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Choosing the Right Wood
There are many things to factor into the buying equation of
hardwood flooring to make sure the actual hardwood product
is right for the consumer?s specific environment. Factors
such as lifestyle, species, color, and construction (solid
or engineered) all need to be evaluated and factored into
the final decision.
By looking at and considering each variable you can help
ensure that the customer makes a correct and well-informed
decision, which also means a happy and satisfied customer. A
happy customer will lead to positive advertising for you as
a retailer, and less chance of a callback or complaint! Here
are some of the factors to consider:
Lifestyle: The important thing to remember is each
customer?s home is unique and can therefore pose unique
challenges. Determine where the product will be used. Will
it go in a kitchen or dining room? Remember, the needs of
each area can have a considerable impact on the long-term
performance of the wood flooring chosen.
Children and Pets: Here the issues are damage,
durability, scratches, dents and pet damage. Wood floors in
homes with children and/or pets will need to be refinished
much sooner. Floor care will be expensive over time so
ceramic tile in the kitchen may be a better option.
Wood Finish and Gloss Levels: Higher gloss levels
look great but will require more care and can show more
visible scratches. Lower sheen levels can help to mask some
of the surface damage.
Floor care and protection: Products like area rugs
are a must, particularly in the traffic areas and pivot
points. The use of area rugs when placed in the proper areas
can add a dash of color and style to the d?cor as well as
protect the consumer?s investment.
Floor cleaners and proper cleaning kits are also vital.
Using the wrong products can lead to permanent damage,
build-up and dull floors. To prevent this make sure to
provide the consumer a copy of the manufacturer?s warranty
and floor care information at the point of sale. And don?t
forget to review this information with the consumer so they
know how to take care of their investment.
Provide the consumer with the recommended floor care kit so
they have the right products to use. This can help lead to
repeat business when the consumer needs more of the product.
Maintenance-related callbacks can also be greatly reduced,
or even eliminated.
Species/color: We are seeing more and more different
species being sold. It is important that you understand
these species? characteristics because each one requires
some education at the point of purchase.
Hardness: All species of wood will dent or scratch no
matter the Janka hardness rating.
Photosensitivity: Remember, all wood is
photosensitive and will change in color. Some species can
actually lighten, not darken. Make sure to inform the
customer up front that this can happen and is normal. It is
always important to inform the customer of these variables
and factor them into the buying equation.
Grain/Character: Some species are smooth grained,
while others are rough. Species such as Maple are smooth,
while Oak and Hickory are rough. The characteristics of both
can influence the perceived durability of the product. A
scratch is likely to be more dramatic and visible on a piece
of Maple than Oak. (The graining of some species helps mask
a scratch and is less likely to be noticed.)
Solid vs. Engineered: Is one better than the other?
This can be a difficult topic to answer as both solid and
engineered products have their place. The following
considerations should help clarify which product is better
suited for individual circumstances.
Grade Level: For below grade installations an
engineered product is recommended because of the potential
for moisture. The dimensional stability, or the reduced
expansion and contraction of engineered products make them
more stable when installed over a concrete substrate.
Moisture testing should always be done to establish whether
there is a higher than recommended level of moisture
Glue-Down, Mechanically Fasten or Float the product?
Either method is usually acceptable with engineered
products. Direct glue-down is typically the preferred
method, but the industry is seeing a tremendous amount of
improved underlayments that offer both moisture protection
and sound deadening. These new products can reduce, or in
some cases, eliminate the hollow sound associated with
floating installations from years ago.
Installation: Solid wood products can be installed
on-grade product, but because the potential for moisture
exists, steps must be taken to ensure that moisture does not
become a factor that affects the wood after installation.
Additional factors that need to be addressed are the need of
installing a plywood subfloor over the concrete. The minimum
thickness for a plywood substrate in this application is
5/8″(nominal) and then factoring in the thickness of the
wood (3/4″) issues such as height, transitions, added
material costs and added labor costs must be factored in to
the buying equation.
Moisture: When it comes to concrete substrates:
Always check for moisture using the established and
recommended methods for testing and limits that are deemed
acceptable. Failure to test can often lead to failure,
period, along with finger pointing and possibly litigation.
The good news is when a concrete substrate is tested and
found to have a higher than recommended Moisture Levels,
there are products available that can reduce the vapor
emission rate to an acceptable level. .
Whether you are looking at remodeling or new construction
there are a variety of wood substrates such as plywood, OSB,
existing wood floors, existing floors of other types,
particleboard, etc. Each substrate can, in most situations,
be a suitable substrate for the installation of a wood
floor. The important thing is to moisture test the substrate
and the wood floor product prior to installation. Moisture
testing along with proper acclimation (if needed) can
greatly reduce the chance of moisture problems such as
cupping or gapping. Always check with the manufacturer?s
installation guidelines for specific recommendations
regarding installation over specific subfloor types,
thickness, joist spacing and floor coverings.
A successful wood flooring decision requires careful
discussion up front between the consumer and salesperson
while exploring the possibilities of lifestyle, type of
product, species, color and type of substrate involved. The
more exploring up front can in the end help to ensure the
right product is chosen for the right application. It can
also help identify and eliminate problems before the
installation is completed.