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What is the Best Hardwood Floor to Buy?

By Crystal Hosking – Hosking Hardwood Flooring Inc.
© 2013, Copyright protected. All Rights Reserved

shopping for hardwood flooring Depending on the individual homeowner, shopping for hardwood flooring can be either a fun easy process or a very tedious and time consuming one. Some homeowners know exactly what they like and what they want. In other cases, some people spend hours, days, weeks or longer searching for that perfect look. Hardwood flooring is a huge investment in your home and it’s important to find the perfect fit.

Solid vs. Engineered

One of the most important first steps in choosing a hardwood floor for your home is to determine whether you need to use solid hardwood floor or engineered hardwood floor. Solid flooring which has traditionally been the most popular over the years is used in installations over wood subfloors and in regions with atmospheric moisture content which is relatively stable. Solid hardwood flooring is typically 3/4” thick and recommended to be stapled or nailed down, although some thinner solid wood flooring on the market today boast that they can also be glued direct to the subfloor or concrete slab.

solid vs. engineered flooringEngineered hardwood was designed to be more versatile. It can be installed in virtually any room of the home and is an especially convenient option when homeowners want to put real hardwood flooring over concrete subfloors or over subfloors with radiant heating systems. The cross layer construction of engineered flooring minimizes expansion and contraction and therefore can put up with moisture atmospheric changes a bit better than solid hardwood can. Engineered flooring also offers more installation options than typical 3/4” solid hardwood. In addition to being able to staple or nail engineered hardwood, you may also be able to glue down or float engineered planks. There are even specific engineered floors that boast click locking tongue and grooves for fast and glue less floating installation. These click lock hardwood options are perfect for homeowners who’d like to install themselves.

Of course, these are just general guidelines for standard solid and engineered flooring. For more details on where a particular floor can be installed in the home or which installation methods are approved for a particular floor, it’s always recommended to read the manufacturer’s detailed installation instructions.


Bedroom

bedroom flooringAlthough color and style are usually the most important factors with consumers choices, sometimes the level of traffic in a particular room can dictate which floor will be right for you. In a bedroom for example, there is typically significantly less traffic than in other rooms of the home. This could allow for maybe a softer wood species, like American Cherry or American Walnut, to be installed in this less trafficked room if you prefer their appearances over a harder species like red or white oak flooring.

The hardness of a wood species is typically measured comparatively to the red oak wood species, as is shown on the Janka Hardness Chart (link appears below). Oak flooring has been known over the years for being a very hard and durable wood. As you will see there are many that rank higher on the hardness chart, but that doesn't necessarily mean that their service life will that much greater. Solid oak flooring can last well over 100 year before it needs to be replaced. (See Janka Hardness Chart for a full spectrum of wood species and hardness ranks.)

Examples of popular hardwood flooring as used in bedrooms:
Mont-Royal Hardwood Flooring
Bruce Dundee Plank
Somerset Hardwood

Kitchen

kitchen flooring The kitchen can be one of the busiest rooms of the home. There are constantly people coming in and out, dropping things, spilling water, moving chairs, etc. This creates the need for a hard, durable floor to be installed. Hardwood flooring with an Acrylic Impregnated wear layer has emerged in the industry as one of the best most durable real wood floor options on the market today. Products like Armstrong’s Performance Plus incorporate Acrylic Impregnated wear layers into their collections, making these products 10x more durable than regular prefinished hardwood flooring. These durable hardwood floors fill up the pores in the top decorative layer of the engineered product with the finish, creating a denser surface that is less likely to dent. Additionally, since the color typically runs all the way through the wear layer, scratches are less likely to show.

Family Room / Great Room

family room flooringTypically, family rooms are designed for comfort and are more relaxed than other areas of the home. For these reasons, a more casual hardwood look is sometimes appreciated. A more informal appearance can be acquired in a variety of ways: by using wider boards, a handscraped texture or lighter colors. Some of the best wood flooring styles that we find fit very well for this type of area are shown below.

Anderson
Boen
Vintage
Mont Royal Adirondack collection
Owens Plank

 

 

Living Room / Dining Room

living room flooringLiving rooms and dining rooms have a tendency to have a more formal aesthetic and the right style of hardwood flooring can definitely help you achieve the look you’re interested in. For a more traditional atmosphere, try a narrower (2-1/4IN.) wide strip flooring. Narrower boards have a very traditional appeal, especially when a natural red oak or white oak is used.

For a more contemporary and elegant look, try a narrow strip in a darker stain. It’s important to keep in consideration how much traffic is generated in these rooms, as usage may help determine which wood species would be best in your setting. As mentioned previously, refer to the Janka Hardness Chart for a complete list of wood species hardness rankings.

Living with Pets

dog on hardwood flooringPets can be a welcome addition to any family. However, without proper precaution, dogs and some cats can certainly wreak havoc on a hardwood floor. It’s important to keep pets’ nails trimmed and to train dogs and cats properly, with either going outside to do their business or using a litter box. Also, make sure any urine, vomit or excess food/water mess is cleaned up right away, as these things left on a hardwood floor for an extended period of time can end up damaging the wood.

We do not at all infer that if you have or want hardwood floors that pets should be avoided. Millions of people, including all of us here at Hosking Hardwood Flooring, own pets that coexist with our hardwood floor. It's just something you should be aware of. For more information: Pets and Your Hardwood Flooring.

Sunlight

Sunlight can have an effect on both a prefinished hardwood floor finish as well as the wood species’ natural color. Sunlight used to yellow and dull out hardwood flooring, but in recent years, manufacturers like Lauzon have created finish additives which minimize these annoying and harmful effects of the sun. Additionally, the natural color of a wood species can change overtime with the exposure to sunlight due to the specific photo sensitivity of the species. Natural colors and hues tend to darken and richen over time, with complete maturation happening at around 6 months. Typically, exotic wood species have a higher photosensitivity than domestic wood species and therefore the deepening of color will be more extreme in species like Brazilian Cherry or Santos Mahogany as compared to a Red Oak or Maple. This is completely natural and just adds more beauty and charm to your hardwood flooring.

Pre-Finished vs. Job-Site Finished

There are a slew of benefits gained by choosing pre-finished flooring over site-finished flooring. One of the major advantages is that there is no wait time for the finish to dry. Because the finish is already applied at the factory, there are no dangerous fumes that you’ll have to live with and wait to disperse from your home. In most cases, furniture can be moved right back in after the newly prefinished flooring is installed.

Additionally, pre-finished flooring is so much more durable than its site-finished counterpart. Pre-finished flooring typically features Aluminum Oxide, which are miniscule aluminum particles that are added to the layers of finish. These particles fill up spaces in the finish and then are dried under UV lights, making the finished product 2 to 3 times stronger than site-finished hardwood.

Over Concrete Slab

Many homeowners believe that they can’t put real wood flooring down in their home if they have a concrete slab as a subfloor instead of plywood. This is just not true at all; engineered flooring was created for just this purpose. Engineered flooring is created by fusing a layer of real wood to cross layers of plywood, typically made from birch or pine. The cross layers help make engineered flooring stable enough to be installed over concrete, where there may be more moisture coming up through the subfloor. Engineered flooring also offers the options of being glued down directly to the concrete subfloor or floated using an underlayment.

Living in Humid Areas (i.e. near ocean)

Where you live, regionally, may also effect the type of hardwood flooring you put in your home. If you live in a place where there is a lot of moisture (near the ocean or in a very humid climate), you may need a more stable construction, like an engineered hardwood floor. Wood is a very porous material. When there is moisture in the air, the wood will suck the moisture in. Much like a sponge absorbing water, the wood flooring will expand. Solid hardwood flooring, prone to buckling in these types of situations, would not be recommended. Engineered flooring, on the other hand, minimizes expansion and contraction and would work well in humid atmospheres.

How to Select a Brand to Buy

There are hundreds of brands of hardwood flooring in the marketplace today. Just like any other consumer product, there is an entire spectrum in terms of quality. There are hardwood flooring brands that have been in business for years and have an excellent reputation in the industry for selling top quality products. There are other brands that are short lived, selling cheap products and offering little to no customer support. When choosing a brand of hardwood flooring to purchase, it’s definitely recommended to do a little research and check out what other homeowners are saying about the brand.

We like to recommend and retail companies specifically located inside the U.S. or Canada as top contenders in the market. Canadian manufacturers (LauzonVintage Hardwood Flooring, Mont Royal), especially, have very strict quality standards and it shows in the material they produce. Many U.S. brands, like Somerset, have much better control over their final product than some products made overseas especially when it comes to their engineered products which require a lot more manufacturing prowess than solid hardwoods.

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Overall Rating: 4.7 stars - 241 reviews

By:
Date: September 25, 2018
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Comments:
Thank you for answering many of my questions. I was happy that there was a place I could go to where everything was in one place.
By:
Date: September 18, 2018
Page Rating: (4.0/5)
Comments:
Great information and insights, I have a better understanding of what to be looking for when selecting hardwood floors
By:
Date: September 15, 2018
Page Rating: (4.5/5)
Comments:
Very understandable and informative.
By:
Date: August 26, 2018
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Comments:
Well done
By:
Date: July 14, 2018
Page Rating: (1.0/5)
Comments:
All you say is "buy a good one." Well, duh. You give almost every manufacturer 5 stars. Then other sites give them 2 stars with lots of complaints about peeling wood and finishes, etc. advice is to get engineered wood with 9 layers and more than 3mm hardwood. But then you give 5 stars to product with 3 layers and 2mm hardwood. If youre going to promise to answer a question. Like what is the best hardwood floor buy, you should be prepared to man up and take a stand, not pump out a load of obsequious mush.
Reply by HoskingHardwood : We are sorry we did not provide you with an answer to your question in our articles. This article pertains more to what is the best flooring styles to use in a particular room of your home and the inherent issues that may be expected with hardwood flooring . With regards to our ratings - you should click on the "?" mark next to each style 5 star rating chosen to read what our rating for that particular product is. One may not agree with our opinions. If you go to our Site Map we have written a lot of articles that you may or may not find very informative. 
By:
Date: May 29, 2018
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Comments:
Thank you so much for this response! To date, I have been most impressed with selection and pictures of available flooring on the Kahrs website so I was sad to see reviews. The other area of concern in their specs was "color change...noticable color change over time"...is this to be expected with all wood floors and hard wax oil finish? Other manufacturers of consideration have been Monarch Plank, Du Chateau, LM Flooring and Linco Enterprises. Numerous negative Houzz reviews of Provenza also initially scared me away. Better to place concern with finding flooring to meet search criteria than reviews on customer service...ie. wear layer of 3.5mm+, finish, etc.?
By:
Date: May 27, 2018
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Comments:
Great to see a recommendation for manufacturer as I just spent an hour or more navigating Kahrs website only to sadly discover (shortly thereafter) several negative reviews of their flooring in terms of durability, potential spill damage and customer service. This search is proving more difficult than anticipated, so good to learn of more companies to investigate. Hate to let a few bad reviews turn interest elsewhere, but hard to ignore as many as discovered...especially in terms of customer service. Thoughts?
Reply by HoskingHardwood : Hi Wendie a few years back wood floors didn’t have any warranties, why? Because wood flooring is walked on, tramped on, furniture is dragged over it, dirt and stones are ground into it, dogs nails scratch the finish etc. etc. etc.  You wouldn’t do that on the hood of your new car? Flooring manufacturers nowadays try to outdo their competition and boast about having a 10-20-50 year warranty.  But when you read their warranties they really don’t cover much if anything.  Usually the people who have given a product a poor rating are usually the ones who were either misinformed about how the flooring would perform or abused the product then complained about it.  Kahrs in particular sells millions of square feet a year and the majority of people who take care of the flooring love it.  Prefinished wood floors (from a reputable manufacturer) are very durable but still be scratched and worn over time.
By:
Date: May 9, 2018
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Comments:
First time for wood floors in my living room so many brands of hardwood totally confused of what brand to buy two people no pet Second-floorWould like hardness and scratch resistant
Reply by HoskingHardwood : Hi William Prefinished wood floors (from a reputable manufacturer) are very durable but still be scratched and worn over time.
By:
Date: April 6, 2018
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Comments:
Very helpful Exploring options for a Southern California residential application
By:
Date: March 28, 2018
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Comments:
Great explanation and what I need to know our hardwood floor is 50 years old and looks pretty good but the finish is dull and we have black spots here and there. What I need to know is can we put a new hardwood floor on top of the old one? Thank you
Reply by HoskingHardwood : Hi Muriel have you thought of having your existing wood floors sanded and refinished? Doing so would most likely bring the floors back to an almost new condition, the black spots may be uric acid stains from pet urin that may not come out. But to answer your question you may want to copy and paste this link into your browser and look for the paragraf that pertains to installing new floors over old - https://www.hoskinghardwood.com/Department/Hardwood-Floors/All-About-Subfloors--installing-flooring-over-various-sub-floors.aspx?dId=7&pageId=2

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