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Types of Hardwood Floors

Updated on September 1, 2009

If you are just investigating buying hardwood flooring for your home, understand that it isn't as simple as choosing a color and price and running with it.  Hardwood floors come in many different types of varieties and selecting the hardness of the wood is really a variable on the environment you are going to surround yourself with.  In this article, I will show you many options in selecting the right hardwood floor for you and go over the types of hardwood floors that are available.

Once you decide on what type of hardwood floors are right for you, you hard part begins....installing the floors...
Once you decide on what type of hardwood floors are right for you, you hard part begins....installing the floors...

Solid Wood...what does it mean?

I bet you were thinking that all hardwood flooring was made of solid wood, right?  In reality, most home floors don't use solid wood for hardwood.  The reason is simple.  Solid hardwood is more expensive per square foot and is much more difficult to install.  The good news is that it is the most sturdy of all the wood and usually comes unfinished in which the installer will finish the wood after it is installed.  Solid woods come in a variety of wood types including parquet (the cheapest), planks and strips.

Engineered hardwood...the most popular of hardwood types

While you will likely find solid hardwood in older and antique homes, you will be most likely to find engineered hardwood in newer homes.  This type of wood is "5-ply", a process patented by Anderson Hardwood Floors a couple decades ago.  Engineered hardwood typically comes in strips of veneer (usually 5, hence the 5-ply) and is made up of both superior wood and wood that is inferior.

The upside to using engineered wood is that it can withstand extreme temperature changes as well as climates that are high in humidity.  It also does better with accidental spills than solid wood.

Acrylic Impregnated Wood Flooring..Great for busy areas

Acrylic Impregnated wood flooring can withstand large volumes of traffic (including dogs and pets) and is hard enough to withstand scratching and spills.  The way it works is the wood is stained or colored to how you want it and then an acrylic finish is applied making the wood very durable.

Prefinished Hardwood Flooring- Very Popular for do-it-yourself home improvement

Prefinished hardwood flooring comes stained and ready to go straight out of the box making it very good for those who don't want to go through the intensive process of sanding and finishing a floor once it is laid.  Basically, what you see is what you get.  Most popular home improvement stores sell prefinished hardwood.

The downside is that most of this hardwood can't be restained.  (although it can be refinished in some cases).

Unfinished Hardwood Flooring...You will be putting some work into your floors

Unfinished wood flooring is probably the cheapest route if you want to get nice hardwood floors.  That is the upside.  If you are going to go the unfinished route, you can simply go to Lowe's or Home Depot (or you local lumber yard) and find #1 common wood.  Typically red oak is the most popular and most responsive hardwood to try. 

The downside is that once you are done laying the hardwood, you will need to buff, sand, coat and finish the flooring.  This can take more time than the actual installation but is good if you don't mind sacrificing time for price.  Plus, at the end of the day you could say, I installed the floor myself!

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