So you’ve just decided to renovate your house and you want to replace your old tile, linoleum, or concrete flooring with wood flooring. You may even be building a house from the ground up and trying to decide which type of wood flooring. In either case, sometimes determining which of the wood flooring types is best for your home can be a challenging task. There are so many things to consider- the color, the type of wood, the finish, and the style- that it may seem like a daunting endeavor.
In this article, we’ve done our best to provide you with a comprehensive overview of the five main wood flooring types as well as more recently trending but less known types. But before we discuss the types, we’ll go over some contraindications to installing wood flooring in your homes, the advantages and disadvantages of wood flooring, and the different styles of wood floors.
Are Wood Floors Right for Your Home?
Before you decide to install wood floors for your next project, you want to make sure that your house and lifestyle are suitable for wood floors. Wood is one of the most versatile materials that you can use for flooring because it can pretty much be used anywhere and over any type of foundation or subfloor. However, there are some factors that influence whether you should use wood floors or seek another alternative.
The great thing about wood floors is that they can be installed in just about any climate. However, if you live in an area that is prone to extreme humidity or exposure to standing water, then you should not install wood flooring.
How much traffic you will have in your house is another big consideration in installing wood floors. Once wood floors are installed and finished, they are prone to scuffing, scratches, and dulling. So if you have a big family and active inside pets, maintaining your wood floors may be difficult. This is also a consideration for normally high-traffic areas of the house like hallways, entryways, kitchens, and bathrooms.
This does not mean that you can not install wood floors in these areas; however, you will have to install very hard floors. Otherwise, they may not keep their aesthetic looks that long and may have to be refinished, replaced, or repaired much more often.
The last consideration when it comes to flooring is the members of the family who will be living in your home. If you have small children and babies, then hardwood floors might hurt them if they trip or fall. You may need to choose a softer type of floor with more cushion.
If your house isn’t exposed to a lot of humidity or moisture, won’t have too much wear put on it by in-house traffic, and you don’t have little ones to worry about, then hardwood is an excellent flooring choice.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Wood Floors
There is a reason that wood flooring is so popular, and that is because of the many advantages it offers. However, just like any other type of flooring, it also has its disadvantages. It is important that you know the advantages and disadvantages of wood flooring to be sure it’s the right choice for your home.
There are many advantages to wood flooring, especially with the various wood floors available on the market. Here are the advantages that wood floors offer:
- Highly durable
- Aesthetic appeal
- Cheap and easy to refinish
- Easy to clean
- Increases property value
- Low maintenance
Despite the many advantages of wood floors, some disadvantages may cause you to choose another type of flooring. These are the disadvantages of wood floors:
- Expensive to install
- More difficult to install than other flooring types
- Easily damaged by moisture and water
- Hard and cold to the touch
Styles of Wood Flooring
There are several styles of wood flooring that are available depending on personal preference and house type. You can choose any of these based on your overall decor, foundation, family, and weather.
Prefinished and Unfinished Flooring
Traditionally, wood flooring has always been installed unfinished, sanded, and then covered with a finish and a hard protective varnish afterward. This unfinished flooring is the smoothest option because it eliminates board-height discrepancy thanks to the sanding after the install. It also adds up to a lower material cost and offers greater customization. However, it takes more time to install, can create a mess and release toxic fumes, and has a higher installation cost than prefinished flooring.
Prefinished wood flooring is a recent trend that is gaining popularity for builders and DIY installers. The boards come already sanded, stained, and varnished so all you have to do is install them. They take less time to install, are much less messy and dangerous, usually come with manufacturer warranties, and have a lower installation cost than unfinished flooring. However, they may not have the same smooth result as unfinished flooring and tend to have a substantially higher initial purchase cost for the material.
Solid and Engineered Flooring
Solid hardwood flooring boards are milled from one piece of wood, while engineered hardwood flooring boards have a multi-layered base made of compressed resin, wood, and polymers with a layer of real hardwood on the top.
Solid hardwood flooring boards are designed to be installed over wood subfloors. They are long-lasting and can be refinished many times. However, they are not ideal for below-grade installations and are not suitable for installation on a concrete subfloor because each board has to be individually nailed down. They also can develop a cupping effect if exposed to high humidity and they can develop gaps if the wood dries and shrinks after exposure to moisture.
Engineered hardwood flooring boards can be installed over many types of level floors, including tile, wood, linoleum, and even concrete. This is because they are fitted and snapped together using grooves on the sides of the boards, allowing them to float above the floor instead of being physically attached to it.
They can be used in below-grade installations like basements, are more resistant to moisture than solid hardwood boards, don’t have cupping or gaps, and come prefinished. However, the majority of engineered hardwood flooring can not be refinished more than once or twice.
Laminate Wood Flooring
Laminate wood flooring is another more recent popular trend that is typically used in rentals or for families with small children. It is very easy to clean, very moisture-resistant, can be installed over a variety of subfloors, and is less prone to staining and sun damage. However, because it is not real wood, there are a lot fewer options for grains and colors than true hardwood floors.
The Five Main Wood Flooring Types
There are many types of woods out there, but not all of them are suitable for flooring. In general, there are five main wood flooring types you can choose from that will provide the characteristics and qualities needed to be used for your home.
Oak is the most popular and common type of hardwood used for flooring today. There are two types: red oak and white oak.
Red oak is the most common wood flooring type, with a high hardness rating of 1290 and warm tones that provide you with colors ranging from creamy pink all the way to warm red or rusty brown. It has graceful swirled grain patterns that tend to vary slightly and can be used with a variety of decorating styles, including contemporary, classic, country, and rustic.
White oak provides cool hues and fine grain patterns. It has a higher hardness rating of 1360 compared to the red oak, which makes it perfect for high-traffic areas in the house. It has gray undertones and provides an elegant effect, which makes it as diverse as red oak for more high-class decor.
Walnut is one of the more popular wood flooring types for sophisticated, dramatic decor thanks to its rich, deep chocolate hues and straight, large grain patterns. It has a hardness rating of 1010, making it perfect for areas with light or medium traffic. The boards have little color variation, so walnut provides floors with a consistently smooth appearance.
Cherry is another popular choice thanks to its smooth grain pattern and warm brown color hues. It ranks only 950 on the hardness scale, so it’s best for lower-traffic areas, like dining rooms and bedrooms. It can darken slightly over time, especially when exposed to bright sunlight, and the beautiful grain pattern looks best when cut into wide planks.
Maple is another excellent choice for those high-traffic areas thanks to the high 1450 hardness rating. This light-colored wood often has beige, light cream, and tan hues with a slight reddish tint. It has a fine grain pattern that includes occasional specks and dark streaks for an interesting contrast. It can be used with many decorating styles, including transitional, contemporary, and eclectic.
Hickory has the highest hardness rating of all the wood flooring types, with a rating of 1820. This makes it ideal for high-traffic areas and for use throughout an entire house. It has mocha tones that range from creamy beiges tinted with red to warm browns streaked with dark brown. The grain has large knots and boards can vary greatly in color, making this wood perfect for country and rustic decorating styles.
Other Wood Flooring Types
Besides those five well-known hard flooring types, there are other flooring types available if you’re looking for something a little different from the mainstream. These include ash, mahogany, cork, and bamboo. There are also some more expensive exotic wood species available too.
Ash wood looks very similar to oak wood flooring, with a large swirling grain pattern that showcases the stain color. It has a hardness rating of 1320 and comes in a blond natural color that brightens up the appearance of a room. It is also elastic, shock-resistant, and stays smooth under friction. However, the boards come in shorter lengths than other woods.
Mahogany is another great choice for high-traffic areas, with a hardness ranking of 2200. It has a rich brown-red color streaked with darker brown and a closer grain that gives it a striped look. It is very durable and can be used with almost any decorating style, including classic and rustic styles.
Cork floors are made from cork oak tree bark. They are softer than other hardwoods; in fact, they are so soft that they are shock-absorbent and virtually noiseless. Cork is a great option for areas where people will be standing for long periods of time. It is also environmentally friendly, insect-resistant, and hypoallergenic. However, it is the most expensive of the wood flooring types and can be damaged easily due to its softness.
Because bamboo flooring actually comes from a tropical grass that is gathered and compressed together, it is naturally moisture-resistant and is also environmentally friendly. It is softer and quieter than hardwood floors but harder than cork floors, making it an excellent alternative to use in their place. However, it is much more expensive than traditional hardwood flooring and is more susceptible to scratches and dings than other wood flooring types.
Exotic wood flooring types include jarrah, teak, acacia, redwood, cypress, and mesquite wood species. These woods are typically much more expensive than any of the other wood flooring types and are best suited for specialized or themed decorating styles.
The Best Wood Flooring Types for You: Conclusion
In the end, whether you want to furnish your house with wood flooring or not is a personal decision. However, wood is an excellent choice for virtually any part of the house and any type of decor thanks to the variety of styles and types available. It has its disadvantages just like any other type of material, but it will provide you with sophistication, durability, and a long-lasting beautiful floor for years to come.