With the advent of modern manufacturing techniques, it's not always easy to determine what constitutes an actual hardwood floor. Engineered hardwood flooring, for example, differs from actual hardwood in several ways, but can replicate the look and feel of hardwood at a reduced cost.
Real hardwood floors are comprised of wood planks that are shaved down to uniform or near-uniform thickness and installed directly over floor joists. Wood flooring planks are harvested from several tree species, such as maple, cherry, oak and walnut, offering a wide range of colors, grains and textures. You can also choose several types of stains and finishes, making color and texture options nearly infinite.
Hardwood is a long-lasting flooring option because you can refinish it multiple times. Furniture scratches, foot-traffic patterns and general wear-and-tear detract from its appearance, but refinishing hardwood flooring revives its dated look.
Installing hardwood flooring is typically more expensive than other flooring types, but hardwood adds value and creates a classic look that never goes out of style.
Flooring installers recommend installing wood flooring in rooms with low humidity because moisture may cause it to expand and contract.
Wood flooring’s hardness is measured on the Janka hardness scale, which is a measurement of the amount of force required to drive a .44-inch steel ball halfway into a piece of wood. (The higher the score, the harder the wood.)
Common Hardwood Flooring Types:
Cherry: Color varies from reddish brown to creamy, pinkish-white. It has fine grain, smooth texture and stain adheres easily. Cherry has low resistance to photosensitivity. Janka hardness score: 950
Walnut: Know for its rich, dark-brown color and swirling grains with chocolate hues, walnut is strong but lightweight and soft. It has high resistance to photosensitivity. Janka hardness score: 1010
Oak: Color ranges from pinkish-light wheat color to rich golden brown. Oak is dense and hard, but exudes warmth. Oak has moderate resistance to photosensitivity. Janka hardness scale score: 1290
Maple: Color varies from creamy white to golden tan. Maple has uniform texture, straight grain and high resistance to photosensitivity. Janka hardness score: 1500
Hickory: It’s known as one of the hardest and strongest of American hardwoods. Color ranges from light blonde to reddish brown and dark brown. Hickory has medium to high resistance photosensitivity. Janka hardness score: 1820
Engineered wood floors
Engineered wood floors can offer the look and feel of traditionally manufactured wooden floors, but at a much lower cost. Engineered wood flooring generally consists of a thin strip of actual wood mounted to a multiple layers of thinner, less expensive plywood.
This top-most piece of hardwood is referred to as the “wear layer” because it offers some of the same durability of real hardwood floors.
Like real hardwood flooring, the wear layer of an engineered floor can be stripped of its finish, sanded down and have a new layer of finish or stain applied to it. However, because the wear layer is much thinner than the all-hardwood plank of a real hardwood floor, the sanding and refinish process can be performed only a relatively few number of times compared to a bona fide hardwood floor.
Engineered wood flooring is significantly less expensive than hardwood flooring. Additionally, since the engineered wood planks are much thinner than hardwood planks, engineered wood flooring can be installed more easily over surfaces such as concrete or an existing wood floor. Another benefit of engineered wood floors is ease of repair or replacement. Since the planks are held together with a tongue-in-groove feature along the length of the planks, repairs can be completed by simply removing a plank and replacing it by locking a new one into place.
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