Hardwood floor planks

Photo courtesy Select Forest Products, Inc.

Types of Floors

Choosing the type of hardwood floor that best fits your space and DIY abilities is an important step in planning the installation of your new floor. Don't confuse floor type with wood variety -- we'll cover selection of wood variety in the next section.

For now, let's discuss the three main types of hardwood floors to consider.

Solid Wood Flooring

Solid wood flooring comes in three main types. Each type is available in both an unfinished and a pre-finished version. Unfinished flooring must be job-site sanded and finished after installation. Pre-finished flooring is sanded and finished at the factory -- so it only needs installation. The three main types of solid wood flooring are:

  • Strip flooring - This type of flooring is denoted by the thickness and width of the wood planks. Strip flooring has a set width, but the thickness can vary. Strip flooring ranges in thickness from 5/16 of an inch to 3/4 of an inch wide. It is available only in widths of 1 1/2 inches, 2 inches and 2 1/4 inches.
  • Plank flooring - Plank flooring only comes in two thicknesses, but unlike strip flooring, the widths can vary. It is available only in thicknesses of 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch and a range of widths from 3 inches to 8 inches.
  • Parquet flooring - Parquet floors have a very different look from typical hardwoods. They are made up of geometrical patterns composed of individual wood slats held in place by mechanical fastening or an adhesive.

Engineered Wood Flooring

Engineered wood flooring should not be confused with laminate wood flooring. Engineered flooring is produced by adhering layers of plastic laminate veneer with real wood. The main difference between this type of wood and laminate flooring is that laminate flooring contains no actual wood. Look for more on laminate wood flooring later in this article.

Acrylic-impregnated Wood Flooring

Acrylic-impregnated wood flooring is infused with sealant and color throughout the thickness of the wood. So, what is normally a surface "finish" is actually consistent throughout the wood. This type of flooring is most commonly used in commercial, not residential, projects. This type of floor is very hard and it is highly resistant to moisture and scratches.

According to the World Floor Covering Association, once installed, it is extremely difficult to tell the difference between a solid wood floor and the other wood floors. Solid hardwood strip floors are the most common flooring option, although engineered flooring has become very popular due to its low cost.

So, which type of wood floor would be best for you? There are several things to keep in mind when choosing the appropriate type of wood flooring for your home. Solid hardwoods may require a little more upkeep than engineered wood flooring, but they can always be re-sanded and refinished. If maintained, solid wood floors will retain their value better than engineered woods. In addition, deciding between strip, plank or parquet is, for the most part, a question of taste. If you like thin, long planks of wood, you should choose strip flooring. If you prefer the aesthetic of very wide planks of wood, then plank flooring is the best choice. And, if you have a more decorative look in mind -- perhaps a geometric design -- parquet floors will be a perfect match for your taste. Remember that plank flooring may require some extra work during installation, and its cost can be higher than strip flooring.