Hardwood Floors: Advice

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions and Advice

Hardwood floorboards are starting to ''give''

March 2010

Help! My split-level house was built in the 1930's and has original Hardwood Oak floors throughout. I have recently begun to notice that a few of the floorboards in the entryway sink - ever so slightly - when I walk on them. There is a large basement underneath this area of the house and I'm worried that whatever is holding up the floor is compromised. Who should I call to look into this? Thanks

I have old hardwood floors in my home as well, though no basement. I'd be worried about termites so would have someone look from that point of view (maybe Leading Edge, which is a fabulous termite company in the East Bay). As far as looking at the hardwood only, I finally found a wonderful flooring company to come up with creative solutions for my floors and then do the work. The woman's name is Lori Ortiz, (925) 788-3599, or Loriwoodfloors.com. You'll appreciate her and her work! Julie

Give my green builder/carpenter/handyman Idan Bearman a call, he's amazing. I've recommended him on BPN before and I first contacted him after seeing a rec for him on BPN. He's done numerous bigger jobs for us over the past few years but one of the first ones was just what you have. In our case it turned out to be a floor joist that had dry rot caused by a bathroom leak that was not fixed right by the previous owners. Idan replaced the joist and subfloor board in just a few hrs, made sure there was no damage to the hardwood floor and inspected his work a few months later when I called him for some other work. Everytime I hire Idan I'm delighted by how is easy it is to deal with him and how well the work turns out. such a huge difference than when the cable guys, gardener and even my cleaning service come around. I can't tell you how much easier it makes my life having someone I fully trust whenever I need anything done on my property. For the bigger jobs in the past I've had other people give me bids along with Idan and although he wasn't always the most affordable, his bidding process and attention to all the details of the jobs made me choose him over and over so now I don't even bother calling anyone else. You will do well to check him out, I'm sure you won't want to hire anyone else. His telephone number- 510 830 7927 Molly

You could call an architect, an engineer or a pest control company. It is possible you have termites. This happened to me in my Dining Room, and I discovered a small colony of termites. Luckily they hadn't done a whole lot of damage yet. I was surprised to find that they had been eating the hardwood oak, not just the joists and subfloor. Andus

Where to buy hardwood flooring

May 2004

Anyone have any suggestions as to where to buy white oak hardwood flooring. We've been to lumber liquidators, and might go with them, but a friend had some issues with her order from there so I'd like to research other options. Truitt and White only carries red oak. LK

After a year you probably won't be able to tell the difference between white and red oak because the red soon disappears. Cabinetmaker

We just installed finished oak flooring over the past two weekends. Hard work, but lots of fun. We bought it online at http://www.internetfloors.com. They have a great selection, shipping was very reasonable and very fast. And best of all, there was no sales tax! They have a very large selection of flooring, so if you have a brand in mind, do your research and compare prices! Anon

Hardwood on Slab?


Hi, We just bought a house with slab foundation. It has carpeting through-out....including the dining area. With two small kids, I find this very gross and want to put hardwood floors down, but I've never lived on slab before. Does anyone have experience with slab foundations and how hardwood floors on slab are? Is it particularly cold in winter? I know that hardwood on non-slab foundations have give....is hardwood on slab too hard of a walk? any other idiosyncrasies of slab? does anyone have recommendations on hardwood floor sellers/installers?

General rule is, for you to be able to do hardwood on slab it needs to be a floating floor. You need to separate the wood from the concrete. If you don't then you will run into problems with the moisture and temperature swings of the slab. This presents two options. Option one and the most common is to use an engineered wood floor that is a hardwood veneer laminated on a softwood sub ply. These floors are generally made so that the tongue and groove are so tight once they are put together the floor acts as one unit independent of the slab. The nature of the engineered ply floor makes it much more stable and less susceptible to the moisture and temperature swings. Option two is using solid plank wood flooring that has a special clip system to join it together as well as a poly felt moisture barrier. The only one I know of that has a very good and successful reputation is Junkers. I would recommend contacting Golden State Flooring (650.872.0500) or EcoTimber (510.549.3000) for the engineered flooring and Junkers (714.777.6430) direct to find a certified distributor and installer in your area. -Paul

I recently purchased some pre-finished hardwood flooring from Lumber Liquidators, on the frontage road in Albany, and got a terrific price. They have many grades and woods available, and we bought the good grade maple with 7-coat finish for something like $3.20/square foot. As for installation, I'm fairly sure you would put down wood strips and nail the flooring crosswise over the strips, so there would be a little dead space, allowing for give and preventing the flooring from getting damp. Valerie

Prefinished vs. unfinished hardwood floors

April 2008

I am considering replacing the carpet in a couple rooms of our house, plus a flight of stairs, with hardwood floors. I've talked to a couple of companies and they really advocate using prefinished flooring. The price is about the same for both, but I guess it's quicker and less messy to install the prefinished. For those who've gone with unfinished, just how messy is the installation? What can I expect? Apart from being able to sand the unfinished floor in the future, what are some of the pros and cons of each flooring type? Also, is there much space between the prefinished planks after they're installed? The installers tell me the tongue-and-groove fit closely together, but when I saw someone's house who used prefinished flooring, it just didn't look very smooth and it looked like dirt could get between the planks. Thank you for any feedback you can provide! anon

We just had a prefinished (bamboo) floor put in. Advantages for us: Quicker, no stinky finishing, no drying time. The grooves are very slight -- it's not like an unfinished floor, which is sanded and sealed in place so the grooves don't really exist anymore, but they certainly don't collect dirt when the floor is properly installed. Bottom line, if you want it to be completely smooth, you should probably go with the unfinished flooring, but personally I think the prefinished looks fine. Either type of flooring can be sanded and refinished in the future. I'd highly recommend the flooring company we used, btw: www.avisfloors.com JP

I had the same decision to make as you. I chose to install the unfinished hardwood floor versus the prefinished because I had more freedom in selecting the type of finish that would protect my floor. There are different types of water-base and oil-base finishes that endure different pressures per square inch. (I wanted one that could endure high pressures to get the most protection for my oak flooring.) I also chose the prefinished flooring because I had more options in the staining. I chose a wood flooring contractor with dust free capabilities to avoid the mess. I used Oaklandwoodfloors.com. They did a terrific job. Hope this helps. Juan

Hardwood Floors in the Kitchen?

Oct 2007

I am interested in recommendations for wood flooring for a kitchen. I have reviewed the archives, however, there are so many new products available and the 'existing' products seem to have evolved also. My understand is that bamboo, although desirable is not the right product for a kitchen. Some of the laminate products do seem a good choice, especially the ones that have several 'layers' so there is a possibility of sanding them in the future. However, the choices are overwhelming. So, what do people recommend? Which brand, which grade within the brand, and where is the best place to purchase? Many thanks. waiting to get rid of that old linoleum!

We are putting wood down throughout the house (except the bathrooms and laundry) and went with a beautiful engineered hardwood. The product we went with is BR-111 (br111.com). I also recommend our installer, H Flooring. (www.handhflooring.com) Gary Harrison is fantastic, professional and an expert in the field of flooring. He is not a salesman. He will honestly tell you what you can and can't do based on your specific situation. Gary also does carpeting and sheet flooring. You can call him to set up an appointment. Good luck! Angela in Richmond

July 2005

I have owned homes with every kind of kitchen floor available, and I much prefer hardwood. It is softer on the feet and hides dirt better than anything else, even tile or lineoleum chosen to disguise dirt. Pair it with washable rugs, and you can then wash most of your floor by putting it in the washing machine! You use Bona, a special hardwood cleaner that is biodegradable etc., on polyurethane-finished floors. I don't know about laminates but I wouldn't use a soft wood because kitchen floors take so much wear and tear. It will eventually need refinishing, but this is easy enough with hardwood. Mary Ann

Sept 2004

We are thinking about tearing up the linoleum in our kitchen and refinishing the wood underneath rather than replacing it with tile. Is there any down/up side to wood floors that we should consider before making our decision to go ahead? Any suggestions? Thanks! Jeanne

We removed the old vinyl in our kitchen and had hardwood floors installed a few years ago. I had initially thought we could just take up the vinyl and refinish the oak underneath, but it turned out that the oak didn't cover the whole floor; some had been replaced with plywood when the vinyl was installed in the 50s. You might pull up little pieces around the room to make sure you have good wood everywhere.

There are pros and cons of oak flooring in the kitchen. Pros include a uniform look throughout the house and ease of cleaning (I damp mop every two weeks, but it never shows dirt). The downside, however, is that the wood is *hard*, and thus tougher on the body and the ears (the room feels more acoustically ''live''). Good luck! anne

The downside is that most kitchens see a lot of foot traffic and a lot of water (from spills, leaks, and so on), so be sure you have a really good installation and a really good finish (like polyurethane). Our kitchen floor (refinished 80 year-old wood) is pretty beat up. I think the previous owners used a suboptimal finish. We keep rugs on most of it now! The upside of wood is that when you drop something fragile (glass or ceramic) the object is less likely to break than if you had tile or stone or concrete, because wood gives a little. And it's comfortable to stand on. David in Berkeley

Hi - we did exactly what you're contemplating, and are very happy with the results. Of course, some idiot had put very cheap black linoleum in our kitchen, so almost anything would have been an improvement, but when we had the fir subfloor refinished, it was so beautiful - a warm honey color - and it really completed our sort of Victorian/country kitchen. It also lightened up the room dramatically. The downside is that fir is a soft wood, so it dents easily. After a few months you can see little dents all over the place (though I wouldn't call them obvious). But it doesn't really bother us, so if that wouldn't be a problem for you, I highly recommend refinishing your kitchen subfloor. Star