Hardwood Flooring Buying Guide

arrow pointing down
Free Installation

All laminate, hardwood, vinyl, and carpet


Sale ends Jan. 31st

Your home's flooring is a significant support that bears foot traffic, sustains impacts and adds beauty. Hardwood flooring is fitting for these purposes and more, but as you shop, you can run into uncertainties. Should you purchase cherry or walnut? Which texture complements your furniture and color scheme? These considerations are important, and dependable wood flooring advice can increase clarity for you. In the types of wood flooring, you'll discover a composition, species, hardness, color and finish for your taste. To amplify your interior, you can pick the perfect hardwood flooring once you know what to look for. Check out this hardwood flooring guide to get started.

View Flooring Options by Room

Engineered vs. Solid Hardwood

Both engineered and solid hardwoods are viable options for flooring — not to mention sought-after materials on the market. The process to transform hardwood trees into beautiful, functional flooring is different for engineered and solid hardwood, but each has its advantages. When you hear "engineered," you might think it's fake wood. While there is manufacturing involved, the process starts with authentic wood. The real wood is separated into thin pieces, then layered in a crisscrossing pattern to form a durable core. An adhesive keeps these layers together, and it's typically finished off with a sturdy wooden top and bottom layer surrounding the core. Because engineered wood floors expand and contract less than solids, they are ideal for any level, including basement installations. Engineered hardwood has the same appearance as solid hardwood styles once it's finished. Solid hardwood comes in straightforward cuts without any structural divisions or bonding. After undergoing a few shaping and smoothing steps, tongues and grooves are added to the planks so they can closely fit together during installation. A coating for safeguarding the wood covers the surfaces, too. Since solid hardwood is fairly thick, it can be periodically sanded for refinishing, and it's a go-to option for endurance. While engineered flooring usually can be sanded & refinished, it cannot always be done as many times as solid wood flooring. Solid hardwood shouldn't be part of below-ground rooms, but it can still resist moisture with an underlying foundation.

What to Consider When Buying Hardwood Flooring

If you're wondering how to choose hardwood floor, various factors distinguish each type. As you browse the hardwood types, you can keep these categories in mind.

1. Species

The major concern that influences your hardwood decision is the species. Manufacturing and milling dictate other factors like texture, width and finish, but the species contributes to the hardness, grain and color. Species can be domestic or exotic, which alters their availability. Wide availability of common species can push the price down, while out-of-the-ordinary hardwood is typically more expensive due to its scarcity. Domestic varieties consist of maple, cherry, hickory and oak, and exotic ones include mahogany and Brazilian teak. The grains of hardwood species are across the board, and your choice of grain pattern can alter your interior's aesthetic. They can be open or closed, which affects stain adherence.

2. Color

Species have a general color range, but they can stretch between lighter and darker shades in their grouping. The neutral shades stick around the brown family, but your hardwood floors can be closer to ivory or almost black. Hardwoods have undertones, too, which can be more amber, gray or rosy, depending on the type. Wood continues to respond to impacts like sunlight as it lies in your home. The color can deepen and change over time, and some hardwoods need attention to retain the prime hue. The initial color of the hardwood can shine with a clear stain, but tinted stains can convert a lighter wood to another color, too. Stains for hardwood can help certain species mimic rarer or more expensive types.

3. Width and Length

Hardwood planks come in different lengths that can achieve different looks for your home. You can pick widths and lengths that are more uniform or more diverse. Broad planks offer more room for the knots and color to shine through, and they continue to be a tried-and-true style. They give a classic feel, whereas narrow planks are more current. With back-to-back breaks and seams, the slim boards are complex and intriguing. The hardwood pieces generally aren't all the same length so you can accommodate the format of your rooms. However, selections do have a set scope of board lengths. They can be several feet long, or they can be extremely short to produce a fragmented look.

4. Texture

The surface of your hardwood includes many possibilities that can bring the flair you need. The main textures are smooth, distressed, wire-brushed and hand-scraped. Smooth hardwood is the leading texture because it levels notches and grooves for a sophisticated appearance. The sleek factory-curated look is highly polished. Distressed hardwood is intentionally roughened with clefts and singes. Strategic blackening allows other marks to blend in. Hand-scraped hardwood is similar, but wood scrapers are the cause of the imprints. Wire-brushed texture adds dimension with fine scores from a wire brush. The wiry bristles heighten the grain pattern and offer a more raised option.

5. Hardness

The Janka scale is the accepted measurement for wood hardness. The degrees of hardness are between zero and 4,000 pounds of force, but hardwoods are usually above 1,000. To determine the Janka rating, a 0.444-inch steel ball is pushed into the wood. Once half the diameter of the ball is stuck in the wood, that's the Janka measurement. This can help you judge how easy or difficult installation will be and how extensive the lifespan could be. A harder wood floor is a worthy investment because you can maximize the life cycle. For example, Brazilian walnut is higher on the scale with a Janka score of 3,680 pounds of force, while birch is approximately 1,260 pounds of force.

6. Finish and Gloss

Hardwood flooring can be pre-finished or finished on location, and the protective finishes safeguard against moisture, gradual damages and unsightly marks. Although wood flooring develops nicks and blemishes, the finish can prevent early indications of wear. Epoxy, aluminum oxide, urethane and polyurethane are common materials to seal the hardwood and attain a glossy sheen. The coating can also be reapplied after routine sanding throughout the years. You can also specify gloss levels for your flooring. The gloss categories are flat, satin, semi-gloss and gloss, with flat being the lowest amount of luminescence.

Types of Hardwood Flooring

You can customize aspects of your hardwood flooring, but you need a base to start with. The foundation of your flooring will come from the species you choose. The number of hardwood types on the market is extensive, yet species are repeatedly used in houses due to their desirable traits. Consider these popular species for your flooring project.

1. Ash

Ash is a tough, shock-resistant material that can survive the foot traffic in your home. It can be m

ore susceptible to moisture, but ash is manageable to work with. Often in pale colors, ash is a light and attractive hardwood, and white ash is the favored type. As a flooring component, it has sufficient strength. Although the pattern is subtle, it's unique. It contains orderly, straight grains that complement many home interiors.

2. Beech

Beech is a smooth hardwood with subdued red undertones, and its grain is fine, which makes the wood difficult to stain. However, in its light brown color, the natural appearance is striking on its own, and many people opt for the organic look. With a hardness comparable to oak, beech is robust, but it can warp if it gets too wet or too dry.

3. Birch

As a hardwood, birch is on the softer side, and its hardness level is below oak. It has a versatile scope of shades, from medium tones to lighter varieties, and birch flooring suits many styles. Occasionally, red tints come out too, but a highly popular choice for birch flooring is yellow birch. Birch rapidly grows, so it's abundant and accessible. It has a heavy texture and mild curving grains, which is an appealing finish for floors.

4. Cherry

You can select cherry hardwood flooring in two distinct kinds 

— American or Jatoba. American is also referred to as black cherry, reflecting its deep, rich color. It has a glamorous sheen after it's finished and is commonly used in homes. Jatoba or Brazilian cherry also has a dark tone in a reddish-brown shade, and it has defining streaks that boost its character. Brazilian is stronger than American cherry, but both are strong hardwoods.

5. Hickory

Featuring a coarse consistency, hickory is a gorgeous, rustic surface. As one of the most resilient hardwoods, hickory rises above the rest and prevents signs of wear and tear for a long time. Hickory is originally golden brown, and it has tight pitch-colored grains. It's readily available, so it's an overall practical decision.

6. Mahogany

Mahogany has many subspecies, and it's a high-end hardwood. Brazilian and Cuban mahogany are both imported, and they're exotic commodities. Flooring from this hardwood is beneficial because it isn't easily affected by overuse, and the grain is open but even. Mahogany has a trace of purple, but it's primarily dark and bold in hue.

7. Maple

Maple can look exceptionally creamy, exceeding the lightness of other wood colors. It's the right rigidity for milling, and it holds its shape well after placement. Some varieties of soft maple verge into a red hue, but hard maple stays light and rates much higher on the Janka scale.

8. Oak

Oak splits into red and white classifications, offering particular degrees of firmness. The grain is porous in both species, but red oak is prevalent for flooring. Red oak has a medium brown with a slight red wash, while white oak carries a grayish color. Maintenance in the form of buffing is simple, and it can fight off water-damage with its special makeup.

9. Teak

Teak has a substantial weight, but it's more pliable than other hardwoods. However, Brazilian teak is considerably more sturdy. It's an exotic wood, and its intense umber tone makes it stand apart. The shiny surface is a winning style for flooring, and upkeep for teak includes an oil treatment.

10. Walnut

Resembling anything from a coffee color to black, walnut is an elegant resource to spruce up your home. The longer your wood stays in your home, the more it improves, as it ages wonderfully. It has average durability, and the grain and knot designs are sophisticated.

Installation Methods

As you're choosing hardwood flooring, the installation process might not be dominating your thoughts. However, it should play a substantial role in your decision. The time, technique and expertise for installation depend on the method you select.

1. Glue

Gluing down floors takes a strong adhesive, and you'll need a trowel to spread out the glue. Engineered hardwood flooring can be glued directly to concrete, but solid hardwood requires a preliminary floor layer. Troweling involves laying adhesive in the area and systematically settling the planks into the glue.

2. Nail

Floorboards can be secured with nails, too, and the tongue of the planks helps conceal the nails. This means you'll have to direct the nails at a slant into the tongue so it pierces the bottom layer. The following plank masks the tongue and nail, and this process firmly anchors your flooring. However, the first and last rows can use a face nailing technique, because you can't angle the nails into the tight spots.

3. Staple

Using a staple gun, you can connect floorboards along the tongue into the layer below, just like in the nailing method. Stapling is a matter of the material, and the staples should be added in relatively close sections. Stapling is effective for softer hardwoods and engineered flooring because it's not as harsh on the material.

4. Float or Click-Lock

Without extra material, floating or click-locking boards snugly attach to one another. Floating specifically has a cushion material underneath which helps dampen noise. The cushioning is typically foam, and you can easily roll it out before laying the hardwood boards.Click-locking floors don't need nails or glue to hold them down, because the tongues and grooves are enough to steady the flooring. They literally lock into place, making installation simple and fast.

Outfit Your Home With 50 Floor's Hardwood Flooring

Now that you know what to buy, an experienced, reliable source is the finishing touch. At 50 Floor, we can give you the assistance of a trained flooring expert to lead you to a fully informed decision. With an at-home shopping experience, you can compare our flooring options in your own familiar setting.

View Flooring Options by Room

Because we value your time, 50 Floor also offers professional, timely installation to get your home looking its best as quickly as possible. Our team is ready to discuss the right hardwood for you with our free in-home consultation appointments. Contact us today to schedule an appointment or learn more about hardwood flooring.

Previous ArticleHow to Choose the Right Tile for Your Bathroom Next ArticleA Message From 50 Floor
Questions or Feedback
Beeswax Tracking