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Wood Flooring Considerations for Homeowners

Solid Hardwood Floors and Engineered Wood are Both Good Investments in Home Equity

© 2012 by Kelly R. Smith; All rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission.

A dark hardwood floor, photo courtesy Wood and Beyond

A dark hardwood floor

This article was updated on 07/18/20.
Wood flooring is a popular choice for many homeowners. As a flooring solution it has grown in popularity over the years due to better ethical and environmentally friendly sourcing by reputable sellers and due to coloring techniques that allow sellers to color wood in some unusual colors, thereby making wood fit into more interior styles.

Homeowners are often under the wrong impression that once the decision has been made to fit wood flooring they have little more to consider. This couldn't be further from the truth; there are other considerations to decision that need to be made from type of wood to the species.

Another thing that should be noted is that installation has become increasingly easy over the past few years. Most homeowners find that doing the job themselves is very easy; for larger projects they might contract a professional flooring installer.

Suitable Species of Wood

Several species of wood are suitable for flooring, from oak to bamboo to name just a few. For any species to be considered, it has to meet three strict conditions.

  1. It has to be abundantly available so its price is affordable.
  2. It must be sourced from managed forests so as to meet international fair-trade guidelines (and consumer demand).
  3. The wood must be strong enough to support heavy loads for many years.

An oak hardwood floor; photo courtesy Wood and Beyond The most common woods that are used as flooring are Oak and Walnut. These are further set apart based on local sub-species such as Brazilian Walnut, European Oak and so on.

Your consideration in preferring one to the other will normally be based on personal taste, as each will carry a slightly different grain structure. If you decide to venture towards more exotic species, we urge you to check the endangered status of the wood. A useful source for checking the status of various trees and animals is The IUCN Red List.

Type of wood

When wood flooring is fitted you may think that there’s only one type, however there are in fact two types of wood flooring that both fall under the definition of “real wood flooring”.

As a homeowner it is essential to understand the difference between the two as fitting the wrong type under some circumstances may shorten the service life of the floor. The two are solid wood flooring and engineered wood flooring (also semi-solid wood flooring) and here are the differences between the two:

  • Solid wood floor - As you may gather from its descriptive name, the floor is made from solid wood without any other materials thrown in the mix. This solid construction makes the floor highly durable and may prove to serve you for 50 to 100 years if it is well maintained.

    In fact, solid wood flooring is often featured in period classic homes as they simply withstand the test of time remarkably well. It can easily withstand multiple bouts of hardwood floor refinishing.

    On the not so positive side, solid wood may react to temperature changes by expanding in hot conditions and by contracting when conditions are cold. Furthermore, due to their natural construction, the size of floorboards is limited.

  • Engineered wood flooring - This type the floor contains solid wood but on a smaller scale. Only the top layer is made from solid wood. Three or four supporting layers of syntactic material such as Plywood and MDF are glued together to supplement the solid wood layer.

    Engineered wood flooring does not equal the service life of solid wood, however it does have some outstanding benefits. If you are considering installing wood flooring yourself, engineered wood flooring is suitable for floating floor installation.

    This is an installation method that is very user friendly and requires no previous experience. In addition, the floor will not mind temperature changes and will not react in the same manner as the solid type might.

    Finally, its diverse composition of natural and syntactic material makes the floor more suitable for damp areas such as the kitchen, basement, and bathroom or even as living room flooring if the entire property is located near a source of moisture such as a river or stream.

    Note: This is not the same as laminate floors such as Pergo which contain no top hardwood layer. Instead, the top layer is a graphic with a protective coat. Laminate is not recommended for wet areas.

As a homeowner you may well find that both types are suitable and your flooring consideration will be best on budget. Engineered wood flooring are often cheaper, however do take into account the durability of your investment.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

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