Thinking About Hardwood Flooring in Houston? You Must Avoid These 5 Top Mistakes
In previous blog entries, we discussed the difference between engineered and solid Hardwood floors. Today, we will share with you the top 5 mistakes people make when choosing hardwood flooring in Houston. We encounter these common problems while providing solutions to our customers. Take them into consideration when you are planning your next project and make sure you get an expert for your installation.
- Considering that solid wood is better than engineered wood. Does engineered hardwood flooring have less quality than solid hardwood? Let’s debunk some myths. First, solid hardwood expands up to 12% from changes in moisture and temperature, while engineered hardwood expands only up to 1%. This expansion may cause problems when installation is not done under the proper conditions. We come across solid hardwood flooring in Houston that buckles, shows gaps and moves between summer and winter. Solid wood is mainly used when the sub-floor is wood or plywood and it is not exposed to significant changes in temperature and humidity.
Engineered wood, better called “enhanced” hardwood, has a top layer or veneer made of the same type of hardwood as a solid wood, the other layers below give them the structural stability. What is important is to choose a quality manufacturer that gives a good product from the top to the bottom layer. Engineered wood was created for the type of sub-floors in Houston. See next item.
- Glue-down Solid wood over concrete. Most sub-floors in Houston homes are made of concrete. Engineered hardwood was specifically created to be installed, glued down over concrete. We have come across installation of solid hardwood flooring in Houston glued down to concrete as a way to get “real” wood in the home. This is not recommended because the floor will expand and contract when exposed to the effects of moisture and temperature. With time, the floors will create gaps or buckle up. Engineered hardwoods are the right application over concrete.
However, solid wood can be installed over concrete with an additional investment required for moisture control with asphalt plus the installation plywood or 2”x4” boards.
- Reducing acclimation time: Before installing hardwood flooring in Houston and in most areas in the South, the product must be stored for minimum 48 hours under HVAC conditions of the place before the installation. Sometimes the wood is not given enough time to acclimate because of lack of planning or may be the homeowner wants to rush the project. This is very critical especially during summer days when the hardwood has been transported and stored under high humidity and high temperature. If there is not enough acclimation time before installation, the floor will shrink and show gaps.
- Leaving too narrow or no expansion gaps around the walls. Expansion gaps are spaces left around the perimeter of rooms; i.e., baseboards, columns. Wood expands and contracts by changes of moisture; therefore a space from 3/8” (for engineered) to 3/4” (for solid wood) is required to allow changes to the size of the planks. Although engineered wood does not changes as much as solid wood, it is still recommended to leave a gap; especially in upper floors, because the structure also moves.
- Preferring on-site site finished floors to pre-finished hardwood. Traditionally in Houston, there is a strong preference for sanding and staining at home rather than buying pre-finished hardwood floors. Let me be an advocate for pre-finished floors. At home, the only treatment for scratch protection is polyurethane, which means regular sanding and refinishes during the life of the floor. At the factory, quality manufacturers add Aluminum Oxide or Ceramics to significantly enhance the resilience of the floor. Also, the dust created by the sanding process may be an inconvenience, and the installation of prefinished products is clean.
Lastly, for the same quality, it is less expensive to buy a pre-finished floor than paying for the unfinished wood plus the labor of sanding, staining and finishing. Sanding at home is required when customers do not want to see bevel lines between boards, which are inherent in most pre-finished products.