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Hardwood Installation: Compare DIY vs. Hiring a Professional

Hardwood installation is a great choice. The next big decision is: are you going for DIY hardwood flooring or will you hire a professional?

Here are some things to think about when it comes to deciding which option is best for you: cost, time, tools, level of difficulty and convenience.
COST OF HARDWOOD INSTALLATION

For many homeowners, do it yourself hardwood flooring comes down to cost. In most cases it’s more expensive to hire a professional contractor to install your floors but there are factors to consider other than just the overall price.

 

First, many contractors get much better deals on hardwood flooring materials from suppliers and manufacturers. You may find that the cost to buy materials yourself and the cost for tools isn’t that much different to what a contractor would charge you. Then, if you factor in the possibility that you make costly mistakes it might be worth going with to use an experienced installer instead (if you are not confident that you will not make those mistakes).
TIME FOR HARDWOOD INSTALLATION

From start to finish, hardwood floor installation can be long and tedious with many steps. If you’re going to do it you want to do it right! This is an investment and you’ll be looking at it day after day for years to come.

It can take many hours to prep your subsubfloor, lay underlay, set out your boards, cut and scribe them where necessary, lay the floor and make the all important finishing touches. For unfinished installations there is sanding and finishing to do as well. So, if you do not have a fair amount of time to devote to the hardwood installation project you might want to hire a contractor instead of attempting a DIY job.
TOOLS FOR HARDWOOD INSTALLATION

While most of the tools you will need to install hardwood are probably already in your garage (or cheap and easy to buy at the hardware store) there are some tools, like a hardwood floor nailer or sander, that can be costly to buy or rent.

If you are not going to use those tools again or a not confident in how to use them, it may be wiser to choose a professional to install your hardwood floor.
LEVEL OF HARDWOOD INSTALLATION DIFFICULTY

These days, with prefinished and engineered hardwood flooring options on the market, installing a simple hardwood floor yourself is less difficult than ever before. Some manufacturers even rate their products on DIY hardwood flooring level so you can choose the best product for your experience. It’s becoming more and more common for people to install their own laminate floors.

 

A simple laminate is incomparable to a solid, site-finished hardwood floor but you may not care about top quality for certain types of installations. If you are renovating a rental property you might just want a decent looking, low-maintenance, low-cost floor option – laminate flooring might be a good choice.

You will need to bear in mind that if you go for detailing like inlays or borders or you want a particularly technical finish on your hardwood floor, like pickling or antiquing, it’s best left to someone with experience! Unless of course you like a good challenge.

You also might look to get help if you need to install hardwood floors in more tricky rooms with lots of closets or a strange shape, on stairs, or on a subsurface that is less than ideal.
CONVENIENCE OF HARDWOOD INSTALLATION

Let us face it – most of us have busy lives with work, family, social lives and other commitments. If you choose to install hardwood flooring yourself, you will have to set aside at least a weekend for the job even for the easiest of installations. If you do not have the time for that, it is probably just more convenient to pay for someone else’s time. Not to mention that time is money! If you can be using your time to make money – maybe you have to take time from work for the flooring project – you can weigh the financial implications.
How to Choose a Hardwood Flooring Contractor

If you have weighed the cost, effort, time and difficulty of hardwood installation in your home and decided that it is best for you to get a professional, then the next question is to decide who to use.

One of the best ways to choose a hardwood installation contractor is to get word of mouth recommendations from people you know who have used a particular flooring contractor. You can also see the results first hand if you opt for this route. Online reviews can also be helpful. See the ‘Reviews’ section of this website to get the scoop on retailers and manufacturers before you buy.

Get estimates from local contractors and compare. You can have several contractors in your area visit your home, assess your needs, and a quote on the same products and the same installation. That way, you can ‘compare apples with apples’ and choose the contractors who provide you with the best value for money.

This means getting to know a bit about what you want first. Check out the ‘Types of Wood’ and ‘Types of Flooring’ pages to see what’s on the market.

Some of the questions you could ask to an installer:

  • What types of floors do you install usually?
  • Have you done this type of installation before?
  • What was the last project you completed?
  • How long have you been installing floors for?
  • Are there any potential problems with this installation?
    Look for honesty here. Point out anything you think they should be mentioning if they don’t and judge the confidence and detail in their response.
  • When could you start and how long would this project take?
    Some (good) installers are booked up months in advance. Think ahead and don’t expect immediate action.
  • What do you need from me to get started – is there a deposit?
    To order the wood the installer is making a financial investment and may require funds from you in case you decided not to follow through. This shouldn’t be paid on the first visit for the estimate though.
  • Do you provide any type of guarantee?
    The answer is most likely no but they should take some responsibility for their work and warn you about and possible pitfalls with your particular floor.

You could ask contractors for contactable references and ask that they provide you with pictures of their past installations. Seeing these first hand should give you a good idea of what they offer. You could call a few of their past clients too.

Remember that it is not only the price that matters! A cheaper quote could indicate someone just wanting to get the job, who doesn’t care too much about quality. Good installers are probably not the cheapest – I can vouch for that. Quality products and installation do cost a bit more and good installers won’t undervalue themselves.

Quality is important when you install hardwood flooring since the floor will be with you, under your feet and part of your decor for many years to come. It’s also an investment if you ever want to sell your home. With a good background knowledge from this site you should be able to find a good contractor who will install hardwood flooring in your home at a reasonable rate, and do a great job!

From Room to Room: Flooring Transition

Flooring transitions are one of the final touches that will make or break the finished look of your floor. Such a small thing and such a big impact.

As with all flooring there are some extra bits and pieces that will be required to make the floor ‘user friendly’, hide unsightly edges and polish the overall look.

You’ll want to transition the gaps from changing direction or rounding off a doorway. Most likely you’ll also need to make the transition to another flooring material. How it’s accomplished can either complement the natural beauty of your floor or appear to be an afterthought to the installation.

WHEN TO USE TRANSITIONS

The floor coverings in your home normally vary in thickness depending on the subfloor, the underlayment and flooring material itself.

Vinyl flooring can be very thin although it’s often installed over plywood which can add a little to the height. Carpeting varies in the depth of its nap and the quality of the padding underneath – both of which can determine just how thick the combination ends up being. Ceramic tile in your foyer, kitchen, or baths can be high since the mud bed can often raise the material way up off the subfloor.

All of this should be taken into consideration when planning your hardwood and the flooring transition that must take place when it meets one or more of these other materials.

Just in case you didn’t have enough to think about, the thickness of the hardwood also enters into the equation. Solid unfinished and prefinished hardwood flooring is normally ¾ inch thick, but engineered and laminate floorings are normally much thinner products.

CHOOSING YOUR TRANSITION PIECES

There are 2 primary objectives when choosing the transition trim for where your hardwood meets the other flooring materials in your home:

 

  1. Selecting a trim that’s attractive and complements the floor and interior décor
  2. Picking something that isn’t a tripping hazard. The most beautiful hardwood floor in the neighborhood loses a little of its impact if guests stumble every time they enter the room.

SUGGESTIONS FOR YOUR FLOORS

  • Vinyl – due to the height difference between vinyl and most types of wood floors the best flooring transition is often a piece of reducing trim. These basically appear to be a piece of ¾ round trim that someone has flattened. They are available in various heights depending on the hardwood being used and reduce down to about 1/8 inch thick where they sit on the vinyl and can normally be purchased in prefinished colors.
  • Ceramic Tile – one of the most popular transitions for where ceramic tile and hardwood meet is a threshold which can either be wood or marble. The profile of the threshold can vary depending on just how noticeable you wish it to be – however they are normally rounded off at the corners to avoid catching toes.
  • Carpet – this is a matter of personal preference as some homeowners prefer the look of a natural flooring transition from carpet to hardwood with a carpet tack strip installed along the edge of the wood to prevent the carpet from coming loose.
    However, others like using a modified threshold with a notch to allow the carpet to run underneath without appearing to be crushed.

These are just a few of the most common flooring transition trims available – consult with your flooring distributor or contractor to find out what others might work for your application.

How to Clean Hardwood Floors

Hardwood Floor Maintenance

Ask anyone in the know and they will tell you that prioritizing maintenance and cleaning can save you plenty of money, as you will not have to worry about hardwood floor repair or refinishing nearly as often.

Actually, hardwood floors are pretty low maintenance and depending on the quality of the wood and finish you can live freely without worry that every little thing will damage the floor. You love your floor – but you need to LIVE in your home as well!

As they say, prevention is better than cure and there are several ways you can prevent serious damage to your hardwood floors:

  • Prevent scratches and damage from dirt and grit by vacuuming or sweeping your hardwood floor regularly
  • Use rugs and mats to trap dirt and keep it from roaming about and damaging your floor
  • Prevent water damage by making it a habit to clean spills as soon as they happen. If you stick to this rule, hardwood floor maintenance becomes a lot easier!
  • Only use products designed for hardwood floor maintenance and cleaning on your floors or just plain water.
  • Harsh soaps, detergents and oil soaps can damage your floor and finish, so avoid them altogether! Look for commercial, PH balanced products that are designed for hardwood floors, such as Poly Care.
  • Use felt or carpet squares on the bottom of all furniture feet and legs and lift to avoid damage to your floors when moving furniture around. These are low cost and an easy way to keep your floor scratch and dent free.
  • Also, you probably want to avoid wearing high heels on your floors.
  • A bit obvious but …do your best to avoid dropping on your floors (which can cause dents and require hardwood floor repair)
  • Vacuum with a soft bristle brush and take a look at the vacuum to see if some of the parts might cause damage certain vacuums can dent or scratch your floors
  • Use a UV resistant finish on your floor or try to avoid direct sun on your floors. The sun can fade or yellow certain types of finish. Or try UV protective window coverings.
  • Investing in special equipment can be a good idea and will make hardwood floor maintenance easier. Swiffer-type dusters, a soft boom and a canister vacuum with soft bristle attachments are all highly recommended. The vacuum’s especially worth it if you have hardwood flooring throughout your home or a large part of it.

 

  • You may want to make a decision about your pets and sharing the floor with them. As much as you love them, their claws can scratch your floors and pet stains are some of the worst you can get on hardwood floors make sure you clean them up immediately! Weigh your values and how your pet will ‘get along’ with the floor – it might be that you are willing to sacrifice some minor floor damage for being able to share the space with your indoor animals.

Regular cleaning, sweeping and care of your hardwood floor, and checking your floor from time to time, is the best form of hardwood floor maintenance there is. Done regularly, these all take minutes to achieve, but can save you hours (and a big chunk of cash) in the long run!

Hardwood Floor Repair
Hardwood floor repair should be the exception rather than the normif you have been doing a good job of hardwood floor maintenance, cleaning and minimising damage from spills and sun damage. Starting with a quality finish and quality milled wood doesn’t hurt either.

However, accidents do happen and from time to time you may need to do a hardwood floor repair or two. One of the most damaging problems can be a leak or spill that causes a stain or worse, buckling. Click here for more on wood floor repair for water damage.

Here are a few hints and tips to help fix some other floor problems with minimal fuss.

      • Minor splits and cracks in hardwood floors can usually be repaired with angled nails. If the crack is severe you may need to replace the board or boards in question.
      • Gaps in hardwood flooring are often nothing more than woods natural reaction to heat and humidity.
      • Generally, if there is less than the thickness of a dime between your boards, then your floor is normal and no hardwood floor repair is necessary. If there is a much bigger gap, you may need to tighten up the floorboards.
      • Buckling is another common problem in hardwood floors. You may be able to repair the floor by sanding and refinishing but if there is an underlying problem (like rising dampness) you will need to solve that problem to get to the root of it.

 

      • Scratches, marks and other problems with your floor’s finish may mean that you need to sand and refinish your floor. First, you can try some minor fixes. For example, minor dents can be filled with wood filler. This will blend into the floor and make the problems less noticeable.

Many of the most common hardwood floor repairs are possible to do yourself though there are some cases where you might want an expert to take care of your hardwood floor repairs – particularly if you didn’t install the floor yourself and several boards need to be removed and replaced.

Overall though your floor shouldn’t keep you busy with repair and maintenance. Your hardwood floor should let you keep busy with life and living in your home.

Bruce Turlington Hardwoods Stay Away

Review by Lilly

We did not have much option on our hardwood flooring other than color with our builder, but ended up with Bruce Turlington hardwoods… We HATE them! We were expecting a much better quality from a brand name.

The wood flooring scratches and dents even if you drop a teaspoon on it and the wood look finish chips off also.

If you have the option, spend more on a better product! We wish we had the option, it would cost us an additional $8k to pull these up and put better ones down….

Note from the HFE.com editor:
It’s always disappointing to hear when someone isn’t happy with their wood floor, whatever the type or company. Hopefully more will be encouraged to post their experiences too!

Reviews

Unfortunately, upon investigation we found similar reviews on other websites about Turlington engineered flooring. Turlington is among the huge range of flooring products that Bruce/Armstrong offer. Whether these are the exceptions or evidence of an inferior product is definitely in question.

We can only hope that Bruce will address the problems and respond to these comments as well as provide appropriate compensation to anyone that has been put out by the problems with it’s Turlington flooring products.

Warranty

In the maintenance section of your warranty, it may cover flaking finish but likely not hardwood flooring scratches and dents – it’s worth a look though.

For others planning to install wood flooring , if you have a choice, it’s good to consider the warranty as part of the flooring selection process. Just like when you’re buying insurance, reading the fine print is time consuming and daunting but may keep you from making an small, avoidable mistake that could cost big money. This time and effort will be worth it in the event you need to use it.

Quality

As Lilly mentioned, it’s also a lesson to those who are looking to save a few bucks on their home renovations – in the wood flooring installation is not the ideal place to trim the budget. There are inferior products out there.

If you’re working with a builder, check your options in advance. They may try to keep their pricing low by basing the estimate on lower quality products as standard. You want to be able to budget for upgrades if necessary.

Your Experience
Has anyone else had a good experience to balance out the bad or any photos to add? What has been your experience with Bruce or the flooring company you used?
Click here to post comments.

Join in and write your own page! It’s easy to do. How?
Simply click here to return to Manufacturer Reviews.

Get the ‘Wow Factor’ with North American & Brazilian Walnut Hardwood Flooring

North American & Brazilian Walnut Hardwood Flooring

The Look
COLOR & SHADES
We can find a lot of variation in color within the walnut hardwood flooring species and even between boards. This is thanks to the contrasting deep, rich heartwood that ranges from chocolatey brown to a purply-black and the nearly white to tan sapwood. As with most hardwood, the lower the grade the more variation between boards but overall the look is warm and inviting. Shade can also vary depending on the finish – oil-based is darker than water-based.

Walnut Sample - Orange Walnut Sample - Dark Red Brazilian Walnut Sample Brazilian Walnut Sample - Dark

GRAIN PATTERNS
While some walnut boards have a curled grain and irregular characteristic knots, the pattern is more often straight and fluid. This is true for both domestic and exotic types.

The Characteristics
HOW DOES IT HOLD UP?
Durability of the walnut species is good in terms of shock resistance and strength, so it will not split easily. It is however by comparison less resistant to dents than oak. Don’t forget that it’s the quality of the finish that will add durability to the floor – it’s not just about the wood.

WORKING WITH THE WOOD
The domestic walnut won’t give you a particularly hard time for sanding, nailing or finishing, nor when making machine or hand tool cuts.

Brazilian Walnut has quite a few points to note as special care should be taken when installing, sanding and finishing the wood. Cutting the wood can be difficult and with high scratch visibility sanding must be done very carefully. Perhaps pre-drill and hand-nail for better results and also best to test any finishes before applying.

walnut pecan floor

For a more exotic look, Brazilian Walnut Hardwood Flooring might be more up your alley. The color has green hues over a yellow tan wood or can be a darker blackish brown and will darken to a rich brown over time.

Thinking of Painting Hardwood Floors?

Add a little pizzazz to a room in your home, put bit of your personality on display. Painting hardwood floors a vivid, interesting or natural color may be the way to go to add instant character.

While many homeowners like the warm appearance of natural or stained hardwood flooring, you can also brighten up a room by applying a color that coordinates with your décor. An older home with wood floors that are no longer to your taste could be rejuvenated with a coat of paint or a painted design to your chosen look.

Painting a hardwood floor isn’t that much different than applying stain and sealant – it may even be a little easier for most DIYers.
Ideas and Steps for Painting Hardwood Floors

Wood floors have been painted for many years and if you wonder where, look no further than the front porches of many old homes. If paint can hold up to the challenges of inclement weather out there, it should have no problem providing years of durability inside your home.

Just like some front porches stand out from the rest of the block with a sharp, distinctive color, you can let your imagination run wild with your floor painting project. Choose a bright color to elevate your mood when using the room or try a checkerboard or border design to create some interesting contrasts – all you need is a little bit of painters tape and steady hand.

Painting your floor provides the opportunity to choose from a rainbow of colors that aren’t available with stains that normally just enhance the natural shades of the wood. Red, blue, pink, or purple can be perfect choices for children’s rooms, sun porches, or even a family room designed for fun.

 

There are a few tradeoffs though – if you change your mind down the road, paint can be a little tougher to remove during the refinishing process and many paints cover the natural grains of the wood.

Steps to Beautifully Painted Floors

Latex enamel porch and floor paint is often the best choice for painting hardwood floors.If your floors are very old, you may want to start with a coat of primer – check with your local paint store for their suggestions and then follow these steps:

  1. Sand the floor with a drum sander just as if you were preparing for stain. Use a hand sander to get around the baseboards and other tight spots.
  2. Vacuum all dust up and clean the floor with a mixture of bleach and water. Rinse with detergent and water and allow to completely dry.
  3. Patch any imperfections or cracked boards as needed with wood filler and spot sand. Severely damaged boards should be replaced.
  4. Cut in the paint using a brush around baseboards and a roller can make quick work of the main body of the floor.
    Choose your starting point carefully so you don’t paint yourself into a corner – it’ll be a long wait for it to dry!
  5. Apply the paint in thin coats – two or even three thin coats are better than one heavy coat that may take forever to dry.
    Allow 24 hours or longer between coats so the paint is completely dry before beginning to paint again. High humidity isn’t a good thing when trying to dry paint – don’t start the project on a rainy day.
  6. Depending on the paint used and how much traffic goes across the floor, you may want to apply a sealant such as polyurethane over the paint as a protection that can keep the floor looking new. A water based sealant should be used if the floor was painted with latex paint.

 

Always make sure you have plenty of ventilation in the room during the sanding and painting phases of the project as the dust and fumes can be hazardous.

Painting hardwood floors is very DIY friendly – and less reaching than painting a wall.
Pros to painting hardwood floors:

  • color choices are endless
  • can match décor
  • cover up stained or tired looking flooring
  • DIY friendly

Cons:

  • more difficult than finish to remove
  • takes time to dry especially in humid areas
  • natural grain of wood hidden with some types of paint

Tips:

  • don’t start painting on a rainy or humid day if it can be avoided, clean the floor really well
  • apply in thin coats and allow each coat to dry completely
  • consider a sealant top coat

 

Getting to Know About … Birch Hardwood Floors

When many people think of hardwood flooring, oak is the wood species that often comes to mind as the tree is known for producing lumber with beautiful grains and exceptional durability. However, there are numerous other wood options when choosing flooring for a room and while they might not be quite as well-known as oak, they each feature their own unique characteristics and grain patterns that might be the perfect choice for your room.

WHAT IS IT?

If you happen to like a little bit of history attached to your hardwood flooring choice, the Birch tree was valued in olden days for its bark which was used as the shells of canoes that explored the rivers and lakes of North America. You can still find small companies that specialize in building birch bark canoes. However, over time woodworkers and craftspeople discovered that the wood that was behind that bark was very desirable as well.

CHARACTERISTICS

Birch wood is very hard and features a close grain with a fine texture. The wood’s dense properties allow it to take stain and other finishes very well and it’s able to be polished to a high sheen due to its inherent hardness. The birch tree has a reddish heartwood and sapwood that normally displays a yellowish tint. Birch hardwood flooring is normally found in three grades: unselected, red, and curly.

The unselected grades will often have both the red heartwood and yellow hues of the sapwood displayed prominently and grain patterns can vary. Red birch hardwood, which is what most distributors carry, has primarily the red heartwood and a fairly even grain pattern. Curly birch is fairly rare as it features an unusual wavy grain pattern only found in certain trees. Curly birch is normally used for furniture making, but if you happen to come across curly birch flooring, expect to pay a premium price for this almost exotic hardwood.

Occasionally you might find some birch hardwood floors labeled as white birch that have a pinkish rather than red hue and may appear to be almost cream. This is also from the heartwood of the tree and features the same desirable qualities as its red cousin; however it’s more suitable to lighter colored stains.

TYPES/STYLES

As with most wood species used for flooring, there are several styles and application methods available if you want to use birch in your home. Standard strip widths are normally 2 ½ inches wide or less and plank widths are considered to be 3 inches wide or greater. You can also purchase your birch flooring unfinished and have it installed, sanded and finished in your home. This method allows the greatest flexibility in creating your own finish color, but it also provides the best opportunity for making a huge mess if installing flooring in a finished home.

Prefinished solid hardwood or engineered flooring might be the best choices when installing birch in a finished home as part of a remodeling project. Prefinished birch flooring is available from respected manufacturers such as Armstrong, Bruce, and Bellawood with all the great characteristics of unfinished birch, but the work involving sanding or fumes already done. If you want the look of birch and have a concrete sub-floor, birch engineered flooring can be an outstanding choice.

COST

Pricing for birch hardwood flooring can vary depending on the style, where you live and the retailer. Expect to pay $4.00 to $6.00 a square foot for unfinished solid birch hardwood from a mill and prefinished can cost about $5.00 a square foot at retailers such as Lowes and Home Depot. Engineered birch flooring can be found for $3.00 to $4.00 per square foot.
If you’re one of those people who likes to stray from choosing vanilla every once in a while, birch hardwood floors might be the flavor that’s right for your home.

Engineered Hardwood Flooring For My Project?

Engineered hardwood flooring is unique. Just about everyone appreciates the beauty of hardwood flooring, but up until recently – if you had a room with anything other than a wood subfloor, you were stuck with choosing another flooring option. Fortunately, there’s now a hardwood flooring material that can be installed over concrete, it’s very DIY friendly, and best of all – it’s just as attractive as solid hardwood flooring, but doesn’t cost quite as much.

What is Engineered Hardwood Flooring?

Plywood has been a popular building material for many years due to the strength of its layered construction and the composition’s ability to be resistant to moisture damage. Engineered flooring is manufactured using the same layered construction principles and features a hardwood veneer as its top surface. The material is very durable and its moisture resistant properties allow most varieties of this flooring to be installed over concrete.

The layered construction also allows the material to be made much thinner than solid hardwood flooring with most types only being about 3/8 inch thick. This reduced size contributes to the boards being light and easy to handle and also permits it to be priced a little lower than most solid hardwood flooring.

 

Styles and Types

Engineered flooring can be purchased either unfinished or prefinished, but prefinished is by far the most popular choice due to its ability to be installed without a creating a huge mess and the multitude of wood species and finish choices available. You also have a wide range of styles to choose from with widths starting at normal strip sizes of 2/1/4 and 3 inches and going all the way up to a wide 7 inch plank that can give your room the character of an aged heirloom.

Finishes can be as elegant or rustic as you want — some manufacturers even offer distressed boards with artificial nail and worm holes that can make the beautiful flooring appear to have been reclaimed from an old historical home or building. A few manufacturers to consider for your engineered wood flooring:

• Bruce Hardwood Flooring• Mohawk• Armstrong• Bellawood

Engineered products available at home improvement stores such as Lowes and Home Depot and can also be found at most flooring retailers.

Installation

The floor boards are very light, easy to work with, and most experienced DIYers should have no problem with an installation over a wood subfloor using staples or glue.

 

However, if you plan on installing the flooring over concrete, you may want to consider hiring a professional flooring contractor. Unless of course you’re comfortable making adjustments as necessary to the subfloor.

Carpet and padding can hide many imperfections in concrete slabs, but engineered flooring may seem to exaggerate these problem areas. A flooring contractor can float out dips and grind down humps in your concrete so the hardwood floor has a nice level feel when you walk across the room.

Costs

Engineered hardwood flooring is like solid hardwood in that prices can fluctuate depending on the wood species you select, the finish on the floor, and where you’re located. Exotic wood species such as Australian Cypress, Bolivian Rosewood, and Golden Teak are usually more expensive than more common woods such as Red Oak, Maple, and Birch.

A very approximate price to use for budgeting purposes when planning a new floor might be $5 a square foot for oak engineered hardwood flooring – installation labor would be extra.

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