What Type of Wood Material?

There are four main types of wood flooring material:

  • Solid wood
  • Engineered wood
  • Parquet tiles
  • Cork tiles

You'll also want to consider the finish of your floor; see the notes below on Unfinished or Pre-Finished options.



  • Most common type of wood flooring; traditional wood floors are made of strips orplanks of solid wood
  • Considered elegant - often the best choice for formal rooms. The warm look and comfortable feel also work well in informal rooms.
  • Frequently found in dining rooms, living rooms and entryways
  • Not generally recommended for rooms with high water usage or moisture levels, such as full bathrooms
  • Typically not recommended for basements or rooms below ground level; installing wood in these places voids most manufacturers' warranties for solid wood flooring

Solid Wood Options
  • Comes in many kinds of hardwood and softwood
  • Available unfinished or pre-finished


While it looks like solid wood, engineered wood is instead made up of several layers - there is a solid-species top layer attached to a multilayer solid wood core, plus other layers of multi-ply solid wood.

  • Multi-ply layers increase durability and stability and decrease cost
  • Layers are positioned with their grains in opposite directions to minimize expansion and contraction from humidity and temperature changes
  • Multiple layers permit wider planks, with each plank containing several solid
    wood strips
  • Wider planks enable faster installations
  • Greater stability of engineered wood means these floors can be installed in
    certain places (such as humid areas) where solid wood is not a good choice

Engineered Wood Options
  • Comes in a variety of woods, stains and finishes
  • Produced as strips, planks or planks composed of several strips
  • Available unfinished or pre-finished


Parquet floors are formed from short strips of wood arranged to create a variety of mosaic patterns. Parquet tiles are a specific kind of engineered wood designed to be the unit that repeats in a parquet pattern. The tile's top layer is made from narrow strips of wood glued together to form the unit portion of the pattern. The top layer is joined to a plywood base that is reinforced by metal strips.


Cork tiles are an engineered wood product with a top layer made of bark from the cork oak tree. Reasons for cork's growing popularity include:

  • Comfortable underfoot
  • Modern look
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Surprisingly easy to clean: regular vacuuming and occasional damp moppingwith water and a mild detergent maintain the floor
  • Good for public access areas where carpeting would require too much maintenance

Unfinished or Pre-Finished?

Many types of wood flooring can be purchased either unfinished or pre-finished. Which should you choose? The differences are significant. Consider the following:

  • Unfinished Wood Flooring
  • Available in a wider range of sizes, kinds of wood and finish options than pre-finished products
  • Finishing process is time consuming and messy, involving four stages:
  • Sanding: several times, each time leaving a fine dust throughout your house
  • Cleaning: floor must be completely dry and free of dust
  • Staining: stain applied and dried overnight
  • Finishing: three coats of finish applied; each must dry overnight

When finished, these wood floors are often more beautiful than many pre-finished products.

Pre-Finished Wood Flooring

  • Fewer choices than with unfinished products
  • Already stained and coated with a tough finish that is hard to duplicate at home
  • Fast installation with no sanding or cleanup - you can walk on your new floor assoon as the final nail is in the last board
  • Time-saving option worth exploring.

Choosing a Finish

Unfinished wood flooring is usually finished with a polyurethane product. Polyurethane adds rich shine as well as protection to hardwood floors. Not all floors have the same amount of sheen, so choose a finish that best matches your needs. The more coats of polyurethane applied to your hardwood floor, the more resistant it will be to damage.

The two standard polyurethane finishes are:

  • Semi-Gloss
  • Satin
  • Semi-Gloss Finish
  • Higher sheen than satin finishes
  • Requires more frequent maintenance
  • Properly applied, maintains natural beauty of wood for years
  • Satin Finish
  • Less shiny than semi-gloss
  • Matte finish hides superficial scratches
  • Will not dull quickly
  • More practical for pets, high-traffic usage and young children

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