Which Hardwood Floor Choice Is Right for You?

Whether you’re building new construction or remodeling an existing home, the flooring choices can be staggering. Most homeowners opt to use wood flooring in a large portion of their homes, as it is aesthetically pleasing, long-lasting and increases the value of any house. Here’s a look at five different types of popular hardwood floors, so you can see which type is best for the look you want and your family’s lifestyle.

Oak Hardwood Floor

Oak hardwood floors have been used for hundreds of years, and they are considered a high-end material. Oak is a very durable wood, in general, and can last for many generations in a home. It can be stained in a range of hues, from more whitish-gray tones to yellows and browns, making it versatile in virtually every style of decor. In fact, oak takes stain better than most other woods. An oak hardwood floor has a very noticeable grain and texture, lending it a very distinctive look.

Oak floors can fade a bit, so ideally they should be protected from harsh sunlight. While oak is a fairly resilient wood, it can be scratched by heavy furniture and pet nails. If you choose oak hardwood flooring, make sure you add felt pads under your furniture (especially chairs), and keep your pets’ nails trimmed or confine your pets to other types of flooring. An oak hardwood floor is made of sustainable wood these days, and oak can also be recycled, making it an eco-friendly choice.


Maple Hardwood Floor

If you want a rich, elegant look for your home’s interior, you may find maple hardwood floors a perfect choice. Maple floors also take stain well, and they have a considerably less noticeable grain than oak.

When installing a maple hardwood floor, know that it can scratch, so take the same precautions suggested above for oak floors. Maple is very easy to maintain with a light dusting and occasional damp mopping with slightly soapy water. The only caution with maple is that it is more susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity than many other types of wood floor. It may not be the best choice if you live in an extremely humid location or if your home’s climate varies quite a bit. If you tend to keep your furnace steady in the winter and run air conditioning and/or a dehumidifier in the summer, you can prevent any splitting or separating that can occur with maple flooring.


Brazillian Cherry Hardwood Floor

Brazillian Cherry isn’t actually a cherry wood; it’s known as Jatoba in Brazil. Homeowners love a Brazillian Cherry hardwood floor for its luxurious dark tones resembling mahogany. It has roughly the same hardness and resiliency as mahogany too. It’s sustainably harvested and environmentally friendly.

Like real cherry, Brazilian Cherry floors are particularly vulnerable to sunlight, so if you go with this flooring choice, expect to use window treatments that screen it from constant direct sunlight or plan to move your furniture occasionally to provide even lightening. Brazilian Cherrywood Floors are also susceptible to calcium carbonate-based white spots from excess moisture in the slab beneath. For this reason, and because its hardness makes it challenging to lay without gaps, a Brazillian Cherry hardwood floor should always be installed by a professional.


Bamboo Hardwood Floor

Bamboo as a flooring choice is a relatively new option, having been around for the last 20 years or so. It’s rapidly becoming a favorite in many types of homes, especially contemporary ones. A bamboo hardwood floor is made by pressing together strands of pre-soaked bamboo, and the resulting plank is as hard as oak. Because bamboo grows so rapidly, it’s a highly sustainable flooring option.

Bamboo hardwood floors are usually installed in lighter colors to take advantage of its unique grain, however, bamboo flooring can be stained as well. A bamboo hardwood floor is always factory finished, not finished on-site, so you need to select the stain you want before it’s installed. The higher the quality of bamboo floor you select, the more scratch-resistant it will be.


Engineered Hardwood Floor

When discussing engineered hardwood floors, floor specialist are talking about a different product than solid wood flooring. An engineered hardwood floor is made by laying a veneer of the desired hardwood on top of layers of plywood and unfinished white wood. The number of layers beneath the veneer contribute to the floor’s sturdiness and durability. It’s an affordable wood flooring choice that can last anywhere from 20 to 100 years, depending on the installation, type of veneer and overall quality of the floor.

The ability to have different thicknesses beneath the veneer layer means that engineered hardwood flooring is a popular go-to for transitions between two rooms, where previously homeowners would have had to install a flooring strip or rehang doors. It’s also a very sustainable option for exotic floors, like Rosewood, because it uses only a fraction of the wood needed for solid planks.

A thin veneer (less than about two millimeters) cannot be refinished, so for the best long-term flooring, look for veneers in the two- to six-millimeter range. Engineered hardwood floors were originally developed for use over concrete slabs, but now thicker versions can be nailed over wood subfloors, like solid wood planks (this should only be done by flooring professionals). If you want to try a DIY engineered hardwood floor installation, look for thinner floors with a tongue-and-groove system that can float over a cork underlayment or an older floor.

How Much Does Hardwood Cost?

With all of the above information about the various types of hardwood floors, you might start to think that the costs for hardwood floors might be exorbitant. The fact is that while hardwood is on the upper end of the cost scale in comparison with other types of flooring it can still be affordable, though costs vary wildly. How much do hardwood floors cost? Answer: between 3 dollars and 14 dollars per square foot.  To get a full estimate for both materials and labor though we recommend using the calculator to understand the full hardwood flooring cost.

Your Choice

Your choices of wood flooring are nearly endless, but with so many colors, textures and other features to select from, you’re sure to find one that matches your needs perfectly. You can find out loads more about the flooring types above, and others, at the hardwood section of FloorAdvisor.com. You may love your hardwood floors so much that you put them in every room of your house–a perfectly feasible alternative with today’s versatile flooring options!