RECOGNIZING QUALITY - it would be easy to believe that all hardwood floors are the same. There are so many brands and manufacturers of flooring on the market, all all promise quality. But if you learn what really constitutes quality, you will know what you are looking at and you will see that only a few brand remain. Dare to compare...

UNIFORMITY - Lay down a few boards and assemble them. The tongues and grooves should fit perfectly and easily together. Check the floor yourself for uniformity by running your hand over the surface to make sure its even, indicating a precise cut. Irregular spacing between the boards leaves room for dirt and grime.

FINISHES - the quality and durability of a polyurethane finish is not determined by the number of coats, but rather by the quality of the polyurethane and the application procedure used. There are ways to tell whether a product has good factory finish.For example, the stain should reach to the bottom of the joint to insure a uniform color. Polyurethane should also be applied in the joints so they don't absorb dirt and water, which would quickly darken. Make sure the color is consistent from one box to another.

Lighter woods are more likely to change color or turn yellow from the effect of intense light or the sun's rays. To reduced and slow discoloration, some manufacturers mix a UV treatments directly into their polyurethane finish. An antimicrobial agent can also be added to the finish. This treatment provides a more hygienic environments and a floor that is easier to clean.

IMPREFECTIONS - Know how to recognize imperfections. It's normal and even pleasant to see some healthy knots and mineral marks in the wood. These characteristics don't affect the quality of the floor, and actually make it look even more real. However, some manufacturers let a percentage of manufacturing or finishing defects slip through, reducing the quality of the final product.

"V" JOINTS - Once assembled, pre finished hardwood floor boards from a "V" joint. the "V" joint should be as small and as uniform as possible to hide imperfections in the sub floor. This would also prevent premature wear on board edges and make it easier to move furniture without damaging the wood or the finish. If the joint is too deep, dirt and dust will accumulate and your floor will be harder to maintain.

WARRANTY - Polyurethane applied after installation are much less wear resistant than factory finishes, and only the application is guaranteed. Pre finished floors, on the other hand, are finished with multiple coatings of polyurethane applied in ideal conditions and dried under ultraviolet light, and are generally guaranteed for 15, 20 or 30 years. These finishes are exceptionally durable. If you follow the maintenance procedures, they will last far beyond the warranty.