Types of Hardwood Flooring – On the House

Types of Hardwood Flooring

By on October 8, 2015
removing carpet from an oak floor

Hardwood floors have for centuries been regarded as a handsome and premium floor finish. Hardwood floor became a standard in pre World War II homes and didn’t begin to loose its vast popularity until the advent of plywood as a substrate. The use of hardwood floor was furthered diminished in the 60’s and 70’s when wall to wall shag carpet became a chic and affordable alternative, learn more at vidaspace.co.nz.

Hardwood floor made a major comeback and its popularity continues to skyrocket. In fact, people with wall to wall carpet are removing it to reveal buried treasure, an elegant hardwood floor. With a bit of refinishing the floor can be restored to a pristine condition.

It’s true that hardwood is not one of the least expensive flooring choices, however, with proper care and maintenance it can last a lifetime making it a cost effective investment in your home. And few finishes offer the warmth (literally), natural beauty and design alternatives of hardwood flooring. What’s more, hardwood floor is versatile. A large oval braided area rug can give a family room a quaint feeling. Conversely, a beautifully appointed oriental rug can be just the need elegance for a dining room or living room.

Back to the warmth of hardwood floor. Hardwoods are natural insulators, having air spaces of microscopic hollow cells that produce high insulating values. It would take fifteen inches of concrete to equal the insulating qualities of just one inch of wood. This characteristic of hardwood can become a significant contributor to energy savings and is a major factor for comfort underfoot. It is for this reason that hardwood flooring has grown to become such a popular finish for people with homes built on a concrete slab.

Some people believe that hardwood and concrete are mutually exclusive and that never the twain shall meet. Is it true? Well, yes and no. Concrete floors by design allow moisture to travel through the surface. This moisture will cause solid hardwood planks or strips to twist, cup and crack. This is magnified due to the fact that there is no method to positively connect the hardwood to the concrete other than with an adhesive which doesn’t solve the moisture problem. Therefore, hardwood should not be installed directly over a concrete floor.

There are a couple of exceptions to this rule and a couple of installation alternatives which make for a professional, long lasting installation over a concrete floor. First the exceptions. Parquet and laminated flooring can be glued directly to concrete with the proper moisture retarder. Parquet flooring consists of small regimented strips of hardwood which are generally preassembled into uniform squares. The squares are then installed such as pieces to a puzzle. Because parquet is constructed of small strips, it more readily conforms to the contour of the slab.

Laminated flooring is constructed of several layers of wood veneer which is bonded together with glue and pressure. This construction technique make the flooring material less resistant to the twisting, cupping and curling that solid material is subject to. Once installed laminate flooring has essentially the same appearance of solid material. However, because its finish consists of a reasonably thin veneer, it does not offer the durability and refinishing qualities of solid wood flooring.

Solid wood flooring can be successfully installed over a concrete floor if one of the two following installation systems is employed: plywood-on-slab and sleeper. In either case the slab must be flat and level with a trowel finish, free of grease, oil, stains and dust. New concrete is heavy with moisture, so test for dryness before beginning the subfloor.

Either of the systems which follow is satisfactory for three quarter inch flooring up to four inches wide. For plank flooring four inches and wider, use the plywood-on-slab system, or top the sleeper system with an additional nailing surface.

Plywood-on-slab consists of a three quarter inch layer of plywood underlayment to which the hardwood is nailed. The slab should first be covered with a vapor barrier of either asphalt felt, building paper or polyethylene (sheet plastic). With the vapor barrier in place, loosely lay a layer of three quarter inch thick sheet (4’ by 8’) exterior plywood panels over the entire area, leaving a three quarter inch space at the wall line and one quarter to one half inch between panels. Fasten the plywood to the slab with powder-actuated fasteners, securing the center of the panel first, then the edges, using nine or more fasteners per sheet.

Install a second vapor barrier on top of the plywood underlayment and below the hardwood flooring. The hardwood should be installed at a right angle to the long dimension of the plywood. Tongue and groove material can be blind nailed using one and one half inch nails.

The second alternative involves the installation of “sleepers.” Sleepers typically consist of flat, dry, pressure-treated two by fours laid flat on their sides. They not only act as a nailing surface, they eliminate the need for subfloor when installed in rows at twelve inch centers. For the purpose of hardwood flooring installation the sleepers should be eighteen to forty-eight inches long. This will avoid curling and twisting.

Prior to installing the sleepers, apply an asphalt primer and allow it to dry. Next, embed the sleepers in rivers of hot (poured) or cold (cut-back) asphalt mastic. The sleepers should be installed at a right angle to the direction of the finished flooring. Stagger the end joints, overlapping the ends four inches.

Before installing the floor, loosely lay an additional vapor barrier of four to six mil polyethylene sheet plastic over the sleepers, overlapping the edges on top of the two by fours. Nail the flooring to the sleepers through the film. For added insulation install one inch thick rigid insulation panels between the rows of sleepers. The rigid insulation should be placed above the sheet plastic and below the hardwood flooring.

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