couple looks at wood flooring samples
Photo: Ellen McDermott
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What to Know Before You Buy

Ask yourself these questions to narrow your search for the right wood floor:

Where do you plan to use it?
Kitchen and entryway Choose a hard wood, such as oak or hickory, which can handle heavy foot traffic better than a soft pine.
Bedroom and home office Rooms off the beaten path are good locations for softer woods, such as black cherry or black walnut.
Basement Avoid using solid-wood flooring below grade, where high humidity prevails. An engineered wood floor is a better option here because it's more stable.
Bathroom Water can warp wood, making it a poor choice for baths with tubs and showers.

What's it going over?
Plywood subfloor As long as it's solid and flat, you can install any type of nail- or glue-down hardwood, as well as click-together engineered strip or cork plank floating floors.
Existing wood floor Thinner boards with long-wearing factory-applied finishes are better here to ensure safe, no-trip transitions to adjacent rooms, hallways, and stairways.
Concrete slab or tile Nails aren't an option. Consider a click-together floating floor or one that can be glued down.
Radiant floor Engineered flooring is ideal because it's thinner and more stable than most solid wood.

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