You have decided to upgrade your home and would now like a new hardwood floor. There are several things you need to think about as you make your decision.
There are basically four different kinds of places where you can shop for hardwood flooring.
- · Hardwood specialty store
- · Flooring installer who has hardwood samples
- · Flooring specialty store
- · Box Store or Mass Merchant
Let me review briefly what each of these specializes in and the pros and cons of each.
Hardwood Specialty Store. This is a retail store that sells and installs the hardwood. Usually small and off the beaten path. Often the owner is the installer and his wife or children run the store.
Pros: The strength of the hardwood specialty store is hardwood is typically all they do. Sometimes they sell other hard-surface floors like laminates but mostly hardwood.
Cons: The drawback is that they tend to focus on unfinished wood that they sand and finish in your home. Sanding a floor at home often makes a mess—spreading dust throughout the home that you can never fully get cleaned.
Flooring Installer. This is an installer who works from his home and has samples that he will bring to your home.
Pros: The plus to this type operation is that it’s usually a one man operation. This person is typically very knowledgeable.
Cons: On the downside, since this is often a one person operation, there is no other option if something comes up. If they run behind on a job there is no one to start your job. If he’s hurt or someone in his family is sick you have to wait for him.
The other con is similar to the hardwood specialty store. These one-man operations tend to want to sell everyone a sand and finish floor. These floors are site-finished in your home. There is also the issue of the dust from sanding.
Flooring Specialty Store. This is a retail flooring store that has a flooring department.
Pros: This type operation has will typically focus on prefinished wood floors.
Cons: The downside to this type store is that while it will be easy to find help they probably won’t be quite as knowledgeable in wood floors as a hardwood specialty store.
Box Store or Mass Merchant. This is a place like Home Depot or Lowes.
Pros: Big selection
Cons: The drawback is getting help. And if you are lucky enough to find someone they typically have very little specific knowledge about flooring.
Here at Taylor Carpets we fall into the Flooring Specialty Store category. We focus on prefinished wood floors. The primary reason is that prefinished or factory finished floors are far superior to sand and finish or site finished floors. The prefinished floors are often done in layers—like plywood—rather than solid wood. The layers give the wood more stability than solid wood floors. There is less movement with the wood.
But the most important difference between prefinished and site finished floors is the finish itself. A factory finish floor has the finish professionally applied and then run through an oven where it is baked on. Often there are multiple step and coats to the finish. The manufacturer is also able to include the mineral aluminum oxide into the finish which greatly enhances the strength and durability of the finish. There is just no way that these processes can be done at home.
A final story about hardwood finishes. When I built my home in the mid 90’s I put in a prefinished hardwood maple floor. My neighbor two doors away worked for a large interior design company. He also did a maple floor but he did a ‘sand and finish floor’ (or a site-finished floor). After his floor was installed I went and looked at it. It looked amazing!
About three years later he moved and put his home up for sale. I had a chance to go in and take another look at the floor. I couldn’t believe the condition of the floor. Whereas my floor still looked almost brand new, his floor had all kinds of problems. Gaps had developed between many of the boards. The finish was fractured in many places because of the gaps. And in the heavy wear areas the surface was in desperate need of refinishing.
In conclusion, while each type of flooring outlet has its strengths and weaknesses, your best course is to find someone who is knowledgeable and will treat your job as if it’s the most important job there is!