Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I had no idea how long it would take to organize my closet. I started in spring and suddenly, it's summer! Time for long, sunny days spent relaxing by the pool or laughing with friends and family at weekend barbecues. It's also time for lots of bored children running around the house. Sometimes, those children don't run, they skateboard or chase the family pet, or drag the hardest and heaviest toy they can find down the stairs and across the living room, all of which can be quite painful for a hardwood floor. Because kids will be kids and they should be kids for as long as possible, you have to consider their sometimes destructive ways when considering the purchase of a hardwood floor. Here is some information to aid you in your quest for a suitable hardwood floor:

    1.  Species- The hardwood flooring industry uses a number known as a "Janka rating" to describe the relative hardness of a wood species. The number is derived from a test which measures the amount of force required to imbed a steel ball halfway into the piece of wood. The higher the number, the harder the wood, and the more likely it is to survive the abuse from your children and pets. The woods tested range from approximately 400 to 3700. Red Oak, which serves as a hardwood flooring standard, has a Janka rating of 1290. Cherry and Douglas Fir are relatively soft, coming in at under 1000. Brazilian Cherry and Santos Mahogany are harder, coming in at over 2000.

    2.  Surface/Wear Layer- In searching for a floor that can coexist with your rambunctious children and pets, consider the surface or 'style'. Hardwood flooring that is smooth may show signs of wear and tear sooner and more obviously than a distressed floor. There are varying levels of distressing from very light to heavy (think Old World). If it already looks timeworn, then those gouges from dropped toys to scratches from pets won't look so out of place! This isn't to say you can't have smooth floor if you prefer that look. The finishes are continually improving. If you select a floor with a thicker wear layer, then you can get more sandings out of it. A sand and finish can make an old floor look (nearly) new again! Just remember a smooth floor requires a bit more care.

    3. Color- Remember that a floor that is too light or too dark will not hide all the dirt, dust, and stains. You would be better served choosing a shade that is in between. And if you have pets, their fur will stand out on a floor that is either darker or lighter in color. I myself have a dog with golden brown fur, and the fur "drifts" are all too obvious on my mocha stained floor.

Above all, remember that no hardwood floor will look perfect and new forever. All hardwood floors can dent, scratch, and stain. Yes, you can and should take precautions such as using rugs at exterior doorways (grit and sand are some of the worst culprits). You should also maintain the floor according to the manufacturer's recommendations. However, don't let the appearance of your floor become more important than your enjoyment of it, or the life you live upon it.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Spring is here! Ah, how I love the scent of light rains, blooming flowers, and household cleaner. Yes, I am tackling the annual chore of removing clutter and freshening up my home. I have scrubbed the refrigerator and tossed all those science experiments hiding in the corners. I have thrown tattered old hand towels into the rag bin and gathered old clothes and linens for donation. I am now taking a break to plot a course for navigating my unruly closet.

Perhaps you too are in the midst of spring cleaning or maybe you have it all completed (may I borrow some motivation?). Maybe you are just beginning to jot down your spring cleaning to-do list. Whatever stage you are in, you are probably contemplating an interior design change as well. I myself am ready to use this Crate and Barrel gift certificate I received to purchase some new pillows and accessories. But for some of you, there are bigger ideas powering the light bulb  over your head. Perhaps it isn't pillows you desire, but a new hardwood floor.

Unlike pillows or linens, a hardwood floor is a very significant purchase and one that you will live with beyond the spring season. That being said, I would like to offer a few things to consider before selecting your hardwood floor.

    -What kind of  'look' are you going for? Traditional? Contemporary? Do you want light or dark wood? Do you want something trendy or something that allows for design freedom? If you need help deciding, look at what you already have in your home; your furniture, your accessories, even your wardrobe. These will give you an idea of what styles and colors appeal to you. You can always peruse some design magazines (I am fond of Architectural Digest and Luxe Interiors and Design myself) for some inspiration.

    -Do you want a square edge or beveled floor? Smooth or Distressed? Smooth, square edge floors generally work in contemporary spaces while distressed, beveled products offer more character.

    -What species do you want? Some species, such as oak, have a pronounced grain, while others, like walnut, have a more subtle grain. Although all species have color variation, some are more extreme than others. Are you concerned with hardness? If you have two young kids and a dog, then a softer species like American Cherry or Walnut may not be for you.

    -What type of product and installation is practical for your specific project? A solid floor can only be installed over plywood. An engineered product can be glued to a concrete subfloor or floated.

These are just a few tips. It is a good idea to discuss your selection with a hardwood flooring professional (hint, hint, I'm at your service!)

Good luck to you with whatever your spring cleaning duties may entail, whether it is dusting or decorating. If you don't hear from me soon, please, send a search party into my closet.