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Choosing the Right Hardwood Floors

Choosing the Right Hardwood Floors

Deciding to install beautiful hardwood flooring or restore the hardwood floors in your house will mean years of longevity and an increase in your home’s overall value. Congratulations on taking the first step.

Now that you’ve made the decision, you’ll have many more decisions you'll have to consider to help you determine which type of flooring and hardwood flooring installation is right for your project needs. You’ll need to consider a variety of factors, including the look you want to achieve, the time you have to complete the project, and the existing flooring and subflooring. You’ll also need to make design decisions, like species, finishings, overall aesthetic choices, and type of construction. Here’s a rundown of what you need to know when making these decisions.

Which Hardwood Species is Best for You?

When choosing the solid hardwood floors that are best for your project, there are two primary considerations. These are your budget and your personal taste. There are dozens of types of wood and solid hardwood flooring species, both domestic and exotic, to choose from. Each with its own distinct constructions, patterns, colors, quality, and textures. Domestic types of hardwood species in the U.S. might include oak, maple, and hickory, while exotic species can include bamboo flooring, Brazilian cherry flooring, acacia flooring, or tigerwood flooring.

Comparing samples of each type of hardwood can help you determine which species of wood, color, and texture will best suit your project goals. Beyond the aesthetic, real hardwood species can be chosen based wide variety of factors such as hardness, which closely correlates to cost. The Janka hardness test is a test that was developed to measure a wood species’ resistance to damage and wear, based on the force required to embed an 11.28 millimeters diameter steel ball halfway in the piece of wood. Based on this rating scale, domestic species like Cedar, Black Cherry, Black Walnut, and Red Oak are some of the softest types. Brazilian Walnut, Lapacho, and Ipe are some of the hardest species. Both offer beautiful hardwood flooring and are very popular hardwood options in the U.S.

Because solid wood floors are meant to last a long time, you can imagine that the more resilient the wood, the more costly it is likely to be. For this reason, many home developers choose domestic species that will still last the test of time, like White Oak, Bamboo, and Hard Maple. Let your taste in the color and texture varieties help you determine what’s best for your budget.

Solid or Engineered

After species, you’ll next need to decide whether you need solid or engineered flooring. This can depend on the level and the humidity in the area of your home you’re working on. There are advantages to both types of flooring, but certain variables will help determine which type will have the best longevity for your project.

Solid wood flooring comes in thicknesses of ⅝ and ¾ inches. ¾ inch thick wood flooring is what you might picture when you imagine traditional hardwood flooring. It is hardwood flooring in its most natural form but can be susceptible to physical characteristics when exposed to humidity. It is also not ideal for sub-ground level floors due to similar concerns.

For below-grade basements and other flooring surfaces that might be exposed to humidity or water, engineered floors are a practical solution. Engineered floors are a veneered top layer of wood glued onto several layers of compacted wood beneath. Unlike solid wood flooring, it can only be sanded and refinished once or twice in its lifetime. But like solid wood, engineered flooring can retain its beautiful appeal and resiliency for many years.  

Finish Types 

Once you have an idea of how you want the finished product to look, you’ll want to decide whether you’ll purchase prefinished flooring or unfinished flooring for your application. Both come with their own advantages and disadvantages.

Selecting prefinished hardwood floors allows you to see the exact hardwood product you’ll be getting before it even arrives in your home. Once it arrives, it’s installed and doesn’t require additional sanding or staining. The product sample you chose will be representative of the flooring you’ll get.

On-site finishing offers the advantage of a very customizable protective finish on-site while offering budget-friendly hardwood flooring options. This option allows you to customize the looks and finish of your hardwood floors. The unfinished hardwood allows for more flexibility with your overall design. Things like the type of cabinetry, color schemes, and other design elements allow for flexibility to explore and choose the variety of colors and stain color that best fits your decor. On-site or pre-finishing allows for a highly customizable product with a range of colors. Seeing the stain and finish in your home, with its natural lighting and layout, can help the installation team better determine the best shade of finish. The sanding and continuous, smooth finish of an on-site finishing choice is a small detail that will add to the beauty of your home.

If you choose an on-site finish, you will also need to choose between oil finishes or polyurethane finish protection. While oil products offer a soft, matte, and natural finish for your flooring, they are less stain and damage-resistant. They are also more likely to scratch, but easier to repair when scratched.

Polyurethane creates a thick, hardened top coat on your hardwood floors that will make them more stain and scratch-resistant. However, when scratches do occur, they may require replacing the loose board or solid floor boards in order to repair the damage. Polyurethane is glossier and requires maintenance less often. This is also a great option for homes with Dogs as it can add an important scratch-resistant layer.

Summarizing Hardwood Floors

There is a variety of styles and hardwood flooring options beyond those already mentioned. Your wood grain, waterproofing, construction types, and plank width are all elements that you’ll need to consider. Choosing the right hardwood flooring for your home may seem a daunting task, but with the right expert advice, it can be a very enjoyable creative, and collaborative experience. Another option not mentioned here are the Engineered Hardwoods or Laminate Flooring options. These are affordable and durable options that are more resistant to moisture and can be a great choice of flooring for high traffic areas. We'll dive deeper on Engineered floors in another article.

Considering the longevity of the materials, designs, and construction types can help you maximize the benefits of wood floor installation. While there are many choices and design ideas to be made, they don’t have to overwhelm you. A good flooring company will have the knowledge and experience to help you navigate your flooring options and make the choices that are best suited for your project.

If you are in the New Jersey area and have decided to explore hardwood flooring options for your home renovation project, Strong Hardwood Floors is your local expert in flooring. Let our more than ten years’ experience in the industry give you the knowledge and confidence you need to turn your project into a work of art, geared specifically toward your unique tastes and budget.