HARDWOOD FACTS: 8 Things to Consider When Getting Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors are a beautiful addition to any house, contributing both to aesthetic and financial value and lasting for decades to come. However, there are a wide variety of options and varieties available, and the number of choices can be daunting. Understand these key elements to consider when thinking about installing hardwood floors in your home.

1. Finished vs. Unfinished

Before your hardwood even arrives, you’ll choose between finished and unfinished planks. Prefinished wood has already been sanded and had a stain and topcoat applied at the factory. Unfinished wood will have to be finished on-site at your home after installation is complete. The benefits of prefinished wood are that you know exactly what the final product will look like and that you can avoid having a mess and strong chemicals in your home. On-site wood finishing allows for more customization and fills in the lines between boards, making your hardwood floor smoother.

2. Type of Finish

Finish refers to a material that is painted on top of your hardwood floors to act as a sealant and stain. Polyurethane finish can be oil- or water-based. While it’s good for damp or high-traffic areas, it may look plasticky and is difficult to repair in case of scratches. Varnish can range from a matte to a glossy finish, with more glossy varieties being more durable. A penetrating sealer brings out the natural character of your hardwood floors, and while it’s the least durable option, it still provides good protection and is easy to spot repair.

3. Wood Species

The type of tree that lumber comes from will affect the look, price, and hardness of your hardwood floor. Oak is the most common option in North America because it is very durable at an economical price point. Walnut is also popular with people who want a darker color, and while softer than oak, it is still a good choice for flooring. Other available North American hardwoods include cherry, maple, ash, hickory, and beech. Exotic woods such as kempas or Brazilian cherry can give a unique look to your room but will be more expensive to import.

4. Solid vs. Engineered

Traditionally, hardwood floors are made of solid wood or thick strips of timber. However, engineered wood is a newer option that has a thin layer of hardwood bonded to multiple layers of plywood underneath. Engineered wood has additional strength and can be installed directly on top of concrete or flooring mat with less height. However, engineered wood is harder to refinish because of its thin top layer, whereas thicker solid wood can be resanded and refinished many times.

5. Reclaimed vs. New

While new wood comes directly from lumber mills, reclaimed wood comes from old homes and barns and abandoned commercial and industrial buildings. This option is more eco-friendly since you’re recycling the wood and re-using a material that’s no longer needed. In addition to the environmental benefits, reclaimed wood also gives a space a sense of history and personality.

6. Grain Pattern

The pattern of the grain on each piece of wood is affected by how a log is cut to create planks. Grain patterns are frequently referred to as plain-sawn, rift-sawn, and quarter-sawn. Plain-sawn wood has a traditional wood grain, while rift-sawn and quarter-sawn planks are often mixed together and have a long, linear pattern typically used to achieve a more modern aesthetic.

7. Plank Size

In the past, 2- to 3-inch strips of wood were standard, but wider planks have become more common in recent years, with 4- to 6-inches being very popular today. There are 7-inch planks or wider are available as well, and the option is primarily a stylistic choice. Wider planks make it easier to cover a large space but are more expensive.