Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Flooring Choices

Although it seems a little early to have to make flooring choices, some of this makes a difference when framing the house. The mill where we’re getting the beams, Great Brook Lumber, also makes flooring from local lumber including red oak, white oak, maple, ash, birch, pine and cherry. The oak, ash and maple are generally the hardest and some of the others are relatively soft. Flooring hardness is measured by the Janka Hardness Test.

We still have one Dalmatian, Gromit, who can scratch wood floors in his day-to-day activities, so hardness and scratch resistance are important. Oak is probably the best choice, although it is very common and we would prefer something a little more unique. Since we are participating in the LEED for Homes program, reclaimed, recycled or locally obtained woods are preferable, and flooring like bamboo, cork or linoleum are also encouraged because they are made from readily renewable resources. We have considered bamboo, but are not overwhelmed by the look.

This curly red maple flooring from Hull Forest Products is really beautiful, but it is a relatively soft maple and we'd have to walk around in our stocking feet and sell the dog to keep it from getting scratched up.

The wood we are most seriously considering is mesquite. It is almost twice as hard as oak and is very stable. Because it is so hard, it generally comes in a 1/2" thickness rather than 3/4". It is also a very attractive wood. The trees grow in gnarled shapes, giving interesting grain patterns. The mesquite from Faifer & Company comes from reclaimed logs. We would probably stain it to take on a reddish mahogany color to resemble some of the tropical hardwoods, but would not need to disturb any rainforests in the process.

We are considering real linoleum upstairs. People have adopted the term linoleum to mean almost any resilient sheet flooring, but real linoleum can be quite nice.  It is long-wearing and very durable. Forbo calls theirs Marmoleum.  It does require a different floor preparation than wood flooring, though. The linoleum would cost less than wood flooring, but it is not inexpensive.

We have decided that the majority of the First Floor will have wood flooring. The Second Floor could be wood or linoleum. Since the second floor framing is partly conventional wood joists and plywood and partially wood beams and 2” nominal wood deck, there are potentially two different floor surface materials. If we decided to go with a wood finish flooring, I would have the beams and 2” wood deck installed a little low so that the wood deck could be covered with the same plywood subfloor that covers the conventional joist framing. If we decided to use linoleum, the plywood subfloor and 2” wood deck should be level and would be covered with a smooth plywood underlayment, which would be installed after plastering is complete. That is why we need to decide now.

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