Hardwood Flooring Trends 2016
With the recent real estate market surge (as of this writing January 2016) new wood floors will help boost selling prices opposed to ones that still have carpeting. Today's trends show brownish to darker stained products selling quite well in northern states, prarie states (Texas, Oklahoma and others) and mountain regions. The popularity of greys, off whites and beige are seeing good demand along coastal areas or warmer regions that include Florida, Southern California and Arizona.
Heavier hand scraped or contoured products, the rage that started around 2005 has taken a back seat in most areas, while a softer wire brushed ceruse effect seen mostly on White Oak (below) has been remarkably strong showing no effects of becoming “dated” like the others mentioned. Reclaimed hardwoods will always be welcomed but it’s popularity has never taken a front row seat.
Most Popular Types of Hardwood?
What hardwoods are people buying? Red oak remains strong in the sand and finish market. White Oak has taken on a renaissance with a large number of character graded prefinished hardwoods. Hickory remains strong, while being used more for distressed type floors or offering the rustic choice. Lighter toned hardwoods in the likes of Maple and Birch have lost favor in their natural finished form, but are still desired for those seeking a cleaner contemporary look.
Factory prefinished wood flooring remains the selection of choice over actual on site installation and finishing. Reasons include faster completion schedules as the flooring is ready to be used immediately instead of waiting for finishes to cure. Additionally, prefinished warranties are very difficult to top traditional on site ones. The majority of manufacturers are now offering 25 and 50 year warranties. Looked at closely, they only cover the actual wear of the finish itself and have a lot of fine print that should be studied.
Longer Length Hardwoods
Wider plank flooring has seen a dramatic increase in use since the turn of the century. Some prefer their appearance as it can open up rooms that may otherwise feel or look smaller. Along with wider plank hardwoods, longer length material is becoming more the norm. By way of explanation, I’ll offer an example.
In the late 90’s Anderson was king of the hand scraped market; the innovator really. Others followed suit going into the new century, along with a tidal wave of Chinese knockoffs, but nearly all consisted of short length engineered hardwoods that weren’t any longer than 42 or 48 inches. Most didn’t notice it until some manufacturers took notice thinking…”if we can produce a solid hardwood with longer lengths, why can’t we do the same for engineered?”
Why Longer Lengths?
For one, they’re more traditional. Along with that the desire for wider plank appearances didn’t make sense with short pieces. I like to call it the checkerboard look (shown). An installed 7 inch wide plank for example, looks exceptional with longer boards opposed to shorter ones due to the bevel or micro bevel all prefinished manufacture.
Plank width size has been increasing since five inch wide planks came on stream with Anderson and other prefinished manufacturers at the turn of the century. Over the most recent five years or going back to 2011 we’re seeing more 7 ½” planks, nearly all imported (7 ½) specifically) from China. Plank width size can go to 10 to 12 inches, even longer but does need larger open areas so they appear to belong.
Issues With Wide Plank Solid Hardwoods
View the video below.
Unique Prefinished Custom Colors
Random width is becoming more noticed and used. However, most manufacturers limit the consumer to their own specifications, namely 3,5 and seven inch width. Others, including our own products, offer more possibilities.
Types Of Finishes
Today low matte finishes are the norm with mid to higher end floors, but satin (30-40 % gloss level) remains constant with others.
Natural Oil Finishes?
On the higher end and those seeking environmentally friendly choices, natural oil finishes have been making significant inroads with manufacturers in the likes of Hallmark, WD Flooring and DuChateau and a seemingly forever list.
Reasons are obvious as these finishes contain little if any VOC's and are much easier to repair. However, they can be a maintenance headache for some and premature color wear in high traffic areas can be a reality. Ideally, these finishes are suited more for those that have professionals maintain their floors. Or if you have plenty of time to look after them yourself; not always an easy task.
For unfinished flooring or those sanded on site, some of the more established finishing products used by flooring contractors are Rubio Monocoat, Poloplaz, and Synteko.
What Areas Of The Home Are Hardwoods Being Installed?
Of the many floors installed today, areas of use have expanded over the years. More common areas used for new flooring today include; foyers, great, and dining rooms, dens, libraries, home offices, and hallways leading to bedrooms. Kitchens and powder rooms fall right behind while bedrooms are often preferred for carpeting.
Kitchens? Yes. Maintained properly, wood flooring in kitchens play a significant role. However, sheet vinyl, ceramic tile, or stone lead by a large margin as the floor covering of choice.
What Hardwood Floor Types Should We Choose?
I will have to leave this one up to you. If you haven't noticed, there are a myriad of choices and options these days, but solid 3/4" products are still the leading choice if you have a wood sub floor. Keep in mind, the popularity of wide plank floors limits solid products as they do not perform well in most environments. This is why you’re probably hearing many salespeople today recommending engineered hardwoods.
For those with concrete subfloors, engineered hardwoods should be considered in either a glue down application or floating installation. However, this does not rule out genuine solid wood flooring on concrete, but uses have fallen off dramatically in the last five years with the advent of thick veneer engineered floors.
When Should They Be Installed?
Any hardwood flooring project should be scheduled very near the end of other work. The only other trades we would expect after the installation would be carpet installers, punch out trim, painting touch up guys, or wall paper hangers. It's highly suggested to cover all completed areas to protect against damage. For limited trade traffic, gray craft paper available at the big box stores can be used to cover. Tape? 3M quality the painter dudes use are safe on wood floors, but should not be left on for extended periods of time. Nor should they be exposed to direct sunlight. It's best not to tape to the floor but to the baseboards.
But! Our Remodeler/Builder Says It Has To Go Next Week
Haven't we heard that before? Builders are notorious for not understanding when floors should be installed. Some reasons for their hurriedness include having the painting and trim subcontractors finish everything at once instead of having to come back. There are other reasons I will never figure out. If your new hardwood floor is installed with other major work not completed, make it clear to them you want the flooring protected.
Far too many times new floors get damaged so badly they need to be refinished before the remodeling work is completed. The best protection, besides having the work done at the proper time, is covering with 1/8" masonite board, while duct taping the seams or joints. Duct tape should not be affixed to the floor itself. These efforts will be meaningless if the masonite board and finished floor¹ itself is not squeaky clean.
It doesn't stop there. Depending on how much other work is needed to complete the remodel and the amount of debris created, it may be necessary to remove the masonite every so often making sure nothing has traveled underneath that will damage the finished floor. Common sense dictates the areas should be swept often and debris cleaned up at least once per day.
¹ Site finished floors need time to cure. Covering may not be an option. Consult a qualified professional with this one.
And That Crazy Decorator Says...
Decorators have some great ideas, but experimentation seems to be the norm. Recalling a spec house I worked on many years ago; five different types of hardwood floors were installed. And the painting choices were unbelievably strange. Nothing looked consistent. In one room a beautiful herringbone floor was chosen and another, a plain looking engineered floor. The engineered floor butted up next to another beautiful wide plank floor.
To make matters goofier, in one portion of the house the master bedroom had a gorgeous marble floor. Instead of flowing through the areas, engineered flooring was again chosen... for the closets! Upstairs was a circular mezzanine done in gorgeous solid 3/4" Santos Mahogany. It was basically painted black, with the grain barely noticeable on completion. In one bedroom that connected, another engineered floor was chosen with a completely different look! I suppose it looked okay if the door was closed.
Frankly, my opinion is consumers have a better grasp on color and design decisions than most decorators. However, time is often a constraint when it comes to ideas.
We're Near the Beach. Sand?
Living near the beach, or in the desert, sand will always affect the performance of any flooring. Attention to care and maintenance should be given priority. Newer high tech finishes will help handle the everyday wear, but not the inevitable scratching. Lighter grays, beige and off white brushed hardwoods that help camouflage minor issues when it comes to sand are extremely popular in this scenario.
Many Say Not To Use Wide Planks Near Water
Solid wide plank products will be more susceptible to adverse reactions relating to high moisture levels, but some types are less prone than others. Engineered or quarter sawn hardwood will offer a safer alternative if in doubt.