Types of Hardwood Flooring

There are three categories of hardwood flooring, and each type has its own advantages and disadvantages. The first type is solid hardwood.

Solid Hardwood

Solid hardwood is by far the most common wood floor in the Denver area. Solid hardwood is usually ¾ inches thick and comes in pre-finished and unfinished, in a variety of wood species and plank widths. Pre-finished hardwood is stained and finished right out of the box. Unfinished hardwood requires sanding and finishing on site (site-finished).

Pre-Finished Hardwood Flooring: Pros & Cons

  • No sanding required.
  • Finish coatings are usually stronger and more durable than site applied coatings.
  • DIY compatible.
  • Shorter project time compared to site finish.
  • Milling and color quality is sometimes poor.
  • Floor is not completely flat. Planks are not the same thickness, resulting in small high spots along edges of each board.
  • Visible grooves along the edges of every board.
  • Not recommended for basements.

Pre-Finished Solid Hardwood Flooring: Tips

  • Read the warranty before you buy. Some pre-finished products have warranties of 50 years, and some have much shorter warranty terms.
  • You need reasonable carpentry skills and good tools to do this job yourself.
  • Hand-scraped flooring is difficult to re-finish because it isn't flat. Re-finishing hand-scraped flooring can be very expensive.

Site-Finished Hardwood Flooring: Pros & Cons

  • The floor is completely flat–no high spots.
  • No unsightly grooves between boards.
  • Sanding and finishing required. Longer project time.
  • Sanding is noisy and there is some dust.
  • Not recommended for basements.

Site-Finished Flooring: Tips

  • Do not try to do this yourself. Hire a pro.
  • Ask your floor pro about dust control.
  • Ask your floor pro how many coats are going on your floor. Insist on 3 coats.
  • Ask your floor pro which type of finish product he uses. Oil modified finishes extend the job time, and they turn yellow over time. Water modified finishes dry faster, resulting in shorter job completion time. Most water modified finishes go on clear and do not turn yellow.

Engineered Hardwood

Engineered hardwood is essentially plywood, where the top ply or layer is "real" hardwood. Like solid wood flooring, engineered wood flooring comes in a variety of species and plank widths. Engineered flooring comes in a variety of thicknesses, from ⅜ of an inch to ¾ of an inch thick, and is nearly always pre-stained and pre-finished. It can be nailed down, glued down, or "floated," meaning the flooring is not physically attached to the sub floor.

Engineered Hardwood Flooring: Pros & Cons

  • No sanding required.
  • Finish coatings are usually stronger and more durable than site applied coatings.
  • DIY compatible.
  • Shorter project time compared to site finish.
  • Milling and color quality is sometimes poor.
  • Floor is not completely flat. Planks are not always the same exact thickness, resulting in small high spots along edges of each board.
  • Visible grooves along the edges of every board.
  • Can be used for basements.

Engineered Hardwood Flooring: Tips

  • Take note of the wear layer, the top layer of real hardwood. If the wear layer is too thin (less than 4mm) it cannot be re-sanded.
  • Read the warranty before you buy. Some engineered flooring products have 50 year warranties, and some have much shorter warranty terms.
  • You need reasonable carpentry skills and good tools to do this job yourself.
  • Like solid hardwood, engineered flooring comes in hand-scraped. Hand-scraped flooring is difficult to re-finish because it isn't flat, and standard sanding machines cannot be used. Re-finishing hand-scraped flooring can be very expensive.
  • Many engineered flooring manufacturers require that the relative humidity (RH) in your house remain constant throughout the year. Failure to maintain a constant RH may void the warranty.

Manufactured Hardwood

This third category of hardwood flooring includes laminate flooring, vinyl flooring, and other less common types of flooring. Manufactured wood flooring is often not actually made of wood, though the top layer often is made to look like wood. It is often made of a wood product core, with a top layer of hard plastic or vinyl. It comes in a variety of colors and plank widths. Manufactured flooring can be nailed down, glued down, or floated.

Manufactured Hardwood Flooring: Pros & Cons

  • Least expensive hardwood flooring option.
  • DIY compatible.
  • Shorter project time.
  • Milling and color quality is sometimes poor.
  • Floor is not completely flat. Planks are not the same thickness, resulting in small high spots along edges of each board.
  • Visible grooves along the edges of every board.
  • Can be used for basements.
  • Cannot be re-finished.

Manufactured Hardwood Flooring: Tips

  • Manufactured flooring is inexpensive, but it does not look like or feel like real hardwood.
  • Read the warranty before you buy.
  • You need reasonable carpentry skills and good tools to do this job yourself.