Hardwood Flooring Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions:

Q. What is the difference between prefinished and unfinished flooring?

A. Prefinished hardwood flooring is end and edge matched with a small micro-beveled edge and has up to 8 coats of finish including several coats which contain aluminum oxide; the aluminum oxide in the finish is what gives the factory finish its hardness. Prefinished flooring typically has a 25 year finish warranty. Unfinished flooring is also end and edge matched with a tongue and groove pattern and a square upper edge, rather than a microbevel. Unfinished flooring must be sanded and finished on site (after installation); after sanding and finishing, a site finished floor will be completely flat. One can use either an oil based or water based finish when installing unfinished flooring. Oil based products typically have a darker initial appearance and show more depth of grain; water based finishes are safer for the environment and have been improved recently to offer similar durability as oil based finishes.

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Q. Should I use unfinished or prefinished hardwood?

A. Both choices have their advantages. If you are trying to match to an existing hardwood floor, you may want to go with an unfinished floor so it can be stained to match. However, this will mean finishing must be done on site, resulting in more noise, dust and delays in using the room. Prefinished floors, on the other hand, are already finished with up to 8 coats of an aluminum oxide finish. This means you will get the convenience of not having to shut down the room while you finish the floor on site.

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Q. Is there a difference between square-edge and bevel-edge designs?

A. Yes. With a square edge, the sides of each plank or strip are square. A beveled edge, also known as a micro-beveled edge, features a 1mm to 2mm, 45 degree angle bevel on the top edges of the plank or strip. A beveled edge can help mask slight subfloor imperfections, but can be felt if walking on the floor in bare feet.

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Q. Will my prefinished floor have a beveled edge?

A. Yes. All of our prefinished hardwood floors have a micro-bevel edge to eliminate uneven joints between strips of hardwood. This tight micro-beveled edge also prevents the finish from pooling up at the edges of the boards during the finishing process, resulting in a nicer, cleaner finish.

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Q. What about engineered flooring versus a solid hardwood product?

A. Engineered products are available in Planks and Strips; they are manufactured of hardwood using a cross-directional laminated construction (3 to 7 layers), with a top layer of genuine premium hardwood (anywhere from 0.6mm to 8.0mm wear layer). This construction counteracts the natural tendency of wood to expand and contract with seasonal changes in temperature and humidity, making engineered products more dimensionally stable. Solid products are available in Planks, Strips or Parquet; they are manufactured from a solid piece of wood.

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Q. Is there an advantage to using engineered products over solid products?

A. Yes. In general, engineered products can be installed in any room in the home, whether on-grade, below-grade or above-grade. Engineered products can be nailed down, glued-down or stapled down, depending upon the situation. Some engineered product can even be “floated” over most subfloors without the use of nails or adhesives, making it ideal for remodeling. Solid products are not recommended for below grade installations and must be nailed down or glued down. See installing solid hardwood floors.

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Q. What's the difference between engineered flooring and laminate flooring?

A. Engineered flooring is constructed in layers similar to plywood with a genuine hardwood veneer layer on the surface. Today's laminate flooring is a photographed image of finished hardwood and cannot be refinished, whereas many engineered products can be refinished. How many times will depend on the thickness of the veneer, or top wear layer, and finding someone knowledgeable enough to handle the work.

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Q. Can an engineered wood floor be refinished?

A. Some of the better quality engineered wood floors have a 3mm or thicker real wood top layer and can be sanded and refinished one or more times. The sanding and refinishing of an engineered wood floor is best done by an experienced hardwood flooring refinisher. If you have heat vents in your floor you can remove a heat cover to get a side view of your wood floor. This will help you check to see how thick you finish layer is. Always consult with the manufacturer to see if they recommend sanding and refinishing of your engineered wood floor.

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Q. What are the benefits of hardwood flooring?

A. Hardwood flooring is one of the most popular types of residential flooring. Here are a few reasons why you should choose a hardwood floor:

  • Hardwood floors offer a variety of grain patterns, natural color variations, and the beauty of a natural material,
  • Hardwood floors are easy to clean.
  • Hardwood floors are ideal for allergy sufferers as they do not promote dust or harbor dust mites.
  • Hardwood flooring is longest-lasting. Although there is a 25-year structural warranty on our prefinished and engineered hardwood floors, hardwood floors can last for decades longer.

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Q. What is your minimum order?

A. The minimum order for hardwood flooring is one box or sub-bundle.

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Q. How do I figure how much wood flooring I will need?

A. Follow these instructions:

  • Measure the length and width of the floor in the room you want to put hardwoods.
  • Multiply the length by the width this will give you the total square footage.
  • Add or subtract for nooks, closets, inside and outside corners, etc.
  • Add an additional 10% of the total square footage to cover waste factors. Waste factors are needed for cutting the start and finish runs of flooring, and to cover the occasional piece that you do not want to use in the floor. Wood is a natural product and you may find pieces that you don’t want to use in your floor.
  • Use our flooring calculator tool on the product detail page to figure exactly how many boxes or sub-bundles you will need.

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Q. What is End Matched?

A. End Matching is the process of double end-trimming each plank and through a special process, precision milling a tongue and groove on the plank ends. End Matching is standard on most flooring products under 8' long. End matching eliminates the need to cut each plank end, greatly reducing the installation process. Many long length products are not end matched and will require end trimming during installation.

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Q. When ordering hardwood flooring how much extra should I order to allow for waste?

A. As a rule of thumb, add 7% to 10% for waste and cuts depending on your skill level and the layout of the area.

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Q. What is the most durable hardwood floor available?

A. A factory Prefinished floor will certainly help the durability, however it is the hardness of the wood itself that will give the best indication of durability. Refer to the Janka Hardness rating for a true indication of hardness for a selected species.

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Q. What is the difference between Clear, Select and Better, and Common / Rustic grades?

A. The difference between the various grades is the amount of allowable character marks, color variation, sap allowance and the amount of open or closed defects allowed. For example, you'll find the most amount of character, knots, mineral streaks, pin holes, etc. in the Common / Rustic Grades. As you step up in grade, color is more uniform in appearance and fewer character marks are allowed. The clear and select grades are hand selected for uniformity, and the pricing generally increases with those grades.

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Q. Can I see your products at the warehouse?

A. No, our warehouses are closed to the public. We distribute our products from various manufacturers nationwide, and we do not have showrooms. This is how we can offer some of the best pricing in the industry. The best way to see our flooring is to order samples, or view photos on our website.

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Q. Can I expect my floor to have color variations?

A. Yes. Hardwood flooring is a natural product. Therefore, you should expect there will be natural color variations in the wood. Although lower grades of flooring will have a larger number of character blemishes and more color variation, you can expect some color variation in all grades.

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Q. Do you make recommendations for selecting installers?

A. We do recommend installers for some geographical areas, email or call us for details. We are building a recommended installers page for a qualified professionals in your area. If you are a licensed installer call our customer service number at 888-448-9663 to find out how to qualify for a listing on The Fantastic Floor web site.

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Q. How does moisture affect my hardwood flooring?

A. Excessive moisture can lead to numerous changes in your floor, such as warping, cupping, buckling and cracking. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you only use cleaning products recommended for hardwood floors. Never wet mop your floor or allow water to pool on the floor.

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Q. What is the moisture content of our hardwood floors?

A. Our hardwood floors are kiln dried to a moisture content of between 6 and 9 percent. Hardwood floors will naturally expand and contract with fluctuations in temperature and humidity. However, hardwood floors perform best when they are within a temperature/humidity range of 6 to 9 percent. At this range, expansion and contraction can be reduced to its minimum.

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Installation Questions:

Q. How do I acclimate my hardwood floor?

A. Let the flooring acclimate for 7 to 14 days, with boxes opened and laid flat in the room where the flooring is to be installed. If you are in an area with high or low humidity, you may need additional acclimation time. You should consider humidity controls such as a humidifier or dehumidifier depending on whether you have high or low humidity.

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Q. How do I install hardwood flooring?

A. There are several things to consider before you begin to install hardwood flooring. Careful preparation before beginning will make installing your hardwood floor a quick and easy process. Refer to our extensive Installation guides for detailed information, and always read your hardwood flooring manufacturer’s installation instructions carefully. See our solid prefinished installation guide and engineered installation guides for more information.

  • Ensure that your sub-floor is flat and smooth.
  • Take extra care when installing hardwood flooring over radiant heating. Ensure that you read both the hardwood flooring and radiant heat system instructions carefully before beginning.
  • Allow your hardwood flooring to acclimate in the room where it will be installed for a minimum of 7 days.
  • Inspect each strip of hardwood flooring carefully for defects or damage before installing it.
  • Always use a tapping block and never hit hardwood flooring directly to avoid fracturing the flooring edge. A piece of flooring trim makes a good tapping block.
  • Add at least 5% to your square footage when ordering to allow for waste and cuts. As a rule of thumb for non-professionals, add 7% to 10% depending on your skill level and the layout of the area.

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Q. Where can I install hardwood flooring?

A. Hardwood flooring is an extremely durable flooring product. It can be installed in virtually any room of your home that is above grade. There are several locations that are not recommended for hardwood flooring; because hardwood flooring is a natural wood product it is not recommended that it be installed in wet locations such as bathrooms, washrooms, saunas, enclosed porches or verandas, or anywhere that may require wet-mopping. Extended exposure to moisture and changes in humidity of this type will cause your hardwood flooring to warp, swell or crack.

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Q. What is the recommended tolerance for the subfloor to be flat?

A. The sub floor must be flat, meeting a minimum of 3/16” within 10’ or 1/8” in 6’. To check for flatness use a 6 foot level or other means to locate high or low spots.

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Q. What is a random width floor?

A. A random width floor has varying widths such as a 3”, 4” or 5” for example. Random width floors are beautiful and reproduce a rustic turn of the century look. Up until the latter part of the 19th century all wood floors were random width. Only in the late 19th century and through the 20th century have we evolved to today's standard same width Flooring. It is important that if you desire a random width floor that you purchase the species you desire in all widths from the same manufacture to ensure the milling will match. Some manufactures only produce flooring in random width, doing so enables the manufacture to achieve the greatest yield from random width kiln dried lumber. They are able to keep planks to the maximum width and length that each board processed will allow. This helps keep costs down and keeps flooring reasonably priced.

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Q. How do I calculate what widths I need for a random width floor?

A. Calculating what is needed for a mixed width flooring can be tricky. It is important that if you desire a repeating pattern, such as a 3, 4, 5 inch to repeat continuously without running out of certain widths, that you calculate accordingly. For this example we will assume the need for a 3”, 4”, 5” random width / repeating pattern floor.

  • 1. First add all the widths you desire together ie: 3 + 4 + 5= 12
  • 2. Then take that number (12) and divide it by the total square feet that is needed in the room. ie: Let’s say you need a total of 1,500 square feet for your job, divide 1,500 by the number you got earlier: 12. In this case, it equals 125
  • 3. The last step is how you figure exactly how many of each width of flooring that will be needed for your project. Take the number derived from step #2: 125, and multiply that number by each width desired for accomplish the random width floor, this will get you the total square footage needed for each width. ie: 125 x 3 = 375 s/f, 125 x 4 = 500 s/f, 125 x 5 = 625 s/f
  • 4. Then double check your calculations by adding all the answers in step #3 together.. it should be what is needed to completely cover the square footage for the job. In this case: 1,500 square feet.

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Q. When should hardwood floors be installed?

A. If you’re having a home built or making some renovations it is highly suggested to have the hardwood flooring work scheduled very near the end. Unfortunately too many times, builders rush hardwood flooring and don’t realize the consequences until it’s too late and major repairs become necessary or moisture problems caused by other workers compleating jobs in the house rear its ugly head. See our installation check list for more information.

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Q. Are there any special procedures in installing and finishing exotic flooring?

A. Exotic species tend to be much harder than domestic species and may contain a higher resin and extractive content. Because of the higher hardness, many installers will use flooring staples with their pneumatic nailer instead of the traditional flooring cleat. The staples have less of a tendency to split the flooring tongues during installation than the cleats do. During finishing, it is recommended that a sealer be applied immediately after sanding and vacuuming exotic hardwoods. Applying the sealer will “lock in” the resins and extractives found in exotic species and prevent their interference with application of the floor finish. Be sure the sealer used is compatible with the rest of the finishing system being used.

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Q. What wood floor can I install over a concrete slab?

A. With the improvements in hardwood floors most engineered and longstrip engineered plank floors can be used over a concrete slab. Manufacturers do not recommend using solid wood floors over a slab. Engineered planks and strip wood floors can be glued directly to a clean, dry, well-cured concrete slab. Some engineered wood floors can be glued at the tongue and grooves and then allowed to be floated over a special padding that is laid over the concrete slab. Longstrip engineered planks can be floated over the slab with a padding underneath. There are some new "hybrid" engineered floors that can be floated over a concrete slab and come with a click (glueless) tongue and groove locking system. Note: New concrete slabs need to be fully cured for a least 60 days. All wood planks should be acclimated for a minimum of 7 days prior to installation. Be sure to read and follow the manufacturer's recommended installation procedures.

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Q. Can a hardwood floor be floated?

A. Our hardwood flooring is a four-sided tongue-and-groove product that can be nailed directly to a wood subfloor. A solid hardwood floor cannot be floated. Refer to our engineered flooring products for flooring that may be floated over radiant heating or below grade.

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Q. Can we install a hardwood floor over an existing vinyl floor?

A. Yes and no. Is the vinyl flooring tightly secured to the subfloor? Does the vinyl flooring have a thick cushion attached? If the vinyl floor is thin and well secured to the subfloor you may be able to float a wood floor over it. In some situations you may be able nail/staple a wood floor over it also. If the wood subfloor is sound you may be able to nail a solid wood floor over the top. Be sure to get the manufacturer's installation procedures for going over an existing vinyl floor and be sure to check if this type installation is warranted by the manufacturer.

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Q. Can I install hardwood flooring in a bathroom?

A. Hardwood floors are not covered by our warranty if installed in a bathroom. Moisture can cause damage to hardwood flooring. While it is certainly possible to install hardwood flooring in a bathroom and not experience moisture related problems, success is purely of a function of not allowing the flooring to get wet.

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Q. Is it safe to install hardwood flooring over a radiant heating system?

A. Yes, hardwood flooring can be installed over a radiant heating system, but it is recommended that the width of the flooring installed not be more than 4”. It is also recommended that a rift sawn or quartersawn flooring be used because of its superior dimensional stability. The subfloor the flooring will cover must be thoroughly dry, this can be accomplished by running the heating system for 1 to 2 weeks prior to installation. This will prevent moisture from entering the flooring from the subfloor while the heating system is running. You should make sure that your flooring is thoroughly acclimated prior to installation. As with any hardwood installation, floor performance will be dependent on the severity of fluctuations in relative humidity in the home throughout the year.

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Q. I have a particleboard subfloor. Can I have nail down hardwoods installed?

A. Many people confuse particleboard with OSB (Oriented Stand board). True particleboard commonly used in some manufactured homes does not have the holding power for hardwood flooring fasteners and will loosen over time. Most types of OSB that can be used for solid nail down hardwood floors. It is best to consult your professional flooring installer and the manufacturer’s warranty specifications.

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Q. Do I need to leave an expansion gap when installing solid wood flooring?

A. Yes, it is vital to the life of your floor that you leave an expansion gap of at least 3/4" around the perimeter of the room and all obstructions. Check with your manufacturer as you may need a larger or smaller expansion gap depending on the geographical region, interior moisture and temperature, and the time of the year.

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Q. Do I need a moisture barrier if it is above grade?

A. Yes. We recommend using a vapor barrier of 15-pound felt paper. This vapor barrier should be laid between the hardwood flooring and the wood subfloor to prevent any moisture from getting to the floor. For more information on vapor barriers see our Solid Flooring Installation page.

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Q. Can we install solid hardwood flooring in the basement?

A. No. It is highly recommended that you do not install solid hardwood flooring below grade. However, it is possible to install engineered or laminate flooring in these situations. Refer to our product catalog for the various specie and style options in Engineered Flooring and Laminate Flooring.

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Q. What are the different types of moldings and how are they applied?

A. Moulding types:

  • The Quarter Round molding is used to hide the expansion gap left around walls during installation.
  • The T molding is used as a threshold in doorways or as a transition strip where the hardwood flooring meets floor or carpet of similar height. T moldings can also be used to change the direction in which the floor is laid.
  • The Reducer molding is used as a transition from the height of the sub-floor to the height of the hardwood floor.
  • The Stairnose molding is used to cover the front edge of a stair tread or step. If used on a stair, flooring is installed behind the Stairnose to cover the horizontal part (the tread) of the stair.
  • The Stairtread molding is a one-piece molding used to entirely cover the structural stair tread.

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Care & Maintence Questions:

Q. What is the best way to clean my floors?

A. The best way to maintain your floor is to sweep, dust mop and/or vacuum the floor often to remove any abrasive materials that could potentially damage your floor. Do not apply cleaner directly to the flooring. Use a cloth and recommended hard surface cleaner to remove spills on the flooring quickly. Do not use products containing wax, oil, or polish on hardwood, as doing so will create a residue on the wood surface that will cause the finish to dull. Do not use a wet or damp mop to clean the hardwood floor. Any water can damage the flooring. For more information see the maintenance section on our Solid Flooring Installation page.

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Q. How do I handle stubborn stains?

A. For stubborn stains, apply the manufacturer’s recommended cleaner to a soft cloth and scrub the desired area. Repeat if necessary. Do not use products containing wax, oil, or polish on hardwood, as doing so will create a residue on the wood surface that will cause the finish to dull.

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Q. Can I apply a wax finish to my prefinished floors?

A. No. You should never apply wax finish to a prefinished wood floor.

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Q. Are there any precautions which should be used when laying a large area rug over a hardwood floor? Should padding be used?

A. Definitely use padding because the carpet will move on the floor and the backing will act like an abrasive on the finish. A mesh type of anti slip pad which will grip the carpet and still allow the floor to breath is recommended.

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Q. How can I better protect my floor from early finish wear?

A. It is a good idea to implement a regular cleaning routine, as well as felt floor protectors on furniture, especially chairs and bar stools. Place mats at all points in the home with exterior entrances to avoid water and debris being tracked onto the flooring.

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Q. How do I get my hardwood floor to look like it did when it was new?

A. There are products that can be applied to both factory prefinished and site finished floors that will renew the floor back to its original appearance. Use only manufacturer recommended products and be sure that you use a product that is compatible with the original finish.

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Q. What are some potential moisture problems I should look out for?

A. Cupping and bowing are caused when water is trapped between the wood floor and the subfloor. When this imbalance in moisture occurs, it is essential that the boards dry evenly; if not, cupping or bowing can appear. Put a rug in front of all water sources, such as kitchen sinks, dishwashers, and any other place where water could spill onto the hardwood.

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Q. The floor beneath my rug is lighter than the exposed floor, what can I do?

A. It is normal for hardwood floors that are exposed to sunlight to darken over a period of time. To eliminate the obvious tone differences, it is best to rotate rugs and furniture so that the flooring gets an equal amount of sun exposure. Any differences in light exposure will eventually fade away.

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Q. How do we stop a wood floor from gapping?

A. Gapping in solid wood floors cannot be stopped completely. Wood expands and contracts with changes in humidity. Using a humidifier during the heating months may help reduce the amount of gapping in solid wood floors. Also, some wood species will expand and contract less than others. Engineered wood floors are much more dimensionally stable than solid wood floors and will show little or no gaps between planks.

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Index of Frequently asked Questions

General Questions

What is the difference between prefinished and unfinished flooring?

Should I use unfinished or prefinished hardwood?

Is there a difference between square-edge and bevel-edge designs?

Will my prefinished floor have a beveled edge?

What about engineered flooring versus a solid hardwood product?

Is there an advantage to using engineered products over solid products?

What's the difference between engineered flooring and laminate flooring?

Can an engineered wood floor be refinished?

What are the benefits of hardwood flooring?

What is your minimum order?

How do I figure how much wood flooring I will need?

What is End Matched?

When ordering hardwood flooring how much extra should I order to allow for waste?

What is the most durable hardwood floor available?

What is the difference between Clear, Select and Better, and Rustic grades?

Can I see the product at the warehouse?

Can I expect my floor to have color variations?

Do you make recommendations for selecting installers?

How does moisture affect my hardwood flooring?

What is the moisture content of our hardwood floors?

Installation Questions:

How do I acclimate my hardwood floor?

How do I install hardwood flooring?

Where can I install hardwood flooring?

What is the recommended tolerance for the subfloor to be flat?

What is a random width floor?

How do I calculate what widths I need for a random width floor?

When should hardwood floors be installed?

Are there any special procedures in installing and finishing exotic flooring?

What wood floor can I install over a concrete slab?

Can a hardwood floor be floated?

Can we install a hardwood floor over an existing vinyl floor?

Can I install hardwood flooring in a bathroom?

Is it safe to install hardwood flooring over a radiant heating system?

I have a particleboard subfloor. Can I have nail down hardwoods installed?

Do I need to leave an expansion gap when installing wood flooring?

Do I need a moisture barrier if it is above grade?

Can we install solid hardwood flooring in the basement?

What are the different moldings and how are they applied?

Care & Maintence Questions:

What is the best way to clean my floors?

How do I handle stubborn stains?

Can I apply a wax finish to my prefinished floors?

Are there any precautions which should be used when laying a large area rug over a hardwood floor? Should padding be Used?

How can I better protect my floor from early finish wear?

How do I get my hardwood floor to look like it did when it was new?

What are some potential moisture problems I should look out for?

The floor beneath my rug is lighter than the exposed floor, what can I do?

How do we stop a wood floor from gapping?