Hardwood Flooring Review: Pros and Cons, Durability, Installation

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Overhead shot of hardwood flooring installation
Choosing flooring for your home is a very important decision. One of the choices that is available is hardwood flooring. There are many advantages of choosing hardwood flooring including the fact that it will add style and warmth to any type of home. The cost of installing hardwood flooring is more than purchasing new carpet, but with regular maintenance and repair, hardwood floors can last for decades.


Types of Hardwood Flooring

The first choice you will make is between hardwood and softwood. Hardwoods are tougher and less pliable than softwoods, which makes them better suited to most interior settings.

Hardwoods come from broad-leaved deciduous trees and the most common timbers include:

  • Oak
  • Teak
  • Mahogany
  • Elm
  • Cherry
  • Birch
  • Beech
  • Ash
  • Sapele
  • Bamboo

Choosing the right type of wood will not only impact on the appearance of your room and the color of the flooring, but also on the behavior. For instance, Australian hardwoods tend to be more hygroscopic. This means they are more likely to absorb and retain moisture from the air, which makes them better suited to a drier climate.


Most hardwood flooring will be defined as being either flat-sawn, quarter-sawn or rift-sawn. Some woods will also include absorption strips – grooves cut into the wood to reduce cupping (which describes when wood bends outwards).

Solid hardwood floors are made from a single piece of timber. Engineered hardwood flooring, on the other hand, involves attaching a core wood or base wood to a surface wood. This gives a hard, attractive surface while protecting the core layer – which provides greater stability and allows the hardwood to be placed directly onto concrete.

Generally, choosing hardwood will result in the best quality flooring with the least amount of maintenance for the owner.

There are several types of wood that can be used for the flooring of a home. Some of the most popular choices include:

Red or White Oak Flooring

Red and white oak both have a naturally pale color, but red oak has a slight pink that runs throughout. These hardwood choices are known for being easy to employ across several types of projects. Red oak is easier to cut and nail than white oak, which is harder.

American Cherry Flooring

American cherry is a wood that is often used to make cabinets. However, it can also be used for flooring and is really easy to work with. Cherry is a photosensitive wood, which means that it will change color with time and become darker as it ages.

Hard Maple Flooring

Hard maple is one of the top choices for hardwood flooring. It is a harder wood than oak and is naturally resistant to abrasions. Early settlers in America often used hard maple in their homes.

Jatoba or Brazilian Cherry Flooring

One of the best features of this particular hardwood is the color. It is a rich reddish brown which will turn to a burgundy. This wood is very expensive, mainly because it is harder than even some of the mahogany woods that are available.

Unfinished or Prefinished Hardwood

Hardwood flooring is bought either prefinished or finished. Prefinished is the most convenient choice as it does not require any type of sanding. This means that there is time saved when it comes to installation and there is no sawdust to clean up. In addition, since the wood is finished already there is no drying time required.

Unfinished Hardwood

There are many professional floor installers who prefer to work with unfinished wood as it will give a more uniform seal to the project. Using unfinished wood makes it easier to ensure that all of the joints and gaps are completely sealed before a finish is applied. A uniform surface seal will guard against moisture. While working with unfinished wood takes more time and labor to install, the end results are often worth it.

Flooring Stains and Surfaces

There are a number of stains and surfaces available for wood flooring as well. There are some choices that are planed to a smooth surface. Another choice is a hand scraped flooring. This type of flooring is worked by hand instead of a machine, which provides a more rustic finish.

Other ways that hardwood floors can vary are by the type and color of stains that are used for the wood. There are some stains that will bring out the natural color and beauty of the wood. Other types of stains will change the color completely. This is often done to make a certain type of wood that is used look like a different type.

Benefits of Hardwood Flooring: Pros

Hardwood Flooring Looks Great

Hardwood flooring looks natural and will never go out of fashion. This is about the most natural surface you can use in your home, which doesn’t only speak to us on a primal level helping us to feel at ease, but also makes our décor timeless and classic. Wood floors have been around forever, and they will continue to be around forever. In terms of longevity, this then means that you can be sure that you won’t have to replace your wood flooring anytime soon.

Hardwood floors are also highly versatile in terms of the décor that they can match with. While they aren’t perfect in this regard (more on that in a moment), they are certainly up there in terms of the amount of flexibility they grant a homeowner.

Hardwood Floors are Highly Hygienic

A less commonly discussed reason to look into wood floors or other hard floors is that they are actually more hygienic than carpet. The reason for this is that carpets have lots of small fibers which create small gaps where dust and dirt can get trapped. Thus, a vacuum cleaner often won’t be enough to hoover up those particles and leave your floor completely clean. A carpet is often not all that hygienic then unless you have had it washed by a professional carpet cleaning company.

On the other hand, flooring that is flat and solid like wood, laminate, vinyl or other similar materials doesn’t have any gaps for the dirt or dust to get trapped in. Therefore, it will stay cleaner and more hygienic and when you clean it you will easily be able to remove any bacteria straight from the surface.

Hardwood Floors are Easier to Maintain

Similarly, hardwood floors are also easier to keep looking cleaner and that’s because dust and dirt can easily be swept up. Hardwood floors don’t stain, and if anything falls on them it won’t get lost. If you invest in a robotic vacuum cleaner, in fact, the suction on that will actually be sufficient to provide a thorough clean of your floors removing any dust and dirt and preventing you from having to clean at all unless you need to remove mud or other unusual blemishes.

This is a particularly big advantage for families with babies and young children: especially once those kids start eating at the table and throwing their food all around the room! With wood floors, you’ll be able to easily and quickly wipe up drool, baby food, vomit, soiled nappies and more.

Hardwood Floors are (relatively) Warm and Soft

Many of the benefits we’ve looked at thus far also apply to stone floors or tile flooring. While this is true, stone flooring and ceramic tiles introduce a number of new downsides that aren’t so prominent for wood.

For starters, stone flooring is very cold and doesn’t act as a good insulator. This can considerably lower the temperature of your room and cost you more heating. Likewise, stone floors are slippery (as is wood floor to an extent) and considerably harder. This makes it less suitable for those with young children who are still finding their footing, and certainly not a good choice for disabled residents or older homeowners with limited mobility.

Hardwood flooring is thick, which helps it absorb a lot of the pressure placed on it, making it easier on your feet than stone or tile. Additionally, the thickness contributes to keeping the cold at bay–almost as an insulator. Compared to stone, tile, or vinyl, hardwood flooring is much warmer.

The Drawbacks: Hardwood Flooring Cons

While there are many good reasons to choose hardwood floors, there are also a few downsides that you need to consider. None of these should be deal breakers, as long as you know how to account for them.

Here are just a few of the negative aspects of choosing a hardwood floor:

Hardwood is Harder and Colder than Carpet

We just saw that wood floors are warmer and softer than stone or ceramic floors, but they still can’t compete with carpet in that regard. Carpet is ideal for those people that want to be able to lie on the floor after dinner and play with their children or pets. They’re less of a slip hazard and they will keep the home warmer all throughout the year too.

A hardwood floor retains more heat than stone and will normally have some small amount of give underfoot. But that’s not to say that it’s comfortable for lying down on, and glasses will still be more likely to smash if dropped.

The solution is partly to practice a little more caution on wood flooring. The other option is to lay down rugs in areas where you would like a little more padding and a little more softness. This helps to insulate against heat loss (and also reduces noise pollution) but it is still much easier to clean – as you can simply lift the whole thing and have it dry cleaned.

Woods can be difficult to match

While wood flooring is relatively timeless and will go with a lot of design choices, it isn’t perfect. And one area where wood flooring can be tricky to match is when you are choosing wood furniture. If you have dark oak flooring for instance, then you may find that you struggle to find furniture that is either different enough to make contrast or that is similar enough in color to match.

The answer, of course, is simply to shop around, but this is something to keep in mind if you already own a lot of furniture.

Hardwoods Fluctuate in Size: Cupping and Expanding

It’s worth noting that hardwood floors are a little more complicated than stone floors or carpet owing to their tendency to absorb moisture and to absorb and contract as the temperature changes. These things should not be an issue as long as you have chosen the right type of wood for your climate and as long as you have had it professionally fitted. If you do decide to fit a hardwood floor yourself, then make sure to do your research and put in the time and work to ensure it will look and perform as well as possible!

Additional Pros and Cons of Hardwood Flooring

Here are several other benefits to consider about hardwood flooring.

  1. Durability: hardwood floors are among the most durable flooring options — very durable and resistant to wear and tear from daily living.
  2. Holds warmth: will feel warm to the feet, unlike laminate that will always feel cold.
  3. Great for allergy sufferers: is not a breeding ground for dust, mold, or mildew
  4. Easy to clean. Maintaining a hardwood floor is quick and simple!
  5. Integrates easily: hardwood floors can be integrated into almost any type of design scheme of a home.

When comparing carpet to hardwood, one of the main issues people end up having with carpet is that it stains so easily. Once something is spilled on carpet it can be difficult to clean it up and keep it from soaking into the subflooring. With hardwood flooring, spills are easily wiped up.

Durability

Aesthetics aside, one of the reasons that hardwood flooring is so popular and valuable in a home is that it is very durable. A properly-maintained hardwood floor can last (virtually) forever, this means you won’t need to replace your hardwood floors anytime soon. Thus, when you buy hardwood floors you can usually rely on them looking as good as they did the day you bought them for years afterward. This makes them a great investment and actually a good way to increase the value of your property.

This is worlds apart from laminate flooring, which can start to show scratches and warping after a few years or even months! Too many homeowners, in particular, will choose the cheaper option of laying down laminate flooring in their rental properties, not realizing that it is a false economy. Spending a bit more up-front and just once is a much better strategy – especially as it will also make happier tenants!

Tips for Installing Hardwood Flooring

Make sure that you choose a hardwood that is going to stand up to traffic through your home. Make sure that you carefully read the warranty on your flooring so that you understand maintenance and care.

If you have no idea what you are doing, spend the money to hire a professional to install the flooring. Professionals will use the right products and will ensure that the flooring is installed the right way the first time. Making a mistake when you are installing the hardwood flooring yourself can end up being both time-consuming and costly.
It is also important to make sure that a moisture barrier is installed between the flooring and the subflooring. This adds further protection.

When you purchase your hardwood, make sure that you open each of the boxes first. Look at the color variations between the boxes. It is also important to let the wood acclimate to the climate it is being installed in. Once the wood flooring is installed, go over it with a vacuum or dry mop in order to seal it.

There are several things that you should never do with hardwood flooring. First, make sure that you do not install hardwood flooring in an area of your home that is subject to excessive amounts of moisture, such as a bathroom or a kitchen. With this being said, make sure that you do not use an excessive amount of water to clean the wood flooring as this can cause damage. Remember, hardwood floors need regular attention and harsh cleaners will dull the finish of the floors. Hard abrasives such as steel wool should not be used. Anytime you spill something on the floor, wipe it up immediately as moisture can seep into the wood and cause many issues.

Overall, if you choose to install hardwood floors in your home, you will find that they are easy to keep clean and will provide an overall warmth to any room, making them a good choice for almost anyone.