Hardwood Floors: Styles & Types

There are a plethora of flooring choices at the hardware store. Even if you limit yourself just to hardwood flooring there are still many options available to you. Here are the various styles and types of hardwood floors and the advantages of each.

Types

Solid Hardwood - This the classic hardwood flooring that is seen in older homes. It is milled as one continuous piece of lumber that is fit together on top of the subfloor, usually by a tongue and groove system, and nailed down to the joists. This durable product has for a long time been the favorite type of flooring in North America but its popularity has been waning. There are some limitations to solid wood floors. It is not fit for humid or below grade environments, expands and contracts with the weather, and is prone to gapping, buckling, and dipping over time.

Engineered Hardwood - Engineered flooring has grown in popularity in recent decades. It is created by layering several sheets of hardwood together. This should not be confused with laminate flooring, which is not made from solid woods and often has only the appearance of woodgrain. Engineered woods are not prone to the expansion and contraction seen with solid hardwood making it a better choice for basements and humid environments. These slightly less durable floors are cheaper and easier to put together than solid wood floors. Often these are "floating" systems that lock together and do not require the flooring to be nailed down.

Acrylic-impregnated Hardwood - This is a newer type of engineered hardwood floor that has an acrylic glue embedded into the grain. This makes for an extremely durable product that can stand up to foot traffic in a heavily used room or in a commercial property.

Styles

Strip - Strip floors are a common style of solid hardwood floor that come in a fixed set of widths, usually 2 ¼ inches, and a variably thickness. Engineered hardwood can be made in this style as well.

Plank - Plank floors are a less common style of solid hardwood floor. Planks can vary in width up to about 8 inches across. Most engineered hardwood makes use of these wider dimensions.

Parquet - This rarely seen style of flooring is usually created with solid hardwood though engineered wood can be used as well. Parquet floors are shaped pieces of wood that at its most simple could be a series of square tiles but can also be used to create intricate patterns. Parquet floors are often difficult to put together and take apart so be certain you are committed before you pick this flooring option.

Finish

Unfinished - Unfinished woods floors must be sanded before they are stained, oiled, glossed, or otherwise finished. The process of finishing the floor may take several days in addition to the installation and can be a messy experience. The advantage, however, is that one gets to choose the color of floor they want. This could be important for someone who wants to match the flooring to their existing furniture or if space to be floored will be rented or sold to someone else, allowing them to choose their own finish.

Prefinished - Because of the hassle of finishing a floor, more people opt for prefinished floors. The options are more limited but still of a wide enough range that most people will find the color and finish that suits them. Once this floor is installed, it is ready to use.