Is walnut durable?

Q: I am going to put hard wood in my entrance way and kitchen. I do not like the grain in oak. I do like walnut. Will it be durable enough for a hallway and kitchen?

We are a small family with one small cat, no heavy usage, but I am concerned with denting it if I drop something.

A: Walnut of course is very beautiful wood but like any natural wood product it will dent to one degree or another depending on the weight of the item dropped. Walnut is somewhat soft. If it is finished with a good product the finish itself will hold up well, but it won’t prevent denting. Hickory is much harder but is prone to gapping with large swings in humidity.

Your cat won’t hurt your floor but I think you need to realize that it is a floor to be walked on. it isn’t a dining room table top. Otherwise, you will always be stressed out about every little dent or mark and will end up becoming a slave to what you are walking on. This is probably why some have chosen to distress their floors such as pine from the start so other dings aren’t a big deal.

Hardwood that holds up to the wear and tear cats bring?

Q: I have 4 cats, 1 of which is sick and has some accidents. I am looking to replace my carpet with hardwood floors. Friends tell me hardwood will be easier to maintain and will hold up better than carpet, with pets. Can you tell me what you would recommend in hardwood that would hold up to the wear and tear cats bring?

A: I feel bad for your pets and for you, as, like us, they get old and ill and need special attention. Certainly a solid wood floor finished on site will repel accidents for the most part, if it is finished well. Avoid pre finished floors. If your situation requires a laminate, look at Torlys laminates.

Bamboo flooring a bad choice for a family with large dogs?

Q: Is bamboo flooring a bad choice for a family with 4 large dogs (60 – 80 lb.)?

A: There is no wood or grass floor which will be unmarked by large dogs. The problem I have with bamboo is the use of adhesives to bond the strips together which emit a urea Formaldehyde vapour. Also, every sample I have seen exhibits large gaps between the planks indicating it shrinks quite a bit.

I think you would be best to go with a heavy grained wood to hide the scratches or go with a wood that you intend to look distressed. In that case, the scratches will just be part of the floor and add to it’s distressed look.

Related Q: I’m looking to replace carpet with wood floor. We have 4 dogs and accidents happen. What style or manufacturer would you recommend for a living room/family room that has high traffic from both people and pets?

A: I would go with site finished, not factory finished. Oak is good with pets because the heavy grain helps to hide the nail impressions. If you want to go with a very hard wood I’d probably suggest Hickory. You have to know in advance that unless a real tight environmental program is followed, Hickory will tend to expand and shrink a lot. A site finished floor has the coatings applied over the entire floor surface rather than individual boards and is much easier to deal with as far as applying a refresher coat of finish down the road.

Brazilian Teak good choice of wood floor for someone with dogs?

Q: I was wondering what you think of Brazilian Teak as a choice for wood floor for someone with dogs.

I have an American cherry floor all through my house that has been destroyed by the dog’s nails (I have two dogs).

I want to replace the floor and really like the look of the teak, but I don’t want to invest all this money if the floor is going to end up like the cherry. We had a refinisher look at our cherry floor and he told us the wood is so soft that in three months after he refinished it, it would look the same, so we didn’t want to invest in refinishing it.

A: Well, the cherry is quite soft. Brazilian teak is harder, but it isn’t as hard as Hickory which is the hardest native species. A large enough dog applying his weight to the tips of his claws would probably be able to mark any wood, regardless of hardness.

Aside from needing to keep the dogs nails well trimmed and filed, have you ever considered having them wear dog boots in the house? It may sound silly, but it’s worth taking a look at.

Difference in the stability of 1/2′ versus 3/4′ flooring?

Q: Is there any difference in the stability of 1/2′ versus 3/4′ flooring? We are planning to put hardwood in our dining room and have an existing oak railing. The 1/2′ will fit very well up against the railing, so we are thinking of going with the 1/2′ product for that reason.

A: By stability, do you mean expansion and contraction of the wood itself? Not really. It can be more of an issue with wider planks. However, the 34′ boards offer much more structural stability than the 1/2′ will. You should be fine with the half inch, considering the issue with the railing.

Durable, dent resistant engineered flooring with a super hard finish?

Q: Are there specific guidelines to help in selecting a durable, dent resistant, engineered flooring with a super hard finish that does not scratch with everyday traffic and chair movement?

I would really like specifics such as brand and collection and wood species if possible.

A: I can’t give you any guidance on specific products. There is a huge market. Basically the harder the wood the more stress it can take before it dents. The hardest north American species is Hickory. Jatoba is also very hard.

Scratching is a different thing. There is no finish I’m aware of that cannot be scratched. Most if not all pre finished floors are coated with aluminum oxide coatings which by their nature are scratch and scuff resistant. This also makes it more difficult to buff such a coating to apply a maintenance coat in the future.

Mirage engineered does come in Jatoba and their AO coatings are now done with nano technology which is suppose to make them even harder to scratch. I do have unsettled questions regarding this type of technology and it’s safety when cutting and especially when sanding. Mirage engineered is amongst the best as far as milling and fit are concerned.

Related Q: Is there a hard finish that could be put on our sanded floor to help limit the scratches?

A: There are all types of finishes available. Swedish finishes, called acid cure as well as moisture cured urethanes are extremely tough but are difficult to work with and give off a very nasty odor. Then there are typical polyurethane coatings. Poloplaz Primero is my favourite in this category. There are other types of finishes which, while not offering a hard finish are much easier to touch up. These would include products like Osmo hard wax oil and Waterlox, a penetrating oil.

Best wood for a concrete base?

Q: I am looking at installing some hardwood floors in my house in South Florida. I have several questions. What would be the best wood to use as the floors are currently a concrete base? What are some precautions you would recommend I quiz the installer to make sure he know what he is doing? Any other concerns/education you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

A: I would probably suggest quarter sawn white oak because it is more dimensionally stable than many other species and is a bit harder than red oak.

Your installer should test to be sure there isn’t significant moisture coming through the concrete. The flooring itself should be stored in the rooms where it is to be installed for about a week at the temperature and humidity levels that would be considered normal living conditions year round.

He will have to install some sort of plywood base to nail into (and he could use a product such as delta flooring as a moisture barrier first) and the plywood and hardwood should be tested with a moisture meter before installing to be sure they are within 4% of each other. If the plywood is dryer than the hardwood that is OK. However if it has reading above 12% it would be a risky installation.

Related Q: Is it possible to install hardwood flooring on concrete? If so, what method would you recommend?

A: I would use an engineered floor such as Mirage or go with a click product such as Torlys or Quick Step Uniclic. Otherwise, install plywood and then a solid wood floor.

Birch wood floors durability, dents and scratches

Q: We recently purchased a house. I noticed that the birch wood flooring has dents from sliding wheels on stools, and it has quite a few noticeable scratches in some areas. What do you recommend? Is birch wood floors durability below par? I don’t know if the floor is waxed or treated. We are the third owners so we don’t know much about the flooring except that it’s birch.

A: If the floor is thick enough to take it, I would completely re-sand and finish it. I have a birch floor in my kitchen. It’s very nice to look at, but not the best choice for that room because it is a bit softer than oak and does tend to get banged up.

Note from Webmaster: for more info, see Janka hardness test from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Best wood and finish to tolerate urine/pee

Q: I’ve got 2 small dogs and a son with autism who pee on my carpets. I am sure by now that everything underneath the carpets are soaked in urine and need to be removed, even though I’ve had the carpet cleaned over and over again. What kind of wood floor and what kind of finish would you suggest? Scratching and denting are not even a concern – just the urine.

A: I think I would suggest quarter sawn white oak, site finished with either a top quality polyurethane such as Poloplaz Primero (using their Fast Dry Sealer as a base coat) or a penetrating tung oil finish such as Waterlox. I did a water test on 2 boards, one finished with polyurethane and one with Waterlox. A spoonful of water on the board surface. Hours later the water had not penetrated past the surface on either sample. The bigger problem will be seepage between the boards. White oak, quarter sawn is more dimensionally stable though. Maybe that is why they make wine barrels out of it.

I prefer Maple; but is Black Cherry, Maple or Walnut better? How to Choose Wood Species for Flooring

Q: I am purchasing a home and don’t know which is the best, most durable wood to choose. I worry about wear and tear over the years. What is the best way to maintain wood floors before you have to change it, or not? I don’t love too much grain in the floor, that is why I prefer maple; but is Black Cherry, Maple or Walnut better? If I have to choose oak due to cost, should 3/4″ size or more be better? What about staining the oak? I was told that staining is not good. I thought that all wood had to be stained to achieve all the various colors that are available. What then is “natural hardwood” without staining, but in a darker color? How to choose wood species for flooring?

A: You are asking me to write a book, which I won’t do. 3/4″ Thick is the way to go. The species is determined by your likes and life style. If you have pets, a harder wood may be better. Maple is harder than oak. However, because of lack of grain definition, it tends to show marks or claw impressions more than an oak floor. You don’t like heavy grain. Maybe quarter sawn white oak is for you? Or beech? Perhaps hickory. Some woods don’t need staining, since they have so much natural color to offer, such as cherry, and walnut. Staining is a matter of taste in the long run.

Hickory has greater resistance to denting than red oak

Q: My hardwood floor is constantly having to endure things being dropped on it, creating dents. Is there some sort of finish that better protects floors from damage?

A: No. The finish itself has nothing to do with preventing dents. That is determined in part, by the hardness or density of the wood. Hickory has greater resistance to denting than red oak.

Durability is key

Q: I am interested in getting hardwood flooring for the main floor of our house. This is the main walkway through the house, so durability is key. We also have a large dog! Any suggestions?

A: I would definitely suggest site finished. Pre finished, aluminium oxide coatings are very hard, but that actually becomes a problem if the floor starts to look beaten up, since these coatings resist abrasion, which is exactly what needs to be done to a finish to create a mechanical bond and adhesion of a refresher coat. A large dog will leave marks and nail impressions in just about any wood, regardless of how hard it might be. It is important to keep their nails clipped and filed smooth. I would stay away from any tight grained woods such as maple, since many scratches are hidden by heavy grain (such as oak), which maple doesn’t have. A good choice for you might be Hickory. Quite hard, yet a grain similar to oak. Ash and oak would be other good choices.

I will also suggest an alternate finish to urethane top coats. I have been working with a tung oil based finish recently. Excellent penetration into the wood. It does build similar to polyurethane, though it is a more elastic type finish rather than a hard top coat. It is very easy to touch up and re coat with no adhesion issues or the possibility of swirl marks from Inter coat buffing, since this product co adheres. No buffing is needed. You can check this out at

What type of hardwood to purchase

Q: I am trying to decide on what type of hardwood to purchase. In a previous home I installed dark cherry-stained oak. I have a dog and of course the scratches were very visible and after only a few months looked terrible. I also found it very hard to keep clean.

I have been shopping around and have been considering natural stain oak. I have a chance to purchase a Grade 2 at 2.99 sq. foot (Canadian). I was also advised Brazilian cherry (Jatoba) would be a good choice for me since the wood does not scratch as easy and scratches would be less evident since the colour is natural and throughout the wood. I can get this for 4.99 sq. foot (Canadian) which I’m told is “a deal”…

A: Under the circumstance, I would consider any pre finished floor to be a poor choice. Especially if this is Jatoba. Woods such as oak, with a heavier grain pattern will do a better job of hiding claw marks, especially with a satin finish. Maple is harder than oak, but given the tight grain tends to show every mark. Another good choice might be ash.

Beech on the hardness table

Q: We are remodelling our kitchen and considering putting a Beech floor down. Is this a good wood for wear and tear? We have two grandchildren and they tend to play in the kitchen. Will the beech show all the dents and scratches easily? What would be the best wood to use? The flooring person said that beech is just as hard as red oak- Is this true?

A: These are comments I found regarding Beech and it’s position on the hardness table:

Properties: Hardness:
1300% Janka Table, 1% harder than Northern red oak Durability:
Elastic, hard; excellent shock resistance. Wears wells, stays smooth when subjected to friction – popular for factory floors.

However, since it has a rather tight grain it might show marks like maple does, rather than hide them like oak and ash do. I would not recommend a pre finished floor for a kitchen. Site finished is the way to go.

Hardwood floors in bath and laundry rooms

Q: We are currently remodelling our home and plan on putting wood flooring in both our master bath as well as our laundry room. I know wood floors are generally not recommended for these areas because of water, moisture, etc. However, we are unable to be perfectly happy with any other flooring. Is there any particular species that would be able to hold up better than the others? Also, we are planning on painting both floors? Any suggestions?

A: I would suggest, if this is the way you intend to go, to install quarter sawn white oak. A bit harder than regular oak but more stable as far as side to side expansion/contraction. I don’t know why you would paint rather than have multiple coats of a top quality polyurethane applied. Maple would be good for painting because it is so smooth with tight grain, but it gets a little cranky if subject to fluctuations in humidity.

Durability ratings

Q: Would you please advise me of the ratings for hardwoods as far as durability is concerned?

A: has a hardness table whereby you can compare the relative hardness of a number of species.

However, when asking about “durability” then hardness is only one factor to consider. For example, maple is harder than red or white oak. However, it is very tight grained, and therefore is prone to showing scratches or indents/ impressions much more so than oak, which has a much heavier grain.

Some exotics coming on the market are extremely hard and dense and may contain a lot of resins. How well a finish will remain on such a hard surface before it gets ripped off the surface is yet to be seen. Pre finished floors in most if not all cases are coating with aluminum oxide or ceramic coatings. These are very abrasion resistant, but not indestructible. Serious issues can arise when it comes time to recoat these floors.

To answer your question requires more than a simple answer. I don’t think a person can go wrong when they stick to North American species such as various oaks, ash (which has a very similar oak type grain, except more so) which is a little harder than red oak, and even hickory which is harder than maple. All 3 stain and finish well.

Floors and wheelchairs

Q: My son is in a power wheelchair. To get to his room he needs to cross the den and I would like to replace it with wood. I’m understanding that the laminating would be easier to keep from getting damaged. Please let me know if a laminated one would work better than a hardwood one. It will get a lot of wear and tear.

A: What is your sub floor made of? Are you in a house or condominium/apartment with concrete? If it is concrete, a good quality laminate would be ideal. I just installed one for a man in the same situation. Laminates are not a floor that would last a lifetime. However, in a condominium setting, they should give you years of trouble free service.

In a private home, where you can nail a floor down, but where the sub floors are often not dead flat and level (a must for a laminate installation), a floor 3/4 thick, and properly finished with 3 coats of polyurethane and no cheap sealers used as a base coat will also take a lot of abuse. With real hardwood, if it suffers surface scratches and scuffs, it can later be lightly buffed and a fresh coat of finish applied. With laminate, there really is no fix.

Wide boards

Q: I am building a new house and I am interested in wider boards of about 5 inches but I have heard these can have problems with cupping? Is this true and if it is, is there a way to avoid the problem?

A: The wider the board, the greater is the chance of cupping. Having said that, the only thing which causes this to happen is excess moisture in the wood itself, either from poor climate control in the house, from installing over a crawl space that has not had steps taken to prevent moisture from rising up under the floor, and such things as this. Make sure you leave at least a 1/2 gap along the walls to allow for any expansion that may occur. The wider the board, the more mass to expand. I believe quarter sawn is much less likely to be affected by this problem at all, though it may be more expensive.

Make sure when this floor is installed that you let it acclimate to the rooms for at least a week. All wet trades must be completed with the heating/air-conditioning in place and functional. Make sure the sub floor is within 4% of the wood flooring as far as moisture content. 7-9% is considered normal range for wood such as oak. If the plywood is reading 20% don’t install the floor.