Deciding between “natural” and “select” maple flooring was the biggest point of contention when we were patiently pricing out hardwoods over the summer.
Briefly stated, the differences between the two qualities are based on alleged coloring, with “select” being considered more “premium” with a more consistent light wood coloring, fewer visible wood grains, fewer knots. Natural is more so just that, natural, with some variation in tone, a few knots, and a product that looked more overall like “second rate,” one might say.
But quite honestly, the installed flooring samples in Lumber Liquidators didn’t look that different when I compared natural and select side-by-side, and customers’ real-life photos all around the internet didn’t seem to vary much either. Both products consistently looked good to us when installed in mass, both reflected light beautifully as we hoped for in our own home, and as much as I wanted the guarantee that all of our hardwoods were going to be consistent in color, in the end, I didn’t believe that I could have a 100% perfect order even if I did pay more for “select.” The pricing (made even better with the pro discount we received because we asked) varied greatly between the two, and having gone with “natural” over “select” we saved thousands of dollars (that’s a lot of mochas). It’s hard to gamble that much money on a “select” product we weren’t 100% certain would be 100% what we expected.
Pricing aside, the other factor that heavily contributed to our decision to go “natural” was the fact that we were going to be buying 5″ wide boards, the widest of the solid Bellawood options. The sheer fact that the boards were sawn wider left us with a smaller chance of many of our boards being startlingly discolored, and more of a chance of having a spot here and there. That, coupled with the real life photos I scoured that, as I mentioned, didn’t look bad at all, we took a risk, and we’re pretty happy/relieved with the coloring of the product so far. Of course, it isn’t 100% consistent, but as I’ve been racking them out on a large scale, we’ve been pleased at how many of the boards do look really great.
All that said, not all of our maple boards are pretty blonde bombshells though, and those boards which aren’t beautiful and even-toned are the ones I’ve affectionally been calling The Uggos. Most of the boards that fall into The Uggo grouping have striated coloring, with varying shades of browns and goldens woven through the pretty bleached blonde shades. Some have smooth surface knots or small knotty gouges. Some are really bad. But many, actually, are really beautiful and organic and desirable in their own regard, just not for this particular application.
Now, it’s true that most of the pieces that are most effected by poor coloring are shorter pieces. If it was our goal to have a very mixed up looking floor, we might try and interject them here and there to break up the cleanliness of the light wood boards (it might look a bit more “cabiny” this way). Actually, worth us remembering if we look at this post some years down the road, the striated boards are Julia’s favorites because they remind her of the zebra striped brazilian boards she admired at the big L.L. (as I mentioned in this post, never to go floor shopping with a child and expect them to like your modest flooring choices). She actually likes the oddball Uggos so much that she’s requested that her whole room be filled with them. Not that we will do that because we’re not crazy–her room will hopefully look as consistent as the rest of the house–but it’s nice to know that she welcomes that kind of look if we were to need to sneak a board or two in a place that would most definitely always forever be covered with an area rug.
If we weren’t all that concerned about running out of floorboards, we’d probably be quick to just put these boards aside and move on, but because we want to be resourceful with what we’ve bought (maybe even return a few unopened boxes for cash money reimbursement), we’ll do what any sane person would do: divide the Uggos from the awesome inventory, and hide them in the closets.
That’s not the best picture–it’s damn dark in there–but the darkness and depth of some of our closets means that we won’t see the Uggos on a daily basis, and even if we were able to, the floor of the closets is sure to be covered with things to distract from what’s there. Amiright? This is going to work out.
Aside from the striped boards that are being gathered for eventual closet installation, I’m also taking the time to divide out the super weird looking boards like this one, which would appear to be maple, but a completely different color than any other maples placed in the racking so far. Shown here on top of the nursery floorboards, it’s one of the more “WTF” Uggo boards we’ve come across, perfectly demonstrating the range of “natural.” Even so, it shall make for a nice back-of-the-closet board.
To give you a sneak peek on real progress on our install, it may have taken two days to get this far with the flooring, but things are looking good, and when the sun shines in, we get a chance to see what a different house it will be:
It’s still a far ways from being done, but remember what it looked like right before we moved in, and after we primed the walls? Every visual reminder of what this house used to look like keeps us inspired.