Hardwood flooring remains a popular choice for homes of all sizes, outlasting the latest home décor trends and improving the value of homes across the country. Consumers should consider this type of flooring as a lifetime investment, but performance, durability and appearance depend on product quality and installation methods. Be sure you know what to expect from your newly installed hardwood floor, and how to extend the life of this beautiful feature.

Durability

Expect your hardwood flooring to scratch, dent and retain surface abrasions from traffic, pets, and movement of heavy objects (furniture and appliances). The hardwood label refers to the type of tree used to manufacture the planks, specifically noting that the flooring came from some sort of broad-leafed dicotyledonous species.

Pine is soft and often used in furniture and exterior wood applications. Basswood, although technically part of the hardwood family, is softer than pine.

Choose the proper species of hardwood for your application. Consider the amount of traffic and whether or not moisture will be an issue. Although the right type of hardwood flooring will minimize dents, all floors are subject to surface wear over time.

Humidity

The air in your home contains moisture, and that moisture affects hardwood floors. Hardwood flooring and engineered wood floors are considered hydroscopic, meaning moisture will absorb and emit from the wood naturally and as humidity levels change. This causes the planks to expand and shrink on a regular basis.

In winter or other times when humidity levels remain low due to the heavy use of heaters, you may notice a slight gap between the planks as a result of contraction. Wider planks produce a wider gap. Expansion often stresses the outer edges of your flooring; your installer should leave a small gap around the edges to allow for natural movement without buckling, crowning or cupping.

Use a humidifier in the winter and a dehumidifier in the summer to maintain a relative humidity level that falls between 35 and 65 percent.

Finish and Appearance

Light and air naturally alter the color of hardwood flooring. Remember that fact when placing furniture and rugs, and make plans to move your rugs and low furniture around periodically to avoid uneven fading or darkening. You can look for certain types of hardwood floors that are less photosensitive, or less prone to alterations when exposed to sunlight and air. But even those will eventually display the effects of this natural process.

Always use cleaners specified and recommended by the hardwood manufacturer. Using water or diluted cleaners could damage the urethane and may even create problems when refinishing the flooring later on.

An important factor to remember is that wood used for flooring differs from wood used for furniture. Even high grade flooring planks contain blemishes, checking and mineral streaking. Consumers should expect this type of appearance, and remember that flooring is manufactured to admire from a distance of four or five feet.

You can expect impressive durability, classic appearance and upscale style from your newly installed hardwood flooring. But remember that hardwood floors are effected by the environment they live in.