How Long Do Hardwood Floors Last?
How long any hardwood floor will endure depends on a number of factors. Considering the shift towards engineered flooring over the last several decades, the longevity factor will decrease for those choosing them. Why? Engineered or veneer floors are designed primarily for stability. In doing so, the construction is much different than that of traditional solid hardwoods. No longer do we have a solid piece, rather the top decorative layer is the solid piece. Most of the engineered flooring manufactured today contains barely more than 1/16 of an inch of actual decorative hardwood.
Before we go any further, one critical element in how long floors will last can depend on what happens before that actual hardwood floor installation. Experienced installers will pay attention to how floors perform. They need the ideal conditions that include floor preparation, acclimation, and proper installation methods. Taking a look at the floor preparation issue; the underlying sub floor needs to be flat.
Let’s look at other products. The more traditional solid 3/4″ tongue and groove floors that have been used for the last 100 years will last much longer but not as long as older solid hardwood. The latter was a solid piece without any tongue and groove. Overall thicknesses were in excess of one inch. When you consider longevity, the profile of the material being used is probably the single most important factor.
With all products mentioned let’s examine their profiles or specifications. Much older hardwood flooring that predates the widespread use of electricity, was not made by tongue and groove. Instead, solid boards were nailed through the surface into floor joist systems as the only method of installation. Generally these floors are not refinished as the charm and patina is treasured more. If they are sanded, the potential is much greater than newer types.
For tongue and groove solid 3/4″ hardwood floors, there is a limit of how long they will last, with much having to do with what the owner desires. Today’s styles are numerous. Some prefer only the look of a pristine, smooth looking floor. In order to maintain this appearance the floor will have to be refinished every so often. These floors do have their limits as the amount of hardwood that can be sanded lies in the 1/4″ range, or above the tongue and groove (photo above). How much material is taken off during a typical refinish job? A good ballpark number lies in 1/16 of an inch unless there are deeper floor scratches the customer wants removed. In this case a 3/4″ tongue and groove floor can be sanded completely four times.
Other factors influencing longevity is the hardwood floor care. It not only starts with regular maintenance but more specific, what types of cleaners are being used. Many stand by older methods of cleaning floors with vinegar and water. However what they may not understand is the acidic nature of this cleaning method. Over time it will break finishes down depending on the amount used and may require floors to be refinished at shorter intervals, thus reducing the overall life of your hardwood floors.
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