Lighter tones and wider planks are two of the big trends in hardwood flooring, whether you’re considering real wood or an engineered product.
Here’s a closer look at current themes from industry experts Scott Humphrey, the chief executive of the World Floor Covering Association, and Michael Martin, the chief executive of the National Wood Flooring Association.
During the economic downturn, people gravitated toward the traditional dark colors. But with the economy improving, Humphrey said, he’s seeing a rise in demand for lighter tones.
Some of these are finished to look like driftwood or washed in white to make them look beachy. The look is popular on both coasts and growing elsewhere in the country.
“There is a growing popularity in what are referred to as ‘domestic exotics,’ like hickory and ash,” Martin said. “Walnut is growing in popularity, and if left natural, is much lighter than traditionally dark-stained walnut.
That said, red oak and white oaks continue to be widely used and are easily stained for any design trend.
“Many of us remember the pickled light woods of 25 years ago. The gray, white and lighter multiple stain color processes of today are this generation’s version of that trend.”
Traditional wood floors usually have 2½- to 3-inch-wide planks. But some homeowners are gravitating toward planks that are 6 inches wide or more and also longer, Humphrey said. These can make rooms appear bigger.
“Wide and long planks are very popular in high-end homes at the moment,” Martin said. “Many new engineered wood flooring products are emerging to match this trend.”
He added that as the wood gets wider and longer, engineered products tend to move less and are more stable, depending on the humidity levels of the home.
Wood that’s reclaimed from buildings, homes, barns and other structures is getting new life as flooring. It adds a rustic or aged touch and tends to be used in a wide range of homes, from those that have casual or contemporary interiors to homes that feature more traditional furnishings to homes with eclectic designs. The farmhouse look is big this year, and reclaimed and lighter-hued woods both fit that aesthetic.
It used to be that hardwood floors had to look smooth and pristine. Some homeowners prefer the opposite, seeking wood planks that have been distressed or wire-scraped. The biggest advantage of these roughed-up woods: They hide scratches and nicks much more than smooth and shiny floors do.
“Matte, penetrating oils and UV finishes are gaining in popularity,” Martin said. Some of these finishes allow the grain of the wood to be more visible, a plus for homeowners seeking a rustic or natural look. “From a care and maintenance perspective, it’s important for homeowners to understand what type of finish they’ve installed as there are different techniques for upkeep,” he said.