Types of Hardwood Flooring: Comprehensive Guide to the Wonderful World of Wood Floors

Hardwood flooring offers a timeless appeal and enhances the beauty of any home. With countless types of hardwood floors available, it’s essential to understand their unique characteristics to make an informed decision for your space.

This comprehensive guide will delve into popular hardwood flooring options to help you choose the perfect fit for your home. We will discuss various factors such as durability, appearance, and ease of maintenance across different hardwood types.

In a nutshell, by the end of this article, you will have a clearer understanding of the types of hardwood flooring options and be equipped to make the best choice for your specific needs.

Types of Hardwood Flooring

Solid Hardwood

Solid hardwood flooring is made from a single piece of wood, typically 3/4 inches thick, and can be sanded and refinished multiple times. Some common species used for solid hardwood floors include:

  • Oak
  • Maple
  • Walnut
  • Cherry

Prices for solid hardwood flooring can range from $3 to $10 per square foot, depending on the species and finish.

Engineered Hardwood

Engineered hardwood floors are made from a core of hardwood, plywood, or high-density fiber with a layer of hardwood veneer on top. This type of flooring is less susceptible to warping and temperature changes, making it suitable for areas prone to humidity. Engineered hardwood flooring can be sanded and refinished, but generally fewer times than solid hardwood. Some common species used for engineered hardwood floors are the same as for solid hardwood.

Engineered Hardwood ThicknessApproximate Refinishing Limit
1 mm0-1 times
2 mm1-2 times
3 mm2-3 times

Prices for engineered hardwood flooring may range from $2.50 to $8 per square foot, depending on species and thickness.

Acrylic Impregnated Hardwood

Acrylic impregnated hardwood flooring is a type of hardwood where acrylic is infused into the wood itself, making it stronger and more resistant to scratches, moisture, and wear. This type of flooring is often seen in commercial settings, but can also be suitable for high-traffic residential areas. Acrylic-impregnated hardwood flooring can come in both solid and engineered forms.

Prices for acrylic-impregnated hardwood flooring can range from $6 to $12 per square foot, primarily influenced by the species of wood and the infusion process.

Wood Species

Hardwood flooring is available in a variety of wood species, each offering unique characteristics and varying levels of durability, color, and grain.


Oak is one of the most popular and durable hardwood flooring options. It is available in two variations: red oak and white oak. Red oak has a Janka rating of 1,290 and white oak has a Janka rating of 1,360, making them both excellent choices for everyday use.

Oak is also known for its moderate grain, appealing to homeowners who seek a traditional or classic look. Popular finishes include natural, golden, and espresso shades.


Maple flooring is appreciated for its light minimal grain, which gives a contemporary and clean appearance. It has a Janka rating of 1,450, making it ideal for high-traffic areas. Maple’s light, natural tone can also be stained to achieve a darker, richer hue.


Hickory provides a unique, rustic look with its distinctive, bold grain detailing. With a Janka rating of 1,820, hickory is one of the hardest domestic hardwoods, ensuring superior durability in any living space.


Cherry wood is desired for its rich, warm color, and subtle, straight grain. Although it is not as hard as oak or hickory, with a Janka rating of 995 for American Cherry and 1,720 for Brazilian Cherry, it still offers excellent durability for most residential applications.


Walnut, appreciated for its rich, dark brown color and elegant grain, adds sophistication to any room. While it has a Janka rating of 1,010, walnut is still a durable hardwood option that can withstand daily wear and tear.

Exotic Species

Exotic hardwood flooring species like Teak, Bamboo, and Brazilian Tigerwood are also available for homeowners seeking a unique appearance. These species vary in durability, color, and grain, so it is crucial to research their specific attributes prior to selection.

Grades and Colors

In the world of hardwood flooring, the classifications of wood are usually described by their grade and color. The grade refers to the natural characteristics present in the wood, which can impact both the appearance and the overall quality of the hardwood. This section will explore different grades and their corresponding colors. We’ll also discuss stains and finishes to help you choose the best option for your home.

Select Grade

Select Grade hardwood flooring is known for its minimal natural markings and consistent appearance. This top-quality option showcases the true beauty and elegance of hardwood, with few color variations and knots. If you’re seeking a refined, classic look, this is an excellent choice.

Natural Grade

Natural Grade hardwood flooring allows for moderate natural characteristics, such as knots and color variations. While not as uniform as Select Grade, it still provides an attractive, visually appealing floor. This grade is ideal for homeowners who appreciate the natural look of wood and don’t mind some inconsistencies.

Rustic Grade

Rustic Grade hardwood flooring embraces the unique imperfections of wood, emphasizing its natural charm. With more knots, color variations, and character marks than other grades, this option is perfect for those who want a more authentic, organic appearance for their floors.

Stains and Finishes

Beyond the grades, you can also choose from a variety of stains and finishes that change the color and texture of the wood. Some common options include:

  • Clear finishes: Enhance the natural beauty of the wood without adding any color.
  • Stains: Change the color of the wood while still letting its natural grain show through.
  • Distressed finishes: Create an aged, antique look with purposeful wear marks and imperfections.
  • Hand-scraped finishes: Provide a more rustic, hand-crafted appearance.

Keep in mind that each hardwood species may accept stains and finishes differently, resulting in subtle variations in color and texture. It’s always a good idea to see samples in person before making a final decision on your flooring choice.

Installation Methods

When it comes to choosing a hardwood flooring installation method, you need to consider factors like the specific type of flooring, your subfloor, and your personal preferences. Let’s explore three common installation methods: Nail-Down, Glue-Down, and Floating.


Nail-Down installation is a traditional method used primarily for solid hardwood flooring. It involves attaching the wooden planks directly to the subfloor using nails or staples, providing great stability.

  • Recommended for: Solid hardwood
  • Subfloor: Plywood or OSB
  • Tools: Flooring nailer or stapler


The Glue-Down method is suitable for both solid and engineered hardwood floors. As the name suggests, this method involves using adhesive to secure the hardwood planks to the subfloor. This installation is favored when working with concrete subfloors.

  • Recommended for: Solid and engineered hardwood
  • Subfloor: Concrete or plywood
  • Tools: Trowel and suitable adhesive


Floating installation is a popular method for engineered hardwood and laminate flooring. This approach involves connecting the planks to one another using a tongue-and-groove system, creating a floating floor above the subfloor. This method is quick and requires less specialized tools.

  • Recommended for: Engineered hardwood and laminate
  • Subfloor: Various (usually with underlayment)
  • Tools: Mallet, tapping block, and spacers

Cost and Maintenance

When considering hardwood flooring, it’s important to evaluate the cost and maintenance requirements associated with each type of wood. This section will discuss price comparisons, cleaning and care, as well as refinishing and repair for various hardwood flooring types.

Price Comparison

Hardwood flooring cost varies depending on the species of wood, quality, and region. Below is a table comparing the average price range of common hardwood flooring types:

Wood TypeAverage Price per Square Foot (USD)
Oak$3 – $8
Maple$5 – $10
Cherry$6 – $12
Walnut$7 – $15
Exotic$8 – $20+

Cleaning and Care

Maintaining your hardwood flooring ensures a longer lifespan and preserves its appearance. Here are some general cleaning and care tips for hardwood floors:

  • Regularly sweep or vacuum to remove dust and dirt.
  • Use a damp mop with a gentle cleaning solution designed for hardwood floors.
  • Avoid using abrasive cleaners or tools that may scratch the surface.
  • Prevent water damage by placing floor mats near entrances and wiping up spills immediately.
  • Protect the floor from furniture scratches by using felt pads or furniture coasters.

Refinishing and Repair

Over time, hardwood floors may require refinishing or repair to maintain their appearance and functionality. The frequency of refinishing depends on factors such as usage, species, and finish:

  • Oak and maple floors typically need refinishing every 10-15 years.
  • Cherry and walnut floors may require refinishing more frequently due to their softer nature.
  • Exotic hardwoods can have varying durability, so consult with a professional for specific refinishing recommendations.

When it comes to repair, minor scratches can be fixed with touch-up kits, while deep scratches or damaged boards may require professional assistance.

Environmental Considerations

When choosing hardwood flooring, it’s essential to consider the environmental impact of your decision. In this section, we will discuss sustainable harvesting and indoor air quality.

Sustainable Harvesting

Ensuring that your hardwood flooring comes from a sustainably managed forest is crucial for the health of our planet. Some key points to consider include:

  • Opt for hardwood flooring with certification from organizations like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).
  • Choose domestic species over exotic ones, as they often have better managed harvesting practices.
  • Consider reclaimed or recycled wood flooring, which contributes to a circular economy and reduces waste.

Purchasing environmentally friendly hardwood flooring can make a positive impact on the environment and support better forestry practices worldwide.

Indoor Air Quality

The materials used in your hardwood flooring can significantly affect your indoor air quality. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Avoid flooring products that contain high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), as they can contribute to respiratory issues and allergic reactions.
  • Look for hardwood flooring options that use low-VOC or VOC-free finishes and adhesives.
  • Ensure proper ventilation during and after the installation process to mitigate any potential off-gassing.

By taking these factors into account when selecting your hardwood flooring, you can improve your indoor air quality and create a healthier living environment.

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