A Guide to Hardwood Flooring
Hardwood floors are a classic and popular choice due to their unique natural beauty, durability, contribution to the overall property value, and coordination with a variety of styles and interior decor. An impressive flooring option in almost any room, hardwood floors are available in a wide range of timber species, colors, quality, and budget ranges.
As you make a long term, sustainable investment in your home, it is important to gain a good understanding of hardwood floor products before ordering installation. There are many elements informing which kind of wood is best for you: the nature of the room – basements and kitchens require some special considerations – moisture levels, traffic volume, budget capacity, and design specifications.
This article will provide a comprehensive review of the kinds of hardwood floors available and how to best choose the hardwood flooring for your personal taste, design, and budget. Armed with this information, you will be an empowered customer shopping from a position of confidence and strength.
Various Types of Hardwood Flooring
The first of several decisions you will need to make when purchasing hardwood flooring for your home is between solid and engineered hardwood floor products. Then, you need to determine the wood species and hardwood flooring cut pattern you prefer. Let’s examine these factors individually:
1. Solid Hardwood Flooring
Solid hardwood is generally what comes to mind when you imagine classic hardwood flooring. It contains solid pieces of wood from your desired lumber species. Its natural attractiveness gives a warm, genuine charm to your home regardless of the species.
Solid hardwood flooring is also highly durable when properly installed and maintained as per manufacturer’s instructions. Generally, the limitations to purchasing solid hardwood are the cost and its vulnerability to moisture damage. Avoid installing solid hardwood in rooms with large amounts of moisture and humidity.
2. Engineered Hardwood Flooring
Assembled from multiple layers of wood pressed together, engineered hardwood has a layer of hardwood at its bottom and core. The multi-ply construction of engineered hardwood flooring reduces the price – and the product’s lifespan. The wood components can expand and contract as changes occur to humidity levels, presenting an advantage to solid hardwood.
Known for its flexibility, it is a versatile product often used in upper-story floors and basements. Engineered hardwood can be installed directly on a concrete subfloor or a radiant heating system without side effects. Offering significant savings when compared to solid hardwood, the limitations of engineered hardwood flooring are the difficulty in sanding and refinishing it, reduced durability and lifespan, and lack of contribution to your property value.
What are Various Hardwood Species?
Having selected either solid or engineered hardwood flooring, you can begin to choose the desired species, depending on their color tones, overall durability, and wood grain patterns.
An important metric used almost universally in the hardwood flooring industry is the Janka Hardness Scale. Gabriel Janka was an Austrian researcher who created the Scale in 1906 to measure the hardness of wood. A higher rating number means harder wood – and more durability for your floor. Keep this metric in mind as we examine several popular species of hardwood:
This most famous hardwood variety comes in two colors, both proving to be popular flooring options. The most popular is red oak, measuring 1290 on the Janka Scale, meeting the durability needs of most floors. It boasts warm tones – golden red and creamy pink to rusty brown. It comes with graceful swirled grain patterns across and can vary a bit in color and grain pattern between one board to the other. Red oak serves many décor styles, including country, rustic, classic, and contemporary.
Selected for its fine grain patterns as well as cooler hues, white oak is harder than red oak – measuring 1360 on the Janka Scale – making it an ideal choice for high-traffic areas. White oak contains gray undertones and no sight of red. Its grain and color only differ a bit, producing a smooth feel, ideal for many design styles.
Prized for its smooth grain pattern and warm brown hues, this product is a bit softer than other hardwoods, measuring 950 on the Janka Scale – ideal for low-traffic areas, such as formal dining rooms and bedrooms. Cherry tends to darken a bit over time, especially if exposed to direct sunlight. For the best visual effect, installing wide flooring woods – eight inches is recommended – to reveal the full beauty of this hardwood grain pattern.
Rich, deep, chocolate tones and wide, straight grain patterns make this type of hardwood a good choice for sophistication and drama in your decor. Walnut rates a medium 1010 on the Janka Scale, ideal for medium-to-light-traffic areas, and may reveal wear in high-traffic spots after some years. Color variations from one board to the next are minimal, providing walnut floors a smooth, consistent appearance.
Hickory boasts an impressive 1820 score on the Janka Scale is 1820 and is very durable, perfect for high-traffic areas. Hickory was traditionally a leading choice for school gymnasium floors. Hickory contains mocha-tones, ranging from light brown with dark brown streaks to creamy beige with a hint of red. With big knots and colors that can vary from one board to another, hickory is perfectly suited to the country, rustic style.
Maple is another durable hardwood variety; measuring 1450 on the Janka Scale it is an ideal floor for most rooms. A light-colored wood, with hues that contain light cream, tan, and beige, it usually contains a little reddish tint for contrast. Maple contains a beautiful grain pattern, with little dark streaks and specks that improve the visual interest of the wood. This hardwood goes with many styles, such as contemporary, eclectic, and traditional.
Cut Patterns in Hardwood Flooring
After selecting solid or engineered hardwood, and choosing a species suited to your design and budget, we arrive at a third crucial element – cut patterns. The point at which boards are cut from the lumber is among the major factors that determine the overall grain pattern. Let’s take a look at the most popular cut patterns offered in the flooring marketplace:
- Quartersawn: These logs are sawn into quarters, then cut through the grain. Difficult to visualize, it produces a flecked look, uniform graining, and a stable grain. This cut pattern is less prone to warping over time.
- Plain/flatsawn: This cut is just as it sounds – a plain, straight, flat cut perpendicular to the tree’s growth rings. Since it stretches vertically across the rings of the tree, it produces a varied, wavy grain, making it the most popular cut.
- Live sawn: The saw makes perpendicular slices across a tree going down-to-up. Live sawn boards are usually the widest of the four varieties and have the highest visible natural variation.
- Rift sawn: Similar to slicing a pie, rift sawn boards are created by slicing the trunk into eighths before being cut into planks or strips. This creates straighter grains that resemble quarter sawn but avoids the flecks.
Selecting Cut Patterns
As previously addressed, solid hardwood floors contain full wood boards while engineered hardwood contains multi-ply layered wood. While one might assume that cut patterns are relevant only when selecting solid hardwood, recent innovations have brought these patterns to engineered woods too. The majority of the best-engineered wood flooring manufacturers are offering various cut patterns, expanding your product selection and elevating the overall look of your floor.
Frequently Asked Questions about Hardwood Floors
How many types of hardwood floors exist?
Five hardwood species (walnut, maple, oak, cherry, and hickory) are among the most popular options for household flooring, each offering unique characteristics.
What is the difference between solid wood and engineered hardwood?
Engineered hardwood is built of original wood but contains the core of hardwood combined with plywood, with the top surface containing a layer of hardwood veneer. When solid hardwood is exposed to dramatic temperature changes and moisture it will expand and contract, so it is only suggested at or above ground level.
Which is more durable – solid hardwood or engineered hardwood?
This depends on the room to be floored – its traffic volume, elevation, moisture, and ground level. Solid hardwood is most durable in dry, ground level and elevated floors. However, engineered wood is a good option for basements or other moist and humid areas, providing more durability than laminates or solid wood in those conditions.
So, What Types of Hardwood Flooring are the Best?
The best hardwood floors are installed as a result of an informed process, one that takes into account such factors as budget, design needs, taste, humidity, and traffic volume. The best hardwood flooring are the ones that you have chosen with consideration and confidence. We trust that you can make an empowered choice with this guide to various types of hardwood flooring.
We invite you to contact our representatives at Dallas Floors for a full and free consultation regarding your hardwood options. Using your personal budget and design needs, we can work together to find a hardwood flooring product customized just for you. We will be happy to schedule a visit to your home or business and generate a clear, easy to understand estimate to bring your flooring project to completion.