Choosing and buying a hardwood floor
Hardwood has been a popular flooring material for centuries and continues to be the flooring material of choice for many good reasons.
It’s durable – well-made hardwood floors can last a lifetime and longer. While the initial cost may be higher than with other types of flooring, hardwood’s longevity makes it an excellent long term investment.
It’s comfortable – real wood has a natural warmth that no artificial material can replicate and makes a very comfortable living surface.
It’s uniquely beautiful –hardwood has a beautiful appearance and, as a natural material, every piece will be completely unique.
It’s a great Investment – real hardwood adds value to your home.
It’s authentic – real wood has special value and appeal over artificial materials.
It’s sustainable – wood is a naturally renewable resource.
In a solid wood floor, every board is made from a single solid piece of hardwood. This is the most traditional form of hardwood flooring. It is installed over plywood subfloors using nail down installation.
In engineered flooring, every board is made from several layers of wood, with valuable hardwood used only for the surface, or ‘wear’ layer. The other layers may be plywood, common softwood or even high density fiberboard (HDF). Engineered floors are generally more stable than a solid floor, and they are more versatile too, as they can be installed in practically any situation with a variety of different installation techniques.
Laminate floors are made with entirely manufactured materials and contain no real wood (although the main component of many laminate floors is HDF, which is a wood-based product). Laminate floors have an image of wood (or other material) imprinted onto the surface, to give the appearance of a wood floor.
A Janka rating is a guide to the hardness of any given wood species. The Janka rating indicates how many pounds of force are required to embed a small steel ball into the surface of the wood to a depth of half the ball's diameter. The resulting number is used as a rating to indicate the hardness of the wood; the higher the Janka rating, the harder the wood. Janka ratings don't really indicate a floor's performance, and they're even less relevant in engineered floors where only the surface layer is hardwood.
Customers frequently consult Janka ratings when choosing a style of flooring, but we recommend choosing a floor based on the visual character of the wood, not its Janka rating.
Many people choose a wood species based on its hardness, thinking that a harder wood will be more durable and resistant to wear and damage. While this is true to some extent, the fact is that all hardwoods can be dented and scratched, even with the toughest finish. So it’s more important to choose a floor based on its visual appearance.
There are four basic installation techniques for hardwood flooring.
- Nail Down – the boards are fastened to a plywood subfloor using cleats or staples
- Glue Down – the boards are glued to the subfloor with a special wood flooring glue
- Floating – the boards are glued to each other, but not to the subfloor below. The entire floor ‘floats’ on a cushioned underlay.
- Glueless – a popular variation on floating installation in which the boards have a specially designed joint system that allows the boards to be ‘clicked’ together without glue or fasteners.
All hardwood species used in Kentwood flooring are suitable for the purpose, so it’s better to choose a species and color that suits your individual lifestyle and tastes. For example, generally speaking lighter colored floors and heavier grained woods like oak will be more forgiving of daily wear (dust, footprints, etc) and will require less maintenance than darker floors and clear grained woods like maple. Exotic woods tend to be less tolerant of changes in climate than domestic woods.
Many condo councils have regulations regarding the installation of hardwood flooring. One of the most common is that an acoustic underlay be installed under the wood flooring to minimize sound transmission between floors. Check with your council to find out what specific requirements they may have. Your Kentwood dealer can recommend a suitable underlay.
Most styles of Kentwood engineered floors are approved for use over radiant heat. (Solid wood floors, and certain wood species such as acacia, are not suitable for use with radiant heat systems.) There are some special considerations when installing over radiant heat and the temperature of the floor must be kept within recommended levels to avoid damaging the floor. For more information, consult the installation instructions.
Living with a hardwood floor
Keeping the temperature and humidity at recommended levels is one of the best ways to ensure the long term performance of your hardwood floor. Wood is a natural material that reacts to changes in its environment, and your hardwood floor will react to changes in your home. So it is important to keep temperature and humidity at recommended levels at all times, even when the home is unoccupied. The recommended levels are temperature at 60 to 80 degrees F (15 to 26 degrees C) and humidity at 30 to 50%.
Typically, ’gapping’ occurs when the humidity in the house falls below the recommended level. The floor boards dry out and shrink slightly, creating gaps between the boards. This often occurs in the winter when the heating system is working, drying out the air. It can usually be cured by increasing the humidity in the home.
The need for a humidifier depends very much on the climate in which you live and the heating conditions you choose for your home. Humidifiers are seldom necessary in temperate climates, but in cold, dry regions they are very helpful in keeping the humidity levels at a comfortable level. In such cases, the installation of a humidifier has the added benefit of making the home more comfortable for people and pets as well as the hardwood flooring!
A certain amount of noise is normal in many hardwood floors. Because wood expands and contracts with changes in heat and humidity, the floorboards continually build up small amounts of stress at various places in the joints which are released with small noises, usually when the floor is walked on. That noise – the ‘crackle’ of a real wood floor – should be random and occasional.
If your floor is making a noise that is regular, constant and always occurs in the same place, you probably have an installation issue. Have your installer examine the problem.
Yes, this is normal. Most types of wood change color when they are exposed to daylight, and hardwood flooring is no exception. The change is most obvious on natural colored floors, and some species change color more than others. Usually, the color becomes deeper, richer, and more even. Over time, your newly installed wood flooring will ‘age’ and the color will deepen. You may want to periodically rearrange furniture and area rugs so that the entire floor area gets exposed to light and colors evenly.
Cleaning and maintaining a hardwood floor
If the finish has become dull simply from daily wear, a cleaning with Therapy by Kentwood Spray Cleanser should be enough to bring back its luster.
If the dullness is the result of fine, tiny scratches in the finish, then you may want to consider a ‘recoat’. This should be done by a professional hardwood flooring technician. Your dealer can recommend someone for this. For more details, see the ‘Repairing and Refinishing a Hardwood Floor’ section.
A vinegar and water solution may be used for occasional cleaning, particularly if there is a greasy residue on the surface of the floor. However, vinegar is an acid and if used over an extended period of time it may alter the gloss level of the floor.
The following products should not be used on your Kentwood floor:
- detergents, oils, waxes, polishes, bleach, scouring agents
- ‘all in one floor cleaners’
- oil soaps
These products will either damage the finish, or leave residues that will dull the appearance of the floor.
For polyurethane finished floors we recommend Therapy by Kentwood Cleanser or similar cleaning product designed for use with pre-finished hardwood flooring.
For oil-finished floors please consult the product's Care and Maintenance instructions.
No! Steam cleaners should never be used on a wood floor. The combination of heat and moisture and pressure could be very damaging to the wood. For similar reasons, never use a wet mop or cloth when cleaning the floor, always use a damp mop or cloth only.
Kentwood floors are factory finished with an advanced polyurethane finish that is both durable and easy to care for. (Note: a few styles of Kentwood products are finished with oil based finishes. These require a different care & maintenance routine.) Basic cleaning involves two simple procedures.
Sweep or vacuum the floor frequently to remove loose dust and grit. This is very important to the long term performance of the floor and its finish. Small particles of loose grit act like sandpaper on the surface, wearing it down over time and dulling the gloss. Regular sweeping or vacuuming will help keep these abrasive particles off the floor. (Having mats at entryways is a good way to keep grit off the floor as well.)
Day to day wear will ‘dull’ the floor as dirt and oils get deposited onto the surface. To clean these away, use a cleaning solution specially formulated for prefinished hardwood floors, like Therapy by Kentwood Spray Cleanser. Follow the product instructions.
Repairing and refinishing a hardwood floor
Scratches that show as white lines are usually superficial abrasions into the finish on the floor surface. The best treatment for these is a product called 'Tibet Almond Stick'.
Deeper scratches that penetrate the finish and go into the actual surface of the wood itself may need a touch-up kit, consisting of a colored marker and spot finisher.
Tibet Almond Stick and touch-up kits are available from your Kentwood dealer, or here on the site.
Small dents can sometimes be filled and touched up so they are less noticeable. For larger dents the only real solution is to replace the damaged board.
Usually, yes. It depends on the extent and nature of the damage. If the damage is just to one or two boards, they can probably be replaced. This is a job for a professional installers. (It’s also an excellent reason to keep a few spare boards that were left over after the installation.)
The new boards will probably be lighter in color than the others but they will ‘age’ to match the rest of the floor in time. Likewise the new boards may appear to have a slightly different gloss level than the surrounding boards.
Replacing a whole section of flooring is more difficult as a new order of flooring may not look exactly the same as the previously installed batch.
Consult your dealer to see if the product specifications have changed since the original purchase.
A hardwood floor can usually be refinished in two ways. A buff & recoat is an effective way to refresh a floor on which the finish has become scuffed and scratched over time. It involves a very thorough cleaning followed by a new coat of polyurethane finish. (Sometimes a bonding agent is required to ensure the new coat of finish adheres to the old one.) With a buff & recoat, the floor’s original finish is not compromised in anyway and the finish warranty remains in effect.
If the finish has been completely worn away or otherwise damaged, it may be possible to have the floor refinished. This involves sanding away the entire finish until the hardwood is exposed, then applying several layers of new polyurethane finish to the entire floor. Whether a particular floor can be refinished – and how many times it can be refinished – depends entirely on the specific style of flooring. To find out if your syle of Kentwood floor can be refinished, consult your dealer. Once a floor has been refinished, the original finish warranty is no longer valid. Both of these procedures should only be performed by qualified professional wood flooring refinishers.
Kentwood and the environment
At Kentwood, we believe that responsibly manufactured, premium quality wood floors represent an excellent choice for today’s environmentally-conscious homeowner.
Not only are our wood floors made from a natural, renewable material, they also outlast and outperform most other floor coverings, making them an excellent long-term, low-maintenance choice. A well-made, well-maintained wood floor can last a lifetime, and longer.
To ensure that our products meet our standards for quality and sustainability, Kentwood has a wide ranging corporate environmental program that guides every aspect of our product development and manufacturing operations.
Its basic principles are:
- ensuring the long term sustainability of the world’s forests by promoting responsible forestry, both within our company and throughout the industry
- producing only high quality products that deliver high value, long term performance to our customers
- encouraging environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient practices in our manufacturing facilities and in our corporate operations
- supporting organizations that promote responsible forestry and land use programs
LEED (which stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) is a program developed by the US Green Building Council to encourage environmentally-responsible building design, construction and operation.
Buildings that qualify for the program are given a LEED Certification based on how many credits the project earns. There are four levels: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Credits can be earned in a variety of different categories that cover all aspects of a building’s design and construction, including material choices and performance, as well as the ongoing operations after occupancy.
The LEED program is most well known for commercial, public and multi-unit residential projects, but it can also be applied to single family homes. The LEED program has won a lot of support among developers because it offers a comprehensive, third party validation of a project’s green features and verifies that the building is operating exactly the way it was designed to.
Most styles of Kentwood floors are ‘LEED compliant’, meaning they can contribute towards points in certain categories. For example, LEED recognizes compliance with CA 01350 as a qualifying attribute for their Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) credit categories. That means virtually every floor we sell is LEED compliant for IEQ. See more below about CA 01350 and the way our products support good indoor air quality requirements.
And if you choose to build under another green building standard, it will likely also recognize CA 01350 and other good attributes of our floors as well.
The Lacey Act is America’s oldest national wildlife protection statute, originally enacted in 1900 to protect endangered birds. The Act has been amended many times, adding protection to animals and marine life. The latest amendment occurred in 2008, providing protection to plants and plant products. This restriction, which prohibits using illegally sourced or traded plant products, impacts the manufacturing of many textiles, pharmaceuticals and paper products, as well as the obvious wood products like flooring or decking.
Kentwood has always had a firm commitment to sustainable forestry and environmental responsibility and has worked closely with our manufacturing partners to utilize legally and responsibly harvested material for all our products. Accordingly, compliance with the Lacey Act is in line with long-established company policies.
Formaldehyde is an important organic compound that exists naturally in food, the environment, and our bodies. Formaldehyde is biodegradable, meaning that it does not accumulate in the environment and since humans metabolize formaldehyde quickly, it does not accumulate in the body. In fact, the average person processes about 1.5 ounces of formaldehyde each day as part of normal human metabolism.
Formaldehyde is an essential component in making common consumer items including medicines, vaccines, clothing, paper towels, furniture, cabinets, insulation and other building products. In the flooring industry, formaldehyde is commonly present in the glue used to make plywood and engineered flooring.
As with many substances, method, quantity and consistency of exposure must be considered. Excessive exposure to formaldehyde, particularly in its gaseous form, may pose some risk to human health, and accordingly some government bodies are taking steps to reduce emissions of formaldehyde from composite wood products. Regulatory programs such as “CARB” (a California state regulation) and “TSCA Title VI” (a US Federal regulation) are two examples. In addition to meeting CARB and TSCA regulations where applicable, Kentwood floors are also tested to comply with voluntary emissions control standards like CA 01350 and UL’s GREENGUARD to ensure our products are low-emitting for formaldehyde.
The California Air Resource Board (CARB) is a state agency that governs everything from truck exhaust emissions to agricultural concerns. In the flooring industry, we know it best for ATCM 93120, the standard establishing limits on formaldehyde emissions for specified composite wood products. This standard is only legally applicable in California, however it became a de facto industry standard in both the US and Canada. From the start, Kentwood has worked to ensure that our flooring was produced using CARB certified material, no matter where it is manufactured or where it is sold.
CARB’s program was the model for “TSCA Title VI,” created by the US Federal government.
GREENGUARD is a low emissions certification program owned and managed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), one of the largest and most respected product safety organizations in the world. GREENGUARD has two certification levels: GREENGUARD and GREENGUARD Gold. At this time, all of Kentwood's GREENGUARD certified products have achieved Gold status.
GREENGUARD Gold certification complies with CA 01350 but under stricter certification requirements than any other branded emissions program. In addition to meeting CA 01350 requirements, it also establishes a very low Total VOC level and sets emissions for specific VOCs at 1/100th of the US Federal Government’s Threshold Limit Value (TLV) for occupational exposure.
In UL’s words, GREENGUARD Gold certification is “designed to define low-emitting materials suitable for environments where people, particularly children and sensitive adults, spend extended periods of time, in particular schools and healthcare facilities.”
GREENGUARD Gold certification is recognized by LEED and many other programs as a qualifying attribute. For more information visit ul.com/gg
TSCA stands for the Toxic Substances Control Act and is a program supervised by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). When spoken, it is often pronounced “TOS-KA.” The original Act was created in 1976 to regulate commercial chemical use and the subsequent amendments to the original Act are called “Titles.” In 2010, Congress passed the “Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act”. The legislation officially added “Title VI” to TSCA, so you will often see this particular program referred to as TSCA VI or TSCA Title VI. The emission standards were set at the same level as CARB’s and the program looks at the same products, but the paperwork and administrative burdens differ somewhat.
When you see a label on our finished flooring that says it is CARB/TSCA Compliant, it indicates that it was made using a core of CARB/TSCA certified material and meets the documentary burden both programs require.
Currently Canada has no regulations for formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products, however all Kentwood products sold in Canada are compliant with the US’s CARB/TSCA Title VI regulations. The Canadian government is currently working on creating national regulations, and our ECO is an active member of the stakeholder committee.
The California Section 01350 standard (usually referred to as “Thirteen-Fifty” in conversation) is a voluntary program that goes beyond CARB/TSCA. Most importantly, it tests the finished floor as it will be installed in your home, not just the component parts. It checks levels many additional VOC's and allows a fraction of the formaldehyde emissions than CARB does.
CA 01350 is recognized by LEED, WELL, CHPS, and other green building programs as the standard for good indoor air quality. CA 01350 is the basis for many name-branded emissions programs.