Hardwood Flooring Guide-Types, Cost and Best Brand Reviews

Hardwood Flooring Buying Guide – Pros & Cons, Cost, Installation and Best Brands 2022

The very obsession with wood floors and wooden anchor pieces or even secondary furniture is a legit and quite tasteful décor choice. The way hardwood floors fascinate us with their appearance and how satisfying they feel when stepped on, doesn’t need a particular emphasis, for sure!

What Is Hardwood Flooring? 

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Hardwood, regarding its very origin, comes from timber and this entirely aesthetic décor staple features endless species options in the first place, since we’re dealing with wood. The rest of the beauty lies in those classy patterns, texture, design and color choices. 

Hardwood Flooring has merely two main types

  • Solid Hardwood Flooring
  • Engineered Hardwood Flooring

Structure And Layers Of The Two Types Of Hardwood Flooring 

Real hardwood flooring simply comes within two versions and the differentiation mainly takes place based on core construction and whether the manufacturing involves other materials too.

Solid Hardwood Flooring Construction

Solid Hardwood Layers

Solid Hardwood Flooring features a single piece of wood within its construction and this distinctive structure gives rise to the unquestionable durability of this flooring. It comes in the forms of either unfinished or prefinished.

It’s the kind of hardwood flooring that is the most sustainable choice for areas with greater extents of foot traffic. Besides, it’s the one that’s totally guaranteed to last for decades. However, it might not be a suitable option for basements. Also, it can be sanded multiple times, no matter which brand is being used. 

Engineered Hardwood Flooring Structure

Engineered Hardwood Layers

Engineered Hardwood Flooring usually features an MDF or Plywood core with a thinly sliced layering of natural wood as the topmost layer. The bottom layer features wood too, with certain variations at times.

This type of hardwood flooring comes prefinished (multiple layered coating) and some manufacturers might require a few attempts of sanding before the flooring gets ready to be installed. This flooring comes with an improved stability and enhanced resistance for the surrounding humidity. 

Dimensional Emphasis Of Hardwood Planks

There are several versatile factors involved within hardwood flooring and for ensuring the most suitable selection, it’s essential to have a detailed comprehension of each.

That’s how you can figure out what kind of flooring finish you want for yourself or the best species that will ideally sync with your decors. 

Hardwood Flooring Styles 

It’s mandatory to know at this point that there are multiple species of wood available within both engineered and solid wood floorings. 

However, the versions of engineered wood flooring might get confined at a stage, because of some wood species being unable to convert into engineered flooring. 

Species of Hardwood

For wood species, there are nearly endless choices to explore, thanks to the breathtaking diversity of nature. There are both quite commonly used types and those that are rarely found, available and used, but still are super classy options. 

Let’s explore some of the amazing names that are greatly popular and the most in use:

Hardwood Flooring Species
  • Oak: Often available in the hues of red and white, oak is quite a suitable and aesthetic flooring choice, with the assurance of durability, as well.

  • Hickory: one notable example amongst the hardest domestic wood species, hickory is a flawlessly durable choice and makes the best rustic decors.

  • Maple: The neutral-toned maple is quite a hard, heavy-duty and stain-resistant domestic species and works best in terms of prefinished boards

  • Walnut: Walnut makes dark-colored floorings, so a perfect choice for dark hued interiors. However, the softer structure might not be suitable for high footfall areas.

  • Pine: Pine hardwood flooring, being softer, is susceptible to scratches, dents, and dings. However, there are several amazing species available, such as Heart Pine.

  • Cherry: Cherry, in the first place, isn’t that likely to be used for flooring rather, the major utilization involves furniture making. Still, it can be chosen if you want a rich-colored flooring. 

Some lesser known and more of really exotic options include:

  • Bamboo: Bamboo is a nice entirely green choice, because it’s grass. Bamboo flooring only comes within engineered type and is an eco-friendly option because of its rapid growth. 

  • Brazilian Cherry: Also known as Jatoba, this exotic hardwood makes reasonably long-lasting flooring. However, it can get darker over time because of exposure to sunlight.

  • Acacia: Acacia is an eco-friendly wood floor choice and has been a really popular flooring choice lately, because of the higher levels of its durability. 

  • Eucalyptus: This is an effective option for the areas with greater extents of humidity and its engineered planks can even be installed within bathrooms and kitchens. 

  • French Oak: French Oak is an easily available and pretty amazing exotic option to consider for a hardwood flooring treatment, regarding durability and versatility. 

  • Brazilian Walnut: often called IPE too. This flooring comes with a strong resistance against rotting and moisture damage and is an effective way to achieve dimensional beauty in an interior. 

  • Cork: Cork not only is an extremely attractive flooring choice but also features incredible resistance and is an entirely practical choice to consider. 

Not to mention those more rare and super classy choices:

  • Tigerwood: Otherwise called Brazilian Koa, tigerwood is quite an exotic and high-end option to go for. However, it’s pretty expensive, too. 

  • Bloodwood: This wood flooring comes with versatile and eye-catching color options, and those pinkish red grain hues look absolutely mesmerizing.

  • Wenge: This exotic hardwood floor is a popular choice for modern decors and some of the rich colors such as dark chocolate seem really inviting. 

  • Santos Mahogany: This is a coveted exotic hardwood flooring, with the major advantage of the rich shades remaining the same over time. 

  • Heart Pine: Heart Pine is an incredibly strong and resilient species for hardwood flooring and the tones and sturdiness lasts the longest 

Hardwood Flooring Finishes

Finishing a wood refers to the procedure done to it before the application of the top coat. And totally unlike the misconception, it ain’t some sort of a protective element for the flooring. 

Now the choice of finish absolutely depends on you whether you want a satisfying and well-done smooth finish or are more of a fan of rustic, uneven yet pleasurable surfaces.

These are the main finishing styles for hardwood floors:

Hardwood Flooring Finishing Styles
  • Smooth: This of course refers to what comes in your mind after reading the word, i.e. the even and totally leveled finish that will look nice, modern and delightful at the same time.

  • Hand Scraped: The finish that’s perfect to pair up with Vintage furniture, antique decor and classic themes, as it gives off a rustic look and even the boards are totally new, this kind of finish aces with the wear effect it depicts, making it look older.

  • Distressed: It’s the flooring finish that’s made to undergo several processes and rough up in order to achieve a reclaimed look. Besides, sometimes even truly reclaimed boards are used for this kind of wood floor finish.

  • Wire Brushed: This wood floor finish brings about a texture on the surface and you can even induce any of your customization at this point, too. Besides, it’s also a smart way to conceal any of the floor imperfections, specifically scratches caused by pets.

Difference Between Unfinished And Pre Finished Hardwood Flooring

Both solid and engineered hardwood floors come within two types of finishes

Difference Between Unfinished And Pre Finished Hardwood Flooring
  • Prefinished Hardwood Flooring (Factory finished flooring featuring Polyurethane coating)
  • Unfinished Hardwood Flooring (Raw wood requiring sanding and finishing after installation)

Ahead are the salient aspects of the two

Prefinished Hardwood Flooring Unfinished Hardwood Flooring 
Requires staining and sealing before installationStaining and sealing is done after installation
Is quicker to install and utilizeCannot be used immediately after installation and can require up to weeks before usage
Not a lot of color or wood grain choices available Wide range of species and color options available
Can last up to 50 yearsLasts up to 5 years (on-site applied finishes)

Ways Of Finishing Hardwood Floors

A nice and thick finishing coat can really change the game of how your flooring is supposed to function and for how long it lasts. 

There are three major manners of finishing your hardwood floors, considering the scenario that you’re going for an on-site floor finishing. Or you can have the other understanding, i.e. there are three key elements used for on-site finishing. 

  • Aluminum Oxide

Going for aluminum oxide finishing is the most durable option and it goes particularly best for engineered flooring. It can efficiently withstand major wear and tear and can last up to a good 25 years.

  • Wax

Applying floor wax is a perfect way to seal your wood floors and to eliminate all the imperfections such as scratches, stains, dents and porous points. Besides, it also revives the floors shine and even works over Parquet Floorings, too. 

  • Polyurethane 

Finishing with Polyurethane is a practical choice if you’re doing the job yourself, besides dealing with Polyurethane is really easy when there is a need for redoing or touching up the floor. You can either choose an oil-based Polyurethane or can go with the water-based one. 

Hardwood Floor Grading 

Grading system is one major deciding factor for both the quality and working of the type of wood you’re dealing with. Grading helps you determine the right choice for you under the purposes you look forward to. 

Clear

“Clear Grade” refers to a high-end premium flooring that is meant to be expensive. However, the remarkable design options, textured grain patterns, and versatile color pallets with the highest consistency are totally worth the price. Made only from heartwood, it’s the most top-tier style of flooring. 

Select

Select grade is somewhat a standard next to the Clear grade and you can totally settle for it, if you can’t manage to find clear grade flooring. Select grade flooring is relatively a less premium version of the clear grade one and comes with the notable perk of no plank knocks or pinholes present. 

Common #1

This grade includes quite inexpensive floorings and those that come with variations. The looks appear really natural and you can easily depict your choice of wood texture(s) with such floorings. 

Common #2

Common #2 grade includes the cheapest wood species and this grade flooring is just your thing to go for if you’re a fan of rustic textures. However, this kind of flooring comes with a lot of burls and knocks and there are certain variations, too. Common #2 grade flooring is a phenomenal choice to pair up with classic decor themes. 

Cabin Grade 

Also known by the other names of Builders or Tavern grade, this grade of flooring works best for areas with heavier footfall. The flooring has a lot of wormholes, milling marks and knots and there is no consistency found at all. Still, as suggested by the name, this grade of flooring can be used within cabins, and is not that much of a good idea otherwise. 

Solid Hardwood Vs Engineered Hardwood Flooring; Which One To Go For.

Solid vs Engineered Hardwood Flooring

A right choice among the two is often likely to become really difficult, since both have their significance in corresponding dimensions. However, let’s take a look ahead for a quick and precise analysis.

Solid Hardwood FlooringEngineered Hardwood Flooring
Features 100% hardwood species such as Oak, Maple, Pine, etc.Features a Plywood core and only has a thin layer of wood on top
Refinishing and sanding can be done repeatedly Can’t be refinished a lot
Is a project requiring professional skillIs a convenient DIY project 
Can’t withstand humidity or moisture a lot Has more resistance to humidity and water 
Can last up to 100 years and more with adequate maintenance Can last up to 30 years or more with proper care

Maintaining Hardwood Floors 

Hardwood floors are undoubtedly serviceable for long, though it’s equally crucial that you ensure taking appropriate care of them, in order to make the most out of them. Not to mention, those essential procedures meant for fixing the flaws of your flooring and revamping their beauty as well.

Given below are the major ones for which you can either seek the expert help or can take over as a DIY project, too. 

Refinishing Hardwood Floors

Refinishing is one of the essential maintenance factors required by hardwood flooring. And the rest of significance of carrying out this procedure lies because it serves as an effective fix, too. 

Besides, often refinishing saves from having an entire floor replacement, too. Besides that, refinishing addresses various other floor damages as well, like dents, scratches, warping, cupping and dulled out appearance. 

You can either hire professional help for this purpose and can even try it yourself with a few essential supplies at hand. 

When To Refinish Hardwood Floorings 

The interval of refinishing initially depends on the thickness of your flooring. However, under a general rule of thumb, get the procedure done every 7 to 10 years, during the entire lifespan of your flooring.
  • If your hardwood floor is 3/4 inches thick, get it refinished for up to 6 times during its whole working

  • Avoid excessive refinishing, if your floor is up to 1/4 inches thick, as this will cause shedding of the surface 

Why Hardwood Floor Sanding Is Necessary?

Sanding helps get rid of several issues and can be used as a strategy for reviving the floor’s profile, as well. Often, there begin to appear several notable signs of wear, even if there is no major damage visible, which of course, ends up in worsening the way your floors look.

Certain aspects such as excessive exposure to sun, humidity or high temperature can cause staining and discoloration of the floors. Sanding is an efficient maintenance technique to deal with such problematic areas.

Much like scrubbing/exfoliating, sanding sheds away the defaced layer of the floor, revealing the fresh and healthy wooden layer beneath. Sanding is an amazing way to make your floors look like new. 

Genuine Perks Of Hardwood Flooring

Investing in hardwood flooring is a definite win-win situation in multiple ways

  • Hardwood Floors are a genuine increment in the value of your properties: And this, of course, is an aspect that is favorable for your future decisions involving resales. Besides, it’s meant to entice a reasonable number of potential buyers to your place.

  • A fool-proof means of insulation: This pleasurable warmth will be your ultimate comfort provider in colder times of the year and will reduce your energy costs, as an added benefit, too.

  • The freedom of styling: Wood floors are certainly the most adorable element on their own and still, if you want some additional designing or like to personalize your space with your aesthetic taste, these floors give you a nearly infinite canvas to play with. From prefinished textures and effects, all the way to those stains you give to your unfinished hardwood floors after installation, it’s all meant to please you, beyond an extent.

  • The durability you can’t question: By all means, it’s the investment that won’t ever stop serving you for years on end. Apart from the engineered flooring, if you get to choose some genuine and super thick species, the resultant flooring lasts for more than a century.

  • You can say farewell to your allergies: And every breathing difficulty or allergic discomfort, as well. Not only the hardwood floors create really healthy air quality within the interiors but also are wholly hygienic in nature. So whether you’ve got pets or babies or both, you don’t need to get concerned about anything ahead.

  • They are the easiest to manage: which implies the reliving fact that you don’t really need to set aside a huge maintenance budget or several hours for taking care of your flooring. They are, after all, really convenient to maintain and sustain.

Non-Favorable Aspects Of Hardwood Flooring

For sure, hardwood floors have got a dark side, as well. And if you can relate with the upcoming situations, odds are this might not be the thing for you. 

  • You can cause a painful blow to your budget, if are settling for some really detailed or high-end designs

  • You can’t have this flooring within moisture-prone areas and below-grade spaces such as basements

  • Hardwood flooring is a legit troublesome element when it comes to the procedures of installation, removal and replacement

  • Cold floors are likely to be something not acceptable to you

  • Your pets can cause several damages to hardwood flooring such as scratches. 

Ways For Hardwood Flooring Installation

There are 4 mainstream manners in which hardwood flooring can be fitted. Hiring professional installation services is highly recommended for the detailed ones.

  • Nail Down: This method involves fastening of the wood boards to the subfloors with the help of nails. It’s quite risky as a DIY project and the safest option is to seek professional services. 

  • Glue Down: In this method, the planks are spread entirely with glue and then pressed down onto the subfloors. It works mainly for engineered hardwood flooring and parquet flooring, and if the adhering mess isn’t an issue for you, you can do it yourself, as well.

  • Staple Down: This method works pretty similar to that of the nail down one, except because staples are used to get the flooring attached instead of nails. Professional fitting is suggested for this method, too. 

  • Floating: It’s the easiest and quickest way of hardwood installation since the flooring is only made to float atop the subfloor and not attached to it in any way. For making the flooring secure, the boards can either be snapped together tightly or can be attached with the help of an adhesive at some larger points. Often there is a padding placement between the subfloors and the flooring, so as to absorb both moisture and noise production. 

Floating hardwood installation is the most versatile method because it works over all subfloors and this procedure isn’t way too difficult as a DIY project, as well. 

Effective Tips For Buying Hardwood Flooring

There are at least 7 various factors that you need to keep in mind before making a hardwood flooring purchase, so as to gain adequate favorability from the next treatment. 

  • Accurate Idea Of Your Subfloor: Subfloors undoubtedly play a vital role regarding any and every flooring treatment, so it goes without saying that you need to have a sound knowledge about them. Besides, the type of subfloor also decides the method of hardwood flooring installation that needs to be considered. 

  • Estimated Foot Traffic And Usage Extent: This refers to whether or not your intended space has to bear huge footfall or extreme/severe usage. Opt for the flooring that can effectively stay tough against all the utilization.

  • Solid Hardwood Vs Engineered Hardwood: Post reading about the both, you can easily figure out about which one to go for. Engineered hardwood flooring generally is considered the right option for spaces with tremendous levels of humidity. Solid hardwood floors, on the other hand, are sturdy in nature and more durable too. 

  • Pre-Finished Vs Unfinished: You can opt for on-site finishing for your floors if you plan on doing it yourself. Want customized staining and, of course, if this suits the situation of your place. Otherwise, prefinished floors are a good idea, since you don’t have to wait at all, for walking on them.

  • Decor Approach: The very style requirement of your place is a notable factor to take care of. If your interior decor gives off more of a wooden look or there is vintage stuff around, then you’re meant to enjoy a pleasing time in decorating your place while choosing wood species and syncing them with your home decor. 

  • Budget: Certainly the most important deciding factor is to settle for what’s suitable for your budget. Comparing multiple types together and keeping the expenses of installation, removal and other procedures are some of the unavoidable dimensions you need to work in. Besides, if you’ve got really high hopes, you can save yourself the installation cost by going DIY. 

How Much Does Hardwood Flooring Cost? 

Getting hardwood flooring installation, on average, is a project that goes around $6 to $12 per square foot. The labor cost ranges between $3 to $5 and, as for the materials, they can cost you up to $ dollars, in general.

For Detailed Overview: Hardwood Flooring Cost Guide

Hardwood Flooring Cost Factors

  • The rest of the pricing depends on your choice of flooring material and brand, whether you’re getting some inexpensive mainstream versions or are opting for some really exotic rare wood species

  • Also, the difficulty level of the removal of your older flooring can add to the pricing of the entire project

  • Even if you master the DIY installation, the overall project cost can exceed with the addition of products expenses such as sanding and refinishing supplies 

Top-Tier Hardwood Flooring Brands 2022 

Best Hardwood Flooring Brands 2022

Shaw 

Shaw will provide you with every single flooring type lying in the category of both engineered and hardwood flooring. They have got multiple exclusive collections of green and durable floorings. 

Mohawk

Mohawk, being the largest and most renowned manufacturer, offers phenomenal varieties of hardwood floorings. The shade and color palette coverage goes for more than 300 choices in the species of Oak, Maple, Walnut, Acacia, Hickory, Elm, Walnut, Ebony, etc.

Bellawood 

Bellawood is a premium brand for selective hardwood flooring products and here you can find a number of amazing choices regarding domestic species. This is a house brand sold by Lumber Liquidators. 

Bruce

Owned by Armstrong, Bruce provides a huge and nearly breathtaking canvas of hardwood floorings and is one of the most staple manufacturers of engineered wood products.

Armstrong

Armstrong, while it isn’t that much of a prominent brand, still provides beautiful varieties of both engineered and solid hardwood floorings within a vast and versatile range of finishes, stains and textures.

Kahrs

Kahrs is the brand that makes practical flooring choice a lot easier with its mind-blowing flooring collections for everyday use. There are versatile design and color options available and so it’s a lot easier to pick a suitable one out.

FAQs | Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Difference Between Solid Hardwood And Engineered Hardwood?

Engineered hardwood floors have either a plywood or MDF core and its outermost engineered layer features natural wood in the form of a thin slice. Solid hardwood floors, on the other hand, are made entirely from a single piece of wood. When it comes to durability, Solid Hardwood is the choice that’s guaranteed to last the longest. 

Is It Possible To Make A Floating Hardwood Floor?

Only engineered hardwood floors can be made to float and not the solid hardwood ones. This is because the engineered hardwood flooring features several other elements within it too, such as the core made of different materials. Solid hardwood floors are technically impossible to float.

Does Moisture Cause Any Damage To Hardwood Flooring?

Moisture, of course, is one of the major damaging factors for a hardwood flooring and if not watched out for properly, it is the most likely to give rise to serious consequences. The resultant defacing can include cupping, crowning or cracking of the floor. Therefore, it’s super crucial to be careful with water on hardwood flooring.

Is It Okay To Install Hardwood Flooring In The Basement?

Hardwood flooring is an absolutely excellent choice for a basement. However, the only condition to ensure is to make use of the engineered hardwood. Since basements usually are located below ground level and are super moisture-prone, solid hardwood flooring isn’t a good idea, at all. 

What To Not Use On A Hardwood Floor?

One major aspect regarding the maintenance of hardwood floors is the right choice of cleaners. Always choose the products that have no ammonia or vinegar anywhere on their basis. This goes the same for if you’re habitual in using homemade recipes for floor cleaning, since the acid can cause irreversible damage to the floor over time. 

What Is The Average Acclimation Time For Hardwood Floors?

The very timespan required for acclimation, in the first place, depends on the type and build quality of the product(s) being used. However, in general, hardwood floors need to acclimate for at least 3 days or even more. So make sure you allow abundant time to your wooden flooring product for settling. 

How Do I Keep My Hardwood Flooring Looking Like New?

For the ultimate best results in this regard, you can make use of specialized restoring products as they’re meant for reviving the floor’s beauty thoroughly. Besides, be careful to only use the cleaning products that your corresponding manufacturer has recommended. Try to keep the floors dirt-free and dry, as much as possible. 

Is There A Specific Time For Hardwood Floors To Be Installed?

Fall is the best time of year in this regard, so as to make the most out of your flooring. Hardwood, of course, is prone to getting damaged (defaced, cracked) when affected by surrounding temperature and humidity. And fall certainly is the time when these two factors are quite controllable. 

How Do I Hide Scratches On My Hardwood Flooring?

If it’s a light one, you can make use of the repair kit that the relative manufacturer has suggested. Applying Polyurethane atop the flooring is also a good way to preserve it and to restore the look. However, if the scratches are too deep, board replacement can only fix the situation.

Is There A Way To Remove Paint Safely From The Hardwood?

Rubbing the affected area with warm water and a sponge or cloth is quite an effective remedy if the paint has been freshly applied. However, if the paint has long been dried out, the only way to fix this is to refinish the floor by making use of an abrasive element. 

Which Is Better; Unfinished Or Prefinished Hardwood Floor?

Unfinished floors have their significance in providing an easy syncing with any other flooring because they can be easily stained. However, you’ll need to bear with all the difficulty of finishing on site. Prefinished hardwood floors can save your time because they can be installed directly with no procedure required. 

Is It Okay To Have Hardwood Flooring If You Have Pets?

Pets are likely to cause damage to hardwood floors since they have an instinct of scratching, so that’s not quite a good idea to go for. However, you can still fix the situation by either restraining your pets within some other space. If that’s not possible, you can have their claws trimmed, in order to prevent the damage. 

Is It Possible To Install Hardwood Flooring Atop Vinyl Flooring?

This primarily depends on the type of flooring you’re getting, i.e. whether it’s okay to go over Vinyl Flooring. The next aspect to be concerned about is the condition of your vinyl floors, as they have to be securely attached to the subfloors in order to bear the hardwood installation. Engineered hardwood flooring is a fine idea in this regard, since that’s a floating floor. 

Is Buffing A Good Idea For Hardwood Floors?

Buffing, of course, is an effective approach to eliminating imperfections and damaged points. Besides, buffing is also a suitable option if you don’t want to sand your floors and still want to bring back all their beauty. Buffing is also a good way to address scratches. 

What Humidity Level Is Okay For Hardwood Floors?

The ideal humidity level for a hardwood floor ranges from 35% to 55%, in general. Therefore, this level should be carefully maintained at every point from storing the flooring up to installing it. Also, a controlled humidity level ensures a higher durability of the flooring. 

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