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"New types of hardwood floors are attractive, warm, easy to install"

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Dear Jim: I have always like the warm feeling and beauty of hardwood floors, but I wonder if it really is an earth-friendly material. What type of hardwood is best for durability and that warm feeling? - Patti R.

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A: I recently visited a hardwood logging team and found it to be environmentally-friendly. Each mature tree was handpicked and only a few were cut per acre. Today the volume of hardwood is 90 percent greater than 50 years ago. Even the logging equipment which removes trees from the forest is designed with special tires to minimize damage to plants and animals.

Hardwood flooring does produce a warm feeling unlike other flooring materials. This is due to its millions of tiny insulating pores and its appearance. Most wood used for flooring will have a similar insulation value. The natural look of real wood creates a warm, cozy ambiance.

Most types of hardwood flooring perform well, but there are differences in the durability. Durability is often defined by the hardness of the wood surface and its stability. Hardness will affect how well the hardwood flooring stands up to foot traffic and impacts (something heavy dropped).

Stability refers to how the plank size and shape changes with varying room temperatures and indoor humidity levels. If you heat all winter and air-condition all summer, stability is less important. When you like to open windows whenever possible as I do, stability should be a consideration.

If you are concerned about using earth-friendly materials and are on a tight budget, consider using engineered hardwood flooring. It has a thick hardwood veneer (so it can be refinished) on top of several plies of other wood. This makes it stable and it looks identical to solid hardwood flooring.

Be cautious when selecting the specific type of wood. Just knowing it is an oak or a maple is not enough. The properties of various species within each general type of wood can vary significantly. Some beautiful flooring is made from pine reclaimed from beams in old Kentucky distillers. This type of pine is hard. It is cut into veneer and made into engineered flooring.

If you are going to do the installation yourself, you might consider using a floating floor. This uses tongue-and-groove hardwood planks which are attached to each other, but not to the subflooring. Also consider using hardwood planks or strips with beveled edges to hide some imperfections.

Some hardwood flooring manufacturers offer beautiful ornate patterns as trim, a border or a centerpiece. Select ones that create the pattern using woods of different natural colors. If, the wood is instead stained to create the colors, you may have a problem refinishing it someday.

Instant Download Update Bulletin No. 462 - Buyer's guide of solid and engineered hardwood flooring manufacturers, types of wood species, sizes, patterns, prices, prefinished or unfinished availability, hardness/stability guides, descriptions of wood flooring choices, wood flooring styles (strip, plank, parquet), description of surface finished, description of type of cut and wood flooring grades, and floating floor installation details.

Dear Jim: We moved into an older home and installed interior storm windows. We notice a strong cat urine odor at times. We are going to replace the carpeting. What else can we do to get rid of the cat odor? - Joan M.

A: The new storms have made your house more airtight, so the odor is more noticeable. After the carpet is pulled up, search the floor for stains. Using a black light will help you find stained areas.

There are products available at paint and home center stores specifically to remove pet odors. Painting the floor with a coat or two of urethane will also help seal and block the odors from the floor.

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