Approaching the task of selecting a hardwood flooring, (much less installing ourselves!) I was overwhelmed. There is a lot to learn. We kept at it, asked a lot of questions, and researched until we found one that was just right.
We started at Lumber Liquidators which some friends pointed us in the direction of as a good, affordable source. Going into the store did not make me feel less overwhelmed and some of the price tags were steeper than I had hoped for. If you want to, you can pay a lot for your wood floors!
For our needs, we eliminated all the laminate, vinyl, wood-look tile, and cork options. We tossed around bamboo for a while, but never saw anything that stood out to us.
What we were searching for was pretty narrow – something pre-finished for less than $3.00 per square foot with a medium brown color on a thin or medium width plank. The couple times we stopped into L.L., I would think I liked something, but then in a different light it looked too gray. Or I hold it next to something else and it would look much darker or lighter or whatever. Kind of like after you have stared at paint colors too long and then you put it up in the space and feel like it is an entirely different color than what you thought you committed to.
Our Lumber Liquidators required samples to be mail ordered, so we went over to Home Depot where they have free sample cuts available. Our purpose was to not even look at the prices, but just find a sample that was the perfect color to us. We would then use it as a standard to shop around everywhere else and prevent us from going crazy wondering if something was too orange or too grainy and so on.
That sample is the winner that we really scrutinized and think totally rules (in color and grain, that is.) It is Bruce Maple Gunstock, but not the one we went with. It has horrible reviews (shows scratches and dents easily) and is $3.79 per square foot. Having this little perfect color sample, however, was exceedingly helpful.
Although open to buying from anywhere, we did find that Lumber Liquidators had the best prices. We went back and ordered a sample of a Classic Gunstock Oak, a fair option at $2.99 (above). I really wanted to also see one called Cinnamon Maple. The name made it sound like it was going to be too red, but I had to check it out for its $1.49 price tag. Sadly, it was a “liquidation” product, meaning it was on clearance (or something?) and we could not get a sample. That eliminated Cinnamon Maple for us because we are not going to buy 100 boxes of it if we have never seen it in person.
When Gunstock Oak arrived, we did not quite love the color. It was okay, but even being on the less expensive end of wood floors, to spend $3,000 on the second floor and eventually $6,000 for the whole house is a big purchase we wanted to love. Our thoughts went back to the Cinnamon Maple and we really wanted to somehow see it. I called the local L.L. again to ask if there was any way I could get a look at it and he said he now saw (which he missed the first time) they did have some in stock at a store an hour away. Oh, come on/wonderful!
Road trip! The employee at the hour-away-L.L. totally rules and even still e-mails with us whenever we have questions. We really wanted to like Cinnamon Maple, ($1.49!) and once we finally saw it, we knew it was the one for us (not too red!) and put down our deposit to secure 2,400 square feet of it.
Although planning to only do the second floor right now, we decided (had to) buy the flooring for the entire house at once because as you read above, it is a clearance product meaning there is no guarantee (and almost an un-guarantee) that if you buy half of it now that you can get the second half later. Thankfully, the price afforded us this.
The low, low (insane!) cost comes from being on “liquidation” and that it is a “rustic grade” wood floor, meaning there are a few more imperfections (as shown in this photo). They simply suggest when working with a rustic grade product you buy 20% extra rather than the typical 10% to account for more damaged or unusable boards. I would not describe my design aesthetic as rustic in most choices, but I like wood floors that do not look too perfect. To me, that is when seem like laminate and vinyl products which are a picture of wood that repeats over and over. (And if your solid wood floors are going to look like that you would not have had to spend as much!)
That is our wood floor, ladies and gentlemen. It is a 2 and 1/4 width solid hardwood. We toyed with using engineered, but the prices did not seem that much better than solid and I am the funny type of person where with this it would bug me to know it was not the real thing. Now, we start installing! (Well, now we wait for it to come in while on back order.)