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Eco-Friendly Flooring Hardwood Flooring Species

Bamboo Flooring vs Hardwood: Which Should You Choose?

If you look at your home as a body, you will begin to understand that each area is like it’s own organ; every part must work together to create a functioning organism. Your floors are like the palms of your hands or the soles of your feet. They’re crucial for everyday living. So, making the right flooring choice is vital. This guide explains the differences between hardwood and bamboo flooring to make your decision easier.

When remodeling your home or building a new one, you have many things to consider. Choosing the type of floor you will use is just one of your responsibilities, and not everyone knows what steps to take to achieve their desired results. Like most major areas of your home, your floor is an investment that will affect your life for years to come.

First, What is the Pricing Difference Between the Two Flooring Types?

As you choose a path, the price of your flooring should always be near the front of your mind. Even a difference of a few dollars adds up when you consider the size of your floor and the number of materials you must use to finish the job. Depending on where you buy bamboo, you will pay about $2 to $5 per square foot.

You notice a relationship between price and quality, and spending more usually means you get a higher quality. In the $2 to $5 price range, quality does not change a lot, so you won’t have too much about which to worry. If you go below $2 per square foot, you will run into quality issues over time.

It’s now time for you to review the price you pay when buying hardwood flooring, and this information is excellent for protecting your budget. Knowing the cost in advance saves you a lot of trouble and helps safeguard your bank account. Standard hardwood will cost between $3 and $5 per square foot, which is a fair price.

You get decent quality and materials that can last for years with proper care when you take this path. On the other hand, you can find exotic hardwood flooring for more than $10 per square foot. Consider your budget and long-term goals when choosing your flooring material.

Installation for both types of flooring should run around the same price.

Next, Here’s a Quality Comparison of Hardwood and Bamboo Floors:

The quality of your floor should play a central role in your decision if you want your floor to last for as long as possible. If you have your eye on bamboo flooring, you should keep in mind that it does not have an official rating system. In other words, you never know what you are going to get when buying bamboo flooring for your home. Your best option is to search for reputable dealers with a record of customer satisfaction.

Quality is much easier to predict when you use hardwood because of the National Wood Flooring Association and other groups rate hardwoods on their size, hardness, quality, moisture tolerance, evenness and more. Look at the rating when you buy hardwood floors, and you will know what you are getting.

Now, the Durability of Hardwood vs Bamboo:

Hardwood is a popular flooring choice and gives you plenty of fantastic advantages you won’t want to overlook. People use some of the strongest trees available when making hardwood, such as oak, hickory, and cherry. The Janka rating measures the hardness of wood, and the hardest is 3,500. While cherry is ranked 950 on the scale, red oak is 1,220. So, hardwoods vary tremendously Keep in mind that some hardwoods are softer than others when making your choice.

To build upon this, let’s take a look at bamboo flooring. On the Janka scale, bamboo scores around 1,762. So, in most cases, bamboo is the more durable choice. Although most people think of bamboo as wood, that is not the full picture. Bamboo is a woody grass that looks and feels similar to wood. Natural bamboo is as hard as or harder than the highest quality hardwood floors. But, keep in mind the fact that treated bamboo loses a lot of its hardness.

Finally, Do You Have Environmental Concerns?

Both hardwood and bamboo are biodegradable and won’t contribute to the global construction waste problem. This is one of the main reasons why homeowners choose to use either of these materials on their floors. By 2025, construction waste is expected to nearly double, making sustainability a priority.

But, they have varying features where the environment is concerned. For example, bamboo grows much faster than trees. In addition, during the harvesting process, bamboo roots don’t need to be removed. The stalks are simply cut, and they later regrow from the same spot. Since you don’t need to replant bamboo, farming requires less fuel than hardwood per harvest. If you care about the planet and want to reduce your carbon footprint, bamboo flooring won’t let you down.

Some people view hardwood as not being environmentally friendly, but that is not usually the case. While it takes most hardwood trees 20 years to grow, they produce a lot of materials in that time. Plus, you don’t have to harvest wood as often as bamboo. When you compare them both, though, it’s clear that hardwood trees use more resources than bamboo flooring. When it comes to our carbon footprint, the way companies operate plays a major role in the amount of waste they produce.

What Can You Do to Decrease Your Footprint when Building or Renovating?

Do you want to know, with certainty, that you’re making a sustainable flooring decision? A trustworthy hardwood flooring expert will support the Lacey Act, which outlines North American laws to protect endangered species and their environment. The act pertains to both hardwood and bamboo suppliers. So, be sure to find out if your flooring installation company supports these laws prior to making a decision between exotic hardwood and imported bamboo.

Not only do you need to make sure  your suppliers and builders are conscious of the environment — there are steps you can take to ensure an eco-friendly home improvement process as well:

  • Learn to practice source reduction — generate less waste by using fewer materials.
  • Try to salvage what you can from your own deconstruction and check out thrift stores like Habitat for Humanity for building supplies and materials before you begin a renovation or construction project.
  • Educate yourself about how various building materials can be recycled rather than thrown in a landfill.
  • Motivate yourself by understanding the advantages of used, recycled, and salvaged supplies.

Conclusion

When it comes to bamboo flooring vs hardwood, the choice you make impacts your home (and the planet) for years to come, so getting it right the first time is critical.  Some people are split down the middle and have no clue what path they should take. If you can relate to that, stop thinking about it and call a flooring expert to help you make a final decision. If you live in the greater Denver area, contact us — we are happy to help find the best hardwood floors for you.

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Eco-Friendly Flooring Hardwood Flooring Species

Species Profile: Brazilian Walnut (Ipe)

“Ipe” or Brazilian Walnut (Ocotea Porosa) is a favorite hardwood flooring option often seen in higher-end decor. Because of its beauty and durability, it’s a dearly beloved hardwood species. Despite the name, it has no relationship to the true Walnut tree — and, that’s just one fun fact. Now, let’s take a closer look at one of our favorite wood species:

  • Where does it come from?
  • What is it known for?
  • Why do homeowners and flooring experts love it?

The Ipe Tree

The Brazilian Walnut tree grows throughout South and Central America, in parts of Mexico, and on a few islands in the Antilles.  The name is used to encompass an entire genus of tree, Handroanthus. Handroanthus includes at least 30 distinct species, each called by a different name depending on where they grow.  The Ipe tree is the national tree or flower of several countries.  It is popular in its native lands for the solid wood it produces and its gorgeous flowers — they look like tiny trumpets.

Just How Durable is Brazilian Walnut?

Boardwalks in Coney Island Made from Brazilian Walnut
Did you know that Brazilian Walnut makes up most of the boardwalks in Coney Island, NY?

People love Brazilian Walnut lumber’s density and seeming immunity to the forces of nature. It is so dense that it does not float in water, The wood has a hardness that measures at the very top of the Janka rating scale, upwards of 3,500 (more than 2.5 times the hardness of Oak). It is one of the most durable flooring options available.

Moreover, the wood is so durable that you can leave it unfinished in outdoor settings like saunas, decks, and patio furniture.  And, like most woods, it will fade to a brownish-grey color in these circumstances. Still, it has been known to last for more than 25 years this way.

Also, Ipe displays an inherent resistance to rot, mold, and insect damage. And, get this – it rates with steel and concrete concerning fire resistance. There’s no wonder why it is famous for boardwalks and other outdoor communal areas along the East Coast.  It can withstand decades of abuse from foot traffic, ocean air, and extreme weather. In the end, it will look hardly the worse for wear.

How Can You Spot Brazilian Walnut Flooring Based on Appearance?

The heartwood of Brazilian Walnut tends to vary in color from reddish brown to a sort of yellowish olive or even darker blackish brown. You may see bundles of boards of various shades sold by hardwood retailers.  And, the wood displays a fine to medium texture, with grain varying from straight to irregular or interlocked. Over time, the color will fade somewhat under the sun.

Deck Made From Brazilian Walnut

Brazilian Walnut is an oily wood with a moderate luster. Because of this, it is an excellent candidate for natural oil finishes. The inherent oiliness, combined with the wood’s density, make it difficult for a urethane finish to cure properly. Fortunately, its natural durability accommodates as much wear as most polyurethane finishes.

Tip: If you desire extra protection or a certain sheen, choose a factory-finished Ipe over a site-applied finish. The species’ unusual hardness makes it difficult to work with anyway.

Recommended Reading:

What you Need to Know About Prefinished Hardwood Flooring vs Unfinished

How Much Does Brazilian Walnut Flooring Cost?

Because of its exceptional qualities and comparatively scattered growth in the wild, Brazilian Walnut tends to be pricier than many other species. So, you can expect to pay anywhere between $4 and $9 per square feet of flooring. While this may seem steep, you will likely enjoy Ipe floors much longer than if you choose a less expensive species. Of course, this depends on the type of wear and tear you plan to put on your floors or deck.

Why You Must Keep Sustainability in Mind

One potential drawback to Brazilian Walnut is the traditional harvesting practice. Because this species grows sparsely, spread throughout forests — not in tight groves like many domestic species — it was once common practice to clear-cut vast rainforest areas for small harvests, a practice that leads to deforestation. While this sort of clear-cutting is now illegal in most countries, it is crucial to confirm that your Brazilian Walnut flooring originates from a sustainable source.

Deforestation due to clear-cutting in South America
Example of a deforested hill in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The Amazon Rainforest, arguably the most devastated natural habitat on the planet, rests at the center of Brazil. Many times, when you hear a term like “Brazilian Walnut,” “Brazilian Cherry,” “Brazilian Maple,” etc., it can reference wood from unsustainable harvesting practices. So, choose a source that grows/ farms trees specifically to create new timber resources. Ask your flooring manufacturer or retailer if they support the Lacey Act, which works against illegal logging practices to ensure the safety of endangered species and ecosystems.

Final Thoughts

To date, Brazilian Walnut flooring remains among the top flooring species used in homes and outdoors. Moreover, it is particularly well-suited to our climate here in Colorado. Many people feel like flooring that will withstand the worst you can throw at it (for decades to come) is worth the extra cost. Then again, it may not be the right choice for you. Are you still trying to make a flooring decision? Let us help you choose the right hardwood flooring for your home and lifestyle.

 

First published on Nov. 5, 2015.

 

Categories
Eco-Friendly Flooring Hardwood Flooring

Engineered Wood Flooring is Here to Stay

When we hear about engineered wood for the first time, we think of plywood or chipboard. We know that they are wood products that are made for specific applications and we know that we would not like our wood floors to look like plywood or to show wear like chipboard. What’s wrong with solid hardwood flooring? Why do we need engineered wood flooring?

cross-section of an engineered hardwood plank
This image from houzz.com shows a cross-section of an engineered hardwood plank.

Think of standard home construction.  The framing is made up of a pattern of perpendicular wood pieces.  If there is a large expanse of wood or metal, its weight is supported by a perpendicular piece. Engineered flooring works the same way. The the top layer of wood, called the wear layer, is identical to traditional hardwood flooring, just a bit thinner.  But the layers underneath are arranged for greater stability.

Below the wear layer is a series of perpendicular layers. The number of layers and composition varies greatly between manufacturers. MacDonald Hardwoods carries a handful of top-quality engineered hardwoods that have a thick hardwood wear layer and several layers that consist of scrap hardwood and other materials.

The main advantage of engineered hardwood is that it provides increased strength and stability. Because the Front Range region is extremely dry, there are some woods that are not recommended here because their native climate is very humid. The layered construction of engineered hardwood may make it possible to use some woods here that would otherwise have been unstable.

In addition, engineered hardwood uses less top-quality wood, making use of wood that might otherwise go to waste. Because the wear layer is not as thick as traditional flooring, more planks can be made from the same amount of wood. The hidden layers, then, can be made up of less presentable woods that has traditionally been scrapped.

Chaparral Collection from MacDonald Hardwoods
The Chaparral Collection is one of several engineered collections available from MacDonald Hardwoods

The appearance of the wear layer of the engineered hardwoods is exactly the same as that of traditional hardwood flooring. It comes in essentially the same variety of species, textures, and colors; traditional, distressed, scraped, and whitewashed.  Any finish or treatment found in solid hardwoods is also possible with engineered hardwood.

When either a solid hardwood floor or an engineered hardwood floor begins to show wear, the homeowner can simply screen the surface and add a new finish. This will eliminate the appearance of any scratches or minor dents. If a change in color is desired, either can be sanded down and refinished, although it will be possible to refinish a solid hardwood floor 2-3 more times than an engineered floor because the wear layer is not as thick.

Solid hardwood flooring is nailed down, so it must be installed over a wood subfloor, usually a plywood base. Before engineered flooring, it was not possible to install a hardwood floor in a basement or any room that had a concrete floor. Engineered flooring can be glued down on any smooth and even surface. This greatly expands the possibilities for residential and commercial wood floors.

Before making any buying decisions that involve engineered wood, be sure to ask to see a sample of the wood itself. A good engineered hardwood floor will have a thick wear layer made of quality hardwood. There are some manufacturers who produce engineered wood with a very thin wear layer that will wear out quickly, exposing the unfinished layers beneath. On average, a quality engineered wood floor will cost about the same as a solid hardwood floor.

Because there is more and more focus on the availability and sustainability of raw materials, the demand for engineered hardwood flooring continues to grow.  Over the past 15 years, MacDonald Hardwoods has expanded our lines of top-quality engineered hardwood flooring from one manufacturer to eight, and we continue to look for the best flooring to meet the needs of our customers.

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Eco-Friendly Flooring Species

3 Unusual Facts About Bamboo Flooring

bamboo hardwood floorBamboo has recently become a popular design choice for those wanting to create green homes and offices. This choice is for good reason: the use of chic, readily available bamboo is better for the environment than the use of traditional hardwoods. However, while most people today are familiar with the choice of bamboo for eco-friendly wood floors, there are many myths and misconceptions surrounding it. We know the facts, and our knowledgeable flooring experts at MacDonald Hardwoods can help you make an informed decision if you are considering installing beautiful new bamboo flooring in your space.

Three Helpful Facts About Bamboo as a Flooring Choice

1. Bamboo flooring is environmentally friendly.

As a type of grass that is recognized as the fastest growing plant on earth, new bamboo shoots rapidly grow to 50 feet and are ready for harvest in five to seven years. This is a mere fraction of the 30 to 60 years it takes a hardwood forest to grow to maturity.

Bamboo is regenerative. Unlike the harvest of hardwoods, harvesting bamboo does not destroy the plant, which will put out new shoots so that the cycle can be repeated. Trees are killed when harvested.

Finally, almost no pesticides are used in the growing of bamboo, and the harvest is done by hand, so there is minimal disruption to the environment in the process.

2. No harm to our planet’s panda population comes from the harvest of bamboo for flooring.

Pandas may ingest 30 different varieties of bamboo, but Moso, the plant species used for flooring, is not one of them.

3. Bamboo is durable and strong.

Although considered by some to be too soft to be practical in homes with kids and pets, strand-woven bamboo is the hardest wood flooring available today and stands up well to these most energetic members of the family. Bamboo floor finishes are available that are known to be scratch resistant as well. If you have children, pets, or heavy traffic areas, our professionals can guide you to the best flooring choices for your family and advise you on the best way to maintain new floors.

For personal assistance with all of your eco-friendly and hardwood flooring needs, call MacDonald Hardwoods, your Denver flooring company, at 800-639-3006.

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Eco-Friendly Flooring Hardwood Maintenance

7 Benefits Of Using Citrus Cleaner On Your Hardwood Floors

When you have hardwood floors in your home, you will want to take care of the items with the best types of cleansers. Hardwood floors require specialized care to keep the items looking beautiful, especially in a commercial setting in high traffic areas. Citrus cleansers are extremely popular for hardwood floors because these products offer a variety of benefits. Here is why you should use a citrus cleaner on hardwood floors.

Benefit # 1: Citrus Cleaners Are Made From Natural Substances

While some cleansers are made from man-made chemicals, citrus cleansers are natural substances. If your natural citrus cleanser leaves a residue on the surface of a hardwood floor, you don’t need to worry about a child or family pet walking on the floor — this isn’t the same with chemicals, which can be dangerous for kids and pets. Citrus floor cleansers are made from the juice or pulp from lemons, oranges, and grapefruits; they’re part of a healthy, effective home upkeep routine.

Benefit # 2: Citrus Floor Cleaners Safely Remove Grease from Hardwood

The acids from citrus fruits will cut through the grease on hardwood floors, making a citrus floor cleanser the best choice for the floors in a kitchen. While you are cooking food in a kitchen, grease floats through the air and lands on the planks or tiles of hardwood floors, but a citrus cleanser will lift this debris from the surfaces.

Benefit # 3: The Oils Impart a Wonderful Fragrance in Your Home

While chemical-based cleansers may have a strong odor that you won’t like, citrus-based floor cleansers have a delicate fragrance that smells like the juice of grapefruits, oranges or lemons. The delicious scent of citrus cleansers may float throughout your home, creating a healthy ambiance.

Benefit # 4: Citrus Eliminates Dangerous Pathogens

Citrus fruit juices and pulp contain natural substances that will eliminate pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. Lemon-based cleansers are considered the best for destroying the germs that can make you ill, but limes, oranges, and grapefruits also have sanitizing properties.

Benefit # 5: Citrus Cleaners Protect Your Floor’s Finish

If you want to protect the beautiful finish on a hardwood floor, then citrus cleansers are a perfect choice. The oil from citrus fruits will coat the hardwood floor’s surfaces to protect it from the damages of debris. This coating keeps a variety of substances from seeping into the hardwood, preventing discoloration.

Benefit # 6: Natural Ingredients Mix Easily With Water

You can buy a concentrated citrus-based cleanser for your floor, and it is easy to mix with water in a bucket before you mop a floor. With this type of cleanser, you only need to use a small amount to sanitize a hardwood floor in a few minutes.

Benefit # 7: Citrus Leaves You With a Shiny Hardwood Floor

When you want to have a shiny hardwood floor, citrus-based cleaners are a great choice. The oil from the citrus cleanser creates a gorgeous sheen on the floors, helping to make the hardwood plank’s surface look fantastic. Look for citrus cleansers at online and local stores to keep your hardwood floors in the best condition.

Categories
Eco-Friendly Flooring Hardwood Flooring

Eco-Friendly Flooring for Your Home or Office Space

Healthy, beautiful, and sustainable hardwood floors are perfect for the environmentally conscious consumer. A variety of flooring materials are manufactured in conditions and factories that do not meet air quality or emissions standards. MacDonald Hardwoods chooses wood and other flooring materials from sources that go beyond best practices for many of our products. The environmentally conscious consumer can trust MacDonald Hardwoods to uphold “green” values.

According to Escape Waste, green renewable flooring options are popular for home flooring installation with laminate and vinyl woods, and laminate tiles.

  • Laminate Wood – Laminate flooring yields stunningly realistic visuals and textures just like real wood. As a synthetic material, any wood can be replicated at a fraction of the cost and more economically than real hardwood.
  • Vinyl Flooring  – Vinyl flooring affords consumers the ability to resist scratches and other types of minor damage giving areas of high traffic a clean look in kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Laminate Tile – Laminate tile is more popularly known as Formica, a brand of laminate and plastic covering used on countertops and flooring.

MacDonald Hardwoods stocks and installs products from manufacturing facilities that adhere to environmentally friendly practices sustainable over the long run. Factories must be proven to comply with emissions standards from OSHA, European E1, and the California Air Resources Board. Wood floors are stained with finishes from ultra low VOC (volatile organic compounds) making them both scratch-resistant and eco-friendly.

MacDonald Hardwoods provides flooring installation in Denver with health and safety in mind. Our employees and your family will benefit from professional flooring installation and technicians who use safe and healthy methods in addition to our eco-friendly flooring products. Call MacDonald Hardwoods today to learn more about new flooring installation and more of our “green” values at 800-639-3006.

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Eco-Friendly Flooring Hardwood Flooring Under-Floor Heating

The Pros and Cons of Installing Heated Flooring in Your Bathroom

Do you want to warm up your hardwood flooring? Have you considered adding radiant heat to your bathroom so that you never have to get out of the shower and step on a cold floor? We cover the top reasons to install and to forget about heated flooring in your bath below.

5 advantages of heated bathroom floors:

1. Durability

One of the best benefits of using heated flooring is that it lasts a long time. If you take care of your bathroom floor system, it can last as long as 35 years. That is a long time when you own a home.

2. Energy savings

When you heat your floors, you may find that it is much easier to keep the thermostat down in your home. No cold toes, so no need to turn up the furnace. Did you know that using heated floors can reduce your allergy symptoms?

3. Easy to add to programmable thermostats

All systems come with a thermostat for easy use. Some are programmable. Check the manufacturer’s features and inclusions to see which models let you program the heating.

4. Safe for even the most sensitive toes

Another great benefit of floor heat in the bath is that you will never burn your toes. Every radiant heat model has safety features that keep you from getting burnt. This news is excellent for families with young children and aging parents.

5. Higher resell value

Your house is worth more with floor heat in the bath. Imagine telling potential buyers they will never step onto a cold floor after showering. Warm floors after a bath are a huge plus.

4 disadvantages of heated bathroom floors:

1. Repairs may be costly and require extensive work

One big problem is that any repairs could need the contractor to tear up your beautiful hardwood flooring to fix. This solution will cost you. It will be noisy.

2. Old homes may not have the electric service to handle heated floors without upgrades

Are you buying a fixer-upper? Is your home more than ten years old? Beware of additional costs for adding new electric service when you want warm floors in an older house.

3. Tearing up new floors is costly and a hassle

Unless you are already planning to rip out your bathroom floor, it can cost a pretty penny to take up new floors. If you are planning a renovation, then you are doing the right thing by adding heated floors at the same time. Otherwise, you cost yourself money.

4. Heating with floor heat takes a while

Unless you go with the programmable model, your floors may take a while to heat. You may have to turn the flooring heat on before bed to get an early shower.

Final Thoughts

There are definite pros and cons to heated floors. Picking the best time to install is a huge consideration. The upfront cost is another thing to investigate before making plans to add heat to your bathroom floor. Can you install radiant heating under wood floors?

Categories
Eco-Friendly Flooring Home Decor

Making Good Choices about Sustainable Hardwoods

Wooden flooring, cabinetry, architectural elements and furniture offer a beautiful look for your home, but not all types of wood are sustainably harvested or easily replenished. By learning more about high-quality choices, selecting wood that is sustainable allows you to create the decor you desire without contributing to an adverse effect on the environment.

Sustainable Hardwoods

Concerns about wood harvesting include deforestation, illegal logging and loss of slow-growing hardwood species that are difficult to replace. Sustainable forest management includes an approach that addresses the big-picture needs of the forests and surrounding ecosystem. As a resource that affects air quality, water purity and the presence of wildlife, forests are much more than trees.

Damage to Ecosystems

Exotic woods such as teak and mahogany are typically not harvested from sustainable sources. In addition to contributing to deforestation of tropical rainforests, the impact can extend to endangered wildlife, human populations and many other components in large ecosystems across the world. Money often is the motivation for the continued harvesting of wood utilizing unsustainable methods.

Informed Choices

Choosing sustainable wood is as simple as understanding the type of wood and geographical locations that practice sustainable harvesting methods. Hardwoods tend to grow more slowly than softwoods, so sustainable wood is especially important when selecting hardwoods. Softwoods such as pine and fir grow very quickly; these types of wood are often used for lumber products due to their abundance and renewal rate.

Sustainable Certification

The European Union has implemented sustainable harvesting regulations, but in all parts of the world, you should focus on selecting wood that is certified as sustainable. Organizations such as the Forest Stewardship Council provide certification systems, so you can easily identify sustainable wood and feel good about your purchase.

The types of hardwood that are generally available as certified sustainable options include:

  • Oak: This popular hardwood with decorative grain is a durable choice for cabinetry, furniture and flooring. When selecting oak, look for FSC certification and sources that are reclaimed or recycled. Oak forests thrive and are grown sustainably throughout the United States and Canada.
  • Teak: FSC certification from Burma and Africa is possible with teak, and other types of exotic hardwoods such as favinha, guariuba and tatajuba woods are additional options. Slow-growing teak is difficult to grow sustainably, but because the wood is in high demand for outdoor furniture, it is often available on the black market.
  • Mahogany: The rich colors and unique grain of this unique wood make it a desirable choice for furniture. FSC-certified wood comes from South and Central America, Asia and Africa. Other types of wood, such as andiroba and jatoba, are additional options when a mahogany look is desired.
  • White Ash: This hardwood is desirable for baseball bats, hockey sticks and pool cues. Resistance to shock and the light, creamy color make it a popular choice for furniture, especially for curved forms. Ash is grown in FSC-certified forests across the eastern United States and Canada.
  • Black Cherry: With a red wood that has a similar look to mahogany, cherry is a popular choice for furniture, cabinets and doors in addition to guitars. Fine grain and wavy rings provide it with a unique texture and look. Cherry is grown throughout the central and eastern United States, and many FSC-certified forests are located in Pennsylvania.
  • Maple: Maple is available in both soft and hard types, and sugar maple is a coveted type of hardwood. This beautiful wood has many unique types of grain and a light color that is suitable for a wide variety of furniture, stair treads and flooring. Maple grows abundantly along the east coast of North America.
Categories
Eco-Friendly Flooring Hardwood Flooring

Is a Natural Oil Finish Right for Your Hardwood Floors?

Oil Finish Walnut Prefinished Engineered Hardwood Flooring
Oil-finished hardwoods like this beautiful walnut featured on Houzz.com are popular for their natural appearance.

Back in July, we took a look at the many options available for non-urethane hardwood finishes.  Among these, we briefly discussed penetrating oil sealers, which have been quickly gaining in popularity as natural and vintage looks have become increasingly desirable.  In fact, natural oil finishes have been common throughout Europe for quite some time and are used on about a third of hardwood floors there.  Consequently, many of the most trusted brands we use here in the U.S. were developed by manufacturers across the pond.  In this post, we will take a closer look at what makes natural oil finishes so appealing, their advantages and disadvantages, as well as some popular brands.

Penetrating oil sealers come in two basic varieties, natural oil, and hard wax oil finish, all of which will add value to your home.  The specific kinds of oils used and their proportions are what differentiate one brand from another.  Most use linseed or tung oil, or a combination of the two, as a base, but soy, sunflower, china wood, safflower, hemp, and other oils are also used.  Moreover, some formulas include resins or waxes (from carnauba, candelilla, or bees) to enhance durability.  “Danish oil” is a mixture of tung oil and varnish, which, though considered a penetrating oil sealer, has many different properties from natural and hard wax oil finishes.

A natural glow

One of the outstanding qualities of natural oil and, though to a slightly lesser degree, hard wax oil finishes is their ability to enhance the natural beauty of your wood floors.  Rather than resting on top of the wood and forming a protective barrier, as urethanes do, oil finishes soak into the wood and bond with it at a molecular level, making the wood itself stronger, but leaving its texture and color unobstructed.  Over time, they produce a patina that ages with the wood, so it never acquires the dull, outworn look that can occur with surface finishes.

Surprisingly durable

Hardwood enthusiasts accustomed to urethane finishes often express concern that a natural oil finish may leave wood vulnerable to greater wear and tear.  While it is true that with a penetrating finish wear does occur directly to the wood, modern oil finishes are much more resistant to wear than those originally used to condition hardwood.  What wear does occur tends not to upset the beauty of the floor as it would with surface finishes.  Scratches, even those made by your dog’s nails, tend to blend in with the texture of the wood because there is no surface layer to contrast with.  Moreover, any serious damage to the finish can almost invariably be spot repaired relatively easily, providing a huge advantage over surface finishes.

Oil finishes can also be refreshed from time to time as needed without any great hassle, unlike urethane finishes which must be removed completely and reapplied as though the wood had been laid down new.  With a properly maintained oil finish, you should never need to sand down your floors.  If reparability is the new sustainability, as many in the industry are saying, then natural oil finishes are the way to go.

green leaf icon smallSafe for your family and the environment

Visit any “green building” site, and you will almost certainly come across an article or two about the merits of natural oil finishes.  Most oil finishes release fewer volatile organic compounds (V.O.C.s) than other finishes.  Plus, as J. Neufeld of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Home Guide points out, “You could get away with never having to refinish your floor again. How’s that for sustainability?”

“If you’re airborne sensitive to VOCs, a natural finish is the only solution”, comments Organic 4 Green Living, “That’s why we’d always recommend the use of natural and organic products to refinish your floor”.

The downside

Most of the disadvantages of natural oil finishes have already been mentioned:

  • Any damage to the floor occurs directly to the wood, rather than to a replaceable (albeit troublesome to refinish) surface.
  • Penetrating finishes do require reapplication every few years and tend to produce some strong odors which may encourage you to vacate your home for a day or two (longer if you are sensitive to smells) while they dry.
  • Natural oil finishes do not offer much resistance to solvent damage from substances like cleansers, alcohol, and urine.  If cleaned up in a reasonable amount of time, this damage should be reparable without too much difficulty, but if you foster dogs or host a lot of keggers, you may want to consider something more durable, like a moisture-cured urethane.  Or concrete.
  • Some varieties require several coats for the initial application, which could require you to be out of the house for several days since each coat can take 24-48 to dry depending on the climate.  There are, however, a few one-coat oil finishes on the market and it is possible to get factory-finished natural oil flooring, though this is often only available through specialty distributors.
  • Even for those varieties that require only one coat, some have to be applied by hand with a rag or something similarly labor-intensive.  If you’re doing it yourself, consider the time and work required.  You may want to take a little vacation and have it done professionally instead.

Cleaning

Though few people would choose a natural oil finished based on this factor, many do appreciate that most oil-sealed floors can be damp mopped, a nice feature in food service environments or homes where sticky messes are frequent.  In general, you will need to use a special cleaner to mop your oil-finished floor (check with the finish manufacturer), but you can do so with confidence knowing that, not only will mopping not harm the finish, the special solution is actually designed to reinforce it.

Cost

For the most part, finishing your floor with an oil finish will not cost any more or less than a urethane finish.  You will need to “refinish” more frequently, but refinishing an oil finished floor is significantly less expensive than refinishing a floor with a polyurethane surface.

As we mentioned, it may also be more difficult and more expensive to purchase prefinished flooring with a natural oil finish, and most of this will be engineered.  Prefinished solid wood with a natural oil finish is available but can be very difficult to find.  It should be noted, however, that the added durability provided by factory-applied urethane finishes does not apply to pre-applied natural oil finishes.  The only advantages of pre-applied oil finish are that your installation will be completed more quickly and the odor common to natural oils will have already dissipated.

Varieties

Unlike urethane finishes, natural oil and hard wax oil finishes often come in a variety of tints, eliminating the need for a stain.  The finish will tend to be a matte to satin.  A gloss finish can be achieved by applying a coating of wax to an oil-finished floor, but we do not recommend this course.  Wax requires a great deal of upkeep once applied and negates many of the benefits of a natural finish.  If a glassy look is what you want, better to go with a urethane.

Rubio Monocoat
This “Cherry Coral” finish from Rubio Monocoat is one of more than 40 color choices available from the company.

Some popular brands

These are the manufacturers most often mentioned in conversations about oil finishes:

 

Not sure what finish to choose?  Come on into MacDonald Hardwoods and talk to one of our experts about what finish might be right for you.

 

Categories
Eco-Friendly Flooring Hardwood Flooring

Where Does Wood Flooring Come From?

So you know that the wood for hardwood floors can come from a number of different tree species, both domestic and exotic.  But have you ever wondered just where those trees come from, how they’re grown and harvested, or, say just how many trees it takes to make a hardwood floor?  Well, keep reading and find out how your floor was born.

Where do the trees for flooring grow?

There are more than 20 species of tree that grow in the United States that provide excellent wood for flooring.  Most of them grow in the eastern part of the country (hardwoods tend to be of the deciduous broad-leaf variety rather than the evergreen needle-leafed trees of the West Coast).  More than half of hardwood harvested domestically is oak that grows from New England to the Midwest.  The U.S. also imports quite a bit of “exotic” hardwood like mahogany, rosewood, teak and wenge, which typically grow in more tropical regions like Brazil and Indonesia.  However, we also get a good amount of wood from Canada, including the maple of which they are so proud (justifiably so).

How many trees does it take to make a hardwood floor?

Well, the number of trees you need will, of course, depend on the size of floor you are making and the size of the trees the lumber comes from, among other factors.  To give you an idea, though, consider the floor installed at AT&T Stadium for the recently concluded Final Four NCAA men’s basketball tournament.  That floor, about 9,800 square feet of solid maple (70’ x 140’ – almost twice the size of a normal basketball court), it has been widely published, required somewhere around 30 mature trees, though the size of the trees at harvest was not specified.  Coming closer to home, one might expect to get from a tree about 18 inches in diameter with about 10 feet of mill-able trunk something close to 100 square feet of flooring, depending on the quality of the wood once it was milled.

Is that a lot of trees?

If adding up the numbers above has you running for the bamboo or cork, wait just a moment and consider the following.  In the last century, almost all manufacturers of lumber in the United States have found ways of harvesting and replanting that allow forests to replenish themselves at an even faster rate than they are being culled.  After all, for people in the logging and lumber industries, nothing would do them more harm than to see the end of the forest—it’s the source of their livelihood.

baby beech

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, the annual net growth of hardwoods at present is significantly greater than the average annual demand.  In fact, even though it takes some 40 to 60 years for most hardwoods to mature, the trees that are growing in forests used for logging today probably won’t actually be needed for another 100 years.  So, even though it seems like a lot of trees, remember that trees are one of the most renewable resources around.  They require no energy-gobbling factory production or even significant irrigation and the carbon they trap as they grow stays trapped, even after they have transformed into cabinets, furniture, flooring, and art.

Are there rules about which trees can be used?

There certainly are.  Most people in the logging industry understand the importance of reforestation.  For them, the plenitude of the forest is not only an environmental issue but one of economic concern as well.  It is doubly important to those involved in the production and distribution of lumber that forests remain in robust health.  Though opinions on how lumber should be harvested vary quite a bit, most lumber in the U.S. originates in forests that are carefully managed in one way or another.  There are also a host of organizations that exist specifically to ensure that trees have been harvested safely—for the forest, the loggers, and the quality of the lumber.

As to exotic woods, it is against the law in the U.S. to import wood products that have been illegally harvested abroad.  Though it is left, of course, to those governments to determine the laws related to logging in their countries, exotic wood flooring is now coming more and more from either tree plantations or areas specifically designated for harvesting which, in most cases, are well-managed for the health of the forest.

So what about the parts of the tree that can’t be used for lumber?

This is actually one of the coolest parts of the lumber industry.  Throughout the process of milling and cutting wood for lumber, every extra part is used for something.  Decent-sized bits not suitable for lumber are sent to manufacturers of furniture and other things that require smaller, less uniform pieces.  Bark and shavings are sent off to be used for paper or mulch, or, along with sawdust, used to heat and sometimes even power the mill.

At MacDonald Hardwoods we take care to ensure that our wood flooring is sourced from responsible manufacturers, people we trust to provide the highest quality product ethically and sustainably.  With hardwood, you can rest assured that your floor and your forest will be around long into the future.

Image credit: Cowboys Stadium configured for basketball Wikimedia
Image Credit: Baby Beech fickr