Choosing the best type of hardwood flooring for your home depends on your budget, preference, and style. After reading this hardwood flooring guide, you’ll know what to expect when it comes to hardwood flooring types, wood species, prices, performance, and quality. With realistic expectations, you’ll be able to make an informed choice about which flooring type is the best investment for you.
What to Consider When Selecting Your Hardwood Flooring
When you’re choosing a hardwood floor, there’s three main things you’ll want to consider:
Most of the time, you won’t consider these separately, but they’ll factor in as you examine your current décor, plan your budget, and learn more about different flooring types, species, and finishes.
1. Types of Hardwood Flooring
There are two main types of hardwood flooring: solid and engineered. Vinyl and laminate are often thrown into the hardwood flooring category, but because neither of these options are made from hardwood, they aren’t included in this guide.
Solid Vs Engineered Hardwood Flooring
Solid hardwood is a natural, unique, and timeless flooring option. Each plank of solid wood flooring is made from milled wood. Above all else, your wood floor will be one-of-a-kind. The appearance of the wood depends both on the tree and how it’s lumbered. The way the lumber is milled determines the amount of sapwood and heartwood in each wood plank. This, in turn, gives the wood its distinct colors, grain patterns and textures, which influence how the wood accepts stain and finish.
Engineered hardwood flooring is constructed from multiple layers of wood or other materials, with a veneer of real hardwood on top. The construction depends on the manufacturer, the process, and the materials used. For example, waterproof hardwood flooring planks are made with a waterproof core. Read the waterproof hardwood flooring guide here.
Solid wood flooring is often more expensive, but it’s also very durable. Installing hardwood insulates your space and strengthens the overall integrity of your entire flooring structure. You can also refinish solid hardwood multiple times, which is like getting a brand new floor. Usually, you can refinish engineered hardwood, but it depends on the thickness of the veneer.
Engineered hardwood flooring is more dimensionally stable than solid wood. This means that planks won’t shrink or swell as much as solid hardwood will in response to humidity levels and changes in temperature. This can be a critical factor if you have a particularly damp or humid environment in your home. Another advantage of engineered hardwood is that you can install it on, above, or below grade. This means you can install hardwood flooring upstairs and in the basement without issues.
2. Wood Species, Colors, and Grain Patterns
The species of hardwood you choose has defining features that almost always comes down to budget and individual preference. One type of wood is not necessarily better than another, and each species is distinctly beautiful.
As you’re talking to flooring professionals, feeling out different products, and reading articles, you’ll notice there’s a range of different wood species available. Each species has different characteristics, colors, patterns, and Janka rating. And some are assigned different grades to denote their overall quality relative to price.
Here we look at the most commonly available hardwoods used in both solid and engineered hardwood flooring.
WHITE OAK FLOORING
White oak hardwood flooring is popular for its beauty and durability.
With a Janka rating of 1360, white oak is one of the hardest domestic woods around. It’s popular for its strength, richness, and beauty. The wood itself is also straight and close-grained, making it exceptionally dense and resistant to warping or cracking over time. All in all, white oak flooring has everything you could want in a high-quality hardwood floor.
- Janka Rating: 1360
- Colors: Lovely tan and pale brown with pinkish, gray, and brown hues
- Grain Pattern: Close and straight grain with occasional swirls and burls
Shop white oak flooring at our online store:
White Oak Natural Builder Engineered Flooring$6.99 sq. ft.
White Oak Natural Builder Solid Flooring$4.39 – $4.49 sq. ft.
White Oak Select 3/4″ x 5″ Unfinished Solid Hardwood Flooring$7.19 sq. ft.
RED OAK FLOORING
Red oak flooring is another popular choice among homeowners and designers.
With its beautiful red hue, intricate grain pattern, and 1290 Janka rating, red oak is a solid option. Whether your ideal aesthetic is modern or rustic, red oak’s neutral reddish-brown tone and unique, lively grain will add character and style to any space. Easy to maintain, red oak is one of the top choices for busy families who want a high-quality floor they can rely on.
- Janka Rating: 1290
- Colors: Reddish hue with a neutral reddish brown tone
- Grain Pattern: Similar to white oak but more intricate
Shop red oak flooring in a variety of widths at our online store:
Gunstock Oak Builder Engineered Flooring$4.99 – $5.39 sq. ft.
Red Oak Natural Builder Solid Flooring$4.39 – $4.49 sq. ft.
Red Oak #1 Common 3/4″ x 5″ Unfinished Solid Hardwood Flooring$5.29 sq. ft.
Hickory is a strong and dense wood with a Janka rating of 1820, making it very resilient.
It has a non-uniform pattern with a very unique grain. It’s available in different colors, from medium tan and light brown red to warm-grey brown and dark chocolate. If you’re looking for hardwood similar to cherry, this is it. Many people choose it as an alternative, and so can you. Hickory floors are easy to care for and are very scratch resistant, giving any space a distinct and beautiful look.
- Janka Rating: 1820
- Colors: Medium tan and light brown red to warm-grey brown and dark chocolate
- Grain Pattern: Non-uniform
Shop hickory flooring in a variety of widths at our online store:
Raintree Nashville Scene Collection$6.99 sq. ft.
Sheoga Unfinished Hickory Ingrown Bark Flooring$4.99 sq. ft.
Hickory 1st Grade 3/4″ x 3″ Unfinished Solid Hardwood Flooring$4.99 sq. ft.
HARD MAPLE FLOORING
Like Hickory, hard maple is one of the strongest, most durable types of wood flooring available.
With a Janka rating of 1450, it can easily stand up to heavy foot traffic. This means it’s ideal for homes, businesses, and other high-traffic areas. Because of its uniform texture, straight grain, and occasional curls, maple flooring has a beautiful aesthetic. It’s available in brown and tan shades with dark reddish brown hues. For strong, stable, and long-lasting flooring, maple may be the perfect choice for you.
- Janka Rating: 1450
- Colors: Light brown and tan shades or dark reddish brown hues
- Grain Pattern: Straight grain with occasional curls
Shop hard maple flooring in a variety of widths at our online store:
Cherry Flooring is another popular and traditional choice with a Janka rating of 950.
Its fine, straight grain pattern, which can also be wavy, is both smooth and elegant. With colors ranging from light pinkish and pale to dark red brown hues, the wood is highly attractive. Over time, the tones and colors of cherry will change and develop, making it a dynamic choice that separates it from other species. Whether you’re renovating your home or building a new one from scratch, cherry flooring is a great option.
Contact us about cherry wood flooring today.
- Janka Rating: 950
- Colors: Light pinkish and pale to dark red-brown hues
- Grain Pattern: Fine, straight grain that can be wavy
Whether you’re looking to revamp your dining room or update the entryway in your living room, black walnut flooring is a beautiful option.
With a Janka rating of 1010, walnut floors look striking with a straight, open grain, rich, dark brown color, and swirling purple accented hues. Walnut floors look incredible in bright, airy environments, so they’re particularly well-suited for rooms with direct sunlight.
- Janka Rating: 1010
- Colors: Rich, dark brown color, and swirling purple accented hues
- Grain Pattern: Straight open grain
Shop hard walnut flooring at our online store:
HEART PINEWOOD FLOORING
Although pine is a softwood, heart pinewood flooring is incredibly durable with a Janka rating of 1225.
Heart pinewood also has a beautiful, distinct grain pattern that features pinholes and knots, so it’s perfect for rustic and country styles. Besides rich yellow to dark brown color tones, it also can have naturally occurring sap stains that only add to its character and charm.
- Janka Rating: 1225
- Colors: Rich yellow to dark brown color tones
- Grain Pattern: Beautiful, distinct grain pattern that features pinholes and knots
Shop heart pine flooring at our online store:
Unfinished Heart Pine – 3/4″ x 2 1/2″$10.29 sq. ft.
Unfinished New Heart Pine 3/4″ x 3 1/4″ Select & Better$5.19 sq. ft.
Price Per Sq. Ft.
The prices for hardwood flooring are often changing, depending on the availability of wood and many other factors. For any hardwoods not listed in this guide, you can contact us for a quote. We can help you find what you’re looking for.
3. Prefinished Vs Unfinished Wood Flooring
When it comes to solid or engineered hardwood flooring, you have the option of purchasing prefinished or unfinished wood. Prefinished wood flooring comes with the finish already applied, so it’s ready to install as soon as it’s delivered.
Unfinished wood flooring requires someone to install, sand, and finish the floor. This gives you more control over the final look, but it requires more thought and time. It also requires specialized skills. If you choose unfinished hardwood, you’ll probably want to hire an experienced contractor. Installation, sanding, and finish play a significant part in the final appearance and performance of your floor.
An experienced and skilled contractor who knows what they’re doing makes all the difference. The final appearance of your hardwood floor will depend on it. For example, an experienced flooring professional will make sure the sub flooring is level. If the flooring surface isn’t perfectly level before installation, then you’ll have noticeable problems after installation.
If you go with unfinished wood, there’s different types of finishes that can be applied to hardwood floors, and each one will affect the overall look and feel of the floor. Some types of finishes include oil and water-based polyurethane, and natural hard-wax oils, such as Pallmann Magic Oil 2K. Before choosing a finish, you may find it helpful to consider the different sheens available.
So, what’s the right hardwood flooring for your home? It depends on your needs, style, and budget. With so many options available, it can be tough to decide which type of wood flooring is right for you. That’s why it helps to first explore, then weigh the pros and cons of each option before making your choice. Hardwood flooring is a great investment that will add value to your home and last for years. Finding the perfect flooring for your unique space is a challenge. It’s also a long-term decision. But the more you know, the more likely you’ll soon be experiencing the hardwood floor of your dreams. Feel free to contact us with any questions about flooring. With 55 years of experience in the flooring industry, we’re here to help! Want more information? Read more about sheen, texture, shade, and sizing.