The variety in hardwood flooring is absolutely mind-boggling, so Urban 57 is here to help our Sacramento customers figure out just what they want and where to find it for hardwood floors. Since many area homes already have hardwood floors, some clients simply want to renovate existing floors or match the style of one room to another. Others want to replicate original designs in order to bring an older home back to its historic condition. And some want the latest in hardwood styles and design to complement a contemporary interior. Here are some popular options at the moment, but they represent only a portion of what is now available in hardwood floors.
Choices in Wood
Your selection in wood is determined by how it was harvested, the type of tree it was taken from, and how it is cut. Let us consider these elements in order, starting with the sources for hardwood flooring.
New Harvest Wood
The classic hardwood floor is made from brand-new wood, harvested and aged for use in your home. Wood cut in the United States or Canada usually comes from managed forests or tree farms, where replanting of harvested wood is the norm.
Other popular hardwoods come from abroad, such as Africa and Brazil. There are limits on the woods that can be exported and only registered product is allowed for sale in the United States. Urban 57 can source hardwood flooring that comes from responsible harvesters that manage their forests for a sustainable future.
Also, since the majority of this lumber goes into houses as furniture, cabinetry or other construction materials (like floors), the carbon stored in that wood remains with it. In some cases, by being in a house or building, this wood is preserved beyond the tree’s natural lifetime. Thus, properly sourced hardwood floors are an ecological choice for interior design.
Reclaimed wood comes in different varieties. Some is repurposed from other building materials. For example, barn planks can be redesigned as floorboards. Obviously, this wood is recut and retreated to be usable in a home, since no one wants splinters in their bare feet. This wood has a distinct character and complements rustic or bold interior designs.
Reclaimed wood may also come from lumber that was lost decades or hundreds of years ago when logs were floated down rivers and collected in lakes or ponds. Eventually becoming “water-logged,” this “missing timber” sank and was protected from decay by cold waters and those with little oxygen for decomposers. Time underwater changes the wood grains to patterns and colors not normally found in traditional hardwoods.
If new wood is wanted, but a distressed look desired, such treatments are performed on a variety of hardwoods for use in flooring. Like reclaimed wood, this provides a rustic appearance.
Types of Wood Flooring
This list of wood floors is by no means exhaustive, but it does provide some of the most common varieties available in the United States. First come the “softer” woods that are not considered hardwood, followed by the true hardwood varieties.
Softwoods are more inclined to scuff, dent or scratch, so they are not ideal for locations with pets, or where high heels are commonplace, and definitely not in rooms where sharp utensils might be dropped. The advantage to softwoods, besides whatever color or character they may lend to the room, is that they are generally much less expensive than hardwood. With that in mind, here are some common varieties of softwood floors.
Pine is a light-colored wood that has performed well in many homes throughout the history of the United States. Available in many varieties from around the country, pine is a common softwood choice.
A lot of this material is now coming from Australia. A particularly resinous wood, it resists insects and also sanding. Some gains in cost due to price of materials may be offset by costs for installation. Cypress is actually quite hard, basically on par with red oak, a material considered a hardwood.
Douglas fir is the typical variety used for flooring. Sustainably harvested from the Northwestern United States, this is a good choice for clients that want their wood to come from a reasonably close market source.
This is another North American variety and is prized for its color and aroma. Famous for scaring away moths, cedar wood is often used for paneling or flooring in clothes closets. Definitely a softwood, it needs a low traffic area and should not be exposed to moisture.
This is a very light softwood. Like the others, low traffic areas are needed. If you prefer a bright room and want wood flooring, spruce wood is a good choice.
Although very soft compared to other wood floors, hemlock has uncommon properties of color and grain that make many want it for their interior design. Found more readily in the Northeast than in the West, this wood works well in a design that emphasizes old Colonial style.
Technically, bamboo is not a type of tree, but actually a kind of grass. Nevertheless, it has been and continues to be a construction material throughout the world and is noted for its fast growth. Sustainable harvesting is easy with bamboo!
Bamboo is not used for flooring in its natural state, but is processed into planks. To do this, bamboo fibers are soaked in water-based glue and then tightly compressed into beams. These beams are then cut into usable configurations for furniture and flooring. This process thus takes a somewhat flimsy, fibrous material and turns it into one of the hardest and most durable types of “softwood” flooring. Bamboo should therefore be considered “soft” in its natural state only, for its performance is essentially like hardwood.
Cork is a sustainable product that comes from trees, but it is not what we consider wood. Much like bamboo, however, it is manufactured into a form that is usable for flooring. Unlike bamboo, the process of making cork into floors does not lend it exceptional durability, since the number one desirable quality in cork is its softness.
Yes, people want cork because it’s such a soft, compressible material. It feels very good on bare or stocking feet. The large amount of give in cork makes it ideal for youngsters (think play rooms), for exercise rooms, and the homes of older adults fearful of falling. With that cushiony feel, however, there are some disadvantages.
Cork is coated to make it water-resistant, but not waterproof. If the coating becomes damaged, or if a fluid is allowed to sit on it, cork does what it does best — absorb moisture. This leads to stains and other problems. Also, furniture can be an issue, as cork is easily scuffed. Basically, cork is best chosen for a room that will see a very specific use. When designed properly, a cork floor is comfortable, beautiful and environmentally friendly.
Now we consider the many varieties of what are called hardwoods. These are characterized by their extreme density and durability, as defined by their Janka score. The Janka Hardness Scale determines how well a sample of wood resists denting. Basically, researchers take a steel ball and press it into a piece of the wood. The amount of force required to push the ball halfway in leads to the hardness rating. Oak, mahogany, maple, pecan, and ash are all prized as hardwoods. As mentioned earlier, by the Janka Scale, cypress should also be included in the hardwood category, but tradition places it with softwoods.
Red oak and white oak are well-known in the Sacramento area and form the basis of many hardwood floors in our locality. The many oak trees in California likely explain its choice by early contractors for hardwood floors. Our clients often pick oak for its durability and traditional look.
Much of the maple flooring sold in North America comes from Canada, where reasonably sustainable harvests are practiced. This wood tends to offer fewer options for staining, since its density makes it more resistant to absorbing stain. If you like the color and grain that comes with your choice in maple, this should not be a problem. For many clients, maple is their preferred hardwood to provide some variety over the common oak floor.
Brazilian Cherry Wood
This is one of the hardest of woods, extremely dense and durable. For longevity and deep, natural colors, cherry wood is an excellent choice. Let Urban 57 help you find sustainable suppliers of this South American flooring product.
Types of Planks
Planks are diversified by the style of their cut and methods of installation. Hardwood floors present many opportunities for individualized designs and a tour of homes in the Sacramento area quickly demonstrates that even with the same exact stain and type of wood, many different layouts are possible, creating totally different looks within similarly-sized rooms.
Wide versus Narrow Planks
Wide planks simplify installation. That is one of their major advantages. They also may be more expensive, since it can be harder to find long and wide pieces of wood that are of suitable quality for flooring. Narrow planks are the more common product, but even here there is a range of widths available, based on the choice of wood.
Puzzle-Piece Wood Flooring
Improvements in cutting procedures have led to a variety of unusual designs in hardwood floors. Instead of using the traditional planks, some manufacturers now make available hardwood shaped like jigsaw puzzle pieces. Others use patterns that interlock with one another. Fascinating designs are created when a dark wood is combined with a light wood to create patterns using these pieces. Imagination leads to many more possibilities for hardwood floors with puzzle-piece flooring.
Parquet floors use smaller pieces of wood to create intricate patterns. These might be slants, herringbones, squares, diagonals and more. Depending on the level of craftwork involved, there is no greater flexibility in hardwood flooring design than with parquet flooring. In effect, parquet floors are like mosaics made out of wood. Urban 57 can connect the client with manufactured parquet floor products or with installers that have the requisite experience to create the floor design that is desired.
If your hardwood choice is not discussed here, that does not mean that we cannot get it. So many possibilities exist for wood floors that there simply is not enough space to discuss them all here. For more information, talk to the flooring specialists at Urban 57. We are certain that your desired floor can be made available.