Hardwood flooring makes a beautiful statement in your home, and with so many options to choose from, the statement you make is entirely up to you.
While it’s easy to maintain, it can be hard to install, and you’re faced with the most significant decision right upfront. Which style are you going to choose?
Here are some helpful tips about hardwood flooring and the best type for you.
Types of Hardwood Flooring
Some hardwood flooring isn’t solid wood at all, but it’s engineered to look identical. There are many benefits to all kinds of hardwood flooring, but it’s important to consider which will work best in your home.
These planks aren’t made of solid wood, so they’re a bit cheaper. The base is often made of plywood with a thin veneer on the top. They are typically made to look like Hickory, maple, or Oak.
You can sand and refinish them, just like solid wood, but they won’t last as long. The way these planks are manufactured makes it easy to install as a floating floor. You can put them in places where you wouldn’t normally be able to put hardwood, like your basement.
This is a common trend these days among home decor, fashion, and other aesthetics. Artfully distressing pieces to make them look old or damaged can be beautiful.
There are several ways to distress hardwood. These imperfections are either rolled into the wood using machine presses or beat into the wood using bags full of nuts and bolts.
No matter how it’s done, your wood flooring will have the same character as a floor that’s been around for hundreds of years.
This type of flooring is made by hand from raw materials. It’s a great option for both character and tradition. These boards are wider than those that have been milled, and the irregular planes, textures, and shapes are what make people love them.
You may pay a little more for these types of boards, but they make the installation process faster. These planks are sanded and sealed in the factory, so you don’t have to do it after you place them.
While this works, if you’re redoing your entire floor, it doesn’t work as well if you’re trying to match existing flooring.
These planks have already been used for something else, but they’re being repurposed as a hardwood floor. This means you can save materials that would otherwise be headed to the trash.
Demolished buildings like offices, factories, or barns make the perfect hardwood flooring. These are some of the strongest boards you’ll find, and because they’ve been naturally aged over time, they’re beautiful.
While it’s not actually hardwood, laminate flooring is a popular choice among modern homeowners. It’s perfect for renting or for homes with small children. It’s easy to keep clean, and it has a lower risk of water damage than hardwood does.
It’s less prone to staining and sun damage as well, but the downside is that there aren’t as many unique grains. While it can be very beautiful, you don’t have as wide of a variety of choices.
Types of Wood
Some types of wood are used for hardwood floors often while others are a bit rarer but worth considering.
Oak is durable, and the dark, tight grain looks great in any room. It’s the most popular because it’s so versatile and long-lasting. It also costs less because it’s so widely available. If you keep it up the right way, it can last for centuries.
Board colors vary from yellow to brown, while some have white, gray, or pink hues that make it look more like redwood.
Maple is a close second to Oak in popularity because of its beautiful color, charming character, and predictable pattern. It’s lighter than Oak and tends to have a latte color. The grain is less pronounced and often found on basketball courts.
While you don’t get the same variety of colors, you’ll get an interesting look. There are also designer styles available like a feather appearance or rippled velvet. It costs more, but it’s very high-end flooring.
This style is similar to Oak, but it’s much harder. It’s much more resistant to dents and scratches. Hickory takes 200 years to mature, which is five times longer than Oak, which means you’ll pay at least double for Hickory.
However, because of its strength and character, Hickory is a much better long-term investment.
Brazillian Cherry has a beautiful red tint, and when exposed to sunlight, the hue deepens and becomes even more elegant. The tight grains have a lovely flow, and it’s one of the hardest woods you can find.
These types of floors will last as long or longer than your house, and many of them have a 100-year warranty because they last so long.
Surprisingly, bamboo is very durable as well. It comes from grass, not trees, but it’s worth noting that it’s harder than Oak or maple.
It’s grown and harvested sustainably and can be reproduced in as little as three to five years, which means it’s much better for the environment and much more plentiful.
The process of creating bamboo flooring is still relatively new, so there’s no telling yet how long the flooring will last, but it’s rated for about 25 years based on the technology currently available.
If you like the idea of hardwood flooring, but you want something that isn’t as popular, you can consider exotic species of trees that are accessible, but not as commonly used.
Black Cherry ranges in color from a pale blonde to light brown, sometimes with a pink tint. This type of wood is commonly used for accents rather than the entire floor, giving your home a luxurious feel.
The grain of birch is wavy and even. While the sapwood of Yellow Birch is white or yellow, the heartwood can be red-brown. Sweet Birch is darker brown with red hues. This type of flooring is more stable than Oak because it can absorb shock better.
Two of the most common types of pine are Heart Pine and Southern Yellow Pine. It has occasional sap stains of blue or black color, but the color of the wood ranges from brown to yellow, with some orange hues in between.
It is known for its beautiful knotty appearance, but is much softer than Oak and not durable enough for high traffic or homes with children.
Black Walnut is a common hardwood species in the Americas. It’s a beautiful medium brown with some purple hues. The grain is straight and open, but may occasionally curl. It’s softer than Oak but more stable.
This type of wood changes in color over time, eventually becoming black with age. It’s unique and incredibly durable.
This wood has lustrous golden streaks but also changes color with age, turning a dark reddish-brown.
Best Hardwood Flooring Options by Room
While there are many options, sometimes what you choose depends on where in the home you’re going to lay it. Sure, you have to like the look, but it also needs to last.
You can put almost any type of wood in your kitchen as long as you are able to give it several weeks to settle in the home. It needs time to acclimate, so it won’t expand or contract with moisture and humidity.
Oak or maple without a lot of variation in color looks best in a living room. If you go for board widths of five inches or more, it will look more modern and consistent. Living rooms are often the largest, most open rooms in the house, so wood with a lot of character tends to be distracting rather than beautiful.
Reclaimed or engineered Oak looks great in a bathroom, and it can withstand the moisture in the space better than most other types. It will not incur damage as it ages as most other woods will.
Engineered wood is best for a basement because it floats and doesn’t have to attach to a subfloor beneath. You can place it directly over your concrete without installing a subfloor or padding first.
Wood contains so much character that it’s common to be overwhelmed by the choices. It’s also likely that you have found several options you like and eliminated the varieties that you don’t. Here are some other things you might want to consider before making a final decision.
Hardwood flooring comes in a variety of board widths from very narrow strips to wide planks. Sometimes you can even get them in squares or rectangles.
Narrow strips make your space look bigger while planks have a rustic look.
Opting for squares or rectangles give your room a modern, geometric look, but these can also suit more formal spaces.
Apart from the durability, grain, and color, you can get boards that have a texture that looks antique or aged. Texture can add a lot of character by looking distressed. It can also help disguise high traffic or heavy use.
One of the most important considerations is hardness. For homes with pets and kids, it’s best to choose something that will withstand the wear and tear. If you like a brand new look, choose something that won’t show scratches.
Oak or anything tougher will be able to handle this type of use. However, if you choose a texture that already looks distressed, you won’t have to worry too much about its appearance.
The finish of hardwood has a lot to do with protecting its surface and can keep it looking new for longer. A lot of commercially sold hardwood is prefinished. This eliminates a step during installation and can prevent dust and chemicals in your home.
Factory finishes have longer warranties and are guaranteed to last longer and be more durable.
Site finished floors have a wider variety of stain colors and will look more uniform after installation. However, they take longer to install and can fill your home with dust and chemicals from sanding and staining.
Underlayment can provide insulation and prevent noise. Cork is great for floating floors, but plastic or vinyl are better for areas that have a lot of moisture.
Benefits of Hardwood
No matter what type of wood flooring you choose, there are plenty of fantastic benefits to using hardwood.
1. It’s timeless.
Hardwood is popular because it’s always in style. It’s been used for centuries as a durable, resistant flooring type, and people are willing to pay more for its look and feel. Sometimes you have to refresh or refinish it, but you very rarely have to remove or replace it.
2. You can refinish it.
Sure, hardwood is susceptible to damage. So are other types of flooring. The benefit here is that hardwood can be refinished much more easily than it can be replaced. You can restore it, restain it, and change the look completely if you want.
3. It’s durable.
Some types of hardwood, like pine, are very soft and show scratches a lot easier. However, most hardwood is surprisingly durable. It holds up better under a lot of foot traffic.
4. It repels allergens.
Hardwood repels allergens rather than absorbing them. If you have allergies or asthma, hardwood is a fantastic flooring choice because it’s easy to clean. If you have pets, it can repel dander, and if you have kids who play on the floor, it can keep them much cleaner.
5. It’s low maintenance.
Who likes to spend hours cleaning? No one. Hardwood floors are easy to vacuum, sweep, and mop. It’s quick and easy. It doesn’t stain as long as spills are wiped up relatively quickly, and you can give them a quick once over to get rid of dirt and germs.
6. They add value.
Your return on investment with hardwood is much more than with any other flooring. Even aged hardwood has the character that people want. Selling a home that touts a beautiful hardwood floor in high traffic areas could invite a bidding war.
If you’re looking at refinancing, hardwood adds to the value and longevity of your home, so it’s a great quality finish that gives an excellent first impression and leads to higher property value.
7. It’s environmentally friendly.
Wood is a renewable source, so you can feel good about using it in your home. It provides a natural, cohesive finish to your room, and most trees get replaced immediately after they’re harvested.
However, keep in mind that not all wood is sourced responsibly, so if you feel more comfortable using reclaimed or recycled wood, you can be sure it comes from a good place and won’t end up in the dump.
Alternatives to Wood
If you have your heart set on wood, then don’t be deterred by the other options out there. However, if you want to redo your flooring, but you’re just not sure what to use yet, here are some other alternatives to wood.
Carpets come in just as many colors, textures, and varieties as wood. Perhaps even more. It can be low pile enough to repel moisture and prevent staining. Carpets built durable enough for high traffic areas won’t wear as quickly.
You can even get very dramatic patterns that make the exact statement you want. With high pile, plush carpeting, you’ll enjoy walking in your bare feet far more often than you will on anything else.
Keep in mind that no carpet is as durable as hardwood. It won’t last as long and will need to be replaced more often. It’s common to have to replace worn carpeting every 5-8 years. It also doesn’t add any value to your home.
Tile is more durable than carpeting, and if cared for properly, can last a long time. It’s unlikely it will last as long as wood, and it can’t be refinished, so when it has reached the end of its life, it needs to be replaced.
However, tile can withstand moisture very well and looks great in kitchens and bathrooms. Whereas hardwood tends to warm your space and make it feel homier, tile has a cooling effect.
Some people like this look, and some don’t. If you do choose tile, you will still have a wide variety of sizes, shapes, colors, textures, and looks to choose from.
If you’re considering hardwood flooring in your home, here are some frequently asked questions that may help.
For the price, Oak is the most common type of wood flooring. It’s plentiful and easy to find, plus it’s hard enough to provide you with a long-lasting floor.
However, if you want an excellent return on investment and you have the money to spend, Hickory is one of the hardest, most durable types of wood you can get. It ages well and has tons of character.
On the flipside, Bamboo is also surprisingly durable. It’s elegant and fun, so it’s a great choice for a lot of modern homeowners.
This is a question no one can answer for you. However, when you begin to consider your individual needs and preferences, you can narrow down the choices much easier. Here are some of the top things to consider when choosing a hardwood floor:
Traditional wood flooring ranges in color from medium to dark brown. Even some lighter blonde colors are popular when it comes to more modern homes that want a vintage look in their flooring.
However, what seems to be trending now are woods that have white or gray streaks in them, making them look much more modern and industrial.
When it comes to hardwood, there are plenty of durable options out there. Consider a matte or low-gloss finish that won’t show scratches or dents as easily. In addition, you can choose aged or distressed woods that already look old, so you don’t have to worry about the damage you’re going to do.
Wood flooring has a lot of personalities. There are a ton of varieties available, and it’s a largely personal decision. It’s important to choose something that fits your lifestyle. Rather than a one-size-fits-all answer, it’s best to understand what you need and go from there.
While there are plenty of durable options for people with pets or kids, there are also softer, more elegant choices for those who don’t need the hard finishes. From style to color and texture to size, there’s a hardwood flooring perfect for you.