Hardwood flooring is any flooring product made of real wood sawn from timber and manufactured for use as a floor. Hardwood is available in a wide variety of different tree species and can be manufactured as solid hardwood (the planks consist of one solid piece of wood sawn from a single timber) or as engineered hardwood (a planks are made from multiple layers of wood adhered together). Hardwood flooring can come in planks, strips, parquet patterns and other shapes. Generally hardwood products come prefinished from the factory with stain and a wear layer to protect it, but in some cases the wood is installed without a factory finish and the finish is applied onsite. Some hardwood floors can be sanded or screened and refinished overtime to return a more pristine look and feel, however this process can be expensive, time consuming and messing. As a result the practice of sanding/screening and refinishing is becoming less common as consumers more often opt to replace older and worn out hardwood floors with entirely new ones.
Hardwood floors typically feature a tongue and groove construction so that the planks lock together. Hardwood floors are often nailed or stapled into the subfloor for installation. In some cases engineered wood may be glued to the subfloor. Before installing any hardwood floor a moisture test must be done to ensure the moisture rising from the subfloor does not warp or damage the floor after installation.
Most manufacturers recommend that any hardwood product be acclimated in the space that it will be installed for no less than 72 hours. It is also important to arrange the hardwood boxes for acclimation in a way that would give equal airflow to all of the boxes, ensuring each box of wood gets the same level of acclimation. Generally stacking the boxes no more than 4 high and with at least 6” of space around all sides will suffice.
No, you should not steam clean hardwood floors. Cleaning your hardwood floors with a steam cleaner or with excess moisture will damage your floors and cause them to warp. In many cases using a steam cleaner on your floors will void their warranty. Always consult the warranty guide for your floor before using any cleaning products. Some steam cleaner manufacturers may boast that their products are safe to use on hardwood floors (with the disclaimer that the floors must be properly sealed) but both the Wood Floor Covering Association and the National Wood Floor Covering Association do not recommend using steam cleaning products on hardwood. There are also no major hardwood floor manufacturers that recommend using steam cleaners on hardwood floors. Refer to the manufacturer of your floor or to your local Flooring America/Flooring Canada for other cleaning options that would be appropriate for your floor.