Saturday, August 28, 2010

Types of Wood Flooring

For many people, natural wood floors are the ultimate choice of flooring and a lifetime investment. They feel that the timeless beauty and premium look of hardwood floors far outweighs any negatives of cost and maintenance. But the appearance of your wood floor can depend a lot on the species of wood you choose. So even if you have set your heart on timber flooring, take some time to consider the different types of wood and their suitability:

Oak

The most popular type of timber used, there are two main categories used for flooring: red oak and white oak. Most floors are made of the former as it is more plentiful and its beautiful warm pink and red tones give warmth to a room, plus blend well with most colour schemes.

White oak is growing in popularity, particularly as cooler, paler colours are favoured in neutral modern design schemes but also blend well with traditional “country” styles. Furthermore, its relatively impermeability to water makes it a good choice for kitchens and bathrooms.

All oaks take stains well which adds to their popularity as it increases the choice of colours and shades available. Dark stains, in particular, give a formal feel and are ideal for use in offices or formal rooms of the home. The grain on both types is a combination of straight and wavy patterns although red oak tends to have a coarser and more uneven appearance.

Oak’s popularity stems not only from its colours but also its versatility, being used from ship-building to barrel-making. Its great flexibility means that it will bend and shape easily, making it especially good for floor installation. However, at the same time, it is an extremely strong and stable wood which rates highly on the Janka scale, meaning that it copes very well with hard use. In fact, its pronounced grain means that it is particularly suitable for areas of high traffic, such as hallways and entrances.

Maple

The durability of maple and its resistance to scratching and denting means that is the top choice for areas of heavy wear and tear, and has been used in such places (e.g. gymnasiums and sports arenas) for decades. In the home, it is ideal for places like kitchens and hallways due to its resistance to marring by pointed objects.

Despite its hardness, maple is still comfortable underfoot due to its inherent “give” but as it is not as stable as oak it may need support from a small perimeter border when floors are being laid, to avoid damage during natural expansion and contraction.

While it does not stain well, it comes in a beautiful range of natural colours, from a pale white-blond to a warm honey tone and its closed grain has very distinctive, attractive patterns, adding to its natural beauty.

Beech

Like maple, beech has been a popular choice for floors that take a lot of wear and tear due to its durability. In fact, its durability and general popularity contributes to its status as one of the most commonly “reclaimed” woods used in recycled flooring. It is similar in strength to oak and will resist splitting and damage, while at the same time retaining a certain “spring” which makes it flexible and ideal for floors enduring constant high impact.

While it accepts staining well, it comes in a natural range of colours from pale white to dark cherry brown and is often most attractive simply finished with a clear protective urethane coating, particularly as its natural grain is a fine, straight, even pattern which produces an enviable uniform texture. Its elegant appearance makes it a popular choice for office interiors as well as home settings, blending well with both contemporary and traditional décor schemes.

Birch

One of the main reasons for birch’s popularity is its natural variation in colour, from creamy pale white to deep, rich, red tones. This colour depends partly on the species and partly on the part of the tree used, with the younger, softer sapwood generally being a pale, creamy tan whereas the heartwood, from the centre of the trunk, being a deeper, richer shade, from golden tan to reddish brown. It will also stain well and is often finished with a high gloss to emphasize the beauty of its natural colours.

Its grain is fine and straight, with good uniformity in appearance, making it an ideal choice for pieced floors. Again, birch is similar in strength to oak and is also resistant to splitting and damage. It is slightly softer than oak but extremely durable, making it a good choice as flooring for active families. This is helped by its mild flexibility as well. Thus, birch is a good choice for high activity living areas as well as office floors.

Ash

Ash is another popular choice for wood floors, due to its clear, light colour and durability. It is often chosen for smaller rooms as its straight grain, combined with its light colour (and in thin planks) can open up the room and give the impression of a bigger, airier space.

Despite its delicate appearance, ash is one of the strongest hardwoods, resisting splitting and damage and coping with heavy wear extremely well. It is harder than oak although not as hard as Brazilian cherry or walnut. Nevertheless, its durability makes it an ideal choice for high traffic areas such as family rooms and children’s playrooms. Furthermore, its natural elasticity means that it has a flexible “bounce” and thus good shock resistance. It will also stain well, although most décor schemes tend to take advantage of its natural light colour to brighten up a room, particularly one that does not receive much sunlight.

Cherry

Two types of cherry are used in flooring: Brazilian and American. Both have a reddish tinge but will vary in tone and colour, with American cherry being usually a softer, pink colour that can sometimes be almost as pale as white, while Brazilian cherry tends to be darker and more uniform in appearance. Both are susceptible to colour change with exposure to light and this is something to keep in mind, particularly if using in a very sunny room.

One big difference between them is hardness, with American cherry considered one of the softer hardwoods and Brazilian considered one of the hardest. It is thus a good choice for a hardwood kitchen floor or other areas that take a lot of heavy use, particularly as it is also extremely moisture-resistant. Both types are durable, although soft American cherry can scratch and dent more easily but its “bounce” and stability still makes it a good choice for floating floors which can be laid over a sub-floor without the need for any nails or glue.

Walnut

This is a premium wood, often considered one of the most beautiful in the world, with a natural colour that varies from golden brown to almost black and a very fine, even grain. Walnut is extremely strong, durable, stable and yet flexible, with a natural shock resistance - making it ideal for almost any part of your home. However, it is generally very expensive and thus is not generally used extensively but more usually just as accents.

This article was taken directly from Floor Ideas (www.floorideas.co.uk). Also, visit my websites at www.americarpetfloors.com and www.stylishrugs.com for all your flooring needs. We sell all the flooring you read about on the article.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Types of Commercial Flooring

Flooring for the commercial sector has to satisfy many widely-differing needs, often simultaneously - depending on the industry involved. It is not unusual for a floor to need to be attractive, easy to maintain, durable, resistant to strong chemicals and still be cost-efficient! With floors having to do double, sometimes triple or even quadruple duty, it is difficult to find a certain type to fit all needs, but here are some popular choices:

Concrete
Concrete is used more in the industrial sector, although it is also rapidly gaining popularity with designers for use in interiors to deliver an edgy, industrial look (e.g. for trendy clothing stores or restaurants). It can be stained and etched into a variety of attractive colors and designs. Concrete is incredibly durable, strong and long-lasting, although it can be hard underfoot and so not ideal if many employees are to be standing all day. It is also extremely cost-effective which makes it a popular choice for areas which may not need to convey a premium image. Note, it is porous so must be covered with a protective sealant in order to protect against staining and damage from chemicals, as well as general wear and tear.

Laminate and Vinyl
Probably one of the top choices, particularly in the retail sector but also for offices and leisure facilities, such as restaurants, laminate and vinyl offer a wonderful combination of practicality and aesthetics. On the one hand, they are durable, stain- and moisture- resistant, easy to clean and maintain and insulating underfoot but at the same time, they do not compromise in the attractiveness stakes, coming in an enormous variety of colors and patterns, not to mention wonderful replications of other flooring materials, such as marble, stone and hardwood. This last characteristic, alone, makes them popular as they offer an affordable way to achieve a more luxurious look on a limited budget. For example, laminates are a fantastic alternative to real hardwood floors; easier to maintain and much cheaper to install. If budget is not a problem, there also ranges of luxurious vinyl that inevitably come with a higher price tag.

Rubber
Again, a popular choice for the industrial sector but also in great use in the leisure industry, rubber flooring is used particularly for exercise and sporting facilities. It is also favored in the public sector, such as in schools and hospitals. Rubber is naturally hygienic, water-proof, cushioning, insulating, easy to clean, stain-resistant and very, very durable, coping well in areas in high traffic and heavy impact. It does lose slightly in the sophistication stakes but there are some situations where its basic, industrial look is actually desired.

Carpet
Carpet is mainly used in offices and high-end stores and other leisure facilities (e.g. hotels, spas), carpet gives an unsurpassed feeling of luxury and class but can be difficult to maintain in high traffic areas or under constant, heavy impact. It is also vulnerable to staining and moisture, particularly if a light color is chosen. Nevertheless, it is still a popular choice, particularly in colder climates. It is also one of the best insulators against sound, which can be vitally important in some situations (e.g. hotels). In some situations, carpet tiles can be a better choice as it offers the look and feel of carpet but is more affordable and easier to install and replace any damaged or stained sections, with minimal disruption to business.

Naturally, other types of flooring can also be used in commercial settings. Hardwood, for example, is frequently used, despite its higher maintenance as it has an unparalleled timeless beauty and lends a feeling of 'quality and value' to the premises. Ceramic tile is also popular, particularly in eating establishments, as it is one of the easiest types of flooring to clean and maintain, as well as being waterproof. Many businesses nowadays are also opting for environmentally-friendly flooring to promote their 'green' image and so may choose floor covering such as cork, bamboo and linoleum for their recyclable properties, their use of renewable resources and their promotion of a healthier working environment.

[Ed. Note: We still recommend carpet as the best choice for commercial flooring. With modern technology such as carpet tile it is very easy to replace heavily damaged areas or permanently damaged tiles. Solution dyed nylon is almost impossible to stain and can handle severe traffic.]

This article was taken directly from Shelter Pop (www.shelterpop.com). Also, visit my websites at www.americarpetfloors.com , www.stylishrugs.com , www.Americarpetcommercial.com for all your flooring needs. We, Americarpet, sell all the flooring you read about on the article.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Cork Flooring and Floor Tiles Revisited

http://www.prlog.org/10602902-cork-flooring-example.jpg
With the increasing focus on environmental-friendliness more and more people are looking towards natural, renewable materials for their flooring options. One of the most popular choices is cork, which is incredibly eco-friendly and one of the most easily renewable resources in the world. It also has a host of wonderful qualities which make it an ideal flooring choice in many situations. So here are some frequently asked questions about cork:

What is Cork?
Cork comes from the outer bark of the cork oak tree, which is indigenous to Portugal, Spain, Italy, Southern France and Northern Africa. This tree is unique in that the outer bark (cork) layer can be stripped off several times in a 200 year lifespan with no harm to the tree, thus providing a steady supply and a completely renewable resource of raw material.

What is so Special About Cork?
Cork is unique in so many ways: it is light, buoyant, compressible and elastic, rot-resistant, fire-resistant (in its natural state), impermeable and yet soft. Yet it is a completely natural material which cannot be emulated by any synthetic material. It is no surprise that it is highly sought after in a variety of applications, in particular stoppers and floats, due to its honeycomb structure, flexible membrane and lightweight properties.

Why is Cork Suitable as Flooring Material?
In many respects, cork is the perfect floor, in particular for families with pets and children:

  • It is soft and warm.
  • It is durable enough to handle wear and tear and heavy traffic. In fact, cork floors are more durable than many other flooring types. One reason is because of its elasticity and its ability to recover well from compression. This means it has the ability to spring back and regain its original size and shape. Having said that, the use of furniture pads is recommended and a polyurethane finish will help protect the cork floor further and make it easier to maintain.
  • It insulates against both temperature and noise: the honeycomb structure of cork provides tiny cell-like compartments which seal bubbles of air; these in turn provide a layer of insulation which means low conductivity for heat, sound and even vibrations. This makes cork one of the best insulating substances in the world.
  • It is easy to clean and maintain and beautiful to look at.
  • Ideal for people with allergies as it does not absorb dust and is also anti-static.
  • It is environmentally-friendly and cost-effective.

Can you use Cork in Kitchens and Bathrooms?
Yes, cork can be used in all rooms and in both residential and commercial settings. In fact, kitchens are one of the most common rooms to install cork floors, in particular because it is comfortable to stand on and very easy to clean. Although cork is absorbent, surface spills will not penetrate cork floors and can wiped off, in the same way as any other type of hard flooring. Cork can be used in the bathrooms and is especially good for providing a warm surface underfoot, compared to tiles. However, if there is likely to be heavy water spillage (e.g. children splashing in the bath), then special precautions are needed during installation to make sure that the room perimeter is caulked before installing the molding or base boards.

Is it True that Cork Does not Rot?
Yes, cork contains a natural substance called suberin which enables it to be impermeable to gases and liquids. It is therefore also naturally anti-bacterial.

Can you Still have a Choice of Colours with Cork?
Of course – cork can be available in its natural honey tones (and remember, as with all natural products, some variation in shades or texture is normal and part of its inherent beauty) or stained in a variety of colours, from red to green to chocolate to black.

How do I Install Cork?
You can call upon a professional manufacturer and installer or for DIY enthusiasts, cork tiles are easily installed using any water-based contact cement. For cork floating floors, normal carpenter glue will suffice. These types of cork flooring will usually come with detailed manufacturers’ instructions for installation.

Where can I use Cork?
Cork can be used anywhere in the home, from the child’s bedroom to the kitchen, living room to the bathroom. Because it is so abrasive-resistant, anti-allergenic, insulating and resilient as well as being naturally anti-microbial, cork is frequently used in public buildings, such as schools, hospitals, restaurants, hotels, shops and even offices.

Cork has been used since the early 1900s, with Europe having a long history of using this product as flooring while North America and Australia are more recent converts. The popularity of cork has now spread around the world.

    Saturday, August 7, 2010

    How To Clean Wood Floors

    For Starters -- Are Your Floors Sealed?

    Determine how (if at all) your floors are sealed. Cleaning techniques vary depending on the finish -- not the wood type -- so clean accordingly. Not sure what finish you have? Simply rub your finger across the floor. If no smudge appears, the floor is surface sealed. If a smudge does appear, the floor has been treated with a penetrating seal, oil finish, shellac, varnish or lacquer, and then waxed.

    For surface-sealed floors: Typically, new wood floors are sealed with urethane, polyurethane or polyacrylic. These are the easiest to care for because they're stain and water-damage resistant. Simply sweep, mop and relax.

    For penetrating-seal-treated and oil-treated floors: Also common, a penetrating seal or oil finish soaks into the wood grain and hardens. This type of floor must be pampered and protected with liquid or paste wax.

    For lacquered, varnished, shellacked and untreated floors: Although these finishes are not as resistant to moisture, spills and wear as the other sealants mentioned, treat these finishes (and floors with no finish) as you would "penetrating-seal-treated and oil-treated floors."

    Tips for Cleaning Surface-Sealed Floors

    DON'T:
    -Use oils, waxes or furniture sprays. Oil leaves a residue, furniture spray creates a too-slick surface, and wax makes recoating difficult. Also avoid straight ammonia, alkaline products and abrasive cleaners that can dull or scratch the finish.

    -Never rely on water alone or a vinegar and water solution. Water won't-budge dirt buildup, and (despite what some people think) vinegar and water is not as effective as soapy water, and it may even dull floors sooner.

    -Mop with a soaked sponge. Wring it out completely and mop in the direction of the wood grain. When the water starts to look dirty, immediately empty the bucket and mix a new batch of cleaning solution. Better yet, says Davis, invest in a micro-fiber mop and use it regularly. "These things are the greatest inventions since sliced bread, maybe better," he says. "They pick up all the built up grit that can scratch a wood floor surface."

    -No need to panic if you find hairline cracks in the floor. Dry heat during the winter can cause wood floors to shrink and crack. Those cracks should close up on their own during the summer months -- using a humidifier can also help.

    DO:
    -Contact your floor manufacturer for the best cleaning product for your floor -- if that's too hard to find (or too pricey) opt instead for plain soap and water. Add a quarter cup of mild or pH-neutral soap, like liquid dishwashing soap, to a bucket of water. That should do the trick.

    -Sweep daily if possible, and mop once or twice a week in high-traffic areas, like the dining room and kitchen.

    -Tackle scuff marks with a bit of baking soda on a damp sponge. (It's like a magic eraser!)

    -Plan for consistent maintenance. Even "low-maintenance" surface-sealed hardwoods will require recoating (see below) every five to seven years.

    Tips for Cleaning Penetrating-Seal-Treated, Oil-Treated, Shellacked, Varnished, Lacquered or Untreated Floors

    DON'T:
    -Never use acrylic, water-based, furniture or one-step waxes. Acrylic and water-based waxes can turn floors white, furniture wax creates a slippery surface and one-step waxes can trap and seal in dirt. Additional "no-no's" according to Davis are oil soaps or other household cleaners that contain ammonia, tung oil or lemon oil.

    -Never damp-mop waxed floors. Simply vacuum and sweep the surface regularly. "But for heaven's sake," says Davis, "do not use the beater bar that is used to vacuum carpet. Carpet fibers need to be beaten up to get them clean. All that attachment does to a wood floor is beat it up." Instead, use the empty headed attachment with felt surrounding it.


    DO:
    -Use a stripper to remove old wax buildup. Choose a product the floor manufacturer recommends, a commercial product or mineral spirits.

    -Get stripping: Strip your old wax and apply a fresh new coat about once or twice a year, depending on wear. If a high-traffic area gets dull in between treatments, you can spot-wax that area.

    -Follow these tips for cleaning problem areas. White water spots? Add a small amount of mineral spirits to an extra-fine (0000) steel wool pad and gently rub the area in a circular motion. Food stains? Wipe the surface with a damp cloth, rub dry and wax; work from the outside edge of the stain in toward the center. Heel marks? Add a small amount of wax to an extra-fine (0000) steel wool pad and gently rub the area in a circular motion.

    Tips for Keeping Floors Happy

    DON'T:
    -Use rubber-backed or non-ventilated mats or rugs; they can damage your floor. Instead, opt for rugs made especially for your hardwoods -- and remember to shake them out regularly.

    -Allow stiletto heels and untrimmed pet claws to run rampant (or even stride casually) across your hardwoods. They can cause dents and scratches that are not covered by the average flooring warranty. "Also avoid golf shoes or any other spiked shoes that you'd use to aid in fertilizing a lawn," Davis advises. "Commercial flamingo dancing in stilettos is also not advised."

    DO:
    -Leave the HVAC on. "Wood floors love 35 to 55 percent relative humidity and temperatures between 60 degrees and 80 degrees," Davis says. "Only do this if you want your floors to have a long life."

    -Place mats or area rugs at each entryway to collect the dirt that gets tracked in; particles of dirt can act like sandpaper scratching your floor. Also place mats in areas where water might be splashed, like near a kitchen sink, to protect those areas from damage.

    -Protect your floors from over-exposure to sunlight -- which can fade, darken or change your floor's coloring -- with window treatments and area rugs wherever possible. Be sure to rotate the area rugs and furniture regularly to allow floors to age evenly from UV exposure.

    -Prevent friction between your flooring and legs of furniture by covering table and other furniture legs with protectors. And if you plan to drag heavy furniture over a wood floor, Davis says, "use clean floor protectors, rubber wheeled dollies or multiple professional weight lifters for this purpose."

    -Consider taking that extra step for floors with excessive wear-and-tear. Screening and recoating will make your floors look like new. (Screening is a process used to abrade the polyurethane finish currently on your floor, then fresh coats of urethane are applied for a like-new look.) If that doesn't solve the problem, you might need to consider hiring a professional to sand and refinish the floors. If the damage is only in a small area, you may be able to save yourself all that work if replacement boards are available from your manufacturer.


    This article was taken directly from Shelter Pop (www.shelterpop.com). Also, visit my websites at www.americarpetfloors.com , www.stylishrugs.com , www.Americarpetcommercial.com for all your flooring needs. We, Americarpet, sell all the flooring you read about on the article.