How do I choose a Hardwood floor species, color and board size that is right for me?
You need to consider the style you're trying to convey in the room:
If your tastes are more Contemporary you may want to use a narrow 2-1/4" or 3-1/4" wide board in a lighter natural color of the wood.
If you like a more traditional look, then you may want to use a 4" or narrower board width with a medium to light color.
If you are looking for a more Country style, then you may want to use a 5" wide board with a darker to light color with possibly a lot of character such as lighter and darker boards with knots and pin (worm) holes, which has become extremely popular.
If the flooring is going to be Heavily Trafficked, then we may suggest using a wood species like natural oak that has a lot of graining and or character to diffuse any scratches the floor may encounter.
Decisions seem endless when selecting just the right Hardwood floor for the rooms in your home. There are a variety of wood species, colors and grain patterns to consider. The wood floor area is one of the largest expanses of color or pattern in a room. Your Hardwood flooring should balance the fabrics, furnishings, and cabinets already present in the space, all while enhancing your unique personality.
The most popular wood species used in Hardwood flooring is Red Oak Natural or White Oak Natural in either 2-1/4" or 3-1/4" wide boards. However, these days anything goes and a lot more people are choosing exotic wood species such as Brazilian Cherry or Santos Mahogany -- with dark, rich, reddish colors. Bamboo and Cork flooring are also becoming more popular. Darker colors are most often used in formal or traditional interiors, while lighter colors work best in country, casual and contemporary settings.
Can I install a Hardwood floor in any room in my home?
Hardwood flooring can be installed on any grade in your home. If you're installing below grade (in a basement), or over any concrete slab on any level you'd need to use an engineered floor. Engineered wood floors are manufactured with cross layers of plywood as a stable base, and then a top layer of real wood is placed on top (called a wear layer). Because these engineered wood floors are often more stable than solid wood floors, they can withstand minor moisture level changes better than solid Hardwood flooring can. The solid wood floor could possibly cup and buckle in high moisture prone areas like basements.
The only exception would be in bathrooms. We do not recommend any type of hardwood floor in a full bathroom where water will be splashed or spilled on it. Hardwood or Laminate flooring can work well in half-baths where there is no tub/shower or high humidity. The best option for full baths would be Ceramic Tile or Vinyl flooring.
Although engineered wood floors are more stable in below ground situations, you will still need to use an appropriate underlayment with a moisture blocking pad when installing using a floating method. If you are using a direct glue-down method for installation we recommend applying a coat of MVP (moisture block) over the concrete to block out moisture before putting down the adhesive.
What is the difference between an engineered wood floor and a solid wood floor?
You can find a detailed analysis of these two types of flooring at: All about Solid Wood Floors and All about Engineered Wood Floors.
Solid Hardwood flooring is milled from the log as a solid piece of wood. These boards expand and contract with relative humidity changes within its environment. In extreme relative humidity changes within your home, the solid boards can expand causing cupping and/or buckling of the floor boards. If the homes environment is too dry, the solid boards can contract (shrink), leaving gaps between the floor boards. Solid wood flooring is not recommended for below grade installation and must be nailed down or glued down. We recommend keeping the homes relative humidity level between 40-55%.
In comparison, Engineered Hardwood flooring is manufactured with multiple cross layers of plywood to increase stability with a thinner real wood top layer. This construction counteracts the natural tendency of wood to expand and contract with seasonal changes in temperature and humidity. Engineered wood flooring can be installed in any room in the home, whether on grade, above grade or below grade. Engineered wood floors are generally nailed or stapled down as well as direct glued. We recommend keeping the homes relative humidity level between 30-60%.
Also becoming more popular, is the Click Loc type of floating method which makes installing an engineered Hardwood Floor very easy for the DIY. Some are manufactured with exclusive snap-together tongue and groove systems, specifically for the floating installation method. Using the floating technique, engineered floors can be installed over a variety of surfaces using an underlayment pad. If a floor can be floated, it will list "float" as an installation method at the top of the collection description.
There are pros and cons when using either solid or engineered floors. Obviously stability is an advantage of using engineered flooring because of the cross layers. A disadvantage is that some engineered flooring styles have a very thin veneer wear layer, which cannot be completely sanded and refinished if ever needed (BR111's 5/16" engineered line). In heavy traffic areas of your house, you might want to consider an engineered floor with a thicker wear layer (Mercier's engineered line).