We have to admit that the amount of response to Rob’s flooring dilemma in last issue’s eZine left us, well, floored. Here’s just a small sampling of the advice, comments and experiences shared. – Editor
Quite a few readers voted for flooring woods like red oak, based upon on tradition.
“A man after my own heart. So tight he squeaks, and never do today what you can put off until next year. In 1996, my wife and I ripped all of the tatty off-white carpet out of our main floor family room, living room and dining room (as our kids would say – eewww -gaross!) and put down site-finished hardwood. Our local retail hardwood supplier had the absolute lowest grade oak flooring on for, if I recall correctly, $1.99/sq ft. Lots of knots, shorts, variations in grain and color, but lots of character and cheap!
“We installed it ourselves with a manual nailer (again, too cheap to buy a power nailer, and they didn’t rent them in those days), and I sanded and site finished the whole 900 square feet myself. To answer your question, ‘Yes, I was out of my ^&^%&^%ing mind.’ My wife wanted dark, so I stained it with black walnut oil stain, followed by two coats of gloss poly and topped with one coat of satin poly.
“Turned out great and we’ve had nothing but complements on it for 14 years – and it’s still in good shape. I know that exotic tropical hardwoods are all the rage now, but I’m a cheap, old fashioned guy – and to me nothing is nicer than a dark oak floor. I mean, can you imagine sitting in your leather-covered Morris Chair, wearing your smoking jacket, sipping a brandy – on an acacia floor? Some things are just wrong, on so many levels.” – Brian E. Koehli
“Unless your home is a vintage ‘old house’ that has a lot of character and you need to keep with historical significance, I would go with the traditional maple or red oak.Nothing’s worse than a beautiful floor that looks and feels out of place. Unless, of course you’ll be redoing all the floors. My concern with the exotic and fanciful woods available today is that they may go the way of other ‘period’ upgrades. I’m dating myself, but I do remember the yellow and brown earth tones. Hunter green. The first laminate flooring, the second generation laminate flooring, slate tile, Italian tile, Mexican tile etc. Unless you’re going to sell in the next five years, go traditional.” – Bill Strasse
“I am a traditionalist; I prefer solid oak. My family home built in 1955 had the original finish still on (where it was not worn through), and two years ago I had it sanded down and refinished and it looked like new. That is 55 years of wear and now it is as good as new. It is hard to beat that kind of service.” – Dale Widel
“Camphor: looks great, but is way too soft. Cherry is beautiful and quite resilient. Old faithful is red oak. I put this down in my living room – no stain – looks great and is cost effective. I recommend using a pneumatic stapler – not nailer. Staples are way easier to get out when you screw up, and believe me, you will screw up.” – John Lukas
“If all else fails, write the choices on separate pieces of paper, fold them in half, put them in a hat, and have someone else pick the winner. At least that way you won’t have to feel guilty if you don’t like the finished result.” – Ed Miller
But there were some comments and suggestions on other wood choices — and sources. – Editor
“I have been in the flooring business since 1974. I would look at Brazilian walnut; not only is it one of the hardest woods available, it has beautiful movement in the wood. We have put in many different species over the years, and this my favorite. If you live anywhere where there is much humidity, you will want to go with an engineered product.” – John Taylor
“I think the best wood floor is a free one. I happened to be at a building site with a friend and saw an entire wood floor piled in the garage after it had been ripped out because it wasn’t what the owner had ordered. Since I didn’t care whether my floor was oak of different shades, I volunteered to haul it away for them. I got a whole new living room/dining room floor out of it.” – Andrew Drake
“We had a similar problem… But we had done part of the floors on the main floor already. The kitchen was a mix of maple and bird’s-eye maple from my wife’s old high school (her dad helped demolish it and saved lots of stuff). We looked at woods and cork and caramelized bamboo, but all were too dark — then we checked natural bamboo, and it was nearly identical in shade to the maple. So last summer we removed a carpet and put in bamboo planks, which were luckily the same height as the maple and close to the tile and marble. So, we spent a year evaluating, and this year we repainted the walls and ceiling in colors that better match the bamboo. All told, the process of floor shopping took about five or six years before we finally started. Once we started, the carpet removal and bamboo installation took us five days, do it ourselves. And consider, we were 63 at that point!” – Carl Carter
“I had a new home shop built this spring. Like you, I was not sure about flooring. I purchased part of a basketball floor from the former YMCA building and, almost daily, spend some part of the day cleaning the edges with stripper and planing the finish from the surface. Some day the flooring will be down, I will have a beautiful shop floor and know that all that time spent saved a few trees.” – Ron Wieck
“Are you living in my house ? Down to the white– er— off-white carpet. I decided on bamboo. Good luck!” – Rick Cooledge
Plus some ideas on how to get past the procrastination stage. – Editor
“I have found that the first step in beating procrastination is to rip up the old floor covering. No matter what it is, just tear it up and throw it out. It becomes a motivator when you just can’t stomach looking at the mess anymore. You then decide enough is enough and you get off of your behind and get at it.” – Michael Gurczynski
“If you are looking for a reason to pull the carpet, just invite some of the neighborhood 6-year old kids over for an afternoon of play in the rooms with the off-white carpet. Be sure to provide lots of sticky, gooey snacks and assorted colored beverages. That off-white carpet will simply HAVE to go after that. As for the species of wood . . .you’re a woodworker! Use them all! Make a large design in the floor. Design your wife’s/girlfriend’s/mistresses portrait on the floor. Make a geometric pattern. Just start putting down all different colors and see what happens. Just please don’t put your dog’s portrait down.” – Wayne Jolly
There were also several suggestions on making a choice that followed the same theme –which Rob has responded to. – Editor
“I faced this problem several years ago. The solution was easy (but not cheap.) I let my wife pick the wood! While there may have been some comments about how long it took me to get started, there were no complaints about the wood that was installed.” – Doug Canfield
“As you can see from these many responses, a practical and efficient strategy for species selection would be to ask my wife. Sadly, that opportunity was lost to me a little over a year ago. But I appreciate these common sense suggestions!” – Rob Johnstone