More About Oak Flooring

oak flooring

Oak is an excellent hardwood variety that has proven to be a top choice for many uses. Native to the northern hemisphere, oak sourced boards have been prized for centuries, and have been commonly used as interior paneling for prestigious dwellings and for high-quality furniture. Oak’s resistance to insects and fungal infestations, along with its high density and strength, has made it the first choice for timber frame building construction as well. Today, it’s still used for the aforementioned purposes, and for, of course, flooring.

Its strength, its durability, and for certain, its attractive grain are principal reasons why oak flooring is such a popular pick for many homeowners today. A carpet can stain, discolor, and become a breeding ground for who knows what kind of infestation over time. The maintenance-free, long-lasting durability of oak flooring will add warmth and character to any room in your house, and will certainly increase its value.

Oak flooring is able to match nearly all types of furniture, thanks to the wide variety of oaks and finishes. It makes an excellent “baseline” decorative selection, to match the ambiance you are looking to create in your home.  Whether you install it in the bedroom, hallway, or living room, oak flooring is guaranteed to add effortless class, while brightening your living space.

Being very resistant to liquid spills, especially the white oak, it’s commonly used in kitchens and bathrooms as well.  Adding an area rug will further complement your room’s styling and will provide a cozy warmth without detracting from the oak flooring’s aesthetic integrity.

Plain Planks

solid oak plank flooring

Solid oak hardwood plank flooring is known for its ease of installation. Being resistant to splitting, can take nailing or screw very well. Its remarkable grain will be well preserved for many years, and it reacts very well to stains and finishes. Many options are available to accentuate the oak grain for a beautiful and long-lasting look.

Basic oak planks are a popular option for a more vintage, or rustic look. The individual boards, usually wider planks would be nailed or screwed down one at a time and the wood “finish” would be applied after. Ensure the planks are stored in the room they will be installed in, with weight on them (to prevent excessive warping) so the wood’s swelling or shrinking will take place BEFORE the floor is installed, as the planks match the room’s ambient temperature and humidity levels.

Tongue and groove factory finished planks

A more modern approach is a “factory finish” solid hardwood flooring.  Usually ¾” thick, these planks will usually be 3 or 4 inches wide of varying lengths and have a tongue and groove on opposing sides.  This is an excellent option for a firm, secure install.  A special nailing device is used, ensuring all nails are hidden, and no cracks can be seen through to the floor.  It is also advisable to have this wood stored in the room it will be installed in, for several days, or as long as reasonably possible.

Laminate flooring

Laminate flooring, floating floors, Pergo flooring, or ”engineered flooring” is the cheaper option for someone looking for that beautiful oak grain finish, but doesn’t want to spend the extra money for the real thing (or the pricier install).

With this type of flooring, several plies of cheap wood are glued together and a top “wear layer,” of the desired wood finish, is laminated to the surface.  These planks are also tongue and groove and can range in thickness from ¼” to just over ½”.  The advantage of this type of flooring, is, number one – its cost; it can be under a dollar per square foot.

It can also be installed relatively easily by a novice with only basic tools, and if the glue is not used, it can be removed and reinstalled elsewhere.  The disadvantages, however, are great.  Due to the thin laminate layer, the life expectancy of the flooring will be less.  The “thin” planks are placed on a “thin” foam or cloth padding and the finished floor invariably ends up having a spongy springy feel beneath your feet.

If you go this route, I would recommend purchasing the thickest plank style you can afford, avoid the cheap foam underlay padding and go with a fiber pad or “silent pad.”  Lastly, laminate flooring usually looks cheap; as with anything you get what you pay for.  The boards usually come in wider planks (8” or so), which make it nicer to install, but if the narrow board “look’ is used, it will have fake cracks to simulate the narrower “real” hardwood flooring.  The end result will create a mix n mash of obvious fake and real cracks.

My preference, and recommendation, when choosing laminate flooring, is to choose a wide board finish style, so all the cracks are real.  On top of that, choosing a v-groove crack design will give it a more authentic look.  One more drawback with laminate flooring, before I put this one to rest, is the moving boards.  With all hardwood flooring (or softwood too, for that matter) there will be some expansion and contraction through the seasons.

For this reason an expansion gap of perhaps ¼” is left around the circumference of the room (and hidden by the baseboard of course).  If the floating floor is not permanently glued together, the boards tend to slide along their joints a bit, leaving unsightly gaps.  This tends to happen when someone stops suddenly on a plank while wearing a grippy shoe.  The board can easily be “kicked” back into place, with the same grippy shoe.

Care for your hardwood floor

hardwood oak flooring maintenance

Caring for your oak flooring is a relatively maintenance-free activity.  The first natural step is avoidance.  Don’t drag heavy objects such as cabinets or chesterfields across the floor.  Oak is durable and resistant but it can be gouged.  It’s always a good idea to use felt padding on the bottom of chair legs and tables, etc.  Be aware of spiked healed shoes and any outdoor shoes with objects protruding from the soles.

For any pets, such as dogs; it is a good idea to ensure their nails are kept trimmed.  Having a special mat for a dog to sleep on can go a long way in keeping scratches off your flooring.  If your pet scares easily or is excitable, they can put multiple gouges in any hardwood flooring in a matter of seconds.

Minimize the amount of dirt and moisture your floor is exposed to and placemats at any outdoor entrances.  Obviously shake or wipe off any snow, dirt, or water from your outdoor footwear before trodding across your floor.  Or better yet, leave dirty shoes and boots at the door.  Keep the floor swept regularly; any minuscule sharp or hard objects can scratch or gouge the floor when stepped on.

Be sure to clean up all spills immediately and don’t use a wet mop.  If spot cleaning is necessary, don’t use any harsh cleaners, as discoloring will occur.  Use a cleaner specifically meant for your hardwood flooring, check with your manufacturer for precise directions.

Any high traffic areas will wear the best quality oak flooring unevenly.  Placing an area rug in these locations can alleviate this and add a styling flair of its own.  Oak flooring can also fade or discolor when overexposed to direct sunlight, so curtains or some form of UV window coating can be used to help preserve your floor and ensure you are rewarded with its full and rich lifespan.  Enjoy your oak floor!!

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