A Homeowners Guide to Hardwood Flooring

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Homeowners guide to hardwood flooring

Although choosing the right hardwood flooring might not seem like a complicated decision, it’s more complicated than you might think. The floors you pick can have an influence on everything from your home’s durability and character to its temperature and aesthetic. 

All hardwoods are beautiful – and most will increase the value of your home – but that doesn’t mean every kind is the perfect fit for your lifestyle and budget. 

It’s important that you know exactly what you want when you go to choose and install hardwood floors. That’s why our team has created this guide. We’ll walk you through some of the key questions you should ask yourself and help you pick the right hardwood flooring

Decisions to Make When Choosing Your Hardwood Floors 

1. Do You Want Solid or Engineered Hardwoods?

Engineered hardwood floors

Engineered hardwood floor planks

The first thing you need to decide is if you want solid or engineered hardwood floors. Engineered wood floors are constructed with layers of both hardwood and plywood while solid hardwood floors are created with single pieces of wood – no layers.

Solid hardwood floors are classic and timeless, sometimes lasting up to 100 years before they need to be replaced. Engineered hardwoods can last up to half as long, but they’re also extremely durable when it comes to scratches, nicks, and other kinds of cosmetic damage. 

Nowadays, many homeowners choose to install engineered hardwood floors for their stability and durability, as well as their ability to resist warping in humid, damp environments. However, you might still want the classic look of solid hardwood flooring

Do some research to understand how the two kinds of floors could look different, which type is recommended more for your climate, and how each will cost to purchase and install. 

2. What Kind of Finish Do You Want? 

Pre-Finished VS On-Site Finishes

Pre-finished hardwood

Pre-finished hardwood flooring

Your next decision is whether to purchase prefinished hardwoods or to finish floors after installation

If you purchase prefinished hardwood boards, they will arrive at the construction site with the stain and topcoat already applied. This is convenient, and it makes it very easy to ensure you get the exact finish that you want. There’s no need to apply color or sealant – just install the boards as they are.

However, there is something to be said for on-site finishing, which allows for further customization in terms of stain and sheen. It may be more time-consuming, but if you want a very particular look, finishing the hardwoods after they arrive might be the way to go. 

Types of Finishes

White oak woca precolored flooring

White oak woca precolored hardwood floors

In terms of choosing a finish, there are many different kinds to evaluate, but we recommend deciding between two main categories: oil finishes versus polyurethane finishes.

Oil finishes give the hardwoods a soft, matte feel that looks great in “natural” toned rooms. They scratch more easily than polyurethane finishes, but they’re also relatively easy to touch up. Polyurethane finishes, on the other hand, create a very durable surface that’s resistant to wear and tear – unless there’s a serious problem in which you’ll need to buff and recoat. 

To figure out if you want pre-finished boards, with oil or polyurethane finishes, talk more with a hardwood flooring expert. They’ll be able to guide you toward the option that best suits your home’s needs, as well as your aesthetic and financial preferences. 

3. What Type of Wood Will You Use? 

Heart pine hardwood flooring

Heart pine hardwood flooring

Another big decision you’ll face is choosing your wood type. There are dozens of wood floor options, and each kind has its strengths and weaknesses. 

For example, if you’re looking for hardwood floors that will stand the test of time (and pets, children, and other potential risks), you might want to go with cherry, live oak, pine, ebony, or bamboo. These are all extremely hard kinds of wood that will resist wear and tear over the years.  

However, if you’re more interested in cutting costs upfront, you may want to consider a strong, low-cost wood such as maple or hickory. These are two of the best-value options on the market, but they’ll still give your home that beautiful, classy hardwood feel you want.

If you, like many of our clients, live in a climate that is moisture-heavy, you’ll need to consider that in your wood choice. No hardwoods are actually “waterproof,” but some (like engineered hardwoods) are less likely to warp. 

Don’t leap into any hardwood floor decisions without evaluating wood in person and speaking with an expert. You want to know you’re choosing the right floors for your house and budget, not anyone else’s. 

4. What Grain Pattern Do You Like?

Plain sawn red oak hardwood flooring

Sample of a plain sawn red oak hardwood flooring

This is a question not many homeowners think to ask when installing hardwood flooring. When logs are cut, they’re cut in three different ways: plain-sawn, rift-sawn, or quarter-sawn. Depending on how the logs are cut, the grain patterns of the wood will look different. 

For instance, rift-sawn boards feature long, linear grain that gives them a very consistent look. Plain-sawn boards, on the other hand, have undulating patterns known as “cathedrals,” while quarter-sawn boards have an almost 3-D like grain. 

There’s not really a right or wrong answer when it comes to grain – it’s more about your home’s style and your personal preferences. We recommend evaluating different grains in person to learn what you like and what would look best in your home. 

5. How Wide Will the Wood Planks Be?

Narrow vs wide hardwood floor

Narrow vs wider hardwood flooring

The width of the boards in your hardwood floors can make a big difference in the final product’s appearance. Wider planks are often considered more luxurious and expensive-looking than thin boards, but thin boards are more cost-effective and contemporary in appearance.  

Narrow boards typically range from between two to three inches in width. Wide planks can range from six inches up to a foot in width. Take a look at some rooms with both kinds of boards to get a feel for how the rooms vary and what you like best. 

Your Next Step: Planning for Installation

Floor installation

After you’ve walked yourself through the questions listed above, and come to your decisions, it’s time to think about installation. Will you be installing the hardwood flooring yourself, or do you plan to hire a professional team to do the job? 

If you’re not sure, here are a few further questions to ask yourself: 

  • Do I think I can achieve a professional look on my own? 
  • How long will it take me to install the hardwood floors
  • Do I have the right tools and equipment to do the installation?
  • How much money am I really saving by doing it myself? 

We’re always supportive of ambitious homeowners who want to take on DIY projects. However, we also want homeowners to enter projects with the right level of experience and knowledge. 

If you’re unsure, or if you’re only worried about the price of hiring an installation team, get some professional advice before you get started. 

Contact Floors By the Shore for Help

Our team at Floors by the Shore has been providing hardwood flooring services to Jersey Shore in Monmouth and Ocean Counties for years. We offer exemplary workmanship and will work around your schedule for installation

Additionally, after installing more than four thousand floors, we’ve learned a thing or two about picking the right hardwoods. If you have questions, let us know – we’ll help you pick the best flooring options for your budget, needs, and style. 

Give us a call at 732-655-6155 or send us a message online. We’re happy to help you get the ball rolling on your next home improvement project.