How to Choose Hardwood Floors

Known for its warmth and elegance, hardwood flooring provides an ideal backdrop for almost any decorating style. Wood floors can last more than 25 years when maintained properly and their beauty often increases with age. Hardwood is an excellent choice if you’re looking to add beauty and elegance to your home while also increasing its value. We’ll show you the different types of hardwood floors and help you choose the one that’s right for you.

Choosing the Right Hardwood Flooring

When choosing hardwood floors one of the most important things to consider is where in your home you’ll be installing them.

If you’re installing your floors in your home and ABOVE grade or ground level, you can use solid hardwood flooring. If you’re installing your new floor in the basement or BELOW grade, you’ll need to use engineered hardwood as it is more resistant to moisture. Engineered hardwood is also the best choice for installing in condos.

If your subfloor is concrete, engineered hardwood is your best choice. If you have a wooden subfloor, stick with solid hardwood.

Solid Hardwood vs. Engineered Hardwood

Features Solid Hardwood Engineered Hardwood
Dimensionally stable 35%-55% 35%-60%
Suitable for basements (below grade)  
Can be sanded and refinished

Durable and long-lasting

Available in a variety of wood species

Radiant heat approved   ✓ **refer to manufacturers install guide

If you’ve been wondering, “What is engineered hardwood?” or what the difference is between the two wood flooring types, we’ll walk you through some of the differences between them.

Solid Hardwood

Solid Hardwood

Solid wood is milled from solid lumber and works well in almost any room. This type of wood flooring can be sanded and refinished to maintain its natural beauty.

Solid wood flooring is generally not recommended in locations like bathrooms, kitchens or mudrooms due to the potential of standing moisture damage. It is also not recommended in basements due to the potential of damage from high relative humidity.

Engineered Wood Flooring

Engineered Wood Flooring

Engineered wood flooring combines a wear layer of real wood with layers of plywood, softwood stickers or high-density fibreboard. The wear layer is mechanically laminated to the core and finished with a top stain and top protection layers/finish. As a result, it can be used in below-, on- or above-grade locations, basements and in condominiums.

Some engineered wood floors can be sanded and refinished for a longer life span.

Species of Wood Flooring and Texture

The species of wood you choose will depend largely on the style of your room and personal preference. Oak, maple and birch are common in most homes, but all wood species are suitable for everyday living. Ultimately, you should try to choose your wood flooring by its appearance.

There are many physical textures now available that will give your room a specific look – bandsaw, wire-brushed and hand-scraped are some of the most common. There are also visual textures available (previously known as grading) that have larger knots, more mineral streaking, colour variation in the wood and richer grain structure.

Another factor to consider is the gloss level. There are many different glosses available: ultra matte (15%), low gloss (20%-35%) and high gloss (35%-50%). The gloss level you choose can change the look you are trying to achieve entirely. The number of coats of polyurethane does not have any bearing on product performance – the application is what matters.

Wood Type, Benefits and Considerations

Maple

Maple

Maple flooring has a whitish colour with light brown grain lines that are smooth to the touch. It can help create a clean, modern look or help brighten a dark room.

Birch

Birch

The light colour of Birch flooring helps brighten dark rooms while the light brown grain lines and knots give it a clean, modern look.

Red Oak

Red Oak

Red Oak flooring is brown with dark grain lines and a pinkish tinge. It is a perfect choice for traditional-looking wood floors.

White Oak

White Oak

White Oak flooring is rich, brown with dark grain lines. It is also a perfect choice for traditional-looking wood floors.

Bamboo

Bamboo

Bamboo is technically a grass, but it has roughly the same hardness as oak wood. It is a durable, eco-friendly option when it comes to wood flooring. It can range in colour from a natural light brown to a deep cherry or mocha.

Walnut

Walnut

Walnut is a strong wood and makes for attractive home flooring. It is brown in colour, but tends to lighten with age.

Texture and Appearance

There are different hardwood floor finishes to consider when choosing the right flooring for your space.

Hand-scraped

Hand-scraped

  • Provides depth to the floor.
  • Hides imperfections and daily traffic patterns made by pets, kids and adults.
Wire-brushed

Wire-brushed

  • Adds dimension to your floor while providing a slightly harder surface than that of a smooth texture. The wire-brushed process will remove some of the soft wood grains that are on all woods.
  • Hides imperfections and daily traffic patterns made by pets, kids and adults.
Smooth

Smooth

  • Classic and timeless look that highlights the grain structure of the species of wood.
  • A light sanding gives the top layer a soft and silky texture.
  • Still one of the most popular choices of flooring.

Widths of Boards

The most common width of solid flooring is 3 ¼” W x ¾” T. The most common width of engineered flooring would start at 5”. If your project needs 5” or wider, it is recommended to go with engineered wood. Narrower boards (e.g. 2 ¼") are still available in many markets that see extreme humidity ranges.

Parquet and Cork Flooring

Traditional wood floors are made up of wood strips and planks, but you can also choose parquet or cork tiles to give your wood flooring an alternative appearance.

Parquet Flooring

Parquet Flooring

Parquet is a hardwood tile made up of narrow strips glued together to form a pattern. The most common pattern is a series of squares made of strips that change direction from square to square. Parquet brings variety and pattern to home flooring, as well as beauty from the spread of different wood tones across each individual tile.

Cork Flooring

Cork Flooring

Cork is an engineered hardwood product with a top layer made from the bark of a cork oak tree. Cork flooring has grown in popularity in recent years because of its comfortable and modern look, hypoallergenic qualities and environmental sustainability. Approximately 50% of the volume material of cork is air, acting as a cushion underfoot and a natural sound-absorber. It is also moisture-resistant and retains warmth well, making it suitable for basement applications. Look for urethane-sealed cork flooring for increased durability.

Colour Trends

Selecting the perfect hardwood floor colour is important if you want the look you’re trying to achieve to be consistent. Keep your room décor in mind when selecting your wood colour. Think about the colours of your paint and furniture and how much natural light comes in through windows. You can choose anything from white-washed to ultra dark or almost any shade of grey.

Wood Flooring: Maintenance

When it comes to the best way to clean hardwood floors, there are a few things to consider:

  • Use a pre-finished wood floor liquid cleaner to preserve the beauty of hardwood flooring for many years.
  • Wood cleaners need to be alcohol-based. No oils, waxes, vinegar or standing water.
  • Consider installing a hygrometer to control home humidity. Relative humidity should be maintained between 35% and 65%.
  • Invest in a dehumidifier or a humidifier.
  • Area rugs complement wood flooring well and add style and warmth to a room.
  • Use felt pads underneath furniture to prevent scratching.
  • Repairs can be made with touch up kits to fix small dents and scratches.

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