# Hardwood floors - good or evil?

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
I just saw that someone plans to spend his tax return on hardwood floors.

Tsu and I have often discussed this. Why do people like hardwood floors so much? They make the room sound hollow; they are relatively high maintenance; you have the constant worry of scuff marks; they are much more difficult to repair than carpeting; they offer no cushioning in the even of a fall. It is funny in a way because when I was a kid, nice carpeting was considered a sign of wealth. It was a step up from the days of life on the farm.

I don't know how they compare to carpeting from an environmental point of view, but I know that many sold boast of how they use exotic woods from trees in tropical rain forests that are being decimated. My gut reaction is that this flies in the face of social [environmental] responsibility.

CRGreathouse
Homework Helper
I don't know how they compare to carpeting from an environmental point of view, but I know that many sold boast of how they use exotic woods from trees in tropical rain forests that are being decimated. My gut reaction is that this flies in the face of social [environmental] responsibility.

I'm not willing to assume a priori that using exotic rainforest wood is even bad for the rainforest. If more people wanted to buy it that would raise the value of the wood and rainforest land, which would
1. Make buying land for harvest more expensive ("good")
2. Increase current landholder's (e.g. government of Brazil) wealth ("good")
3. Raise living standard in rainforest areas ("good")
4. By virtue of #3, increase the value placed on preservation ("good")
5. Encourage tree farming ("good"/neutral)
6. Encourage a movement of labor to lumber ("bad"/neutral)
8. Increase cost of policing wood-poaching ("bad")

(#2 and #4 are very small effects, but I mention them for completeness.)

I grew up on hardwood floor. I admit that carpet is comfortable, but I think it is quite dirty, even though I vacuum and shampoo often, and it is especially annoying to worry about spitting coffee or beer or milk or whichever-you-prefer

Astronuc
Staff Emeritus
I think some are promoting bamboo floors because bamboo is stronger and renewable.

Hardwood floors, in theory are easier to clean.

mgb_phys
Homework Helper
Easy to clean, good for people with allergies, lasts years
I don't think it's too harmful to the environment - these are mostly pine/fir from Canada/USA/Scandinavia, not mahogany from virgin Brazilian rainforest.
It's the same farmed timber that would be going into all the other timber in your house

DaveC426913
Gold Member
I don't think it's too harmful to the environment - these are mostly pine/fir from Canada/USA/Scandinavia, not mahogany from virgin Brazilian rainforest.
Pine/fir in floors? Mine are hardwood, which'll be oak or something similar.

Definitely a pref for wood floors here. Carpet is cheap. And dirty. Fine for dens. But nothing beats a beautiful hardwood living room floor.

turbo
Gold Member
People with allergies or respiratory conditions often avoid carpets and pads because they are so difficult to clean properly, harboring dusts and molds, and can off-gas VOCs (especially when they are relatively new). Against this, domestically-produced hardwood looks pretty good. My wife and I moved in here in a hurry because the previous owner stalled and dawdled long past closing when he was supposed to get out. As a result, we had a local flooring company come in, rip up carpet and pads, and install Mannington "click-type" flooring that looks like white oak. It's OK, and we needed to have the job done quick. Eventually, we'll probably spring for hardwood flooring - either real white oak or rock-maple. It won't be real cheap per sq ft, but luckily this is a small house.

mgb_phys
Homework Helper
Pine/fir in floors? Mine are hardwood, which'll be oak or something similar.
Sorry, yes I was thinking of laminate/plywood ones.
The oak/maple is still pretty much farmed though - the mills prefer young straight knot free lumber to 200year old heritage trees.

misgfool
Easy to clean, good for people with allergies, lasts years
I don't think it's too harmful to the environment - these are mostly pine/fir from Canada/USA/Scandinavia, not mahogany from virgin Brazilian rainforest.

C'mon. You expect me to believe there is anything virgin in Brazil?

brewnog
Gold Member
I have spent the last two years (not full time) removing all my carpets and sanding the floorboards. They look amazing now, the wood is about 70 years old and has developed its own almost tobacco stain, they're a lovely orangey colour. There's no way I'd cover them with carpet, and I live with the draughts by putting slippers on.

I have spent the last two years (not full time) removing all my carpets and sanding the floorboards. They look amazing now, the wood is about 70 years old and has developed its own almost tobacco stain, they're a lovely orangey colour. There's no way I'd cover them with carpet, and I live with the draughts by putting slippers on.
I had a contractor do it. I bought an 80 year old house with some very bad carpeting in the living and dining rooms. I pulled that up with the intention of replacing it, but found a beautiful white oak parquet. It was stained in places from various things that had happened to it after it was first carpetted. It also has some very bad cut marks in the middle of the dining room where someone took a knife and cut something else, but the knife went through. And it was covered in shellac. The contractor didn't calculate the effect of shellac on his machines and on the time to completion so I wonder if he made any profit on the deal. We put a throw rug over the cut marks. The result is stunning.

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
I'm not willing to assume a priori that using exotic rainforest wood is even bad for the rainforest. If more people wanted to buy it that would raise the value of the wood and rainforest land, which would
1. Make buying land for harvest more expensive ("good")
2. Increase current landholder's (e.g. government of Brazil) wealth ("good")
3. Raise living standard in rainforest areas ("good")
4. By virtue of #3, increase the value placed on preservation ("good")
5. Encourage tree farming ("good"/neutral)
6. Encourage a movement of labor to lumber ("bad"/neutral)
8. Increase cost of policing wood-poaching ("bad")

(#2 and #4 are very small effects, but I mention them for completeness.)

The most immediate question regarding exotic woods is: Is the industry sustainable, or are we using the wood much faster than it can be grown. None of the rest have any meaning if the industry isn't sustainable. Next, are the lands being replanted, or is this a one-time rape and pillage venture?

As for carpeting, I have no idea what the environmental costs may be. I do know that some are now made from recycled materials.

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Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
I have spent the last two years (not full time) removing all my carpets and sanding the floorboards. They look amazing now, the wood is about 70 years old and has developed its own almost tobacco stain, they're a lovely orangey colour. There's no way I'd cover them with carpet, and I live with the draughts by putting slippers on.

Yeah, but you guys in the UK are willing to live in drafty old stone castles too.

brewnog
Gold Member
Yeah, but you guys in the UK are willing to live in drafty old stone castles too.

Indeed. Get a nice big log fire going, some decent cavity wall insulation, double glazing and thick curtains, the draught is good for fresh air!

Pengwuino
Gold Member
Tsu and I have often discussed this. Why do people like hardwood floors so much? They make the room sound hollow; they are relatively high maintenance; you have the constant worry of scuff marks; they are much more difficult to repair than carpeting; they offer no cushioning in the even of a fall. It is funny in a way because when I was a kid, nice carpeting was considered a sign of wealth. It was a step up from the days of life on the farm.

FINALLY someone says it. What about when they're old and they creek? You can hear people walking all the time too, it's ridiculous! Plus it always feel like i get my socks/feet dirtier when i venture into the non-carpeted parts of our house... carpet is good people. Someone else said it but how in the world is it easier to clean? You have to clean it way more often and i think that makes up for the fact that cleaning carpet is a more involved process.

Penguins like carpet 4 to 1. Nuff said.

how in the world is it easier to clean?
Most hardfloors can be cleaned very well with a simple sponge
You have to clean it way more often
The way I see it, the only reason you don't clean your carpet so often is because you don't realize it's dirty. Dirt can hide in a carpet. On a good old hard floor, dirt can not escape. It's clean, shiny, and I can breath. :crazy: When did you last take a shower ? :hysterical:

Pengwuino
Gold Member
The way I see it, the only reason you don't clean your carpet so often is because you don't realize it's dirty. Dirt can hide in a carpet. On a good old hard floor, dirt can not escape. It's clean, shiny, and I can breath. :crazy: When did you last take a shower ? :hysterical:

As long as it's hidden, im fine with it :D

Here, I use my carpet for added warmth in the winter. The bedrooms are hard wood floors, and tile in the bath and kitchen. So I guess I enjoy a bit of everything.

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Most hardfloors can be cleaned very well with a simple spongeThe way I see it, the only reason you don't clean your carpet so often is because you don't realize it's dirty. Dirt can hide in a carpet. On a good old hard floor, dirt can not escape. It's clean, shiny, and I can breath. :crazy: When did you last take a shower ? :hysterical:

Have you ever heard of a vacuum cleaner and carpet shampooer? If you keep your carpet clean, you have a barrier between you and any dirt that filters down through the mat.

When it comes to vacuum cleaners, most people go down and buy a WalMart special for $49. That, or they get snookered by door-to-door salesmen selling hyped technology. Like anything, there are high quality vacuums, and then there is junk. If you want the best, buy a Filter Queen. Last edited: Astronuc Staff Emeritus Science Advisor I see a lot that a lot of rooms with hardwood floors, also have rugs, which can be removed and cleaned outside. And if they are cold, people can wear slippers or socks. When inside, do not wear shoes. Many cultures leave shoes by the door, and do not wear shoes inside so as not to carry outside dirt and grime throughout the house. CRGreathouse Science Advisor Homework Helper The most immediate question regarding exotic woods is: Is the industry sustainable, or are we using the wood much faster than it can be grown. None of the rest have any meaning if the industry isn't sustainable. #5 would be *especially* relevant in that case. The destruction of the rainforest is mainly (80%? 95%?) for reasons other than lumber. If the rate of rainforest lumber harvest doubled and slash-and-burn agriculture halved, the rainforest would still have net destruction, but at least at a lower rate. Next, are the lands being replanted, or is this a one-time rape and pillage venture? I think that when tropical lumbers are harvested, the land is almost never replanted. As for carpeting, I have no idea what the environmental costs may be. I do know that some are now made from recycled materials. I don't know any more than you, sorry. QuantumPion Science Advisor Gold Member I have all hardwood floors and I love em. A nice advantage is that the subwoofer for my home theater is lot more powerful without carpet to dampen it :D I was advised by a friend (a podiatrist) that I should wear crocs or tennis shoes when relaxing at home since all the floors are hard (ceramic tile and slate) except for the bedrooms. He said it's not good to walk around too long barefooted on hard floors. I love crocs because I can move freely from the garden into the house without ever taking them off.:!!) And, another great gift I bought myself was an Electrolux Ergorapido lightweight vacuum for$99. It's cordless and has many nice features. Works great on hard floors. http://smallappliances.electroluxusa.com/node138.asp?CategoryID=3501

Moonbear
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
For me, it depends on the room. Real hardwood floors are more expensive than carpet, but last a lot longer (I've never heard of a hardwood floor wearing out unless they are neglected). They are VERY easy to clean, and to be sure they are clean, especially with pets. I love the look of hardwood too. But, yes, it's cold on the toes (though, that can be resolved with a few strategically placed area rugs that can be cleaned more easily than full carpeting). Given a choice, I'd put hardwood in a dining room, kitchen (warmer than tile on a kitchen floor), and office spaces in a house. I'd opt for carpets in bedrooms and living rooms where I want to walk around barefoot and still have warm toes.

I've been looking into this, because the new house needs a couple carpets replaced. Cost-wise, a good carpet with padding and installation is going to be comparable to a decent laminate floor (not hardwood) that I'd install myself. Laminate has a longer lifespan though, and requires less care.

I'm not sure about the exotic woods. The popular flooring I've seen is made of bamboo, which isn't a wood, it's a grass, and grows quite quickly. It's also supposed to be more durable under a range of environmental conditions (I don't think that's an issue where I live, but if you live in a high humidity climate, it becomes an issue). I'd worry about how readily available it would be to replace sections if it became less popular in the future. If you do traditional oak or similar hardwood floors, you can always replace a section without having to replace the whole floor, which to me, is more environmentally friendly. Certainly it seems better than pulling up carpet every 10 or so years and replacing the whole thing because it's worn, and then dumping all those synthetic fibers into a landfill (though, a portion of the carpet I pull up is going to be recycled as a big scratching post/play thing for Ember...unless I see the underside and say "EEEEEWWW").

And, as has been mentioned, for those with allergies, carpet holds a lot of dust and dust mites, other allergens, etc. I'm not sure what the new carpet fumes include either. And, hardwood matches everything, no matter how you change the decor.

The real downside to real hardwood floors is the cost, and the initial installation...all those coatings of urethane are time consuming and the fumes are nasty.

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
I'm not sure about the exotic woods. The popular flooring I've seen is made of bamboo, which isn't a wood, it's a grass, and grows quite quickly.

Bamboo is quite an interesting option as a renewable resource. The giant timber bamboo can grow eighteen inches per day [strange to think that one could almost see it growing if a reference was used!], but it takes many years to establish a bamboo forest.

Long ago I was tinkering with the idea of making 2x4s from pressed bamboo. I never got too far with the idea but it seemed promising. IIRC, there was the potential for a very high strength to weight ratio as compared to fir.

I sew. Pins on hardwood are easy to pick up with my magnetic pincushion, even without seeing them. Pins in carpet get stuck... first in the carpet, eventually in the sole of someone's foot. Carpet also can be damaged with sharp shears when I lay out fabric on the floor to cut out the pattern pieces.

Our son uses a wheelchair. It's much more stable steering on hardwood. Our main rooms have it. This is especially critical if he is in a manual chair (not his usual electric).

We really have two boys. Their bedroom has carpet. Their bedroom carpet has gotten stained (with dirt, blood, pee, you name it?... I don't even go in there... or their bathroom :yuck:). My husband spot cleans it with carpet cleaner, but we don't have a big industrial cleaner (with the added chemicals required in the containers of cleaning fluid). He says it will be need replaced when we leave.

By contrast, in the kitchen, I can usually just spot clean food droppings with warm water and a towel. We were told by our previous condo owners to use Minwax white label hardwood floor cleaner (a non-wax product). It easily got out something I thought was ground into the floors... raisins that had been dropped by our youngest and left until dry. Just a little cleaner and a soft cloth. Wow! :surprised

Then, as some of you mention, often the boards under the carpet can be finished up nicely.

As for acoustics, when my parents removed the carpet from the room of our piano (when I was a teenager), I thought I was in heaven. Of course in less than two days the new carpet was installed.

Then (like Moonbear) one has to wonder about the environmental impact of the carpet-making process (and the carpet disposal that ensues every ten years).

But I certainly do like a small piece of carpet to step out on after my shower, and right in the morning as I leave the bed... but that's enough for me. Warm hole-less socks exist for a reason.

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Have you ever heard of a vacuum cleaner and carpet shampooer?
Thanks Ivan. I'll have to find an alternative exercise method to broom sweeping my carpet.

Dale
Mentor
2021 Award
I don't know how they compare to carpeting from an environmental point of view, but I know that many sold boast of how they use exotic woods from trees in tropical rain forests that are being decimated. My gut reaction is that this flies in the face of social [environmental] responsibility.
From a purely CO2 perspective hardwood floors, wood furniture, and log homes are some of the most environmentally friendly purchases possible (provided it is done sustainably). A mature stable forest does not sequester any significant amount of CO2, what you need is to have new growth, harvest it at a sustainable rate, and remove it from the environment. This is exactly what such durable wood goods do.

mgb_phys
Homework Helper
Thanks Ivan. I'll have to find an alternative exercise method to broom sweeping my carpet.
With hardwood floors you can do bunny curling ;-)
Grab bunny rabbit by ears
Slid across hardwood floor
Wash rabbit when it gets too dirty

Evo
Mentor
I just saw that someone plans to spend his tax return on hardwood floors.

Tsu and I have often discussed this. Why do people like hardwood floors so much? They make the room sound hollow; they are relatively high maintenance; you have the constant worry of scuff marks; they are much more difficult to repair than carpeting; they offer no cushioning in the even of a fall. It is funny in a way because when I was a kid, nice carpeting was considered a sign of wealth. It was a step up from the days of life on the farm.

I don't know how they compare to carpeting from an environmental point of view, but I know that many sold boast of how they use exotic woods from trees in tropical rain forests that are being decimated. My gut reaction is that this flies in the face of social [environmental] responsibility.
I hate hardwood floors for all of the reasons you cited. I will not live in a place with them.

If you want to be environmentally friendly, stone or tile is the answer. Not only does it not waste wood, it doesn't require varnish, which is what you get with hardwood floors. I prefer not to live in a house full of varnish, thank you very much.

I wonder if dirt floors were easy to keep clean?

Astronuc
Staff Emeritus
I wonder if dirt floors were easy to keep clean?
They would make it easier to hide the dust.

Astronuc
Staff Emeritus