Wood Floors: What are your preferences?

Since I would undoubtedly leave a choice out, I didn’t make this a “poll”.

Someone who had no idea what they were doing made a dismal attempt at staining wood floors - throughout the condo - so the original shiny, medium golden brown they were before are now a very dark, splotchy, matte, really badly done pile of ugliness.

So I have the opportunity to choose a finish. All I know is I’d like it shiny. I’ve seen gorgeous dark chocolate flooring, and I’ve also seen the more “standard” medium kind of golden oakey color. I like them both. I like cherry, too. I can’t decide on anything right now due to brain strain, so I leave it up to the people of Doperdom to sling their opinions!

What do you have? What do you like? What would you change your wood floors to if you had the choice right now?

My preference is not shiny. harder to see the grain if the light is reflecting funny, and seems to show dirt and animal hair more. I like the more “worn” look. I have seen floors of all types of hues that I like, dark, medium and light.

We had dark, dark (espresso) floors at one of our previous homes - they were not matte, but not super shiny either. ANY little dent or scratch is highly visible. We’ve been in friend’s homes who have lighter hardwood with imperfections and you can’t really notice it unless you look at it the right way. We figure that lighter stains are best for people with kids or pets (we have two dogs).

When I bought my 60 year old house a couple of years ago one of my favourite discoveries was the floor. When I moved in, the entire 1st floor, excluding the kitchen, was covered with an old threadbare burgundy wool carpet that had apparently been in place for at least 40 years. After peeling it up I found that the original floor was a beautiful curly maple hardwood.

Needless to say, I ditched my plans to replace the carpet and, instead, had the floors refinished. Be warned: Maple doesn’t stain evenly and can come out blotchy (one of the contractors who quoted the job even told me that he would refuse the job if I wanted to stain the floor) so I kept the natural colour (golden honey brown) and went with a matte finish. Matte doesn’t show dirt or scratches as much as gloss and, since I regularly play host to my brother’s two 60 lb boxers, I really didn’t want to have to worry about refinishing in a couple of years.

So far I’m very happy with the floor and haven’t noticed any scratches or wear patterns even with a couple of hyperactive dogs gallumphing around the place every weekend.

When we bought our 100yr old Victorian cottage it had 40yr old wall to wall broadloom that the owner was trying to impress on me was still in good shape. Um, no.

First order of business was rip up all the carpeting.

Beneath the carpet, in the then livingroom, and the large entry, we discovered lovely intricately inlaid floors. Inlaid with rosewood, borders and corner details, simpler in the entry and more complex in the livingroom, including a lovely centerpiece. We were astounded. We had peeled up the corners before purchasing and knew there was hardwood but you never no what condition it will be in until you lift the whole carpet.

Because of the 40yrs of broadloom, it was all in perfect shape, no sanding just some refinishing and it’s a thing of beauty to this day. When people come into my house I always know their first words are going to be, “Nice floors!”

I was struck that such a fine floor should be found in such a humble home (1000 sq ft), but on inquiry I was told this section of town was built by the tradespeople who were employed building the huge Victorian mansions that fill other neighbourhoods of the city. That it wasn’t uncommon for them to swap skills with the tradesmen they worked alongside, when it came to their own homes. So my neighbourhood, of smaller homes, was riddled with elegant and unique touches as a result. A beautiful floor and a charming history lesson, sweet.

What color are your walls and what color and type of furniture do you like? How big are the rooms and how much light do they have?

There is no objective answer to the question, I have seen lovely bleached floors and lovely near-black floors and even one really stunning painted concrete floor.

First decide what kind of look you want and the floor color will follow.

I also vote not going with shiny, unless you have somebody else to care for them or the shiny you have in mind is some kind of indestructible epoxy like thing.

heated. Seriously, winters have been positively nice indoors since we went with heated wood floors. I could care less what it looks like as I pad around barefoot with warm feet.

I have standard sealed ‘red’ oak, which is more golden yellow. It was put in after we ripped out the cheap, shoddy, matted smelly wall-to-wall the cheap, shoddy smelly builder gave us. (And after a few accidents courtesy two feuding cats marking territory.) It was the best thing we ever did to the house. Ever. Cleaning is so much easier. It looks so nice and shiny. I wear socks in the cold and barefoot all summer. I love love love our hardwood floors.

All else equal, darker colors make the room look smaller. And if you don’t have a lot of windows, or live up north where light is scarce half the year, dark floors can lead to a pretty gloomy room.

I would stay away from red tones as it might fight your interior decorating efforts. Stick with more standard wood tones. Don’t stain it so dark that you can’t see the grain. Aside from that, almost any style choice is a winner where wood floors are concerned.

Staining and finish are two different things. Staining has more to do with the color, lightness to darkness, etc. Finish has more to with shiney to dull. Polyurethane is a common finish. The number of coats will dictate how shiney the finish is.

We have the traditional solid red oak in our living room and bedroom, and I love it. It has a hard polyurethane finish that has been bulletproof for about 5-6 years now. The only problems we’ve had is where a jug of water for the aquarium had a slow pinhole leak, and some of the flooring buckled up a bit. Not sure how long it had been leaking - maybe a few days? But when I discovered it, I blotted up all I could, and as the dry days of winter came, it laid back down fairly well.

I do notice some of the joints have opened up to hairline cracks in the winter, though. But as the humidity comes back in the spring, they will close up again. The high gloss does show dirt more, and since we have 3 cats, we always have dustballs, it seems. But I’d gladly have those rather than the ratty 30 year old carpet that was there before we had this put down.

A couple of thoughts on the topic:

Traditional wood floors will make it easier to sell when the time comes. You may love an exotic floor made of genetically enhanced purpleheart with rococo inlay, but when prospective buyers see it, it may make or break the deal. If you plan on peddling the place in the next few years, keep that in mind.

If you’re going with a new floor, expect to trip over the raw wood for a few days or more. Our installer wanted the stuff in our living room for at least a week before he would put it down. He wanted it to acclimate to the humidity and temperature that was in the house, so that it wouldn’t be shifting and warping while he tried to install it. It IS wood, so it will move some any way, but it’s still gorgeous now.

The finish he used on our floors was so smelly that we got out of the house for the first night. It was worth it, though - it looks great.

The staples he used to fasten the flooring to the subfloor took chips out of the basement ceiling. I have boxes of junk and stuff stored down there that have wood slivers in them still.

The process of sanding will raise lots of dust, and you may end up with the room draped in plastic to try to minimize its movement through the house. You won’t stop it, though. Try to arrange to have this floor put down in warm weather, so you can have windows open to vent most of it outside.

We had our living room/dining room done all at once. It divides our bedroom from the rest of the house. We literally had to walk outside and around the house to come in across the deck to get to our room at night when the floor was drying. Plan accordingly if your floor plan requires this, too. Obviously, you need to keep pets, etc off the floor for a couple of days also.