Hardwood Flooring Types and Styles

Hardwood Flooring types come in such a wide array of varieties that it is no wonder that most of us will get that blank stare in our eyes when we start to research it. This section will help to pull the veil away and help you understand the different flooring types when you are making a decision. You have prefinished and unfinished hardwood as well as pergo flooring and plank flooring versus section flooring.

This is a general start to your research on hardwood floors once you have an idea of what you want. Before you actually select your flooring product, be sure to review many different flooring options by several manufacturers and see what they have to offer. This should include wear warranties (when applicable), the thickness of the planks (especially important when you are looking at engineered hardwood) and the finally, the finish which would include how many times the wood has been refinished as well as type of finish. This will give you a rough idea into the quality of the hardwood itself.

The 3 Types of Hardwood Floors

Right now, there are 3 types of hardwood floors available. All have their advantages and disadvantages-

  1. Solid-This is exactly how it sounds. Solid wood comes from one place and can be refinished as often as you need to keep them looking new. Solid wood flooring, while many would consider it to be a better made product because it is 100% oak, pine or maple (or whatever wood species), it is typically harder to install, easier to scratch and dent (in most cases), and can have more issues with ranging humidity in the environment it is. Solid hard wood ranges in size from 1/4" thick to 25/32" thick. In rare cases, the thickness can exceed one inch.
  2. Engineered- Engineered hardwood floors are probably the most common because of their ability to handle ranging humidity. They are generally better able to handle humid climates that wouldn't be hospitable to solid hardwood and because of how they are constructed, are more stable overall. Typically, they are constructed in "plies", the most common being 3-5 plies. Some manufacturers that specialize in engineered flooring like Anderson's can have as many as 7 plies. The more plies, the more stable the product is. What makes them so strong is the ways the layers are tied together; each grain layer goes in the opposite direction. The biggest drawback to choosing engineered hardwood is that they can't be refinished as often.
  3. Acrylic Impregnated- A lot of commercial restaurants and stores use an acrylic impregnated hardwood floor because this type of floor is believed to be the most durable and capable of handling huge amounts of foot traffic. What makes this type of hardwood floor different than solid or engineered is that the wood itself is injected with an acrylic base. While most acrylic impregnated wood will be found in a commercial setting, you can find it more and more in homes and this type of wood floor is perfect for households with children and large pets.

Wood Grains can be different

While most would think that the only thing you should look for in types is solid, engineered or acrylic impregnated, the reality is that the wood itself comes in different "grades" as judged by the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA). These grades determine the flaws for various wood species including:

  • Oak
  • Hard Maple
  • Beech
  • Birch
  • Pecan

In addition to this, the NWFA has recently started grading engineered wood as well. The most common wood grades for Oak are:

  • Clear
  • Select
  • #1 Common
  • #2 Common

Pre-finished or unfinished...which to choose?

Another consideration is whether to go with a prefinished wood product or unfinished wood. Prefinished hardwood flooring simply means that you can buy a pallet and immediately install the floor with no other steps. Prefinished flooring is the favorite for obvious reasons; once you install the floor, you are done.

On the other hand, choosing an unfinished floor will give you more options once the wood is installed. For instance, if you were to install an unfinished hard wood floor, you would have to go through the steps of figuring out what color you want, but more importantly you need to make decisions such as whether you want to use a wax finish or would rather go with the look that urethane will give your floors; both will look different in the end.

The upside to choosing an unfinished floor is initial price (it is cheaper compared to prefinished products but will cost more if you have a professional finish it for you) and you keep complete control over your project.

In addition to this, you should pay close attention to the different styles of wood floors. Once again, there are three popular styles to choose from.

  1. The Strip style The strip style of wood flooring has a tongue and groove construction and can come in solid or engineered wood. The sizes range from 1.5” to 2.25” although there are some that are larger or smaller in width. The strip style can be unfinished (where you apply the finish yourself) or prefinished.
  2. The Plank Style The difference between a plank style and the strip style is mostly in the widths. The plank is wider and the most popular sizes are between 3”-3.25” but can go much wider with some going as wide as 12-14”. They can come solid or engineered and you can finish it yourself or buy the flooring prefinished.
  3. Parquet Style You can find this style in many homes partly because it is easier to install and is usually cheaper. A parquet wood floor is typically installed into a pattern and usually comes in square shapes although it can come in literally any geometric shape. Parquet is almost always engineered and prefinished.

Beveled edges, squared edges and micro-edges...it matters in the long run to your floor's look.....especially if your subfloors isn't completely level.....

Beveled edges have deeper set grooves between planks. These types of edges will give the room a more informal look. Beveled edged wood can help if your subfloor has minor irregularites.

Square Edges lock together with no grooves providing a seemless, more contemporary look.

Micro-edges or eased edged planks are good for hiding minor irregularites in the subfloor that affect the varying height of the individual planks.

 Choosing the right wood floor according to rooms

The first thing you need to consider before choosing a wood floor is to ask where you want it installed. Typically, if it is on grade or above grade, then you can choose pretty much any type; solid, engineered or floating. If it is below grade (like a basement), you won’t be able to install solid wood but can choose either a floating floor or engineered wood. This is mainly due to humidity and dampness issues on a below grade room.

Additionally, you should consider other things such as foot traffic as well as the place of your home.

  • Is it the kitchen?
  • Are you installing a wood floor in the foyer and bedrooms?
  • Thinking of installing hard wood in the bathroom?

With each place, your choice will dictate the best hardwood for you. In some cases, you may want to investigate laminate flooring and see what the difference is between laminate and hardwood. Laminate typically will work better in places that are high traffic areas and in areas with higher levels of moisture.


Bathrooms and hard wood- Water is wood’s enemy and because of this, a regularly used bathroom would not be a place where you would want to install wood flooring. This is largely due to moisture and humidity associated with bathrooms. You could install wood floors in a secondary bathroom though if you are willing to keep the area as dry as possible. If you do decide to install a wood floor in the bathroom, you will need to use area carpets and mats to help keep the floors as dry as possible.

Kitchens and hard wood floors- A growing trend is to install wood flooring in kitchens. This is especially true if your home has an open floor plan and you want to seamlessly blend rooms from one to another. Dark, rich stains don’t do well in these places because of the amount of foot traffic on the floor daily though. White, or bleached floors fare just as poorly. Once again, just like bathrooms, the potential of water getting on the floor could degrade the wood fairly quickly if it isn’t maintain daily.

With kitchens, you will need to screen and recoat the floor every year to year and a half a part of general maintenance. Also, when choosing a finish, you will want to make sure that the manufacturer is compatible for high traffic areas.

Home offices and/or bedrooms- Hardwood floors are very common in bedrooms and can also be found in offices. You will want to place “buffers” on your bedroom and office furniture to help prevent scratching and denting from moving furniture. Also, rolling furniture including tables and chairs will damage the floors at a pretty rapid pace if used regularly. You can alleviate this by placing painted tape over the wheels or by using an area rug.

Different Types of wood...different types of installations

Additionally, hardwood floors can be glued down, stapled down, nailed down as well as "free float" above an existing floor. So what do you choose? A lot of this depends on what you want as well as what kind of subfloor you have and the type of wood you choose. It also depends on where you decide to lay the wood.

  • Free Floating Flooring
  • Glue Down Hardwood Flooring
  • Nail Down Floors
  • Prefinished hardwood flooring
  • Engineered Hardwood
  • Pergo Flooring
  • Plank Flooring
  • Solid Hardwood Flooring

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