9 Tips for Buying the Right Hardwood Flooring for Your Home

Megy Karydes
Written by Megy Karydes
Updated March 17, 2023
Dad and son build blocks on hardwood floors
Photo: katleho Seisa / E+ / Getty Images

Choosing the right hardwood floors for your home can lead to years of enjoyment

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Hardwood floors are a beautiful and durable addition that can add warmth and character to your home, as well as increase its value. Hardwoods go with any décor, whether it’s traditional or modern, and can be installed in almost any space. 

In some cases, installing hardwood flooring can help alleviate allergies since it’s easier to keep floors free of dust mites, pollen, pet dander, and other allergens. Here are nine things to consider when buying hardwood flooring for your home.

1. Know That Different Wood Species Come at Different Prices 

When considering your wood flooring choices, it’s important to think about how available and accessible your preferred wood species are. While choosing a readily available species like oak, maple, walnut, ash, and cherry will help you get your flooring delivered in a timely manner and lower your overall bill, it will also make it much simpler to replace planks should your floors become damaged later. 

Exotic hardwood species, including tigerwood, teak, jatoba (sometimes referred to as Brazilian cherry), and ipe (also known as Brazilian walnut) are generally more expensive and more difficult to obtain. 

2. Select Flooring That Matches Your Home’s Existing Style 

While adding hardwood flooring to your home can give you major style points, you don’t want your flooring to clash with your home's architecture or the style you’re aiming for. When considering the type of hardwood flooring that will best match your home’s style, compare the type of wood species, the grain, the width of the planks, or the style of parquet. 

The more minimalist design the home style, the more minimalist design you’ll want for your flooring so as not to compete against the overall aesthetic. 

Hardwood floors can come as planks, parquets, and prefinished boards. There are four hardwood floor plank sizes: narrow, standard, wide, and even random-width plank to choose from. Take your time as you review your options and consider how each will look in your home. 

3. Understand the Difference Between Engineered and Solid Hardwood

While solid hardwood and engineered wood flooring might look the same to the untrained eye, they have some distinct differences. 

Engineered wood looks very similar to solid hardwood but has an engineered core made of plywood. This plywood core causes the engineered wood to be both more stable and less expensive than solid hardwood planks. 

Solid hardwood floors are made of hardwood throughout and come in 5/8- to 3/4-inch thickness. While solid hardwood is often more expensive than engineered wood, a distinct benefit is that it can be sanded and refinished several times over its lifetime while engineered wood can not be updated in the same way.

4. Determine Your Budget 

Hardwood flooring costs vary based on the type of wood, size, and availability. Thanks to high demand and a current lumber shortage, lumber prices hit an all-time high in May 2020, which impacted the cost of wood flooring. The good news is that as of July 2021, while the crisis is far from over, lumber prices seem to be on the decline. It can be helpful to start with your budget as you consider various wood flooring types and choose one that aligns with what you’re able to spend.

5. Decide on the Necessary Durability Level for Your Home

Dogs and kids (and, who are we kidding, adults, too) sometimes track dirt or mud in the house. Floors will get nicked, dented, scratched, and sometimes even gouged. The beauty of buying solid hardwood flooring is that if planks get dented or scratched, they can be refurbished and last for decades.

If you know the people and pets in your home may be tough on your floors, consider lighter stains and wood with a more prominent grain pattern, like hickory or red oak, as these tend to show fewer scratches and hide dirt more effectively. Since softer woods dent easier, consider harder woods like oak, ash, or maple.

It’s also helpful to think about the room’s purpose and whether it has moisture or heavy traffic. If the space attracts moisture or is likely to get wet (like a mudroom) look at engineered floors as an option since they’re more water-resistant than solid hardwood floors.

23 types of wood and their hardness ratings compared, with white ash having a rating of 1,320

6. Be Aware That Installation Options Change Based on Flooring Type

Hardwood flooring in living room
Photo: Robert Ingelhart / E+ via Getty Images

The type of flooring you choose will determine your installation options. Keep in mind that you’ll want to know what’s below your current floor since you will need to prepare the subfloor in some way (depending on what exists). Installing hardwood floors can be a DIY project and might take a few days, depending on your skillset and how much you’re installing.

Here are some things to take into account when it comes to installing hardwood floors:

  • For those interested in a DIY project, the locking or floating planks are easiest since they don’t require nails, staples, or glue.

  • Other hardwood flooring options can be applied using glue, nails, or staples.

  • Prefinished flooring means you can bypass the sanding and refinishing process.

Not into DYing? You can also hire hardwood floor installers in your area

7. Decide if You Want Finished or Unfinished Hardwood Flooring

When buying hardwood flooring, you can choose either unfinished or finished wood. The benefit of unfinished wood is it can be stained, and if you have existing flooring, it can be stained to match. Once installed and stained, several layers of protective finish are applied to your hardwood floors, and you’ll need to wait until everything dries before walking on it.

Finished floors come from a factory already sanded and sealed, which means once you’ve installed them, you’re good to go. There is no need to finish or seal, and you can walk on the floor immediately.

8. Research How to Care for Your Specific Hardwood Floors

Hardwood in kitchen
Photo: ML Harris / Adobe Stock

Once you’ve taken the time to choose and install them, you’ll want to think about how to care for hardwood floors so they will look beautiful for years to come.

Since water and wood don’t mix, you’ll need to avoid using a mop with water, soap-based cleaners, or steamers on your hardwood floors no matter what type you choose. As you shop for hardwoods, check the manufacturer’s instructions so that you’re sure to have an understanding of how to care for the different choices. 

Keep in mind that if your hardwood floors are in an area that gets some activity, they might need a refresh after a few years to get that shine back. 

That doesn’t always mean you need to refinish your floors. A good buffing might do the trick. Buffing your hardwood floors can usually remove unsightly scratches often caused by moving furniture, pets, or shoes.

9. Save Money on Hardwood Flooring by Going to a Salvage Yard

As you assess your budget, you may want to consider looking at a salvage yard for your desired flooring. Sometimes salvage yards have planks available at a deep discount that might be exactly what you need for a fraction of the cost of new flooring. 

If the salvage yard does not have what you need, let them know what you’re looking for and they may be willing to call you if something comes in that fits your needs.

Buying hardwood flooring is an investment that will bring out the beauty of your home. Taking the time to consider the best type of hardwood floors to fit your lifestyle will save you time and money in the long run while adding more enjoyment and warmth to your living quarters.

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