Guide to Hardwood Floors
There are entire books devoted to the subject, some that try to sell you on a certain type of hardwood, some that don’t. Here is a nononsense guide on what to look out for when selecting hardwood.
Solid vs. Engineered
Solid hardwood is naturally made of any number of tree species. Engineered hardwood is made of multiple layers of plywood with a thin, solid hardwood top layer.
Understand that if you’re laying flooring over radiant heat, you can’t use solid hardwood: It will dry and shrink, and even split in some cases. There’s nothing wrong with an engineered floor, so use what’s best for your home. If you want the natural beauty of solid hardwood, go for it. If you’re laying down a floor for a basement, save some money and go with engineered.
Species and Hardness
Ash, elm, alder, maple, cherry, beech, linden, hickory, white oak, tigerwood, northern red oak; the list of suitable hardwoods for flooring is long. While you should compare numerous attributes before selecting hardwood, hardness is a chief consideration. On the right is a chart found in the United States Department of Agriculture’s Wood Handbook that measures the relative hardness of various woods. It uses the Janka scale of hardness, which measures the force required, in pounds, to embed an 11.28mm steel ball into each wood to half of the ball’s diameter.