What type of hardwood flooring will work best for my New York City apartment? What makes one type of wood flooring better than another? How durable will my new floor be? What is graining? What does it mean for a floor to be pre-finished?

All of these are questions that will have an impact on the aesthetics and functionality of your new wood floor. There are a number of definitions and terms that will help you when trying to determine what kind of hardwood floor will work best for your apartment. Here are some of them.

Wood flooring products can be constructed in one of two ways: engineered or solid. The simpler and more cost-effective type of flooring is solid. It is simply wood directly from the tree fashioned into a board or tile with typically a tongue-groove for linking pieces to each other. This type of floor can have a finish applied at the factory or after the installation is completed.

An engineered floor has a more complex structure consisting of a number of pieces of thin plywood with a thin layer of actual wood on top. This type of floor is finished at the factory and is typically more expensive than a solid wood product.

So what's the difference? A solid wood floor will expand and contract depending on how much humidity there is in the air causing small gaps between the individual tiles/boards. This "gapping" due to expansion/contraction is almost non-existent with an engineered wood flooring product. Also, an engineered floor withstands water damage much better. Where a solid wood floor would buckle and pull away from the underlying sub-floor after a flood (requiring disposal and a new installation) an engineered floor can usually be salvaged.

The species of the wood can have an effect on graining, color, and hardness. The most common species are ones such as oak, maple, and cherry, but a floor can made from basically any wood. There is exotic wood flooring available that can have a certain grain or hue that some people find very appealing. These might include kempas, merbau, or even olive.

The finish is sometimes called polyurethane or urethane and can be water- or oil- based. This is a protective layer put on a floor after installation. Some floors come pre-finished; see below for more details. Most apartment building in Manhattan require hardwood flooring to be finished with a water-based urethane due to the strong fumes given off by an oil-based product. The finish can come in a variety of different sheens (how glossy it is) including matte (flat), semi-gloss (some sheen), or gloss (high sheen). Remember, with a high gloss you will see every imperfection in the floor; our recommendation is usually a flat finish.

A strip is a straight wood flooring board that is less 2 ¼" in width. Anything wider than that is called a plank. A plank can give a different feel to a room, but is in general just a wider version of a strip.

Parquet is a hardwood product fashioned into the shape of a tile. They come in a variety of flavors (see our Gallery for pictures) and are usually less expensive than other wood flooring products.

During a resurfacing, the stain is the first finishing application made. Stains can come in a variety of shades as seen below on the stain swatch. There is also a process called bleaching/pickling during which the natural coloration is bleached out of the floor and pickling stain is applied. This process is used to get a more uniform color without showing the natural graining of the floor.

Graining is one of the major characteristics which defines a wood species. Graining can also be dependent upon the grade of wood you select. The higher the grade of wood, the less graining and more consistency you'll see.

Sub-Floor Preparation
A sound, properly prepared sub-floor is the first step to new hardwood floor installation. Acting like the foundation of a house, your new hardwood floor will rest directly on and receive a fair portion of its strength and durability from the sub-floor.

The most common sub-floor encountered in apartment buildings in New York City - and in particular Manhattan - is called a concrete slab. This is possibly the most solid sub-floor to install on top of, and when properly prepared allows for a beautiful finished product. To prepare a concrete slab for hardwood floor installation, the floor should be scraped and have any grease, oil, stains, or dust removed. An engineered wood floor can be glued down directly onto the concrete slab. If you prefer a solid wood product, a layer of plywood would have to be installed on top of the slab.    

While most New York City apartments have concrete slab sub-floors, most pre-war buildings have wood sub-floors. Before we can begin a new hardwood installation on floor in a pre-war apartment in Manhattan, there are typically repairs to the sub-floor that need to be dealt with. After these repairs are made, the new installation can be of an engineered or solid wood product.

Types Of Installations
Over the past 22 years, the wood flooring craftsmen have had an opportunity to work with every type of hardwood flooring project imaginable. Our craftsmen can build custom borders and medallions as well as sound proof a new floor prior to installation. We have also build numerous gym floors for clients such as Chelsea Piers and the YMCA.

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