Fabulous Flooring

Things to consider before installing herringbone wood floors

Move over, chevron – there’s a new pattern in our lives. Its name is herringbone and we’re deep in the honeymoon phase. Over the past couple of years we saw chevron everywhere. Literally. From wallpaper to bedding to kitchen towels to the fingernails of our favorite celebs, we were absolutely bombarded with the zigzag print. This year, however, chevron’s handsome cousin has graciously taken the lead when it comes to home décor, and we’re mightily impressed.

In French, the herringbone pattern is known as batons rompus. For those of us who slept through French class, this literally translates to “broken sticks.” It makes sense – herringbone floors are made by arranging pieces of rectangular wood in a zigzag pattern, staggered so that the end of one plank meets the side of another (not to be confused with chevron, where the wood planks are cut on angle so the pieces meet along a perfectly straight axis.) The result is positively stunning and adds dynamic texture to any room that needs a little oomph.

Make sure your wood choice is environmentally responsible.

If you’re lusting over the idea of installing herringbone wood floors in your home, here are some things to consider before you begin the process.

It’s super easy to mess up. The zigzag pattern is unforgiving and the installation is more complex than it looks. It’s best to hire a pro to help you avoid costly mistakes.

Determine which way the pattern should run. Typically, herringbone looks best when the points run in the longest direction of the room or when  directed at a focal point.

Choose your wood wisely. Areas that get a lot of foot traffic, like the kitchen and family room, will benefit from a harder wood like oak or ash. A softer wood like pine should hold up nicely in your master bedroom.

Go green. Make sure your wood choice is environmentally responsible by checking for FSC or SFI labels on the wood, which guarantee that it came from a sustainable source.

Consider salvaged wood. Using salvaged wood produces a beautiful, unique result. However, keep in mind that going this route often means you have to deal with removing nails and weeding out wonky boards.

Select a finish. After your new floors are sanded they’ll need to be finished. Some conventional wisdom: The glossier the finish, the easier it will hold up to traffic. Polyurethane tends to be the most popular choice.

Image: Richard Powers/Corbis

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Kate Kasbee
Kate Kasbee is a blogger and freelance copywriter living in Los Angeles. She has a background in real estate marketing and has also written about a variety of subjects including pet care, how to adopt a vegan diet, and technology. Prior to living in sunny California, Kate spent eight years in Chicago where she lived in nine different apartments in five different neighborhoods. Though she’s not quite done exploring, Kate dreams of planting her roots and owning a home with creaky floors and plenty of land for starting an organic farm.
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