Hardwood Floors: What Are My Options?

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Many homeowners opt for wood flooring thanks to its durability, natural beauty and versatility. It looks great in both traditional and contemporary interiors, can be stained a variety of ways, is easy to clean and even offers many health benefits to allergy sufferers.

Costs, styles and finishes of hardwood flooring vary substantially, however, and this can make selecting hardwood for different rooms in your home an overwhelming process.  Which type of flooring will work best for your lifestyle and budget? Consider the following options:

Solid vs. Engineered

There are two types of hardwood flooring: solid and engineered. The type you choose for your home will depend on where you want it placed and how much you want to spend.

As the name implies, traditional solid wood flooring is a solid piece of wood from top to bottom that can add value and a touch of class to any room. Today’s solid wood is available in a wide variety of species to complement every setting, from traditional woods like oak and pine, to more exotic species of hardwood from places like Brazil.

Although durable, solid wood flooring is not resistant to moisture, which makes it a poor choice for concrete slabs, any room below ground level, or in areas of the home that are susceptible to high humidity, such as the bathroom. Due to it’s thickness and durability, solid wood flooring can be sanded and refinished—making it a good investment, as it can be restored time and time again.

If the location you wish to install hardwood is susceptible to extreme temperature changes or humidity, such as a basement, you may want to consider engineered hardwood flooring. Engineered wood flooring consists of multiple, thin layers of wood veneers mounted on top of less expensive plywood, giving it the appearance of traditional solid wood flooring at a fraction of the cost. Because it is constructed in layers rather than a single piece of wood, it is more resistant to warping caused by moisture.  That’s why it is a great choice for any grade level of the home and even a viable wood option for areas like basements or kitchens where solid hardwood isn't appropriate. Engineered hardwood floors are relatively easy to install, but cannot be refinished more than a few times, thus making it harder to repair deep scratches and dents.

Both types of flooring are available in an unfinished or a pre-finished version. Unfinished allows for unique customization of your floor. But since pre-finished flooring is sanded and finished at the factory it only needs installation—making it a faster and easier option.

Colors, Hardness and Width

In addition to choosing solid or engineered, you will also need to select the color, hardness and width of your wood. High trafficked areas, like the kitchen and foyer will benefit from harder wood such as oak while bedrooms, closets and other rooms that aren’t subjected to a lot of foot traffic would be fine with a softer wood like a pine. For wood color, darker woods provide a more traditional look and feel, while lighter colored woods are more contemporary. Similarly, wider wood planks typically complement larger rooms and narrow strips add length and depth to smaller spaces. The latest trend in wood flooring have been the use of larger planks with a hand-scraped finish for more character.

Eco-friendly Options

Earth-friendly alternatives to traditional hardwood flooring have become increasingly viable. Bamboo and cork surfaces are among the most popular choices for those wishing to purchase a sustainable product that also provides lasting beauty and value to their home. These materials are made from sustainably harvested, recycled or reclaimed sources, making the flooring non-toxic and environmentally friendly.

Finally, know your budget. Hardwood flooring is a big investment, and understanding how much you can afford will save you time by allowing you to narrow your options. Electing to install hardwood is a great way to add beauty and function to any room—no matter what type you choose. As long as it is installed correctly and maintained properly, it will increase the value of your home and offer a beautiful finish for many years.  

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