Chestnut baseboard trim © Daniel FriedmanGuide to Kinds of Wood Flooring Materials

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Types of wood flooring: A photo guide to all types and ages of wood flooring in buildings. The list of flooring types by wood species, widths, thickness, edge types (square, shiplap, tongue & groove), and the history and age of the use of these products in buildings is enormous.

Here we provide photographs of a collection of wood flooring types as an aid to flooring restorers, preservationists, and inspectors wishing to determine the age of a building and its materials.

The age of a building can be determined quite accurately by documentation, but when documents are not readily available, visual clues such as those available during a professional home inspection can still determine when a house was built.

We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.

List of Types & Ages of Wood Floors Used in buildings

Wideboard wood floor ca 1860 © Daniel Friedman

Warnings to Wood Floor Restorers

The properties of wood as well as its coatings change over time. Wideboard shiplap-edged floors in an 1860's house we restored in Wappingers Falls NY had been coated with a paint made of oxblood and milk. 125 years later this coating was difficult to remove.

Not wanting to use modern floor sanders to make the floors in this historic home dead flat, we tried sanding with portable sanders and found ourselves replacing the sanding belt or disc ever few minutes. Water or other chemicals did not help. We resorted to hand scraping and sanding.

Our antique wide board flooring photos (below) show before and after photographs of the wide board flooring repaired and restored by the author [DF]. These soft pine boards were edged in a ship-lap or "L" cut design in which about 50% of the each board edge is rabbeted or cut away.

Wideboard wood floor ca 1860 © Daniel Friedman

Older solid wood boards typically used before 1800 in the Northeastern U.S. often were made of solid 1" thick boards with squared and butted edges.

Watch out: do not fill gaps between shiplap cut or tongue-and groove cut wood floor boards. At Wood Floor Damage we discuss causes and proper treatment of gaps between wood floor boards.

Chestnut baseboard trim © Daniel Friedman

Wood also may become very hard with age. This example about chestnut trim applies to salvaging old wood flooring as well. Removing old trim may require the simultaneous use of multiple thin pry bars to avoid ruining the material.

Nails should be removed from the back of the trim, not the front, by pulling the nail through the wood board. If you try to hammer nails back out from the back to the front or exposed face of the board the nail head will usually split and damage the face of the trim board.

We removed chestnut trim boards in this 1900 home (photo at left) in Poughkeepsie, NY to route new electrical wiring in the lower walls.

It was impossible to nail these beautiful boards back in place - it was like nailing iron. Every nail hole had to be drilled to avoid damaging the wood. The flooring shown here is a combination of 1900's vintage strip flooring and inlay.

Wood Inlay & Parquet Flooring

Parquet floor with inlay © Daniel Friedman

Continuing with another photo of the Poughkeepsie home built ca 1900, the parquet flooring was surrounded by wood inlay border.

Unfortunately this floor had been sanded several times, resulting in parquet and trim so thin that only the most gentle, non-destructive re-finishing was feasible.

Where parquet sections had come loose a previous owner had secured them with many tiny wire nails.

These were removed by the author, loose pieces were cleaned, and the repaired sections were re-glued to a backer and replaced in the floor.

The result was a salvaged "too thin to sand" but beautiful 1900 parquet floor.

Modern Narrow-Width Solid Wood Strip Flooring

Strip pine flooring © Daniel Friedman

Widespread popular use of thin-width 3/4" thick wood strip flooring began in the U.S. in the 1920's and continued to the 1980's.

Look closely at the edge of the floor, perhaps pulling up quarter-round or baseboard floor trim to expose the very perimeter of the floor, and you may be able to determine how much thickness of the wood has been lost from prior re-sanding and re-finishing.

Our photo, left, shows original pine flooring in a 1920 home restored by the author in Poughkeepsie, NY.

Modern Thin Width Short Length Wood Strip Flooring

Wood Flooring pre finished © Daniel FriedmanWidespread popular use of shorter-length thin-width 3/4" thick wood strip flooring began in the U.S. in the 1980's as the price of solid wood flooring and wood in general increased rapidly.

Often sold in composite sections (multiple lengths or even widths pre-glued together, and usually pre-finished (see below) this flooring material can be as beautiful as its older longer-length sister.

Carefully chosen and matched thin-strip, wood short length

Our photo of a non-vee type pre-finished oak short-strip full 3/4" thick flooring (below-left) was installed in a home constructed in 1998 shows a floor that can be sanded and re-finished if needed.


Pre-Finished Wood Flooring Materials, Wide Width Hickory

Pre-finished wood flooring can significantly reduce the installation cost for wood floors in a home. Because such floors may be installed by inexpert builders, perhaps over an uneven subfloor without an underlayment, some pre-finished wood flooring is beveled along the board edges, providing a "Vee-groove" shown between abutting floor boards.

The Vee will disguise slight irregularities in the floor installation (common) and slight variations in thickness between abutting boards (uncommon).

Wood Flooring pre finished © Daniel Friedman
Our pre-finished floor installed at left was installed in 2010, used 5-inch wide pre-finished hickory hardwood floor materials.

Hickory is among the hardest of wood floor materials, and is very resistant to damage from rolling desk chairs and furniture or use.

The lovely wood grain pattern shown is the result of work by the authors to pre-sort and arrange individual floor boards before the installers nailed them in place. Alternatively, installers simply nail the boards in a random pattern that can also be attractive to some.

Photo courtesy of Eric Galow, Galow Homes.

Watch out: V-grooved pre-finished floors cannot be easily sanded and re-finished.

In a traditional un-finished wood strip floor installation job any irregularities would vanish during finish sanding and finishing of the floor before the coats of stain (optional) and clear top coating are applied.

But keep in mind that a V-groove pre-finished wood floor cannot be sanded for re-finishing without causing a cosmetic problem: unless the floor is sanded so deeply as to remove the "V" grooves completely, the grooves will be inconsistent across the re-finished floor, a troubling cosmetic defect to many owners.



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