I need it?

A cutting allowance is an additional amount of flooring which we recommend you purchase on top of the exact square footage calculations you have made for your room. The allowance is needed because during the installation, planks will have to be cut to fit and this can result in some short lengths which are non-usable. In general, we recommend adding a 10% cutting allowance to your order.

How can I determine how much wood flooring I need?

Calculate the square footage of your room by multiplying the length x the width. Add an additional 10% cutting allowance, and this is how much flooring you should need.

How much does wood flooring cost?

Costs vary based on manufacturing type, species, finish, installation needs, and other factors. We would be happy to provide you a personalized quote.

Where can I buy wood flooring?

Wood flooring can be purchased from big box retailers as well as from manufacturers and distributers. While the low up-front costs from big box stores can be tempting, remember to factor in installation costs and labor.

The big box approach to flooring is also much more cookie cutter with a limited selection of species, cuts, and finishes to choose from. If you love the look of expansive, wide-plank flooring, you won’t be able to find it at the big box locations since their average wide-width planks are only 6-1/2”as opposed to our planks which range from 10” to 19” in diameter.

By choosing to work directly with a manufacturer like Vermont Plank Flooring, you gain access to our custom finish shop where the team will work with you to create a unique finish or help you choose from our wide range of choices. You also benefit from our high degree of attention to detail and commitment to customer service.

Which wood flooring is cheapest?

In general, engineered flooring is less expensive than solid wood.

Do you accept credit cards?

We accept all major credit cards as well as cash and personal checks.

How will my flooring be shipped/delivered?

All flooring is shipped F.O.B. by common carrier from our location in Brattleboro, VT. Plan to allow 4 weeks lead time from placing your order to ship date.

Cleaning and Maintenance

How often on average do wood floors need to be refinished?

The need for refinishing is based on wear and tear the floor endures throughout its lifespan. Higher traffic areas will need refinishing sooner than lower traffic areas. Floors need to be refinished when the finish is wearing thin and isn’t protecting the wood as well as it used to.

An average homeowner can expect to re-finish their floors once every 7-12 years.

Can I repair scrapes in a hardwood floor?

Minor scratches can be touched up using a stain pen which matches the original stain color. Scrapes and gouges are more challenging and a professional should be consulted.

How do I refinish my hardwood floors?

Re-finishing is done by sanding the floor to remove the existing finish, removing all the residual dust, and then applying new finish to the bare wood.

Does water ruin wood floors?

Humidity and standing water are not your wood floor’s friends. Try to maintain your home at a stable humidity level between 35 and 45%. Do not allow water to pool on your floors. If water spills on your wood flooring, wipe it up immediately.

What is the best way to clean a wood floor?

In addition to sweeping, wood floors can be gently cleaned using a damp (not wet) mopping technique.

When damp mopping your hardwood floor, we suggest a mixture of 1-2 ounces of white vinegar per 2 gallons of water.

Warranty

Does your flooring come with a warranty?

Yes, our flooring comes with a lifetime structure integrity warranty.

Do you warranty the finish on your pre-finished flooring?

Absolutely! The finish on our flooring comes with a 25-year warranty for residential or a 5-year warranty for commercial installations.