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Hardwood Flooring Guide for Beginners

Updated on March 15, 2010

Is Your Home the Right Fit for Hardwood Flooring?

So, You have made the decision to go with hardwood floors but haven’t a clue as to what to choose. Way back, when I looked to add flooring to my home, I had the tough task of trying to figure out what floor was best for me; Should I choose oak, pine or maple or go with a more exotic wood species? What was the difference between hardwood manufacturers? Should I go with a free floating floor or engineered floor? Does Price really make that much of a difference when selecting the product? I set up this section to be a hardwood floor primer for people who are looking for real answers to common questions regarding what to look for and more importantly, what to expect. In reality, the best hardwood floors is all in the mind and eye of the beholder and depends on what you, the buyer is looking for…and of course, your budget.

How Hardwood Floors Stack up to other floors

I have to admit I am biased. I love hardwood floors. I like the feel of them. I like how they give a room that classic look. They are organic and actually breathe. Over time, unlike other floor coverings, they become more beautiful as they age. All this said, this is me. You may or may not agree. However, deciding on what hardwood floors to purchase or even whether you should at all is really dependent on your lifestyle and personality. If you are still debating over whether you should choose wood or not, you should check out my series of articles that deal with this- Hardwood floors versus other floors. In this series, I talk about the pro’s and con’s of other floor coverings such as carpet, tile and laminate and how they compare to hardwood. Hardwood comparison to other floor coverings…. Hopefully, the series will give you enough knowledge to build upon.

The best hardwood floors for you will depend on your lifestyle as much as your color preference

Once you have figured out that you think you want to go with hardwood flooring in your home, the next question is what are the best hardwood floors? This is tough. Marty Kiser of Kiser’s Floor Furnishings once told me that picking out the right hardwood floor is a lot more involved than picking out a pair of jeans. A lot rides on where you plan to have it installed (is it in a high traffic area such as a great room or kitchen?) as well as whether you have small children who spill stuff or large dogs. The best hardwood floors are the ones that fit your lifestyle. As far as stains and other aesthetic things…well, that should be an afterthought.

What does matter is the species of wood you choose as different wood species will react differently to changing humidity in your home (both dry and “humid) as well as the hardness of the wood itself. While it is easy to make a blanket statement like bamboo is the more scratch resistant and durable than oak, the reality is that it may OR may not be, depending on the heating process. Hard wood Flooring species will range from very soft (like Pine) to very hard (brazilian ebony) although price becomes a serious concern as you move into harder woods.

Hardwood Flooring Costs

Price is such a big issue for homeowners. After all, a 1,000 square foot home could cost in the neighborhood of $10,000 after everything is said and done. But is the price of the hardwood floor indicative of “quality” product. Maybe…maybe not. And what about that hardwood flooring that you paid $5 per square foot….why is it now $11 a square foot? What happened? Can you get by with discounted flooring? Should you buy online to save a buck or two?

The type of hardwood floors that you choose will greatly determine what you can…and can’t….do to them later…

Prefinished…unfinished…engineered wood, pergo flooring, free floating floors….what’s the deal? Once you have figured out what hardwood would fit with your lifestyle, then you should start to investigate the different hardwood flooring types. The different types comes with advantages and disadvantages. For instance, while solid hardwood floors may sound like the best (after all, they are “solid”, right?) engineered wood flooring is actually more durable. A nail down floor may be more stable compared to a free floating floor but will have a greater chance of buckling (because a free floating floor all moves as one single piece).

What style fits you?

Finally, style is something that folks look at first. After all, we are visual and want our floors to look like we envision them. Hardwood styles are much more than simply a stain and color though. Do you want a fine sheer looking finish or something that has that aged and distressed look…you know, like it has been in your home for years? I go over several different hardwood styles including distressed hardwood as well as handscraped wood and even touch on reclaimed flooring…yet another eco-friendly flooring solution. If you are looking for wood floor patterns, medallions or borders, this section is for you.

Alternatives to hardwood floors

There are some alternatives to installing a wood floor. For instance, a very popular hardwood flooring alternative is bamboo. Another is cork. Both of these are environmentally friendly because just like wood, they are renewable resources. If hardwood floors are priced outside your range you may like something like laminate flooring. Laminate hardwood has come a long way since it was first developed. These days, it is hard to see much of a difference in look between the two.

Hardwood Floor Reviews

Finally, once you have an idea of the type, style and look of hard wood you are going for that won’t break your pocket book in price, the next step is to decide on a manufacturer for your floor. I cover all the major brands here including Bruce, Andersons, Mirage, Armstrong, ect. ect. with all their available lines and give you a little insight into how they are as a company, and what they stand for. These are no holds barred hardwood floor reviews that are not only based on my opinion but on the opinions of others as well.

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