Hardwood flooring is flooring made from various species of hardwood trees, such as cherry or oak. Hardwood floors are popular because of their attractive appearance and how easy they are to clean. A good hardwood floor installed in a house will in many cases raise the value of the house. Hardwood can last a century or more in cases where the house still stands that long, and is also hypoallergenic, answering a concern about allergies that is becoming more common. The choice of which kind of tree you want your hardwood flooring made of is called choosing the hardwood variety, as opposed to the hardwood flooring type which means the way the flooring is constructed.
There are two main types of hardwood flooring, solid wood, and engineered or ply-wood flooring. Solid wood flooring consists of slats of solid wood milled from lumber. Solid hardwood is not recommended for rooms below ground level, or for bathrooms. Natural, untreated solid wood tends to shrink and expand when exposed to moisture and temperature variations. Solid wood can be sanded and refinished when it becomes scratched or unsightly with use, which is an advantage over Engineered wood. Engineered wood is made up of layers of wood, which have been glued and pressed together. This creates superior stability when compared to solid wood, as far as concerns about shrinking and expanding. This type is usually used for finished basement floors.
To know how to care for your hardwood floor, you first need to know the finish. Commonly, modern wood floors will be surface sealed with urethane, polyurethane or poly-acrylic and easy to sweep and clean. Another common finish is penetrating-seal and oil-sealed floors. These must be cleaned with more cared and require waxing. Varnished or lacquered floors, though technically surface sealed, and untreated floors must be treated like penetrating-seal floors because they do not stand up to moisture and wear as well as the other surface sealants mentioned.
Determine the finish by rubbing your finger on the floor. If you create a smudge, the floor has been waxed and requires more care. For a smudge-free finish, ie. surface sealed, simply sweep often, and mop with a solution of water and soap (such as dish-washing soap) when necessary. Never use furniture sprays, oils or wax on a surface sealed hardwood floor. For waxed floors, sweep or vacuum often to remove dirt, but do not ever use a wet mop. Once or twice a year, strip the wax on the floor using mineral spirits and lay down new wax, then buff to a shine. On all hardwood floors, it is important to wipe up spills immediately and prevent water or other liquids from remaining on the floor for any period of time.