Boards are classified according to variations in their natural color. A board with a more uniform color will be graded “select and better”. The “exclusive” grade is given to boards with some pronounced and nuanced color variation. Depending on what you’re looking for, the “rustic” grade could be of interest, with its evident knots, small cracks and other natural characteristics. By examining several boards from the same box, you can confirm if the product is classified accurately and also see the quality of the manufacturing. Some manufacturers use third-category grades to accommodate significant manufacturing and finishing defects and to sell these products with no guarantee.
There are many different board widths on the market, matching almost all possible decor and style choices. Narrower boards make a room look longer, while wider boards make it appear shorter. Remember, however, that a tight-grained wood like maple expands more with humidity, which may make narrower boards preferable for some uses.
All hardwood floor manufacturers say they offer high quality and reliable products. It’s hard to really know if what they’re saying is true. Before you buy, review all the criteria of a quality floor and examine the product carefully to see that it meets these criteria. Make an informed choice and avoid common pitfalls. In the end, quality is what separates the leaders from the rest of the pack!
The beauty of wood flooring stems from the unique characteristics of each board. The presence of small knots and mineral streaks is normal and even desirable, depending on the look you are after. These visual details add to the authentic and natural character of the hardwood floor without compromising its quality. Visual details are different from defects. Defects are a sign of inferior manufacturing or finishing. Manufacturers that tolerate too many defects are offering an inferior-quality product.
The number of coats of finish is not a reliable indicator of the quality or durability of the finish. The quality of the finish and the method of application are far better indicators. Factory-finishing methods, including an ultraviolet drying stage, represent proven techniques that result in remarkably resistant products. Some manufacturers include UV protection in their finishing products to slow or modulate color shifts and yellowing in unstained wood floors. Others also add an antimicrobial agent to make maintenance even easier and to maintain a healthy home environment.
The “V” joints
Prefinished hardwood floors are designed to create a “V” joint between the boards when assembled. This joint mitigates any imperfections in the subfloor, prevents premature wear on the edges of the boards and makes it easy to move furniture. The “V” joint requires particular attention on purchase, because a “V” that is too deep or irregular will encourage dirt accumulation. Make sure that stain is applied right to the base of the “V” joints. This will ensure that floor color is uniform.
The rustic look
Some manufacturers have developed techniques to recreate the rustic appearance of the floors of the olden days. Their methods fine-tune the coloring and finishing of panels to simulate the passage of time, resulting in large knotted boards with an aged appearance.
The application of finish on prefinished flooring is done in successive coats in ideal and controlled conditions. The result of this process is a product that resists wear so well that manufacturers confidently give it a long-term guarantee. By following the maintenance instructions given for prefinished hardwood, you can ensure durability far beyond the guarantee period.