Hardwood Flooring Buying Guide

Hardwood flooring gives a home a unique character and beauty that is all it's own. Hardwood floors are visually appealing and make any home feel comfortable and inviting. You’ve got an impressive variety of styles, widths and finishes from which to choose, so you’ll find just the right one to set the tone for your home’s décor.

Solid Hardwood floors add to the value of your home wherever they are installed. Their return on investment is one of the best in the flooring industry. They truly are an investment in a home, not just an expense.

Meanwhile, Engineered hardwood flooring delivers the same beauty of Solid hardwood flooring but with greater versatility. The top layer of the material is solid hardwood while the base layers are designed to give the material greater stability and resistance to moisture.

Use this guide to hardwood flooring to learn about what makes this type of home flooring so popular. We’ll share information about durability, the various styles and material used in solid hardwood flooring, as well as the current trends in the market. We also encourage you to read our other detailed guides on installation, and of course the care and maintenance of hardwood flooring.

Flooring Materials, Lengths and Patterns

There are two main factors when considering this type of flooring: the wood species you want and the width of the flooring. More types of exotic wood are being added each year including Brazilian koa and cherrywood, sakura, tigerwood, teak and kempas.

Domestic woods include red and white oak, ash, maple, walnut, cherry, hickory, birch, yellow birch, mahogany and pine.

In terms of width, you can find it as narrow as 2 ¼” and as wide as 7” or sometimes wider. In general, narrow widths give a room a more formal or contemporary feel. Wider widths are associated with design schemes like country, old world, French provincial and colonial.

Plank lengths vary from 12” to 60”, and boxes of flooring will have planks of differing length to help ensure a random plank field in which butt ends are not aligned side by side.

Wear and Durability

Solid Hardwood
Hardwood flooring is made from a single piece of wood and therefore very durable. Today, there are plenty of wood floors that are still in use more than 100 years after they were first laid. If the floor is maintained properly, home flooring pros estimate it will last anywhere from 75 to 100 years. Refinishing is required every 8-20 years depending on how heavy the traffic (footfall) is in your home. Applying a fresh coat of sealant/protector in-between refinishes can extend the time before refinishing is required again.

Engineered Hardwood
As you shop for this type of flooring, you’ll find thicknesses from 3/8” to 3/4″. The thicker it is, the longer it will last. This is true because the wear layer – the top layer made from the type of wood you wanted — is thicker. It can be sanded down and refinished 2-3 times during the lifetime of the flooring. That means it will last 40-80 years depending on how heavy traffic is on it.

Thinner engineered wood flooring cannot be refinished. It should last 20-30 years depending on traffic. This flooring can be used where solid wood flooring cannot be – over concrete slabs and in levels below grade such as a basement. In addition, the resale value of engineered flooring, often called the return on investment, is the same as for solid wood flooring.

Leading Brands and Current Trends

While hardwood floors never went completely out of fashion, they are certainly enjoying a resurgence. There are certainly a host of flooring manufacturers and styles from which to choose from.

  • Authentic Styling: In a fast-paced world, homeowners are looking for design elements in their home that are timeless, brought from an era where life was slower and more relaxed.
  • Hand Scraped Hardwood: Sometimes referred to as handscraped, it comes in many styles and harks back to the days when each plank was worked by hand. Planks are often milled with the appearance of age and some wear. Distressed wood flooring is very similar. It has the look of reclaimed wood.
  • Wider Wood Planks: The overall trend in wood is obvious. People are longing for a return to simpler times and old-fashioned charm with wider planks and reclaimed wood both increasing in popularity.
  • Exotic Woods: Each year, new exotic woods are introduced. Currently, sakura, kempas, Brazilian cherrywood, tigerwood and teak are among the most popular.

Solid Hardwood Flooring FAQs

Q: What are the advantages of solid hardwood flooring?
A: Solid floors are very durable and can be refinished 6-8 times over their life. This is not the case with engineered wood. In addition, solid hardwood is beautiful, better for the environment than carpeting, is easy to care for and clean and doesn’t harbor allergens in the same way as carpet does.

Q: Do you need to remove tile, vinyl or wood in order to install engineered wood flooring?
A: No. As long as it is secure and flat, and hard material can remain.

Q: Can hardwood floors be glued to concrete?
A: No. Solid wood expands and contracts with changes in humidity and temperature. Gluing it to any surface will lead to cracking and other issues. Engineered hardwood however is able to be glued directly to concrete.