Choosing Hardwood

The number of hardwood choices, patterns, colors, textures and price points can intimidate even the most experienced shopper. Knowing the basic styles can provide you with a firm foundation upon which to begin your hardwood-shopping journey. Choosing your ideal hardwood style is all about knowing the right combination of aesthetics, performance and budget that meets the needs of your lifestyle.

Personal Style

  • designs: medallions, running on the diagonal, or creating borders


    1. Pre-finished:
      • ready for installation
      • boards already sanded, stained and finished
      • harder, better-protected surface
      • wider variety of wood species
      • save hours of labor and cleanup
      • extended finish warranty
    1. Unfinished:
      • allows you to have a custom job
      • you choose the wood species
      • it’s sanded and stained on site
      • can level the surface after installation
      • no extended finish warranty


    • look at installation site for location limitations
    • solid floors are susceptible to moisture and are not recommended for basements or concrete slabs

    Grain and cut

    • styles are a result of the species available
    • species: red oak, white oak, maple, cherry, white ash, hickory or pecan
    • each species has unique graining and texture
    • graining on the boards is determined by the way it has been cut
    • two cutting processes. “Sliced Cut” -more uniform pattern and “Rotary Cut”- displays a larger and bolder graining pattern


    • each species gives choices of color and finishes
    • choose coordinating or contrasting with cabinetry and furniture
    • darker woods are more formal
    • natural colors are more casual


    • different types for pre-finished or job site finished
    • lower gloss levels are better for active rooms
    • lower gloss or matte finishes minimize dirt and scratches
    • high gloss finish for formal décor


    • no more waxing and scrubing
    • pre-finished floors have hard, durable urethane-based finishes
    • chips of aluminum oxide are added to increases the urethane finish’s life

    Floor protection

    • finished floors have several coats applied to the surface
    • many companies apply 6-10 coats of a ultra-violet (UV) cured urethane
    • UV cured urethane is difficult to duplicate on a job site finish
    • factory finishes are more consistent and durable
    • do not wash your floor with a mop
    • water is not a friend of hardwood
    • floors won't watermark like old waxed floors
    • UV cured finishes do make floors easier to maintain than waxed floors

    Pre-finished choices:

    • UV cured – factory finishes cured with Ultra Violet lights versus heat
    • polyurethane – clear, tough and durable applied as a wear layer
    • acrylic-urethane – different make up than Polyurethane, same benefits
    • ceramic – advanced technology allowing ceramics to increase wear layer resistance
    • aluminum oxide – added to urethane finish for increased abrasion resistance
    • acrylic impregnated – acrylic monomers injected into cell structure for hardness, then finished with a wear layer

    Job-site hardwood flooring

    • start with a bare (unfinished) floor, then sand, stain, and finish
    • if subfloor is acceptable you can have a custom stained
    • can have a floor to match existing trim
    • advantage: smoother floor between planks
    • process is messy and takes several days


    • Water Based Urethane – water used as part of the make up of the finish
    • Solvent Based Urethane – oil used as part of the make up of the finish
    • Moisture Cured Urethane – similar make up as solvent based urethanes, finish needs moisture to cure

    Board widths

    • boards come in various sizes
    • narrower board widths called “strips”
    • wider boards called “planks”
    • board width visually impacts a room
    • narrow boards expand a room
    • wider boards work well in a larger room

    Edge knowledge

    • floors come in either a beveled edge, or a square edge
    • each edge creates a specific look and feel

    Edge types:

    • square edge: edges all meet squarely for a uniform, smooth surface (contemporary and formal)
    • eased edge: boards slightly beveled to length and/or the end joints, hides irregularities, plank heights, also called micro-beveled edge
    • beveled edge: distinctive groove, informal and country décor, beveled edges sealed completely, dirt easy to sweep or vacuum out of the grooves

    Hardness – Janka hardness test

    • measures the force needed to embed a .444 inch steel ball to half its diameter in a piece of wood
    • higher the number the harder the wood
    • one of the best methods to measure the ability of wood species to withstand indentations
    • general guide when comparing various species
    • construction and finish also important in the durability and ease of maintenance