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Living room remodeled with solid red oak wooden floors

How to Choose Hardwood Flooring for Your Home

Typical cost range: $1.69 – $13 per square foot

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Default Author Icon Written by Angela Bunt Updated 03/19/2024

Hardwood flooring is a popular choice among homeowners for its warmth and its natural design aesthetic. When you’re planning to install new floors, take a look at our guide for how to choose hardwood flooring. We’ll walk you through the process of selecting your wood floors, from materials to the design and finish.

*Cost data sourced from Angi.

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In the video below, Tom Silva takes a homeowner to a local showroom to discuss what they should consider when making flooring selections.


Qualities to Consider When Picking Out Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood flooring is long-lasting and versatile, with many options for design and style. When you’re shopping for new hardwood floors, consider the functionality of the room you’re renovating. Do you need moisture resistance? How soft or warm do you prefer your floors to be? What are your design preferences? Also, how often are you comfortable with cleaning, maintaining, and potentially refinishing your floors?

Consider these questions as you explore our hardwood flooring buyer’s guide:

Type of Flooring

First, decide whether you want solid or engineered wood flooring. Solid hardwood was once the most popular flooring choice. Made of thick, solid planks of wood, these floors are joined with a tongue and groove along each side. Many people like the authenticity and feel of solid hardwood floors; they’re also a better option for long-term flooring. You can sand down and refinish these hardwood floors multiple times since the boards are usually thicker than engineered wood planks.

Engineered hardwood floors are becoming more popular. They are made with a thin veneer layer of hardwood on top of multiple layers of composite material and plywood. These many layers were designed to help prevent the flooring from shifting over time. However, some engineered floors have a particularly thin top layer, which can make it more difficult to sand down and refinish in the future. You may only be able to refinish these floors once or twice.

Hardwood Floor Installation

The average cost of hardwood floor installation is $6–$18 per square foot.

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Man installing new carpet
Carpet Installation

New carpet costs an average of $2–$8 per square foot.

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Person laying down laminate flooring
Laminate Floor Installation

The average cost of laminate flooring is $1–$4 per square foot.

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Wood Species

Wood species, or the type of wood, is another big decision to make for your upcoming project. You have a wide range of options for the wood species, which can make a difference in the design of your room. Not only do wood species offer various colors and designs, but they also offer different benefits for functionality.

Some species of wood are harder than others, which will make them more durable. If you are renovating an area of your home with heavy amounts of foot traffic, consider installing a harder wood. Here are some popular options:

  • Ash: Ash wood has color variations ranging from pale white to medium brown. The graining is either straight, wavy, or curly.
  • Bamboo: High-quality bamboo flooring is dense and hard. Finished bamboo flooring is easy to clean, but it tends to absorb more moisture than other hardwoods.
  • Brazilian cherry: This wood species has warm reddish and brown tones with some lighter highlights throughout. Because of this, it may not suit every space.
  • Hickory: With strong shock resistance and density, hickory is one of the hardest woods on the market. It also does well at retaining stain, which gives you more color options to fit with your home’s design.
  • Mahogany: Mahogany is best known for its deep, warm brown coloring and its long life span. It can also stand up to a good deal of wear and tear. While it’s not the most expensive option, mahogany is pricier than other wood species.
  • Maple: Maple is another hard wood with warm hues and light graining. This is best for areas with very high foot traffic.
  • Oak: Oak is durable, works well with various stains, and has an attractive grain. Also, it’s pretty easy to find oak wood flooring from most manufacturers. Red oak and white oak are great to use in many areas around the home.
  • Walnut: Walnut is softer than oak and offers a rich, warm tone. It’s known for its dark brown color and fine graining. Because it’s softer, walnut can dent over time.

Another option is to purchase reclaimed hardwood at salvage lumber yards. This is a much more budget-friendly option, but you may have to dig through some pieces with wear and tear. However, once you find some great pieces, reclaimed wood flooring can add a unique bit of character to your home.

Grain Pattern and Appearance

When it comes to deciding on the design of your wood flooring, grain pattern is one of the most crucial factors. Depending on the way a piece of wood was cut, it will create a different pattern on the planks of wood.

Plain sawn wood is the most common and most popular. It has traditional wood grain with patterns called cathedrals.

Rift-sawn wood has a long and consistent grain but no cathedrals. It’s the most expensive of the grain patterns.

Quarter-sawn wood is similar to rift, but it also has irregular specs that create a unique, sometimes “3D” pattern.

You may be able to purchase flooring from some manufacturers that include multiple grain patterns together for a special pattern on your floor.

Board Width

Hardwood flooring planks come in a variety of sizes; narrow planks are about 2–3 inches wide, but some wood planks are much wider, at around 6 or 7 inches wide.

You can create a luxury feel in your home with wider planks, as there will be fewer seams. However, it’s important to note that the wider the plank, the more expensive. Also, seams of wider planks can become noticeable over time, as the wood can expand.

Finishing Options

The finish of your flooring will dictate how you care for and clean your hardwood floors. When you purchase new wood floors, you can order them prefinished or unfinished.

When you order prefinished hardwood floors, your materials will arrive at your home with a stain and top coat already applied. With this method, you can see exactly what your floors will look like from the beginning. You may also be able to view samples in your home to see how it will pair with your existing decor. Pre-finished wood floors mean that installation will take less time.

Unfinished floors (or site finish) will come to your home raw and unfinished. Your contractor will apply the finishing layer after installation is complete. This method allows for more customization and controls the sheen and stain of your wood floors. It can be a good option if you want to match new planks to existing flooring in your home.

Site finish floors can often have a smoother appearance. Most of the time, the floors will be sanded after being nailed down, then coated with the stain. This means one layer will go over the whole floor and seal it all together. With site finishes, however, you must hire a contractor you can trust. Do your research to find a professional with the experience and equipment to create the desired result.

You have many different choices for the types of finishes for wood flooring. Most will be considered either a polyurethane or oil finish.

Oil finishes penetrate the wood and can appear soft and natural. However, this finish can make your flooring susceptible to stains and scratches. Its maintenance is easier, and it’s easier to cover up scratches, but it may require care more often.

Polyurethane creates a hard top coat over the surface of the wood, making it more durable against wear and tear. But, if scratches do occur or a plank is damaged, repairing your floors can be difficult. You may have to replace a board or recoat a section of the floor.

Finishes can come in a clear gloss, or you can select one with a more unique or worn effect. Consider distressed, hand-scraped, or wire brush finished wood. Stains come in many colors, from light honey blonde to darker charcoal.

Cost

The cost of your hardwood floors will depend on the type of flooring you buy. You must also consider the type of finish you select, as well as the cost of professional installation. Solid prefinished wood flooring can range from about $6 to up to $12 per square foot for materials and installation. Engineered hardwood costs range from about $4.50 to $16 per square foot.

Installation

Choosing the best method for installing your hardwood flooring will also depend on the type of wood product, as well as your planks’ width and thickness. If you’re going the DIY route, your flooring materials may come with specific instructions for installation. It’s also a good idea to gather necessary equipment like a pneumatic flooring nailer, drill, pry bar, and saw if you’ve decided on a DIY job.

Installing hardwood flooring in the home can be challenging for the average homeowner. Real wood floors are a big investment, so it’s important to install them correctly the first time. Also, many contractors will be able to properly dispose of your old floors. That’s why many people choose to hire a professional flooring company to help them out—they have the skills and equipment to get the job done.

Free Quote: Get your hardwood flooring installation quote today


Why Install Hardwood in Your Home?

There’s a reason why homeowners have selected hardwood as their top flooring choice for decades. It’s an attractive flooring option that allows you a great amount of flexibility with design. While hardwood may not be ideal for rooms with high amounts of moisture like the bathroom or laundry room, it makes for great flooring in almost every other room.

Check out some benefits of installing real wood flooring in your home:

Soft material makes it comfortable and warm under bare feet.
Authentic wood products are durable and long-lasting with proper maintenance.
Hardwood can add character and a natural design element to your space.
There are many customization options for colors, grain, and stain to add your personality to your flooring.

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Our Recommended Flooring Expert

When you’re planning a flooring renovation in your home, shop around for a provider you can trust. One of our team’s top recommendations for flooring replacement is LL Flooring. Founded in 1993, LL Flooring has become one of the largest retailers of hardwood flooring in the country, with products in many varieties like oak, maple, hickory, and walnut. To request a quote for your next flooring project, schedule an appointment online.

FAQ About Choosing Hardwood Flooring

How do I choose the right hardwood floor for my house?

Questions to consider when you’re deciding which hardwood floor is the best for your home include whether you prefer solid or engineered wood flooring, and which wood species, grain patterns, and over appearance appeal to you. You should also decide on the board width and finishing options you prefer, what your budget is and how you’d like to have your floor installed.

What color hardwood floor is best for resale?

Dark hardwood flooring is a very popular option right now, which may make your home easier to sell and boost its resale value.

What thickness of hardwood flooring should I buy?

Solid hardwood flooring is often between 5/16 and 3/4 inches thick.

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