Type of Hardwood Floor And How to Choose – Complete Guide 2024

Types of Hardwood Flooring In LA


As a seasoned hardwood flooring specialist with years of experience, I’ve seen firsthand the transformative impact of hardwood floors on both the aesthetics and value of homes. Hardwood flooring has long been prized for its timeless beauty and durability. It’s a choice that can dramatically elevate the look of any space while offering a robust return on investment—often boosting home resale values by an impressive 2.5%. 

In this article, we will delve deep into the various types of hardwood flooring available, each offering unique characteristics and benefits. Whether you are renovating an old home or choosing finishes for a new build, understanding these options will help you make an informed decision that aligns with both your lifestyle needs and design preferences.

Understanding Hardwood: Basics and Benefits

Hardwood is derived from dicot trees, typically found in both temperate and tropical forests. These trees are notable for their broad leaves. In contrast, softwoods originate from gymnosperm trees, such as pines and firs, which usually have needles and cones.

Benefits of Hardwood Flooring: 

  • Durability and Longevity: Hardwood floors are renowned for their strength and durability, often lasting over 100 years if properly maintained. This makes them an excellent long-term investment for any home.
  • Ease of Maintenance: Unlike carpet, hardwood floors are straightforward to clean and maintain. Regular sweeping and occasional mopping with a wood cleaner are usually sufficient to keep them looking new.
  • Health and Hygiene: Hardwood floors do not harbor dust, allergens, or odors, making them an ideal choice for allergy sufferers or anyone looking to maintain a cleaner, healthier home environment.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: The natural beauty of wood can significantly enhance the aesthetic appeal of any room, adding warmth and elegance that few other flooring options can match.
  • Versatility in Design: With a variety of woods, stains, and finishes available, hardwood floors offer immense versatility in design. They can be easily sanded and refinished to adapt to new decor trends or personal taste changes over time.
  • Increases Property Value: Installing hardwood flooring can increase the market value of a property, making it more attractive to potential buyers and often resulting in higher resale prices.

Types of Hardwood Flooring

1- Solid Hardwood Flooring

Solid hardwood flooring is a distinguished choice in home design, valued for its durability and aesthetic appeal. Traditionally milled from a single piece of wood, usually about 3/4 inch thick, solid hardwood is designed to be a long-lasting fixture in the home. It can be sanded and refinished multiple times throughout its lifespan, making it possible to restore its appearance or update its finish to match changing decor trends.

In the U.S., oak is the most commonly used species for solid hardwood flooring, making up approximately 60% of installations due to its durability and timeless appeal. Maple and walnut are also popular choices, offering lighter and darker color palettes respectively, with maple providing a subtle, consistent grain and walnut offering a richer, more varied texture that adds warmth and sophistication to any space.

The primary advantages of solid hardwood include its potential to enhance property value and its ability to withstand decades of wear, making it an excellent investment for any homeowner. However, it does have its drawbacks, such as sensitivity to moisture, which can cause warping in humid conditions, and a higher cost both in terms of materials and installation.

Ideal for areas like living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms, solid hardwood flooring is less suited to environments with high moisture levels such as basements and bathrooms unless precautions like proper sealing are implemented. Personally, I recommend oak for homes where durability is crucial, and walnut for spaces that require a touch of elegance. Solid hardwood not only increases a home’s market value but also enriches its living environment, providing both beauty and practicality.

2- Engineered Hardwood Flooring

Engineered hardwood flooring is an innovative and versatile option for those seeking the beauty of hardwood with additional stability and moisture resistance. This type of flooring is composed of a thin top layer of real hardwood adhered to several layers of high-quality plywood or high-density fiberboard. The layered construction minimizes the wood’s natural tendency to expand and contract with changes in humidity, making it a great choice for areas where solid hardwood might not be suitable.

The primary advantage of engineered hardwood is its adaptability to various environments. It can be installed over concrete subfloors and in basements, locations typically problematic for solid hardwood due to moisture issues. The installation process is also more flexible, with options for gluing, nailing, or even floating, depending on the product. This makes engineered hardwood a practical choice for many modern homes where varying subfloor types and moisture conditions exist.

However, there are some limitations to consider. Engineered hardwood can be refinished, but only a limited number of times (1-3 times) due to the thinness of the top wood layer. This means that while it can withstand wear and minor damages, its lifespan for renewal through refinishing is shorter compared to solid hardwood. Additionally, the quality of engineered hardwood can vary significantly depending on the thickness of the top layer and the quality of the core layers, so selecting a high-quality product is crucial for ensuring long-term satisfaction.

3- Bamboo Flooring

Bamboo flooring has increasingly become a popular choice among homeowners looking for an environmentally sustainable and aesthetically pleasing alternative to traditional hardwoods. Technically a grass, bamboo grows rapidly, maturing in just 3-5 years compared to decades for hardwood trees, making it an exceptionally renewable resource. This rapid growth cycle allows for a significantly reduced environmental impact, catering to eco-conscious consumers.

The durability of bamboo flooring is another significant advantage. It is 27% harder than northern red oak and 13% harder than hard maple, which are among the most commonly used hardwoods. This hardness makes bamboo a suitable choice for high-traffic areas in homes, offering a robust surface that withstands considerable wear and tear. Furthermore, the unique grain patterns and natural brightness of bamboo can introduce a light, modern feel to interiors, complementing a wide range of decor styles from traditional to contemporary.

However, bamboo flooring does have its drawbacks. Despite its overall durability, bamboo is susceptible to scratching, particularly from pet nails or high heels. This means it might require more careful maintenance to retain its aesthetic appeal. Additionally, like many natural materials, bamboo can suffer from moisture damage if exposed to high humidity levels or spills that are not promptly cleaned up. This makes it less ideal for use in bathrooms or kitchens where moisture is prevalent.

4- Exotic Hardwood Flooring

Exotic hardwood flooring is often chosen for its striking beauty and unique characteristics. Woods like Brazilian cherry, teak, and mahogany are imported from various parts of the world, each offering distinct colors and intricate grain patterns that can turn a simple floor into a standout feature of any room. The rich, deep hues of Brazilian cherry and the golden tones of teak provide an unmatched level of luxury and sophistication that is highly sought after in upscale homes and design projects.

One of the primary advantages of exotic hardwoods is their aesthetic appeal. These woods can create a dramatic visual impact, enhancing the overall ambiance of a space with their unique natural beauty. In addition to their visual appeal, many exotic hardwoods are known for their exceptional durability and resistance to wear, making them suitable for areas that receive high foot traffic, though this can vary depending on the specific species.

However, exotic hardwoods come with a higher price tag, often costing at least 25% more than domestic hardwood species such as oak or maple. This can make them a less accessible option for some homeowners. Furthermore, there are important ethical and environmental considerations to take into account. The demand for exotic hardwoods can sometimes lead to unsustainable harvesting practices, and there are concerns about the legality of the wood trade in some producing countries. Prospective buyers should look for certifications like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which can help ensure that the wood has been sourced responsibly.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Hardwood Flooring

When selecting hardwood flooring, several factors need to be taken into account to ensure that the chosen material not only suits the aesthetics of the home but also performs well under specific living conditions. Here are detailed considerations to guide the selection process:

  • Room Usage

The function of the room plays a critical role in choosing the appropriate type of hardwood. For high-traffic areas like entryways and living rooms, harder woods such as oak (Janka rating of 1290) or hickory (Janka rating of 1820) are preferable due to their ability to withstand wear and tear. In contrast, softer woods might be suitable for bedrooms, where foot traffic is comparatively less intense.

  • Aesthetic Compatibility

The choice of wood color and grain can dramatically affect the visual appeal of a room. Lighter woods like maple or ash can make a small room appear more open and airy, while darker woods like walnut or mahogany tend to create a warmer, more intimate atmosphere. The grain pattern of the wood should also complement the style of the home; for example, a boldly grained ash might suit a rustic decor, whereas a fine-grained cherry wood might be better for a formal setting.

  • Climate Suitability

Wood floors respond to environmental conditions; therefore, considering the climate is essential. In areas with high humidity, engineered hardwood is advisable because of its construction that resists warping and swelling. For dryer climates, traditional solid hardwoods might be preferable as they are less likely to become too dry and shrink.

  • Budget

Hardwood flooring costs can vary widely, typically ranging from $3 to $12 per square foot for solid hardwood, depending on the species and the complexity of the installation process. Engineered hardwood can be a more cost-effective option, especially for larger areas, as it generally comes at a lower price point and may reduce installation costs due to easier installation methods like floating or clicking.

  • Subfloor Compatibility

The type of subfloor can also influence the choice of hardwood flooring. While engineered wood can be installed over concrete or radiant heating systems, solid wood requires a plywood subfloor. Checking compatibility is crucial to avoid structural issues after installation.

  • Maintenance Requirements

Different types of hardwood have different care needs. While all hardwood requires basic maintenance such as regular cleaning and periodic refinishing, some types of wood may demand more frequent care, especially in high-traffic areas. For example, softer woods like pine can require more frequent refinishing than harder woods.

  • Longevity and Refinishing

Consider how often the floors can be refinished over their lifespan. Solid hardwood floors can be sanded down and refinished multiple times, which can extend their life for decades. Engineered floors, however, have a limit on refinishing due to the thickness of the top layer.

  • Sustainability and Ethical Sourcing

With a growing focus on environmental impact, considering the sustainability of the hardwood is also vital. Look for wood sourced from sustainably managed forests, and check for certifications like the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) to ensure ethical sourcing practices.

Professional Consultation

For informed decisions and precision in selecting the right hardwood flooring, a professional consultation with our team at Hardwood Flooring Specialists is invaluable. We pride ourselves on our commitment to excellence, offering bespoke solutions tailored to each client’s unique needs. With extensive experience and a deep understanding of hardwood varieties, installation techniques, and maintenance requirements, we are well-equipped to guide you through every step of your flooring journey.

When you choose us, you benefit from:

1. Expertise: Our team is comprised of seasoned flooring experts who bring a wealth of knowledge about all aspects of hardwood flooring. This expertise allows us to provide insightful advice on the best options for your space based on durability, aesthetics, and performance.

2. Custom Solutions: We understand that each home is unique, and so should be its flooring. We provide personalized consultations to match your specific preferences and lifestyle, ensuring that the flooring you choose perfectly complements your home’s decor.

3. Quality Products: We only use the highest quality materials sourced from responsible manufacturers. Our commitment to quality ensures that your flooring is not only beautiful but also durable and sustainable.

4. Professionalism: We are dedicated to maintaining the highest standards of professionalism throughout our engagement. From the initial consultation to the final installation, we ensure that all projects are executed with meticulous attention to detail and within the agreed timelines.

5. Customer Satisfaction: At the heart of our services is a commitment to customer satisfaction. We strive to exceed expectations with our reliable service, transparent communication, and flawless execution, ensuring a stress-free and rewarding flooring experience.

Considering a new hardwood floor or planning a renovation? Contact us at Hardwood Flooring Specialists for a comprehensive consultation. Discover the ideal flooring solutions that blend functionality with style, and let us transform your space with the enduring beauty of hardwood.

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