You walk into a home and fall in love with the style and the hardwood floors. You’re excited about the home, but you want to make sure that the floors are properly installed and still in good condition. Before you allow yourself to fall for the fresh shine on a floor, there are a few things you can check for to be sure that the floor was installed properly.
Experienced installers know that you have to stagger the seams to create a solid floor that will last for decades. Good installers leave at least six inches between the seams in adjacent rows. The top installers in the industry watch the seams for several rows to be sure that they’re staggered and maintain a random appearance. If you’re wondering about the quality of a wood floor, start by taking a close look at the seams.
The long seams that run down the rows should be flush and pulled tightly together. Spaces in between rows are a red flag indicating sloppy installation and poor attention to detail.
Transitions are difficult to make, so mistakes will often show in this area. Wood flooring should make a smooth transition to carpet or other hard flooring surfaces. Look for gaps, uneven surfaces, protruding nails and other flaws. You want transition areas that are smooth and stable.
A Quality Finish
It’s important that the floor have a quality finish. If it appears that the floor has faded spots next to areas that are brightly finished, then the wood is probably in need of refinishing. The old wax finish needs to be cleaned away and a new protective surface applied. This is a time-consuming and tedious project. Floors with a polyurethane finish are easier to care for. Test the finish by putting a few drops of water on the floor. If they bead up, the floor has polyurethane. If it turns opaque, then the floor has a wax finish, and that can be more difficult to clean and maintain.
Look for Damage
Wood floors become damaged over time. Some people believe that a few scratches add charm and appeal to the floor. Others view scratches as damage that cannot be tolerated. This is a very personal choice. However, there comes a point when a floor must be refinished because the damage is so extensive. A few light scratches can be disguised with matching wax. Deep gouges must be sanded out. If they go too deep, they’ll have to be filled in with wood filler and then sanded. Black spots and rings can penetrate deep into the wood. These can only be removed by having the floor refinished, and that’s a messy and expensive proposition.
It’s important to know what you’re getting into before purchasing a home with wood floors. The beauty of hardwood is that it’s easy to maintain and highly attractive. While you don’t mind paying to have a floor refinished if you’ve been using it for the last decade, you probably don’t want to pay full market for a home that needs to have this work done.