TriWest, European oak hardwood, color Mediterranean. Photo: Mary Cook Associates
Of all the available floor coverings, wood is the most consistent choice that adds value, says Brett Miller, VP of education and certification for the National Wood Flooring Association in St. Louis.
Others agree. “If a house has wall-to-wall carpeting, it becomes a huge marketing challenge. People expect hardwood at least in the main public areas of a house or condominium. Some buyers also have allergies to carpet,” says Chicago broker Jennifer Ames, with the Ames Team at Engel & Volkers.
Due to better technology and new trends, no single wood flooring dominates. For that reason, remodelers should understand the options.
What are the latest trends?
- Width and length. Going wider and longer are both popular now with boards as wide as 18” to 20” and as long as 12’ or more, Miller says. “That way you have a less choppy look.”
- Color. Colors have gone from the grays of recent years to lighter whites or white undertones with a natural look. Chicago designer Tom Segal of Kaufman Segal Design likens it to a beachy or Scandinavian vibe. While darker colors remain in vogue, their popularity has decreased, Miller says. But because trends keep shifting, he sees darker colors on the not-too-distant horizon, influenced by paint and fashion color trends. Within the darker choices there are favorites, with a walnut tone more popular than mahogany, and both surpassing cherry, Ames says. One color family that should be avoided is red. Segal also advises steering clear of an oak color that veers toward yellow. He and Ames stress the importance of going with one color family throughout a home or on the same level for visual continuity.
- Finish. Here, the trend is for low or no sheen with natural penetrating or hard-wax oils rather than a plastic film. “The choice should depend on how much traffic there is,” Miller says.
Shady Grove Flooring and NWFA
What are the best reasons to go with a hardwood or solid wood floor, engineered, or reclaimed wood floor?
While Miller says it’s personal preference, he recommends solid hardwood because it lasts a long time and offers an authentic, natural look. However, it may not be the best solution for below grade locations like basements due to the possibility of moisture causing the wood to bow or buckle.
Engineered wood, which is constructed of plywood layers with a real wood veneer, is better at withstanding moisture than hardwood since its multiple layers beneath make it more stable. It’s also prefinished in a factory, can be constructed in longer lengths and widths, and saves installation time.
Bamboo is another sustainable, durable choice that has gained in popularity.
What are other ways to be sustainable?
Miller’s organization recommends choosing domestic woods such as oak, walnut, hickory, and cherry since they are grown and harvested in North America. Want something more exotic and imported? There are systems to monitor imported tropicals to be sure they’ve been responsibly harvested, he says, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification program.
When it comes to maintenance, is it better to sand an existing wood floor or clean and polish it?
When color variations and disrepair are highly visible, it may be time to sand, stain, and finish. But if a homeowner is considering selling, they may want the next owner to have the choice—since some wood floors may be down to their final sanding. When worn and dull looking, a good cleaning and polishing may be all that’s needed.
When is it better, if ever, to go with a faux wood?
Segal prefers not to use these options because he likes the look and feel on the feet of real wood. But others think there are times when they make sense.
- Vinyls have been improved thanks to technology and some closely resemble wood, even copying grains. Ames says they make sense in a lower-level room where moisture might pose a problem for real wood. A quality vinyl is also a great solution when price is a factor, says Mary Cook, a Chicago-based commercial interior designer. They also represent low VOCs and are easy to clean, says Mallios who installed them in her former garage, now her she-shed/cave.
- Porcelains appeal for similar reasons but also may work well for a kitchen or bathroom floor or countertop, Ames says. But she cautions that they can feel cold and for this reason sometimes prefers a quality vinyl.
- Laminates appeal less to Ames who finds they don’t feel like wood when walked on. Cook agrees and adds that they can be noisy when walking.
Have there been supply chain disruptions during the coronavirus pandemic?
As with other materials needed for remodeling, wood shortages have developed and prices have escalated at points. Ordering too far ahead has been problematic for storage but if not ordered ahead supplies may not arrive on time due to shipping challenges, Segal says.