So far as houses are concerned the commonest floor is of wood. Let us take that one first. We can have wooden floors of hard wood - oak, maple, birch, and beech. Or we can have soft wood - pine, hemlock, fir, or redwood, and some others. I have not included teak or walnut, or mahogany, or a dozen other imported woods that make most magnificent floors, for the simple reason that they cost more than the small home builder can afford, beautiful as they are.
1 Adapted from "Variety in Finish Flooring," Small Home, March, 1930. For information on subflooring see the article "The Backbone of the Floor," ibid., February, 1930, also written by Mr. Jones.
Now, if you were to approach this matter very carefully you would obtain technical documents that are prepared by wood flooring manufacturers in which they state the qualities possessed by the various grades of floors they manufacture. They are called grading rules. You would find that every kind of ordinary wood flooring is manufactured in a number of different grades. These grades are determined principally by the appearance of the wood, by the number and kind of defects in it, and by the average length of strips. The first grade has a surface practically free of defects with an average length of approximately 5'. The second grade admits slight imperfections like tiny worm holes or small tight knots. The average length of these strips is 4'. The third grade will be of such a nature that it will make a sound floor without cutting, and the average length of these pieces is 3'. Any of these grades may be obtained either in flat sawed stock or quarter sawed.
One makes a choice on the basis of the appearance of the wood, the way it is to be stained, and the kind of effect desired, and adjusts the grade to his purse. For the inexpensive residences the middle grades are recommended and preferably the thickness known as 13/16".
Rather generally speaking there are two classes of pine, southern and northern. Southern pine has a quality of grain that is distinctly marked especially after it is stained. Hemlock is like this also. Northern pine does not ordinarily have such a strong grain figure. So we find these kinds with the elaborate graining used for finished floors and the others employed principally for subfloors or floors over which linoleum or flexible tiles are to be laid. Fir and redwood are used extensively where they will be exposed to weather.
This much must be noted - if the finished floors are of soft wood they must be quarter sawn. These woods when flat sawed turn up flakes of wood growth that would splinter readily and wear badly if used as flooring. On the other hand, soft woods of edge grain stock or quarter sawed wear very well indeed. The hard woods are hard enough so that quarter sawing is not necessary.
Again, any of these wooden floors may be obtained in various widths. Ordinarily the common floor that most of us can afford is made of boards that finish 2" across the face, but much wider boards can be used. Some of these in very expensive woods are made of veneered stock. Some are of solid wood impregnated with waterproofing so that they will not change in form or volume with exposure to the air. We call these floors of wider boards "plank" floors. They are extremely handsome, but they are also somewhat costly. When they are used in random widths, fastened down with screws to simulate the appearance of pegs, and keyed together with dovetailed sections that fit into adjoining pieces of the boarding, they are handsome indeed, giving us some of the qualities possessed by old English floors.
Then there are block floors made of oak. Here thin strips of ordinary flooring are jointed together very closely into small squares and fastened on the back with metal bonds. These are laid in an asphalt mastic. The resulting appearance is checkered. The old name for such flooring laid in short lengths of individual pieces is parquetry. Thus there is a rather . wide range of widths and shapes of wooden flooring from which the home builder may make his selection.
Maple, birch, and beech are particularly fine when treated with one of the new stain and lacquer finishes that have been perfected by cooperation between the maple flooring manufacturers and a paint maker. Previously these woods were used principally where it was desired to get a very light colored floor. The stains then available did not seem to penetrate the wood satisfactorily, so dense and hard it was. The new stains are available in practically every color under the sun, and the wood takes them well. The delicate graining is brought out distinctly. These stains may be used with other woods. And thus the home builder's choice of wood for his flooring is decidedly widened. One has to see these floors to appreciate their beauty. They represent a distinct contribution to beautiful home building.