Hardwood Floors

Tuesday, 6 November 2007 | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Hardwood is a popular flooring choice that adds beauty and value to your home for years to come. There are several types and ways to install it, many of which depend on your personal preference. Here are some general guidelines you can follow when looking at new flooring.

The Basics

  • Hardwood is available in more than 50 species. Domestic types include maple, oak, ash, cherry and poplar. Exotics from Central and South America include Jatoba, Merbau, Cabreuva, Purpleheart and Tigerwood

  • Each type of wood is graded according to its hardness. The higher the number the harder the species. Douglas fir is one of the softest while Brazilian cherry is four times harder.

  • Grade is another way the wood is rated. The fewer “blemishes” or knots in the wood, the higher the grade. Some people, however, think knots give character.

  • Wood floors are protected with a surface finish like urethane, which protects the floor from everyday wear, dirt and moisture.

Flooring Types

  • Solid wood is slats or planks that can be refinished many times and is installed by nailing or screwing into a sub floor. It’s not suitable for installation below ground (e.g. basements) or on concrete slab due to moisture issues.

  • Engineered is several layers of wood glued together with a thin veneer of hardwood on top, and can be installed almost anywhere in the home, including basement and concrete slab areas. It’s less affected by humidity but can’t be refinished as many times as solid wood floors. Installation over a foam or cork pad (“floating”) is a popular do-it-yourself method, or it can be glued down (professional installation recommended).

  • Laminate has a fibreboard center wrapped in high-pressure laminate with a photograph of real wood stuck on top and coated with a thick resin for a protective finish. The thicker the resin the more expensive the laminate. Highly durable but non-refinishable, it usually comes with 10-15 year manufacturer’s warranty against fading, stains and wear.


Making a Choice

  • Carefully consider the hardness of the wood to suit your particular needs. Softer wood is not ideal if you have a young family or dogs.

  • Solid hardwood is not usually a good choice for kitchens and bathrooms where moisture is a factor.

  • If you’re below grade, like a basement choose an engineered or laminate option.

  • Once you know whether you have a plywood sub floor or concrete you can better decide which way to go.


We danced in stilettos, walked dogs, roller-bladed and dropped heavy cans on these four sample floors to see how much of a beating they could take:

  • Laminate Imitation Maple: $1.98 sq. ft.
  • Engineered Brazilian Cherry (floating): $6.50 sq. ft.
  • Engineered Oak (glued): $7.70 sq. ft.
  • Solid Maple: $7.80 sq. ft.

Scratch, Scuff, & Dent Test

  • None of our floors were impervious to the wear and tear we put them through.

  • The can drop dented all four

  • Rollerblades scuffed all of them, but with some elbow grease, it came out

  • The least damaged were the Brazilian cherry and the laminate.

  • The most damaged was the softest — the solid Maple


If scuffs, scratches, and dents are a big concern, consider the laminate or the Brazilian cherry. Be sure to seek out larger sample areas with laminate flooring before you buy, however, since it has quite a different feel than the more natural wood options.


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