Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood Flooring Buying Giude
The beauty of natural hardwood floors never goes out of style. They offer a durable, solid surface suited to any room in your home. While hardwood floors have been around for centuries, much has changed in recent years. New finishes, better construction and a wider variety of available sizes and materials have made them more luxurious, functional and affordable than ever. With so many options to choose from, you’ll want to carefully consider your needs before you buy. The following questions will help you begin to assess what solution is right for you:
        • What type of hardwood flooring is ideal for your home?
        • Is there a certain style you wish to achieve?
        • Is solid, engineered or click wood best suited to the area?
        • Will you be installing the floor or hiring a professional?

Type, Selection and Installation

Hardwood floors come in 3 different types of construction or formats including solid hardwood flooring, engineered tongue & groove or click together wood. Each one has distinct advantages and installation requirements, so take the time to understand which one is best suited to the room or rooms where you will be installing the floor. If you plan to install the floor yourself, you may want to consider selecting flooring with features such as a prefinished surface or floating installation for added convenience. For additional information, view our Hardwood Basics I and Hardwoods Basics II videos and download our Hardwoods and Hardwood Options PDFs.
Solid Wood: Solid wood flooring is created by cutting the entire strip of wood in one whole piece directly from a tree. Solid wood floors are commonly found in older homes and usually consist of long thin strips of wood that have been nailed into a wood subfloor. Because of their durability and timeless beauty, they remain a popular choice for new installations as well. Since solid wood reacts to fluctuations in humidity, this type of flooring expands and contracts as moisture levels in your home change. Be sure you follow the proper installation methods to prevent buckling or gapping.

• Suited best for installations at or above ground level; install over a wood subfloor
• Thicknesses range from 5/16" to 3/4"; typical widths include 1-1/2", 2" and 2-1/4"
• Can be sanded and refinished several times for lasting value and performance
• Available as either prefinished or unfinished pieces in a wide range of wood varieties
• Can go over concrete, but proper preparation and planning need to be done first

Engineered Wood: Engineered woods have increased in popularity due to both their low price and remarkable ability to handle fluctuations in humidity without shifting or changing. Engineered wood consists of several thin layers of solid wood fused together with heat, glue and pressure. Cross-grain construction alternates layers opposite one another, so each individual layer expands and contracts in different directions with little to no visible change. Because engineered wood is resistant to humidity changes, it is suited to a wider variety of installations and can even be installed over concrete slabs. Since only the top layer is visible, manufacturers can use a variety of less expensive woods to create the core layer and use more costly woods on the surface. This gives you the benefit of more luxurious materials at an affordable price.

• Engineered floors can be installed at, below or above ground level
• Can be placed directly over a concrete slab giving you more installation options
• Engineered wood floors with thick top layers can be sanded and refinished several times
• Usually come pre finished for simple, hassle-free installation that allows for immediate use

Click Wood: Click wood "floats" over the sub floor without any nailing, stapling or heavy troweling of adhesives. Similar to how laminate floors are installed, floating hardwood floors can be installed over most existing sub floors, including vinyl and concrete, without demolition mess.
Flooring Selection: In addition to selecting the type of wood, you’ll also need to choose which type of flooring you prefer. Hardwood flooring comes in three styles – strip, plank and parquet. Strip flooring consists of long, thin pieces with an interlocking tongue-and-groove. It is the most common type of solid wood floor. Classic strip flooring measures 2-1/4" wide, but newer varieties give you more width options. Plank flooring is similar to strip flooring but is much wider with widths up to 8" or more. It also has tongue-and-groove edges and often comes prefinished. It is available in both engineered and solid wood. Parquet flooring is a series of large, square wood tiles that feature geometric patterns held together by glue or other fasteners. They are also available in both solid and engineered wood.

• Strip flooring usually measures between 5/16" and 3/4" thick with widths from 1-1/2" to 3-1/4"
• Plank floors made from engineered wood can replicate the look of strip flooring by combining several long,
  thin strips on the top layer of a larger piece.

Installation: Keep in mind that while many installations are simple and straightforward, some floor types require more complicated installs that may be better left to professionals. There are four basic types of installation – nail down, glue down, staple down and floating/click. The type of installation is largely determined by the type of wood and flooring style you select. Keep the following tips and hints in mind.

• Engineered floors often utilize a simple floating installation, which is the fastest installation method.
• Solid wood should be acclimated to the room several days prior to installation.
• An expansion gap allows for changes in solid wood floors due to fluctuating humidity.
• Add molding to walls to hide the expansion gap for a more uniform appearance.
• Factory finished floors can be walked on immediately after installation is complete.


Wood Type and Flooring Style


Points to consider

Solid strips or planks • Nail down
• Staple down
• Provides a timeless look and classic beauty
• Solid wood must be installed at or above ground level
• Both nail and staple down installation require
  attachment to a wood subfloor or building a wood
  subfloor over concrete
• Available in prefinished and unfinished varieties
• Unfinished wood allows for customization
• Solid wood can be sanded and refinished multiple
  times for lasting value
Engineered strips or planks • Nail down
• Staple down
• Glue down
• Recreates the classic look of solid wood strip flooring
  with all the benefits of engineered wood
• Can be installed at, above or below ground level
• Can be installed over a variety of surfaces, including
  wood and concrete
• Prefinished wood is often treated with ultra violet light
  for increased durability
• Engineered wood is often more affordable
Click wood/ floating planks • Floating • Floating installation is great for do-it-yourself projects
• Some planks replicate the look of strip flooring with
  multiple strips applied to one larger piece
• Engineered wood can be placed at, above or below
  ground level
• Can be installed over a variety of surfaces, including
  wood and concrete
• Prefinished wood is often treated with ultra violet light
  for increased durability
• Click wood is often more affordable
Solid or engineered parquet • Glue down • Large, preassembled tiles make installation simple and
• Requires a special adhesive – always use the
  recommended materials for best results
• Usually installed over a wood subfloor since many
  adhesives will not adhere to other materials
• Allows you to combine different patterns for truly
  unique flooring


Square, Beveled or Eased Edges: Floors come with 3 basic edges - square, beveled or eased. Beveled and eased edges help hide irregularities in the subfloor. Square edges provide an even, uniform look with clean lines. Beveled edges have a slightly deeper indent while eased edges taper off more gradually.

Wood Varieties: Wood flooring comes in a wide range of wood varieties, including standards such as oak, maple or pine as well as more unusual varieties from around the globe such as Australian cypress or Brazilian cherry. Choose the style and color that best suits your existing décor. 
Hardwood Hardiness or Janka Scale: Refer to the manufacturer as well as store signage to view how hard each hardwood floor is in comparison to the other.

UV-Cured Finish: Floors that come prefinished are often treated with ultra violet light for a stronger, more durable finish that can withstand the rigors of daily use for lasting beauty and enjoyment.

Acrylic-Impregnated Woods: Some woods are infused with a colored acrylic that penetrates into the fibers of the wood to create a stronger, more durable flooring surface. The substance permeates the entire piece of wood for a solid, consistent color throughout. This is most often used in commercial applications for extremely high-traffic areas.

NOFMA Rating: The National Oak Floor Manufacturers Association has developed a rating system for wood that indicates the level of quality. Ratings include, Clear, Select, Better, #1 Common and #2 Common. Clear is the highest rated wood and the most expensive. It features wood without any blemishes or knots.