Installing new flooring is a relatively simple way to increase both your home’s visual appeal and its value. Hardwood flooring has always, and likely will always, be one of the most sought-after flooring materials for people looking to update or enhance their homes. But with so many varieties available, choosing hardwood flooring that’s right for your needs can seem overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be. With help from MacDonald Hardwoods, Denver’s leading hardwood specialists, we’ve broken down the top hardwood flooring options for a wide variety of scenarios.
Benefits of Hardwood Flooring
The beauty of a hardwood floor is a major selling point. But there are many practical benefits of a hardwood floor, as well.
- Easy to clean: Dirt, grit, and debris cannot become embedded in hardwood floors the way they can in others. This makes it easier to get a hardwood floor truly clean–and with much less effort than other flooring types. A quick vacuuming and/or sweep with a dust mop once a week is all you need.
- Hypoallergenic: Because hardwood floors don’t harbor dust and other allergens, they are an ideal choice for allergy or asthma sufferers.
- Durability: Hardwood floors that are properly finished and installed can last for decades, if not generations.
- Long-term savings: While hardwood floors cost more than other flooring types upfront, they can go far longer without showing wear, and because they have a timeless appeal, they are unlikely to go out of style. However, if your floor has become worn or you want to change up the look, hardwood floors, unlike other types, can simply be refinished rather than removed and replaced.
- Increased Home Value: hardwood floors are an excellent way to add value to your property. If you think you may sell your home in the foreseeable future, hardwood floors consistently make it possible for you to increase your asking price.
Still sound like you’ll be choosing hardwood flooring? Now it’s time to get down to the grain (ha, we kill us!) and look into what type of hardwood floor is best for your needs.
Solid Wood Vs. Engineered Wood
There are two broad categories of hardwood flooring: solid wood and engineered wood. Both have their pros and cons, and before you decide what species of wood best suits your home, you’ll want to give some thought to whether you’ll be selecting the solid or engineered version of that species.
Both solid and engineered hardwood are available in a wide variety of species, gloss levels, and finishes. Common hardwood species include maple, oak, walnut, and hickory, but of course there are many more.
Solid wood flooring is vulnerable to moisture. It will expand and contract based on the fluctuating humidity levels in your home. Installers compensate for this by leaving a gap between the floor and the walls, which is usually concealed with base molding. In excessively humid environments, solid wood floors can warp. For this reason, solid wood floors shouldn’t be installed in basements, bathrooms, or other areas where moisture will be a frequent issue.
Engineered wood floors are specifically designed not to react to moisture the way solid wood floors do. This makes them a better choice for bathrooms and even kitchens, where there is frequent danger of spills and splashes.
In a recent survey of interior designers, 63% said they typically recommend solid wood to their clients, but of course your decision will depend on your own budget, style, location, and home environment. Take a look at Realtor.com’s handy article on solid vs. engineered wood and then talk it over with your flooring specialist.
Want more hardwood flooring stats? View the full 2015 Hardwood Flooring Customer Preference Survey
Once you’ve decided if you’re going solid or engineered, it’s time to start looking at your lifestyle and remodeling goals to see what species of wood best fits them.
Choosing the Right Hardwood Flooring: If You’re on a Budget
The main factors that affect the price of hardwood flooring are the type of wood you choose and the quality of the installation. It’s a bad idea to skimp on the installation. As we’ve already mentioned, a well-installed hardwood floor can last generations. But a subpar installation can cause problems that seriously undermine the durability and hassle-free nature of a wood floor. So, if you’re installing new flooring on a budget, choosing an affordable wood type is the best way to ensure you stay within your budget.
Top choices for affordable hardwood flooring:
Bamboo: Because bamboo is an extremely fast-growing wood, it’s much more affordable than most wood types, which take considerably longer to mature. Bamboo isn’t technically a hardwood, but is generally included in the category anyway because of its comparable—and in some cases, better—durability. Key points:
- Average price: $5 per square foot, plus installation (unless installing yourself)
- Highly moisture resistant
- Available in a wide variety of colors
Oak: Oak is the most widely used hardwood flooring type in America and will therefore usually have very reasonable pricing. Oak is right in the middle of the spectrum in terms of durability, making it a great choice for all but particularly high-traffic scenarios, and comes in a wide variety of stain colors. Key points:
- Average price $7-9 per square foot, plus installation (unless installing yourself)
- Has an obvious and distinctive grain pattern
- Because of its popularity, most installers will have plenty of practice working with it
Choosing the Right Hardwood Flooring: If You Have Pets
If you have dogs or cats, it’s basically unavoidable that their claws will eventually scratch and/or dent a hardwood floor. But this doesn’t mean that hardwood floors aren’t an option for pet owners. It just means you need to find a wood that is both particularly durable and particularly good at hiding wear.
Top choices for pet-friendly hardwood flooring:
Oak: Oak isn’t the most durable hardwood, but it’s plenty durable enough to stand up well to your pets. Oak’s main selling point for pet owners is its highly visible grain pattern, which works wonders to render scratches unnoticeable. Key points:
- Red oak has stronger graining than white oak, but both are comparably durable
- Oak is naturally light in color. Light colored woods are much better than dark woods at hiding scratches
Hickory: Hickory is harder than oak, making it a great choice for homeowners with a large number of pets or whose pets are particularly rambunctious. Like oak, hickory also has a strong grain pattern to hide scratches when they do occur. Key points:
- Hickory is naturally light in color, which is excellent for hiding scratches
- Hickory is one of the hardest, most durable woods available
- While not the most expensive wood, hickory will be pricier than many other options
Choosing the Right Hardwood Flooring If: You’re Going Green
You might think it’s ludicrous to imagine that you can choose hardwood flooring and still call yourself eco-friendly. And in past decades, you’d have been right about that. But in recent years, with ever more flooring manufacturers taking it upon themselves to use sustainably harvested materials and stricter environmental protection laws for the logging industry, you can feel good about choosing hardwood flooring—provided you choose the right kind.
Top choice for green flooring:
Bamboo: Bamboo is far and away THE greenest hardwood flooring option available. Not only does its rapid growth make it an immensely sustainable wood, but bamboo actually helps the surrounding environment as it grows. Bamboo releases more oxygen into the air than other species, and requires much less water. For bonus environmental points, bamboo is so hardy that no pesticides or chemicals are required to produce commercial quantities. Key points:
- More affordable than other hardwoods, but just as durable
- Becomes less durable if it has been carbonized to produce a darker wood color
- If discarded, bamboo products decompose into nutrient-rich compost that is excellent natural fertilizer
Cork: Cork is made from the bark of the cork oak tree, which is ground up, processed into sheets, and then kiln-baked into durable flooring tiles. The bark is harvested from living trees, meaning the tree itself remains standing and healthy. As an added bonus, cork is an excellent insulator. A cork floor will also help you save on heating and cooling costs.
Walnut: Walnut is now one of the most sustainably harvested woods in America. Overseen by the Forest Stewardship Council, sustainably harvested walnut (look for the FSC logo) is often cheaper than walnut that hasn’t been sustainably harvested. This is good news, since walnut’s beautiful graining and luxurious feel make it highly sought-after. Key points:
- Tends to have a steeper price tag than other woods
- As it ages, walnut flooring develops a patina that adds unique character to the wood
- Brazilian walnut is one of the hardest woods available, and also incredibly moisture-resistant
Choosing the Right Hardwood Flooring If: You Want to Wow
Some people have a “statement” wall or piece of furniture, but not you. You want your entire floor to be the focal point in your home. Hardwood flooring in general instantly adds a wow factor to any room, but if you really want to go for the gusto, there are certain woods that are more apt to turn heads.
Top choices for a show-stopping floor:
Rosewood: Rosewood has a beautiful and unique grain pattern unlike that of any other wood type. It naturally ranges in color from a warm pale yellow to a deep almost-purple. And it wasn’t called rosewood for nothing. You’ll be able to catch a hint of roses when you’re standing on it. No other wood type comes with a signature aroma! Key points:
- Pricing tends to be competitive with other, less wow-worthy, woods
- Has been popular for furniture for centuries, but has only become popular for flooring relatively recently
- You can now find sustainably harvested rosewood, despite past over-harvesting
Mahogany: Mahogany has a rich, classic look that conjures up images of timeless luxury. If you want a statement floor without any threat that your statement will eventually become dated, mahogany is definitely the way to go. Key points:
- Mahogany tends to be pricey
- Mahogany’s reddish brown color and stripey graining compliment just about any style décor, from rustic to modern.
- Sustainability can be an issue. Mahogany has been so consistently sought-after that it was once on the verge of extinction
Cherry: Cherry has a stunning grain pattern and a smooth, luxurious feel on the feet. It comes in a variety of warm and instantly eye-catching colors. Over time, cherry will darken to a deeper shade, adding additional interest and character. Key points:
- Cherry is very sensitive to light. It can darken unevenly in rooms that get lots of direct sunlight.
- Cherry is on the softer end of the spectrum and not recommended for pet owners or for high-traffic areas like kitchens
- Cherry is relatively inexpensive for being a “statement” wood
Once you’ve determined what type of flooring best fits your style and home environment, it’s time to decide whether to install your hardwood flooring yourself or hire a professional to handle it. A note: while installing it yourself can help you save quite a bit on your new floor, if you don’t carry out the installation properly for the type of wood you’ve chosen, you’ll potentially cause yourself significant problems down the road. If you’re a DIY-savvy homeowner, you should have no problem with the actual process of installation–just make sure you’ve done your homework thoroughly.
If you do decide to handle the installation yourself, we can help make the cleanup quick and easy by finding you an affordable Denver dumpster rental.
Any Denver home can benefit from the addition of beautiful and long-lasting hardwood flooring. No matter what your taste, your budget, or the type of traffic your floor gets, a hardwood floor is an investment in your home—and your lifestyle—that you and your family can enjoy for years to come.
MacDonald Hardwoods is Denver’s premier source for hardwood flooring and installation. Proudly Colorado owned and operated, they offer high quality products to suit any project and taste, top-notch installation, and valuable hardwood flooring installation classes for DIY-ers who want to handle installation themselves.