How can you match existing hardwood and new hardwood flooring?
Most homes in Westchester County have hardwood floors, at least in some areas of the house. Hardwood flooring is by far the preferred choice of flooring especially in mid to higher end homes.
The trend has been to add hardwood to most areas of the home, and we are often getting calls where customers would like to add wood to places where it’s missing such as the kitchen, entryway, family room or 2nd floor…it all varies based on how your home was constructed.
The good news is that it’s usually fairly easy to match your existing hardwood for a harmonious look.
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Matching new and existing wood – video intro
Here are the factors to consider when matching existing and new hardwood floors:
1. Thickness/height of flooring (and sub-floor)
Most houses in Westchester have solid hardwood flooring which is 3/4″ thick. It’s much easier to match if you have solid hardwood. Note: there are some homes that have engineered hardwood, and this may be very difficult, if not impossible to match unless you know the manufacturer/item (and it is still made). But, most houses here have solid hardwood which is good news both for longevity, flexibility in color and “match-ability.”
It’s important that the new area where you’ll be installing has 3/4″ plywood sub-floor. (Note: if you have a concrete sub-floor this will make it much more difficult (and likely more expensive) to install solid hardwood. You can learn more about this here: Solid vs engineered hardwood.
It’s also smart to check if your sub-floor is consistent in height to the existing sub-floor for the other wood. If it is, your height should be even. If it’s not, you may want to explore removing another layer of plywood or adding some, pending the height difference.
2. Species/grade of hardwood
The next step is to identify the species and grade of the wood. Most homes in Westchester and the East Coast have oak flooring. But, of course, it’s not as simple as that. The first question is whether you have red oak or white oak flooring. These are 2 different species, and you need to match to the correct one. You can learn more about red and white oak flooring here.
Please note that there are other common species of wood such as maple, douglas fir and yellow pine. If your house was built in the 1920’s or before, there is a good chance that you have one of these species. You can learn more about the most common flooring species here.
The next step is to identify the grade of wood. Do you have select grade or No 1 or No 2. There are also other cuts of wood such as rifted and quarter-sawn. You can learn more about hardwood flooring grades in this article.
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This is generally the simplest to figure out. Just take a tape measure and measure the current width of your wood. Most Westchester houses, especially those built before 2000 have the standard 2 1/4″ strips. The standard sizes for solid oak flooring is 2 1/4″, 3 1/4″, 4″ and 5″.
Now, if you would like to do a larger size than what you currently have, this is possible. The decision on this should be based on preference and aesthetics, and this may depend on the area and shape of the room (s) being done.
Most people prefer wider planks as it is more stylish and makes the room look larger. But, in some circumstances this may look out of place if the rest of the floor is 2 1/4″. Here are some times where it can make visual sense to go wider:
- If you are adding hardwood to a different level (e.g. if you have 2 1/4″ on the 1st floor and you are adding wood to the 2nd floor.
- If you are adding wood to the kitchen and you are trying to set it apart and/or going on a diagonal or a different direction for the kitchen. This works in some layouts and not in others. It’s a judgment call.
- If you are adding wood to the Master Bedroom and trying to upgrade it/set it apart. Again, this works in some layouts, but not in others. It also works well when it’s a squarish room and you are laying the wood on a diagonal.
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Generally, if you have oak hardwood flooring, provided that you match the existing species and grade, you can generally refinish the wood to match the stain on the existing portion. (This assumes you hire a professional hardwood sanding company).
Please note that because hardwood darkens over time, it may not be an exact match, but it will be pretty close. Please also note that if you have a custom blend of stains on your floor, it may be more challenging to match, as well as if you have used wax on the floors (note: some cleaning products have wax in them).
Importantly, if you are adding the same species of wood to your floors, you have the option of refinishing all the floors and changing all of the colors so they are uniform. Often you can go lighter or darker, pending your preference. See: Can you change the color of your hardwood floors?
If you’d like to know the most popular stain colors for hardwood floors, read this article.
5. Direction of wood and whether to Weave In
Hardwood should be installed perpendicular to the joists or on diagonal for the best stability. However, occasionally, homeowners make a strategic choice to alter the direction of the wood.
One reason for changing would be to accentuate the longer length of the room (if it’s rectangular. Another reason for this could be if one wants to change the width of the wood in the new area. Or, this could be because the color may be different (and/or it may be slightly different than the existing and changing direction fools the eye). And, a 4th reason for changing direction may be to avoid weaving in the hardwood. This leads into the next choice…
Should you weave in the hardwood to the existing wood? This depends on direction of wood as well as budget and area to be done. There is no one size fits all. If the new wood is parallel to existing wood, this is a non-issue as wood does not need to be woven in; rather, it would just be laid next to existing wood.
But, if the wood is flowing in the same direction, you may want to consider weaving it into the existing wood as it will make your space look larger. Of course, if you do this, you MUST use the same width as the existing hardwood.
(Note: It’s very challenging to weave in new wood if you have pine floors since the woods are milled at different widths vs 100+ years ago so the pieces will not line up).
If you weave in new hardwood, you must sand and refinish the existing room where the new unfinished wood has been woven in. For many, this is not an issue as many may want to change the color and/or it may be time to refinish the existing area due to normal wear and tear. For others, it creates a domino effect and makes the project scope to large.
Obviously, it costs more to weave in wood. There is more labor involved (and you must have someone experienced in this area) and you need more wood to do the job. Plus, you need to refinish a larger area.
Alternatively, you can consider adding a flush saddle (or a full saddle) to separate the new and old areas. If the transition area is a doorway, this looks normal (and may save you money later if you need to refinish one of the areas rather than the whole area).
But, if it’s a long transition (e.g. if it’s an open floor plan from kitchen to family room or dining room), this may look a bit odd. This is a judgment call both in terms of aesthetics and budget. But, remember, this is a permanent change. Once you choose, you can’t easily undo your decision years later. So plan for the long term.
Pending on above decisions and areas to be done, you may need some transition strips. If the wood is the same height, you may be able to do a flush saddle. Or, a saddle may work better if you have saddles in the doorways (alternatively, a t-molding can be used as that has a much lower height threshold.). If the heights are different between rooms either a reducer or saddle can be used. All of these should be made of matching hardwood so that they look like they belong.
Conclusion on matching new and existing hardwood
If you have solid hardwood, it’s relatively simple for a professional hardwood flooring contractor to match what you have. It’s important to look at height, type, species, grade, width, color and direction of wood.
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If you live in Westchester County NY, I offer color consultations to advise customers on paint colors and stain choices. My designer discount at the paint stores usually more than offsets the cost for the hour consultation. Read more here. Due to many requests, I’ve now started to offer phone consultations as well.
For more info, check out my Ebook – Top 6 Hardwood Refinishing FAQ’s.
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Tips on Matching New and Existing Hardwood Floors | Westchester County NY