Hardwood Floors Offer a Wide Range of Options and Costs
Today's hardwood flooring market offers homeowners more material and style choices than ever before. This buying guide walks you through the dizzying array of hardwood options and puts you one step closer to having the beauty, warmth, and durability of real wood floors in your house.
Hardwood Floor Considerations
Keep the following options in mind as you seek out the ideal hardwood flooring for your home.
Each wood has unique characteristics in regards to color, grain pattern, and hardness. While mostly a matter of taste, floors that are expected to receive heavy traffic should be made from a harder wood such as red oak, maple, hickory, or Brazilian cherry (see the Janka Hardness Rating of individual species).
Another point to keep in mind is whether to go with a domestic species (such as oak, birch, pine, and walnut, which have traditionally been used for flooring in the United States), or an exotic species (woods like tigerwood, Brazilian walnut, and cork are becoming more popular due to their distinct grain patterns and colors).
Prefinished hardwood flooring has a finish applied in the factory. When installed, it requires no sanding, sealing, or staining. Unfinished hardwood floors, on the other hand, must be sanded and stained after installation. The price difference between the two types of flooring is ultimately negligible, as unfinished wood costs less to purchase, but is more expensive to install. The benefit of buying unfinished boards lies in greater choice, as you are not limited by a manufacturer's finished products. Prefinished boards, due to their multilayer, uniform finish, tend to be harder and more durable than wood finished on-site.
3/4 inch hardwood flooring is the traditional hardwood flooring thickness. Its principal advantage is durability; 3/4 inch solid wood flooring can last for a century or more and be re-sanded and refinished many times. Planks of this thickness, however, can be more susceptible to warping and buckling. Thinner planks measuring 5/16, 3/8, or 1/2 inch thick don't wear as well as traditional boards but offer better resistance to moisture.
While board thickness affects performance, hardwood flooring width is a matter of decor. Wider boards that have fewer visible seams and better showcase a wood's grain and color are becoming more popular.
For ecologically-minded homeowners, it's important to choose wood flooring that has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative as coming from a responsibly managed forest. You might also consider reclaimed hardwood flooring made from wood that's been recycled or salvaged from old buildings.
Hardwood Flooring Costs
The actual cost of hardwood flooring depends on the wood species, the type, quality, and width of the boards, local labor and material costs, and other factors.
- Hardwood floor materials cost $4 to $12 per square foot, but prices could run as high as $15 persquare foot. For installation, plan on an additional $2 to $10 per square foot. The total cost, then, to install hardwood flooring in a 12' x 12' room is roughly $6 to $20 per square foot ($850 to $3,000).