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How To Shop for Hardwood Floors

Updated: Oct 12, 2022

How To Shop for Hardwood Floors

Hardwood flooring is still one of the most beautiful types of flooring you can purchase for your home. Go into any floor covering store, and they will have rows and rows of hardwood flooring samples. There are many factors that you need to look at when considering a new hardwood floor. In this article, we will identify several factors that you need to examine before you make a purchase.

How To Shop for Hardwood Floors

Solid Hardwood vs Engineered Hardwood:

The type of hardwood you need to look at will depend on the type of subfloor you are installing with the product. If you have a wood subfloor, you can purchase either type of floor (solid or engineered). If you are looking to put a hardwood floor on a cement subfloor, you will need to purchase an engineered hardwood floor. So, what is the difference? Solid hardwood is a single piece of wood. Solid hardwood comes in different thicknesses as well as in different widths.

Solid hardwood is designed to be nailed into wood sub-floors. Engineered hardwood is made up of layers of hardwood. Engineered products are designed to be floated or glued to cement floors. They can also be nailed/stapled to a wood subfloor. Engineered floors are more durable and will not move as much as solid floors. The joints between boards of a solid hardwood floor tend to expand/contract, depending on the outside temperature.

What Area Of The Home Are You Looking At?

Moisture and hardwood floors do not get along very well. Putting a hardwood floor in a basement is typically not a very good idea. Likewise, while many homes have hardwood in the kitchen, you might think twice about installing a new hardwood floor by a sink or dishwasher. Many floors get damaged due to a water line break or a sink that overflows.

In remodels, another huge factor is your existing flooring. You need to be aware of the flooring height. For example, if you are taking out carpet and pad, and installing a new hardwood floor, you need to consider things like wall baseboards, door jams, and room transitions that have different flooring.

What Type (Species) of Hardwood Floor Are You Buying:

The hardiness level of a wood floor is extremely important as it relates to the product's durability. When in doubt, you can check The Janka Rating System, which measures the relative hardness of wood.

The Janka test measures the amount of force required to embed a 0.444" steel ball into the wood to half of its diameter. Woods with a higher rating are harder than woods with a lower rating. If you have dogs that love to run in the house, or small kids,'ll want to pick a hardwood that is higher up on the hardiness scale. Lower-rated hardwoods tend to scratch and chip easier.

How To Shop For Hardwood Flooring - In a Store

One of the cool features that many hardwood companies have published on their websites, is a virtual book of how your floor will look. You can literally take a picture of your room, and their program will insert one of their hardwood floors. This is an awesome feature, as it allows you to visually see the hardwood product, and how it will look in your room.

Once you determine the type of hardwood floor you want (solid or engineered), here are the next steps in the buying process:

  1. Ask your local store for free home measurements. Most stores will gladly send someone out to your home to see how much material you will need.

  2. Go to the store and start looking at the flooring samples. You need to develop a "maybe" pile. You want to get 10-12 samples and lay them on the floor. Then, you take a closer look at these samples and narrow it down to 3 or 4.

  3. Ask the salesperson to provide estimates of these 3-4 samples.

  4. Take those samples home and put them in your room. If after 2-3 days you fall in love with a sample (and the price is right) have a winner!

  5. If you none of the samples you took homework, go back to the store and repeat this process until you find a winner.

How To Shop For Hardwood Flooring - FAQ

  1. Can we install hardwood flooring if we have a dog or cat? Of course, you can. Just be aware that no floor is "scratch-proof." If you have a 100-pound dog with long nails, there is a pretty good chance your floor will get scratched. Make sure you look at the finish and hardness level of the hardwood before you buy.

  2. What is the most durable hardwood available? Review the Janka rating system (above). This will show you those hardwoods that have the highest rating. The finish level is also important. Most hardwoods have an aluminum oxide finish, which will help with durability.

  3. Can we install real hardwood for our kitchen? You can, but be careful. Hardwood does not get along with water. If you have a sink that overflows or a dishwasher line that breaks, you could be asking for a lot of problems.

  4. Is solid hardwood better than engineered hardwood? The short answer is "no." Solid and engineered are two different types of products. Each product has its own benefits and limitations.

  5. Can we put hardwood flooring over an existing floor? It all depends on the existing floor and installation goals. In a perfect world, it is always better to remove the existing flooring and get to the original subfloor. However, in many cases, that can be expensive and require a lot of extra work. Going over existing floors is done all of the time. It is always best to get a flooring professional involved with your installation to recommend the best installation method.

  6. Can we install hardwood over radiant heat? Yes. However, it depends on the product. Make sure you research the product to determine if the manufacturer will cover this in their warranty.

  7. Can I install hardwood in my home that will match my existing hardwood floor? Probably not, unless your existing floor is very new. Once you have a hardwood floor installed, foot traffic and sunlight will have an effect on the color of your floor. You might be able to come close in color. But, in most cases, you are better off finding a floor that is complimentary to your existing floor, as opposed to trying to find a perfect match.


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