Hardwood Floors: Understanding Your Options

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Hardwood Floors Buying Guide

Hardwood floors are one of the most popular types of flooring, increasing the resale value of homes and beautifying them in the process. But there are many considerations to make when choosing and installing hardwood floors, such as type, species, size, cost, and brand. This guide covers everything you need to know about hardwood flooring so that you can make the best choice for your home.

What is a hardwood floor?

Hardwood floors can be comprised of a variety of wood species, such as bamboo, oak, or teak. Regardless of the species, all hardwood floors are stained to bring out their rich color and grain, as well as sealed to prevent nicks, dents, and other damage. Hardwood floors are rated from soft to hard, but the softest hardwood is still pretty tough. Over time, however, even the hardest species begins to show wear. Instead of having to replace it, as you would with carpeting, you can refinish a hardwood floor and restore it to its original appearance. The cost of refinishing a hardwood floor is much less than purchasing and installing a new one.

How to buy the best hardwood floor

To find the right hardwood floor for your needs, you need to weigh factors like cost, foot traffic, and type. For example, the harder the wood, the less likely it is to be damaged, but harder woods are also more difficult to work with during installation, which may mean higher installation costs. Another factor to consider is the location of the flooring and the type of traffic you expect in that area. A high-traffic area is better served by a very hard species of wood, for example. The following sections outline the primary considerations you should make when choosing hardwood flooring. 

Types of hardwood floors

You can choose between two types of hardwood flooring: solid and engineered.  Solid flooring features a single species, while engineered flooring is constructed of layers of wood, usually at right angles. Consider the following factors when choosing between solid and engineered flooring. 

Solid flooring can be refinished many times, while engineered flooring, depending on the thickness of the hardwood layer, may only stand up to two or three refinishings. Therefore, solid flooring can last for several decades longer than engineered flooring.Engineered flooring can be installed in more environments than solid flooring. While engineered flooring can be floated over many surfaces, glued to concrete, or nailed to a subfloor, solid flooring must be nailed or stapled to a subfloor and should not be installed below the grade, such as in basements, due to fluctuations in humidity.Solid flooring is slightly more expensive than engineered flooring, but the price difference is small in most cases. 

Choose the right size

Board size is another important consideration. Narrow boards are less expensive, but many people prefer the aesthetic of wider boards, which reduce the number of seams in the floor. The same idea applies to shorter versus longer boarders. The wider and longer a board is, the more expensive it is per square foot and the larger percentage of extra flooring you need to ensure it fits your room. A standard measure is to purchase 10% more square footage than you need, but this may increase depending on the shape of the room.

Compare hardwood floor costs

Costs can range from $1.75 per square foot up to $9 or more, depending on factors like species, width, and type. While engineered hardwood flooring is typically less expensive, the cost compared to solid flooring of the same species is usually just around $1 less per square foot. Additionally, prefinished wood may add another $1 per square foot compared to unfinished wood, but it also means you won’t need to finish it after installation.

One of the most popular species, Red Oak, runs about $4 per square foot unfinished and $5 prefinished, with additional costs for wider boards. More exotic woods or those that are harder and more resistant to wear are more expensive, while softer woods are typically cheaper.

Read hardwood floor reviews

Be sure to investigate the suppliers of hardwood floors, reading reviews and comparing different qualities. Some suppliers specialize in inexpensive flooring, while others offer a wide range of prices. You should also look for reviews on issues like warranties, shipping costs, and available widths. In addition to customer reviews, you should read reviews from contractors who can offer the perspective of someone who handles hardwood floors frequently.

Installation

Solid hardwood flooring is installed by nailing or stapling it to a subfloor, which is more limiting than engineered floors, which can be nailed, glued, or floated on a variety of surfaces, including concrete. Once you decide between solid or engineered flooring, you need to figure out whether you want to install it yourself or enlist a professional to do it. While there are substantial cost savings to installing a floor yourself, it may invalidate your floor’s warranty. Additionally, professional installers usually guarantee their work, giving you the confidence that it will be done right. Installation costs vary depending on many factors, including the species of wood and its hardness, with mid-range hardwoods, like oak, costing between $4 and $8 per square foot to install, according to HomeAdvisor. 

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Hardwood floor brands

There are many brands of hardwood flooring available. We outline three popular options below. 

Bruce

A brand offered by AHF Products, Bruce is one of the best-known hardwood flooring companies. They provide value and easy installation as well as wide distribution through big box stores. Limiting their species to only the most common — Hickory, Maple, Red Oak, and White Oak — Bruce provides a variety of finishes and widths.

Kennedale Prestige Plank – Maple

Solid hardwood3 ¼” widthUp to 84” length¾” thicknessColor: Cappuccino (dark brown)

Turlington Lock & Fold – Cherry

Engineered hardwood5” width10” – 48” lengths⅜” thicknessColor: Natural (tan)

Hurst Hardwoods

Hurst ships nationwide and offers a variety of solid and engineered flooring, which comes in a range of domestic and exotic species.

European French Oak Matterhorn

Engineered hardwood10 ¼” widthMajority 87” lengths⅝” thicknessColor: Brown tones and hues

Tigerwood Clear Prefinished

Solid hardwood5” width1’ to 7’ random lengths¾” thicknessColor: Tiger striped

Mannington 

Mannington specializes in engineered hardwood floors with two main collections: Hand Crafted and American Classics. With a strong environmental stance and a wide variety of woods and finishes, they offer many customization options. 

Mountain View Hickory

Engineered hardwood3 ¼”, 5” and 6 ½” widthsLengths up to 45”⅜” thicknessColor: Autumn

American Oak

Engineered hardwood3” wideLengths up to 45”⅜” thicknessColor: Old Bronze

Summary

When deciding on hardwood flooring, take your time and walk through your decision step-by-step, considering what you want from the flooring, what you are willing to pay for it, and how you plan to install it. Hardwood can last a lifetime, so consider your choices carefully.

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