5 Things You Should Know Before Selecting Hardwood Floors

Audrey Bruno
Written by Audrey Bruno
Updated October 14, 2021
Family in kitchen with hardwood floor
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A little planning will help you find the best type of hardwood flooring for your home

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Hardwood floors can bring so much to a home, from increased resale value to unmatched personality. But selecting the right hardwood flooring for your abode isn’t as simple as picking out curtains or bedsheets. 

Considering a variety of factors—from the amount of foot traffic your house sees to the budget you’re working with—is necessary to ensure you’re picking the best option for your lifestyle. Use this guide to help you make the right choice for your home. 

1. The Type of Foundation Beneath Your Floors

Knowing what type of foundation or subfloor you’re working with will help you determine which wood flooring options are viable in your home. If your subfloor is made of plywood, you’ll be able to choose from almost any type of hardwood. 

But if you’re dealing with a concrete foundation, you may have to opt for an engineered wood flooring instead—or build a new plywood subfloor on top of it in order to use the type of wood you want, though you may end up paying more for extra materials and labor. The more imperfections there are in the base of your floor, the more steps you’ll need to take to make sure it’s fully prepared for easy installation. 

2. Where in Your Home You Want to Install Hardwood Floors

Though hardwood floors are enticing, they aren’t necessarily the best option for every room of your house. In moist spaces like kitchens and bathrooms, opting for tile flooring instead of hardwood is the best way to avoid water damage. 

You might also realize that the bedrooms in your home are better off with carpet—especially if you don’t want to have to worry about your kids falling out of bed onto a hard floor in the middle of the night.

3. The Type of Wood and Finish That’s Best for Your Lifestyle

Light hardwood floors with contrasting cabinetry
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Determining how much action your floors see will help you choose the best color, texture, and type of wood for your home. 

Hardwood vs. Softwood

Some woods are harder and more durable, while others are soft and more easily damaged. Harder species like red oak, hickory, and Brazilian cherry can hold their own to never-ending foot traffic. 

But low-cost options like bamboo bruise easily and may end up being in a constant state of repair. Both hard and softwood come with pros and cons. If you’re living on your own, a delicate wood species like pine and spruce might last longer simply because you’re the only one walking on it. In this situation, you’ll pay less both to have it installed and for future repairs. 

On the other hand, those sharing a space with kids and pets are more likely to save money in the long run by paying more upfront for hardwood. It all comes down to your individual situation.

Dark Finishes vs. Light Finishes

Darker finishes will do a better job of hiding stains and debris, so that may be the better option if spills and pet-fur build-ups happen regularly in your home. They can also provide a contrast to spaces that receive lots of natural light, but may greatly darken ones that don’t. 

Lightwoods, while not as great at disguising blemishes, can brighten up rooms that would otherwise be dim and gloomy. They can also serve as the perfect complement to dark-colored furniture and decor, like ink-black countertops and brightly painted walls. 

4. The Hardwood Flooring Options You Can Get With Your Budget

Hardwood flooring is available in a range of prices, and can cost anywhere from $6 to $25 per square foot for materials alone. On the lower end are the less durable options like bamboo and pine, which can cost as little as $4 to $5 per square foot

But strong, sturdy species like Brazilian oak and white ash are less easily accessible and more expensive, with a starting price between $8 and $11 per square foot

5. If You Can Install It Yourself or Need to Hire a Pro

Man installing flooring with a cat interrupting
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Whether or not you can install hardwood flooring on your own depends on the installation style. Laying down wide plank wood flooring is a relatively simple process that both novice and savvy DIYers can accomplish. 

Doing it yourself can save up to 75% of what you’d normally spend, because the cost to hire a pro for installation ranges from $3 to $6 per square foot. But completing an intricate herringbone or parquet wood flooring pattern is a job that only a professional contractor will be able to finish properly. 

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