The Latest Flooring Fashion - Direct from the World’s Forests

Wood colors and styles are becoming ever more interesting.

When will manufacturers ever run out of different types of wood, interesting new surfaces, patterns and treatments? So, what’s new? The attention-getting fashions for summer include antique-looking floors that are prefinished, individually hand-scraped or distressed, plus new finishes such as wire-brushed that add to distress the look.

Then there are the flooring manufacturers who continue to find ways to bring us new looks from familiar wood grains. One of the ways they did it is the way in which the wood is cut. Slicing or rotary cutting produces very different face patterns – the areas we see.

Exotics continue to grow in selection as well as popularity with the arrival of new species of Asian woods as well as German, South American, Mayan, and even Russian woods that are starting to show up. Colors are more plentiful than ever, ranging from light beech and various shades of oaks to cinnamons, cherries and caramels. Yes, don’t forget, wood has color, too, from the light and dark shades to the cool, warm and neutral of yellows, reds, oranges and browns, which can change the look, mood and warmth of any room.

Speaking of color, a unique steaming process, similar to what is used on bamboo, is now being used on wood to change the color without having to add dye. (Oiled finishes project an unusually flat, matte look to the wood as well as a soft feel.)

It’s important to note that these wood colors must be considered as you plan your floor makeover, because they will need to coordinate with your drapes, furniture, paint and wallpaper. Some exotics offer very different and unexpected shades and tones, such as one African wood with a bluish cast to its grain. Designers are forever reminding us to remind you to take home a big enough sample so that you can see how it looks in your house.

In addition to species and color, the final look of your floor is determined by the format (size and shape) of each piece.

Today’s wood floors offered in solid and engineered varieties. Solid, as the name implies, are flooring pieces cut and shaped from one piece of wood. Engineered is a multi-ply version fabricated with a less expensive core with the beauty layer featuring your favorite species. The major difference between the two is that engineered is more stable than Mother Nature’s original piece, which means hardwood can now be installed in areas previously inhospitable, such as damp rooms below grade.

Wood floors, especially engineered varieties, are available in planks of varying widths, strips as well as long strips. The long strips, coming in sizes up to 7 inches wide, 86 inches long and ½-inch in depth, provide a new alternative to traditional-size planks and strips and mean speedy installation above or below grade and gluing, stapling or traditional nail-down. With new layers consisting of urethane with aluminum oxide, factory-finished products are most likely your best bet. Although site-finished may be appealing because of the usually lower prices, the process can be exasperating, since you can’t stay in the house while it is occurring. The summer heat and humidity can slow down the drying process, making the stay out of your house even longer.

Whatever your selection, wood flooring is a long-term investment that adds significant value to your house when it’s time to sell. Plus, when properly taken care of, wood will last for generations.

Most important, the long-term beauty of wood truly can’t be copied. Wood’s timeless beauty really never goes out of style, no matter which pattern or type you choose.

For example, vintage parquet floors are even showing a comeback. Appearing to be installed like the historic floors of years gone by – that is, top-nailed with nail heads visible – it’s the look of past elegance you can find in many historic homes and now have in your own home.