Hardwood floors can transform a space, offering a sense of grandeur and warmth that cool tile or cheap-looking laminate can’t match. Installing hardwood floors is a substantial investment in your home, but they can last a lifetime if they are well-maintained and, importantly, well-chosen. If you pick right, your flooring with age with grace, gaining character and depth with time.
When selecting a hardwood for your home there are many considerations—both aesthetic and practical. What style are you going for? Formal? Rustic? Modern? What board width do you want? What color and texture do you want? The answers to these questions will narrow down what species you explore, but you should also keep in mind your living habits and room use. These factors can affect what qualities you look for in your next wood floors.
Allegheny Mountain Hardwood Flooring is a FSC-certified hardwood flooring manufacturer based in Western Pennsylvania. A fourth-generation family-owned business, AMHF has a long legacy of stewarding their region’s rich forests and offering high-quality solid and engineered wood products. “Nothing is made in China, it's all sourced from here," says marketing and sales director Jessica Hickman Fresch. "We have control of whole process from how we manage the forest to how the sawmill operates to how we manufacture the flooring."
Hickman Fresch offers some tips to help you choose the best hardwood flooring for your home.
If you already have radiant heat set up, or are planning to add it as part of your renovation project, this will impact your flooring choices. “You can do a solid plank over radiant heat,” Hickman Fresch says, but she adds that you must consider the flooring cut. “We recommend Rift & Quarter Sawn, or Live Sawn because of the dimensional stability.” (Get your flooring cuts 101 here). Dimensional stability is the wood’s ability to maintain shape throughout changes in temperature and humidity.
With radiant flooring, temperatures can vary greatly. Hickman Fresch recommends installing a FidBox, which is like a thermostat for your floors. The device gets installed beneath the floor and can measure relative humidity and temperature. “We highly recommend this with radiant heat,” Hickman Fresch says. “If the water temperature in the radiant heat gets too high it can cause problems to the floor." These devices can also be useful in areas that frequently get wet like the bathroom or mudroom.
If you want to do wide plank in a plain sawn cut over radiant heating, your best bet is an engineered floor. “Engineered flooring is still real wood,” Hickman Fresch clarifies.
If you swoon over the old-school look of wide board flooring, there are a few things to be aware of. Because wide plank floors have a bigger surface area they are more susceptible to seasonal movement, which can cause things like bowing and gaps between boards. However, Hickman Fresch says, “If you can control your relative humidity and temperature, it’s not an issue.” Cue the FidBox.
It is best to establish a relative humidity at 35 to 50 percent and a temperature of 60 to 80 degrees. "This is the optimal performance range for wood flooring, and once this has been achieved the flooring will have met equilibrium moisture content," she says. "At this relative humidity and temperature, will have very little, if any, effect on the wood floor.
It’s important to note that some species also move more than others. While walnut is very stable, beech and hickory aren’t and should not be used in board widths over five inches. If you are leaning towards white or red oak, Hickman Fresch recommends Rift & Quarter Sawn and Live Sawn Cut.
You’re hard on your floors, we get it. Whether it’s kids or dogs or big parties, your flooring takes a beating. Luckily there are some hardwood options that can accommodate you. “Hickory is the hardest domestic species in the US,” Hickman Fresch says. Harder woods resist dinging and scratching from paws and claws. Other species in this category include white oak, red oak, and beech, while some softer woods to avoid are cherry and walnut. (If you were lusting over these colors, wood stain is always an option—just remember to test it on an extra board before tackling the whole floor.)
“A floor with some knots and natural character will hide more than a clear, clean grade,” Hickman Fresch says. She also recommends opting for a matte or low gloss finish, which better hides life’s daily wear and tear. “A penetrating oil finish like Rubio Monocoat or Bona Craft oil can be retouched without sanding whole floor, which is great for high traffic areas.”
A Species for All Seasons
Whether you are just redoing one room or the whole house, hardwood flooring comes in a range of options that can accommodate your needs. Learn more today.