Friday, January 14, 2011

Wood Flooring 101

When we moved into this house there was a hodge podge of flooring.  The downstairs hallway and kitchen had peel and stick tile (not bad looking, but not the look that we were going for), the living room and dining room had cherry laminate flooring, and the den had maple laminate flooring.  The stairwell and the upstairs had brand new carpet so we at least knew that would be staying.
In a previous post we mentioned that our style was pretty clean and simple, so three types of floors on an 800 sq. ft. level was not happening for us.  We also had to tear out some of the kitchen flooring when remodeling the kitchen and let's just say that the existing floor was looking a little beat up from all of the work that we were doing.
When thinking about flooring we knew three things: we wanted real hardwood, we wanted to be able to stain them dark (espresso), and we didn't want to pay an arm and a leg.  SO, the searching began.

We ordered about a dozen samples from and visited several Lumber Liquidators.  What we kept noticing was that the majority of the pre-finished flooring (meaning flooring that had been coated with a color and polyurethaned in a factory) scratched very easily.  Bob kept insisting that we stay away from flooring like that because of those very reasons.  Due to that, we started heading in the direction of unfinished flooring that we could then hire someone to stain on site.  An on site stained flooring as opposed to a pre-finished flooring allows the stain to penetrate through the wood and, if scratched, the color shows through rather than the natural wood color.
When researching unfinished flooring we wanted a species of wood that would stand up to considerable foot traffic (remember, this is our main level of living), but that would also, when stained dark, give us the look that we wanted.  We investigated both white and red oak but didn't like the look of the grain before or after it was stained.  We investigated American and Brazilian cherry but didn't like the redness that is inherent in that species of wood.  We then investigated walnut and we fell in love with the grain as well as the way the wood accepted the dark stain.  We knew that we wanted to get walnut flooring.
Two of our three requirements were met with walnut. It was real hardwood, it stained well, but it would cost us an arm and a leg.  Enter engineered flooring!  Engineered flooring is real hardwood, but only has a thin layer of real walnut on the top.  We knew that we wanted as thick of a layer as possible so that if we decided to ever refinish the floors the layer was thick enough to be sanded a couple of times.  So, we were looking for engineered unfinished walnut flooring, and we found it on!  We knew that we definitely wanted to get a wider plank as opposed to the very common 2 1/4" width.

When choosing flooring there are three types of grades:
Natural- knots and natural color variations are evident
#1 Common- Some knots and color variations are evident but less noticeable then the natural
Select- Very few knots and color variations are evident

We opted for a 1/2" x 5" #1 Common with a 3.2 mm wear layer (which is quite thick in the world of engineered flooring) in 12"-90" variable lengths.

We got a great square foot price and shipping was extremely reasonable considering that Hurst Hardwoods is located in Florida.  Our flooring was ordered for the entire first floor!  Keep in mind that all of this research, waiting on samples, staining samples, back to research, etc. took about a month!  It was something that we had to get right the first time around so it was worth the research time.

The flooring arrived about three days later in bundles of different sizes (which makes it easier to maintain the random length effect) and we began installing our own wood floors.


  1. Do you mind sharing how much per square foot it was for you? This is a project my husband and I are hoping to tackle soon.

    1. We bought the wood for $3.00/sq. ft. and shipping was about $100.00 for 800 sq. ft. We paid another $1.00 per sq.ft. to have the professionals do the finish coat (water based poly) on it. So we paid about $4.00 per sq. ft. + the cost of the underlayment and staples.

  2. My husband and I are searching for new hardwood walnut floors, and we were thinking about ordering ours from Your blog came up when I searched for reviews! Do you still love your floors?! (They look gorgeous by the way!) Have they held up well since you installed them? We're debating installing them ourselves, was it as easy as you made it look in your post?! Thank you for all your help!

    1. We really like the quality of our floors and couldn't beat the price! We had one issue where the top layer of one of the boards began to come up, but we were able to glue it down and nail it without it being noticeable. I highly recommend Hurst (at least for the engineered walnut).
      And long as you have the right tools, it is VERY EASY to lay your own floors!