10 Types Of Hardwood Flooring (A Comparison Guide)

Kenneth Wilson

When we see beautiful hardwood floors, it's easy to be reminded why it's a true classic that never goes out of style. Its unmatched natural beauty perfectly suits country-style, modern, and even traditional homes.

To add a cherry to the top, hardwood flooring also comes in different types and styles– so there's plenty of hardwood flooring options that fit every homeowner's budget.

Let's break down all the different hardwood floors, so it becomes easier to distinguish and less of a riddle. We're talking modern laminate hardwood to reclaimed floors and synthetic wood to natural hardwood flooring.

Solid vs. Engineered Hardwood Floors

There are different ways to discuss the different hardwood types (such as by species or by finishing), but for clarity, there are two main types: engineered and solid hardwood flooring.

Solid Hardwood Flooring

True to its name, solid hardwood floors are made of solid planks of wood cut from a particular tree type. It is considered the standard hardwood type, famed for its durability, lasting for decades given proper maintenance.

It is usually available in 5/8" to 3/4" thickness, and solid hardwood floors can be sanded and refinished repeatedly as you deem fit.

One thing to note is its susceptibility to moisture or humidity fluctuations, so it's not ideal for use in bathrooms, below-grade basements, or laundry rooms. You can give it a quick remedy by finishing the wood, though.

Engineered Hardwood Flooring

In contrast, engineered hardwood flooring is similar to plywood– in a sense that a hardwood top layer is glued to multiple wood layers.

It makes the material extremely stable and suitable for use in any home area, including basements. It can contract and expand without even causing damage to the floors. The material has been recently developed to solve the problems of solid hardwood, particularly its vulnerability to moisture and humidity problems.

However, it may only be sanded or refinished once or twice throughout its lifetime.

Reclaimed Hardwood Flooring

Aside from the two types of hardwood floors, you may also go with reclaimed hardwood flooring. You can easily find this at salvage yards.

Although it poses visible wear and tear signs– it's a cheaper alternative to consider. It is an excellent choice when doing renovation projects for older homes.

Types of Hardwood Flooring by Species

Some also categorize hardwood floor types by their species. This depends on your preferred color tones, grain patterns, and durability for high-traffic areas in the home.

  • Oak - Oak hardwood flooring makes for a cozy, warm addition to any home. You can choose between red or white oak– which adds a one-of-a-kind flair to your interior decors.
  • Cherry - If you’re looking for glossy, luxurious floors– cherry wood is an excellent choice. It is available in different hues of black and red tones. However, this premium flooring material is quite expensive. It may also darken over time, especially with consistent exposure to harsh sunlight.
  • Walnut - The rich, dark aesthetic appeal of walnut hardwood floors complements bright interiors. This flooring material is soft and lightweight but notably durable. Homeowners who want more sophistication in their interiors will benefit from this choice the most. It is known for its deep chocolate tones and beautiful grain patterns.
  • Hickory - If you prioritize the durability of your wooden floors, choose hickory wood. It is a mid-toned hardwood option that gives a cozy, rustic appeal to your interiors– from creamy beige to warm brown tones. Homeowners with several indoor pets may benefit the most from this option.
  • Maple - Lastly, light maple hardwood floors are famous for their distinct grain pattern. The material is also known for its cost-effectiveness and durability. You can choose from different hues of beige, cream, and tan. It has occasional dark streaks, which makes it more visually attractive.

That said, there are multiple hardwood flooring types based on their wood species to suit different interior styles– from contemporary to transitional.

Keep in mind that design choices in the form of the floor's finish and texture can make a huge difference in your new hardwood floors.

Finished vs. Unfinished Hardwood Flooring

Traditionally, solid hardwood floors were only available in unfinished type. A professional installer had to stain and apply a finish coat to improve its surface protection.

However, many hardwood floors in the market today are already prefinished– so you won't have to worry about staining and applying topcoats during its installation.

Here's a quick rundown of the pros and cons you can expect between the two.

Unfinished Hardwood Flooring

Choosing unfinished hardwood floors is the perfect choice if you're looking for a custom, one-of-a-kind finish.

Homeowners who want to match the color or the floors to their furniture or other floorings inside the home can go with this route. You can choose your stain of preference before applying the final finish.

Additionally, this hardwood flooring may also be moisture-resistant as it is only stained and finished after installation.

Why choose Unfinished Hardwood Floors?

  • It is an excellent choice for kitchen remodel or renovation projects. The finish penetrates and seals the seams in-between the hardwood boards. Hence, it protects the floor from any damage brought by seeping water.
  • You can pick custom colors. Choose the unfinished type if you want to unleash your creativity by having hardwood floors with a unique shade.
  • It takes more time to install. Expect at least three days to complete the installation, covering the installation, sanding, staining, and final finishing stages.
  • It may be messy and entail possible toxic fumes during the installation process. If you're sanding the entire unfinished floor– stain and finish products may emit fumes. That said, you will need to ensure proper ventilation for the whole project process.
  • While the material costs are lower than their finished hardwood counterpart (about $1 per sq/ft cheaper), it will cost you more professional installation costs. Since it requires more labor for the staining and finishing stages, unfinished hardwood floors can be more expensive overall.

Finished Hardwood Flooring

Convenience is the primary selling point in prefinished hardwood floors. It saves you time sanding, sealing, and finishing the new floors after installation. With that in mind, the professional installation costs will be cheaper.

Why choose Finished Hardwood Floors?

  • You are free to choose among a few dozen colors available. However, some shades may not be part of the options, limiting your customization freedom.
  • It requires a higher initial material cost but a cheaper installation cost than unfinished hardwood flooring. Professionally installed prefinished hardwood floor costs lower than an installed unfinished hardwood floor as staining and finishing won't be needed. You will probably pay much less in the long run if you go for a prefinished hardwood floor.
  • It comes with manufacturer warranties, giving you a guarantee against defects such as finish coat and stain.

Types of Hardwood Flooring: How to Know Which One is Best for You?

After discussing the different types of hardwood floors, how will you choose the best one for your needs? Ultimately, the choice will boil down to four critical factors: budget, personal preference, visual appeal, and practical benefits.

If you have a couple of pets at home, ensure that your new hardwood floors are durable and long-lasting. Homeowners with small spaces can choose hardwood floors with lighter finishes to make the area look more prominent.

Ideally, choose hardwood floors that go well with your interiors without sacrificing durability and quality. Try to strike a balance of both. (Related: Is Hardwood Flooring In A Bathroom A Good Idea? (Pros, Cons & Everything You Need To Know)

Trust us. You wouldn't want to regret having beautiful, premium hardwood floors– only to realize it doesn't meet the practical needs of your household.

Kenneth Wilson
December 8, 2021

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

Ask The Author Your Question In The Comments!

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

More From This Author

9 of the Best Ring Security Cameras: Home Security 101
Where You Should Place Security Cameras Around Your Home: Best Locations
How Long Do SimpliSafe Camera Batteries Last?
SimpliSafe vs. Ring: Which Home Security System is Best Suited for Your Needs?
The Best Plug-in Outdoor Security Lights to Keep Your Home Safe
Everything You Need to Know About Residential Laser Grid Security Systems