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Some Information About Wood Flooring

Oak is very common, but several other species work nicely in homes, including cherry, bamboo, pine, and other exotic woods.

One of the most important things to consider when finishing a floor is how many coats of polyurethane to apply. Most flooring contractors first sand the floor, apply a coat of wood stain, and then 3 coats of polyurethane. But we recommend applying a fourth coat to add more uniformity and durability while filling in holes in tiny crevices.

By the way, using a stain on the floor is not required. Stains can add a beautiful uniform color, but you may consider not using a stain to allow the wood to show its natural beauty without adding any color. We suggest having your flooring contractor show you samples of different stains, with polyurethane applied (including no stain), on your existing floor so you can select the one you like best.

Wooden planks typically come in widths ranging from 3 to 6 inches wide. Wider planks show more of the natural grain in the wood. However, the wider the planks, the more sensitive they are to high humidity. Be aware that high humidity can cause “cupping”. Of course, most homes have air conditioning, reducing the concern about high humidity and cupping.

Costs vary widely from about $3 to $6 dollars per square foot. The size, number of stairs, floor condition, and wood type are all variables in pricing. As usual, we suggest getting at least 3 proposals from different contractors, and don’t forget to check references.

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Close-up view of light gray tile with large diagonal cracks and chips.

Got Cracked Floor Tiles?

Often during our inspections, we see cracked or loose ceramic floor tiles. By the way of background, there are two types of “beds” in tile floor installations. One type is called Thinset, and the other type is called Mortar Bed or more commonly know as a “Mud Bed.”

Thinset consists of a thin layer of bonding cement intended to adhere the tile to the subfloor. Usually, it’s only about 3/8 of an inch thick. It is cheaper to install than a Mud Bed, but it does not allow for movement of the subfloor. Most subfloors move as time goes on, which can result in cracked and loose tiles associated with Thinset installations.

Mud Bed installations are typically considered superior to Thinset applications because:

  1. Mud Beds are usually at least 1 ¼ inches thick offering much more stability
  2. Mud Beds can level out uneven subfloors
  3. Create an ideal surface to which the tile can be bonded
  4. Can incorporate a slope in the tile layer if needed (e.g., slope to a drain)
  5. Reinforces the subfloor (usually relevant in wood framing applications)
  6. Allow radiant hydronic tubing to be installed.

So, if you have the option, we suggest going with a Med Bed rather than a Thinset if possible.

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Basement Flooring

During our home inspections on Long Island, New York City, Brooklyn, and Queens, we are often asked about basement flooring options.  Because basements are inherently high moisture areas, and because they are subject to random flooding events, the type of flooring used in a basement is important.

Even if the basement is relatively dry and not prone to water intrusion, sometimes water comes into play due to a leaky water heater or pressure relief valve on the boiler or some other type of plumbing leak.  By the way, we recommend having a dehumidifier in every basement.

So, whatever material you choose, it should be resistant to mold and needs to be able to stand up to water intrusion and leakage events.  It’s a no-brainer to stay away from carpets in basements.

Ceramic tile is a great choice.  These days ceramic tile can look like wood planks and are extremely attractive.  Ceramic tile holds up extremely well in basements. There are also rubber and vinyl flooring materials that work well in basements.  Engineered hardwood is also an option for very dry basements.  Typical standard wood planks are not recommended because they will likely not stand up to water intrusion events or high moisture.  If the area is going to be used for a gym or workshop, paint or epoxy applied directly to the basement floor is also something to consider.

There are also various types of materials to choose from as a subfloor.  A subfloor can reduce moisture levels and may stay a little warmer in the winter.

These days, there are a lot of options for basement floors.  We recommend discussing the options with a professional flooring contractor to get pricing and more information on various types of basement flooring systems.

If you are interested, all our previous newsletters are available on our website blog. Click on the following link and it will take you right to it.


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Puppy sleeping at warm floor. Dog

Engineered Hardwood Floors versus Solid Hardwood Floors

While doing our Long Island and New York City home inspections, we are often asked “What’s the difference between solid hardwood flooring versus engineered hardwood floors”.

Solid hardwood floorboards have been used for hundreds of years.  Usually, they are three quarters of an inch thick with varying widths and can be refinished multiple times before they need to be replaced.  We have seen solid wood floors in place for over 150 years and still look great. Make sure the person doing the refinishing is a real professional because the floor may just require a light abrasion or cleaning to rejuvenate the floor versus a total sanding.

Engineered hardwood floors consist of a thin wood veneer applied on strips of plywood.  They are durable and look great.  However, typically engineered floors can only be refinished 1 or 2 times because the process can wear through the veneer and expose the plywood.  The floorboards are mechanically strong because the plywood base is strong.  In addition, engineered hardwood floors include a durable factory applied finish, but don’t expect this type of floor to last nearly as long as solid wood planks.

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Cracked cement

Is that crack in the basement floor a structural problem?

During our inspections we often see cracks in basement floors.  Are these cracks a structural problem?  No, we don’t consider typical cracks in basement floors to be structural issues. The foundation around the perimeter of the floor is much more important because it supports the structure.

Cracks in basement floors are typically more of a nuisance because they can enable water seepage (rarely). They can be sealed if necessary. If there is water staining, a mason can seal it. If there’s no staining don’t worry about it.

Very often we get these questions from buyers, so now you know the answer!

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