Repair & Care
Custom Hardwood Floors - Types. Who To Call
Custom floors are typically those that are installed, sanded and finished on the jobsite. Looking for a stain color to match against your new cabinets you cannot find in any retail showroom? Chances are good any local retail flooring store will look at you with a blank face when asked about custom coloring. The preferred direction you want to take are guys that handle wood flooring only.
Custom guys have years of experience under their belts. In effect they know which color can be used effectively with each hardwood specie. Some hardwoods require more knowledge when creating unique stains because of their inherent makeup. Some may be oily, while others may have distinct properties that take stains and finishes entirely different.
Custom ideas can expand exponentially. There are a multitude of possibilities including hand scraped or distressed. They can be distressed in a special way to mimic what you may have seen in a European chalet or castle for example; creating a truly different look.
More Selections And Ideas With The Right People
In addition, specialty dealers will have more selections. Something the other flooring store probably never heard or knew existed. Other applications can include borders, medallions, and even copper, brass, and aluminum feature accents that are inlaid. They may also show you designs with tile or stone. Stenciled and painted designs are also an option.
You may find more than a few stores listed in the Yellow Pages that use the word custom or finely crafted wood floors, but I’ve found many use the terminology only to attract potential customers. They may stear you into their prefinished “custom” lines, but is that really custom? What’s so different about a mass produced floor that other stores sell?
In some cases these same stores may only have entry level knowledge in how to sell these unique floors. Often they simply call the real custom floor guy down the street to do the work after you’ve signed on the dotted line. You’re basically paying more money to have the job done because the first store will mark up the costs substantially.
Quarter Sawn Hardwood
If you should happen to reside in areas developed before and after the turn of the 20th century and into the thirties, chances are you'll find many quarter sawn wood floors. They are by far the most stunning looking of any in the way they are cut from the logs themselves. Why is quarter sawn hard to come by today? Costs are high to manufacture and waste is higher than lumber mills would prefer. Characteristics of quarter sawn include wavy grain patterns and a near three dimensional effect once finished.
Wide Plank Floors
Wide plank flooring is making an enormous comeback after years and years of standard skinny strip flooring popularity. For those that may have much older colonial style homes or converted farmhouses built in the 18th and 19th century, older more prized heart pine, eastern white pine, and other variations can be found.
Wider planks provide more of a country motif. Older more valued floors are not your standard 3/4 inch thickness either. In earlier days settlers just wanted functional flooring and thicker stock was the norm. Lumber was rough sawn because electric power and modern milling technology did not exist.
Today many wide plank products can be obtained from reclaimed lumber, at much higher costs. Prices are high because of supply and demand. In addition, reclaimed lumber and specialty flooring mills utilize every aspect that has been saved from older buildings. They may saw large 10 x 16 inch beams into today's more standard 3/4 inch thickness. Transportation costs are high. Many of these specialty flooring manufacturers may be thousands of miles from the source, opposed to being practically in the forest.
Newer milled solid 3/4 inch wide plank products can be obtained in widths up to twenty inches in several species. When it comes to cost of any hardwood floor, the greater the width the higher the price will be. Variations are available from the more expensive and harder to find clear grade to what seems more popular; rustic varieties. Manufacturers often place their own grade name because of the variances opposed to common graded hardwoods.
If you're considering wide plank flooring it is important to know the characteristics of such. Some wider plank products can be more problematic because of their properties. Manufacturers that utilize material such as straight grain (type of log cut) will not react to seasonal movement as will standard lower priced wide plank flooring.
Engineered Wide Plank Floors
In recent years, many of the more common hardwood floor mills have begun producing wide plank engineered flooring and selling them prefinished. Engineered in that they have a stable cross ply base with a veneered surface. Veneer thickness will vary, but many manufacturers only provide a 2 mm veneer. Specialty mills on the other hand, are now making unfinished engineered with thicker veneers, or ones that can be successfully refinished if need be at a later date.
Short Boards, Long Boards
For those preferring a factory finished wide plank, prefinished engineered may be the way to go, but don't expect the real authentic look. Mass produced prefinished products generally have lengths that don't exceed 42 or 48 inches, but there are a handful that go near six feet and longer. Few go over five to seven inches in width. Conversely, mills that specialize can offer lengths up to 16 feet! Naturally with the longer lengths, costs will increase, much the same as getting into wider width planks.
Random Width Plank
Random width products are more common in the 3, 5 and seven inch format in both prefinished and unfinished flooring. This does not rule out other possibilities as some mills can provide anything to your desire, but will take longer to receive. Typically minimum orders are only accepted.
Bevels, No Bevels
Depending on what look you're trying to achieve, prefinished engineered variations for the most part will be beveled or micro beveled. Also, few if any, larger wide plank products will not offer a seamless appearance unless absolute climate control is followed. Still we have our doubts.
Top Nailed Antique Look
Nearly all excessive wide plank flooring will have to be top nailed.
Custom Hand Scraped
Hand scraped points back to a time long ago when a select few wood flooring installers would scrape their client’s floors to create a unique hand-made, rustic look. Homeowners began to recognize the advantages which went beyond the appealing style and look. These floors were finished with a texture that hides the typical bumps, bruises, and scratches that other floor types can’t hide so easily.
Today, solid hand scraped products are still finished by hand, really. The actual technique involved in developing the texture differs from contractor to contractor but I'll share with you what I've personally done on my own projects.
First, we'll start with the wood. We prefer to use #1 or #2 common unfinished solid red oak; installed in the same manner that you would expect with a sanded finish floor. Second, the tool. The tool is as important as the technician. I use a heavy duty (preferably steel body) tool that loosely resembles a paint scraper (on steroids) with a 4-sided 2-inch wide steel blade and a 16" long steel handle. The craftsman will sharpen the blade with a fine mill file until the blade is very sharp, usually rounding the edges to prevent gouging the wood. The blade can take a flat shape or a more aggressive convex shape, depending on what the finish is to look like.
The target floor (in most cases Red Oak) is worked in 4 foot by 4 foot sections. Third, the hand scraping process. The area is dampened with water using a towel or sponge. Starting at the left side of the section, the technician will place the blade down on the floor, holding the handle in the right hand and putting significant downward pressure on the blade frame with the left hand. The tool is pulled and scraped along the surface (either across or with the grain) in a very straight line with as much or as little pressure as is needed to create the desired effect. The scrape runs are done parallel to one another, creating a distressed texture all the way across the target work area. The dampened surface will tell the technician which areas he might have missed.
Existing Floors In Your Home?
Maybe you already have solid wood flooring in your home and you'd like to refinish them with the hand scraped technique. If you have solid red or white oak with enough wear layer, there's a good chance your floor may be a good candidate. Talk to a local wood flooring professional and ask for their opinion.
If you're looking for a long lasting, durable, and attractive floor for your home that's easy to take care of, consider solid hand scraped. The look is lightly rustic or moderately rustic and can usually be stained to compliment pre-existing elements in your home. New floor installation prices start around $10.00 per square foot and may vary depending on what part of the country you live in and what options you select. Species, plank size and polyurethane type are all important factors to consider when looking at a solid, site finished floor and will contribute to the overall price of your flooring project.
Perhaps you saw an exciting hardwood medallion in a private clubhouse, or thought a custom WW II fighter plane medallion like the one shown below will fit in perfectly with your new floor ideas. Surprisingly these designs will not be out of your price range unless you think $ 1,200 is too much to spend. When we sold medallions and flooring over the internet we handled many designs. Unfortunately trying to get pictures of the final result was the largest obstacle.
Types Of Custom Medallions
We had calls from sports fans and professional athletes. One was a gentleman in South Carolina seeking a Pittsburgh Steeler medallion. Another looking for a tennis theme that included borders with tennis rackets and balls. Down in Mississippi, a Baptist church sought out a medallion highlighting a flame and sword effect.
What Does It Take To Get A Custom Medallion?
We worked directly with some manufacturers on this. Depending on the design you could fall into this as well. Why pay the middleman an extra $ 1,000? Naturally our situation was different but if you find the right people it can be done. Once you find that contact they will ask for a design idea, some illustrations, and images to go by and then send it off to their designers.
When we had a retail showroom in Bonita Springs, Florida, I put together some ideas to offer a beach scene, with palm trees, seagulls flying about, and a small sailboat drifting in the gulf waters. The design itself probably took only three to four days to get finalized and the rest was a four week waiting period. The result was beyond my expectations.
One can specify any thickness 3/8 inches and greater. In the case of our showroom medallion, we matched it up with a 5/8" white oak unfinished engineered floor that was to be finished on site. Size fit perfect with the entry way measuring in an oval shape 40 inches by 27 inches.
When one thinks about parquet flooring, reminisces of the seventies are brought to mind. It was more of a style that didn’t last here in the states during that period, but in the late 19th and early 20th century parquet flooring was very popular in high end homes.
What’s Going On With Parquet Today?
For all intent and purposes, common parquet has died. The larger US based manufacturers no longer produce any with the exceptions being Armstrong and Harris Wood. The latter offers most of their products in the unfinished variety. Prices can be found in the three dollar range for their lower end products and well into the teens for more detailed designs.
Some of the more popular applications for the Harris Bond Wood includes dance floors and specialty design elements shown above with their Monticello pattern adorned with a contrasting dark bolder. Other species include Ash, White Oak, Teak, and American Cherry.
Is Home Depot Still Selling Parquet?
Our latest trips show not only Home Depot but Lowes carrying similar imported Hevea parquet patterns. Heavea? Hevea is an Asian sourced wood with similar graining to that of Maple. Another name mixed in can sometimes be Rubberwood. These are at the very low end in terms of durability and cost.
High Dollar Parquet
A number of European manufacturers have set up shop in the USA offering very high quality forms of parquet. Opposed to many of the lower end products mentioned, most of these are meatier in overall thickness and can be obtained in virtually any species imaginable. Unlike the USA, more high end European homes are filled with parquetry designs. A few manufacturer names include Czar Floors and Inex Hardwood.
How Is Parquet Flooring Installed?
Nearly all parquet is installed by gluing direct to the sub floor. Nearly all? If you throw in herringbone, sometimes considered a parquet pattern, the glue method is sometimes eliminated, but we’re referring to solid ¾ inch herringbone.
Where Can I Find The Good Stuff?
With the exception of the big box stores who offer the low end common parquet, other high quality products are harder to find. Your average flooring store sales person will probably have a blank look on their face if you request the Artistic block pattern (shown right) for example.
Some of the European manufacturers have exquisite websites detailing their profound work. Along with the beauty of the internet and their direct sales, one no longer has to go through the maze of networks prominent in the US that send prices out of sight. Yes, you can buy direct. The design shown would normally retail well above $30 per square foot. Buying direct can save 50%.
Where To Find These Custom Guys?
A simple way is to use good ole Google and search for "NWFA Floor Of The Year." Every year the National Wood Flooring Association gives members an opportunity to show the work they've completed over the past year. Warning: Many of these unique design ideas may make you drool. Categories include restoration, factory prefinished, unfinished flooring in both residential and commercial locations. Brief descriptions of the work performed, products used, along with company name and locations that performed the work can be seen.
Photos courtesy Goodwin Heart Pine. Micanopy, Florida