Thinking of adding new flooring to your home? Have you settled on hardwood floors?
It might surprise you to know your hardwood flooring choice might not be hard at all.
Softwood flooring – never heard of it? You won’t find home improvement stores selling “softwood flooring” anytime soon. It doesn’t really appeal to a homeowner that wants a long life from the flooring they select.
Yet different wood species have different hardness levels. That means some wood flooring choices will have more durability, while others will require more maintenance throughout their lifespan.
What’s the difference?
The difference between softwood and hardwood flooring
When you’re attempting to determine if a wood is soft or hard, it comes down to the physical structure and makeup of the material.
In general, hardwood comes from deciduous trees. These are trees that lose their leaves in the fall, and produce seeds with a protective covering. Maple and oak fall into this category.
Softwood, on the other hand, are gymnosperms, which means they are seed-producing trees that produce uncovered seeds, and are evergreen, such as conifer trees.
Hardwoods will be slower growing, which makes them denser, sturdier, and more difficult to cut through. Softwoods tend to be the opposite, though there are always exceptions to the rule. Yew trees fall into the softwood category because they are conifer, but they produce a strong, tough wood.
Both woods can be versatile in home building, and can be used for a quality flooring cover. Though you’ll tend to find hardwoods in more abundance for flooring covers, both offer opportunity to a homeowner for getting the look you’ll love.
What is a hardness scale?
Because different types of wood offer different strengths and hardness, industry leaders developed a way of measuring the different qualities to let you know, the consumer, where specific woods fall on the scale.
The scale was developed to show hardness tests of each different type of wood. The test uses a 2”x2”x6” piece of wood and a 0.444” steel ball to determine the force needed to push the ball halfway into the wood. The results are included in the results known as the Janka Hardness Scale.
It starts at zero, with this option being the softest wood. The rating moves to 4,000, with any wood nearing this ranking being at the hardest end of the scale. A wood falling at zero with scratch and dent with ease, while one falling at 4,000 would be almost impossible to cut and install as a flooring material. That means most choices fall somewhere in between.
A deep dive into softwood
If you shop for hardwood and have your eye on pine, fir, or cedar, all of which are popular throughout North America, you’re looking at a softwood flooring product. These all make excellent flooring products because they tend to grow and mature faster than other species of trees. That makes the wood abundantly available, and easier to farm and harvest than other choices. Because of their abundance, you’ll never have to worry about locating sustainable or eco-friendly products.
These softwoods have been used for years – decades. That’s because they’ve been installed in homes across the US for equally as long. They’ve come to be synonymous with classic good looks inside our homes and offices. It’s friendlier to the environment because just as easily as you can install them, they will decompose faster at the end of life as well.
The one drawback is that its rapid growth also means it’s a softer, less dense wood. That decreases the durability factor, and makes it more susceptible to damage. In high traffic situations, or in commercial applications, softwood may not be the perfect choice.
A deep dive into hardwood
Hardwood will never go out of style. Because it’s one of the most durable flooring products on the market, you’ll find hardwood installed just about anywhere. Look down in your favorite store. Notice the floors when you head into the office. Chances are there is hardwood down there.
Because hardwood is produced from different resources, you’ll never find the same look and feel between species, or even from board to board. That’s part of the allure. You can install any type of hardwood you desire, then pick the stain and finish that best suits your tastes and needs. The look is unique and individual as you are.
Of course, hardwood’s appeal is that it produces a hard, dense surface area. And that takes years to grow. Typically hardwood will be more expensive, especially as you move into exotics. It also takes more work to install to ensure it looks good, as well as more maintenance once it’s installed and you’re living with it.
You can get hardwood in both solid and engineered format. Solid hardwood is created from solid logs, with one piece of wood being milled directly from the log. Engineered has multiple layers and added composite materials to create the plank and overall look.
So which is better, softwood or hardwood?
It may seem like the best choice for your home is a hardwood floor. But there’s more to it than that. It’s not only what the wood planks are made of that should sway your decision. Maintenance comes into play too.
A homeowner that uses a softwood flooring that is conscious about how well it’s maintained each day, and treats it with care throughout its life will enjoy the look and feel of their choice.
A homeowner that selects a hardwood flooring, but has an active lifestyle that means they rarely clean up after themselves may find their hardwood floors look battered and old after just a few short years. They need replacement long before the household with the softwood installed because of the way they cared for it.
A lot of this comes down to preference and personality. It’s important to consider how you live before you make your final selection. Be honest with yourself. People rarely change, even if they make an attempt when their floors are first installed. Most fall immediately back to old patterns.
What’s the best choice for you?
Would you like to know your options, and find the right wood floor for your home?
Stop by, or give us a call today.