How to Choose & Install Hardwood Floors: A Complete Guide
The choice of flooring is one of the most basic yet important decisions a homeowner has to make when undertaking a renovation, as it underpins everything else. While there are plenty of different options, from carpet to terrazzo, one material is the acknowledged standard: hardwood
But not all hardwood flooring is created equal, and selecting a product isn’t simply a matter of choosing a preferred color. A range of other factors can have an impact on both aesthetics and performance.
Select Solid or Engineered Flooring
Traditionally, hardwood flooring came in thick planks of solid timber. Today, solid hardwood is still widely available, but many companies also offer engineered flooring—planks made with a thinner top layer of hardwood, bonded to other layers designed to prevent the floor from shifting during expansion and contraction cycles. “All wood moves in three directions: There’s tangential, radial, and longitudinal movement,” says Jones. “With engineered products, you’re creating opposing forces within the board to try to restrict the natural movement of the wood.”
Choose Prefinished or Site Finish
Hardwood planks can be purchased with a raw face that gets finished by a professional after installation, or prefinished, which arrives with the stain and topcoat already applied. The advantage of prefinished wood is that “you know exactly what you’re getting,” says Caroll, noting that once you select a product, you’ll have an exact sample to use in coordinating your home’s color palette and choosing other design elements, such as textiles, wall coverings, and cabinetry. Prefinished flooring also takes less time to install, because there’s no need to apply color or sealant. “When you choose to do a site finish,” he adds, “you’re rolling the dice a little bit, and relying on the skills of the flooring contractor to get it right.”
Choose the Type of Finish
There’s a whole spectrum of finishing products, says Jones, from penetrating oil to oil-like hybrids to site-finish polyurethanes to prefinished UV-cured urethane finishes. But to simplify, most finishes fall into one of two categories: oil or polyurethane
Designers’ Top Tips for Finding Your Ideal Hardwood Flooring
When choosing the perfect wood floor for your home, think like a designer. Consider style, maintenance, and budget before you commit to any one type of hardwood. With so many colors and materials to choose from, you may find it challenging to make a selection. To help you narrow down your options, we at Kerrie Kelly Design Lab spoke to other expert interior designers about how they choose the optimal hardwood floor for their clients’ spaces.
Consider Your Lifestyle
When choosing a hardwood floor, consider style, personal preference, lifestyle, and the home’s construction. At Kerrie Kelly, we often tour a client’s home before any renovation or design work begins so we can see firsthand how the family interacts with the materials and elements in their home. Our team frequently notices things even the client doesn’t, like the family’s tendency to keep shoes on in the home or how often the dog runs down the hall after the kids.
Think about Lifestyle
For homes with a high level of wear and tear, such as those with kids and pets, homeowners should choose a durable variety of wood. The harder the wood, the better it will resist dings, dents, and scratches. Oak, maple, and cherry have a high level of hardness, while pine, mahogany, and chestnut are softer and more prone to damage
Think about Color
When it comes to color, Cole advises clients to take inspiration from their environment and surroundings. An airy and bright setting like a bungalow in a sunny desert town calls for a different look than the sleek and moody atmosphere of a city apartment. “If you live in Palm Desert, you might lean toward lighter hardwoods. Alternatively, darker hardwood flooring would be appropriate for living in the city in a high-rise,” she says
When to choose dark colors: As Cole points out, the wood finish that’s right for you is subjective. It depends on personal preference as well as overall style. However, if you just can’t decide, you can’t go wrong with the versatile look of a dark wood floor. “If you are going for a timeless look, a darker wood tone will always be applicable,” says designer Kia Weatherspoon, president of D.C.-based Determined by Design
THIS IS HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST HARDWOOD FLOORING FOR ANY HOME
FIRST, THE PROS AND CONS OF HARWOOD FLOORING
Hardwood is a natural, long-lasting choice for home flooring. Still, it comes with maintenance responsibilities. Before you do anything else, it’s crucial to consider the pros and cons of installing wood floors in your home
HARDWOOD IS DURABLE… AS LONG AS YOU DON’T OVEREXPOSE IT TO WATER.
While hardwood floors are durable and can withstand spills and stains with proper treatment, they are especially prone to water damage (kind of like the wicked witch of the west); this makes them a risky candidate for areas like your bathroom, kitchen, and entryways. Installing hardwood in rooms where they are exposed to liquid will lead to damage.
IT IS EASY TO REFINISH, BUT NOT SO EASY TO INSTALL.
Most people will tell you it is easy to refinish hardwood floors, as long as you can stay off of them for a few days. Even so, it is difficult to install them, even for experienced DIYers. So, in the beginning, be prepared to hire a professional for the installation. At the very least, consider
IT IS CONSIDERED A WISE INVESTMENT.
The homeowners’ paradigm is that hardwood flooring will increase the value of your property. Most homebuyer’s jump at the idea of purchasing a home with hardwood floors — in many cases, even when carpet covers the original wood flooring. So, in the long run, the initial investment is probably worthwhile
HARDWOOD FLOORING ISN’T LIKELY TO GO OUT OF STYLE.
Hardwood floors are timeless in the decor world; it was considered a luxury interior decoration asset as early as the 1600s and is popular still today. If you choose hardwood, your floors are likely to stay in style as long as your home stands. According to GentlemanZone Magazine, hardwood stands for luxury and fine taste. It is the warm and shiny glaze of wood that noblemen love to this very day.
Choosing Hardwood Flooring
hardwood—just the word evokes images of charm, richness, and classic looks. Wood floors last a lifetime and gain “character” with age
Board Widths. Select from narrow strips (less than three inches), wider planks (more than three inches), parquet squares, and—a new option—squares and rectangles. The traditional choice, strips give the illusion of more space, while planks impart a rustic look. Parquet floors, with the distinctive geometric design, suit formal spaces
Wood Species. Hardwood species vary in durability, grain patterns, and color. Oak, maple, and cherry are among the most common species due to their hardness. Exotic woods like mahogany, and Brazilian cherry aren’t as durable, but are prized for their striking appearance
Colors. Hardwoods run the gamut from blond to black, depending on species and finish
Textures. You can get hardwood floors that look shiny and new, or you can buy brand new wood that looks like an antique and adds timeworn character to your room Many manufacturers offer distressed and hand-scraped hardwoods that will disguise heavy use over the years and give the floor an appealing timeworn appearance from the moment it’s installed.
Types of wood flooring
From modern laminate to reclaimed hardwood, the warmth and texture of wooden floors – whether faux or the real deal – is a popular choice for homeowners.
Laminate flooring is a compressed fibreboard plank, covered with a photographic image of wood with a protective overlay.
Bevelled edges, a more varied set of images and embossed features, such as knots, will give a more natural look and texture, but they will cost more. Brands such as QuickStep and Pergo offer more premium options
High traffic areas that will need frequent cleaning, such as living rooms, studies and playrooms. Some products include a waterproof core, which manufacturers claim are suitable for bathrooms and kitchens. If you’re thinking of tackling these rooms, see our guides to planning a kitchen and planning a bathroom.
Each engineered wood floorboard consists of three or four layers of wood, glued together to create a plank around 14mm thick. It has a real-wood veneer of around 4mm thick on top, which means it can be sanded back and treated to restore the original finish if it becomes scuffed, worn or damaged.