Choosing the best hardwood floors for your family room can be a daunting task. Color possibilities abound and you'll be considering how well various woods measure up against the traffic you'll get in the room — which usually comes down to children, pets and how much time you spend there.
The Look of Your Room
The National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) recommends considering the style you want to achieve in your family room. If you want the room to appear open and airy, opt for a light-colored wood, like maple or ash. If you're after a warmer, cozier feel, you'll want a wood that's a little darker, perhaps a hickory or an oak. If you're trying to achieve a classic, regal look — maybe you have an empty nest — a dark, deep wood like walnut or mahogany may be just the thing.
For something a bit edgier, you might commit to an exotic species. Purpleheart, a Mexican wood, deepens in time to a purplish-brown. African Bubinga might fit this bill, as well. Burmese teak will give you a yellow or yellowish-brown floor. And if you want something ultra dark, you might look at Wenge; this African wood is an extremely dark brown.
The Janka Score
No, Janka isn't the game wherein you build a wood tower without knocking it over. It does, however, have everything to do with wood floors. Janka is a score given to hardwoods based on hardness and durability, and it's a great tool to help you find a wood that will stand up to the daily rigors of your household. In other words, if you have a German Shepherd tearing through the house, curious toddlers banging pots and pans underfoot or older kids dribbling basketballs through the hallway, you'll want to know which species of wood will hold up best against the occupants of your house.
The harder the wood, the more durable it is. Softer woods will be more susceptible to dents and scratches. Hickory and pecan are the hardest woods, with scores of 1,820 and 1,450, respectively, according to the American Hardwood Information Center. The softest woods are Aspen, with a score of 350; and Basswood, which comes in at 410. The most common middle-of-the-road woods are soft maple and cherry, which both score 950.
Finishing It Off
Another factor when narrowing down the best hardwood floors should be the finish of the wood. A surface finish, also known as urethane and polyurethane, is applied to the surface of the wood, providing a protective coating. If you're in a household with a lot of traffic (running kids, scampering pets, etc.), a surface finish — whether it's based in oil, water or acid — is both strong and durable. A wax finish, warns NWFA, will show water spots and marks from other liquids or things that fall on the floor.
Regardless of which type of wood or finish you ultimately choose for your hardwood floor, maintenance is pretty simple. Sweep and pick up the dust with a dry mop when needed and use a natural oil soap to keep your wood floor sparkling.
This article was brought to you by Colgate-Palmolive Company, the makers of Murphy® Oil Soap. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of the Colgate-Palmolive Company.