A Guide to Choosing a Hardwood Flooring Style

Hardwood floors provide style and an elegance that is timeless, and also add warmth and character to your home. To choose the right hardwood flooring style for your property, weigh these important considerations.


Choice of Wood Species

Many people mistakenly think of hardwood flooring as being mostly oak, but there’s actually a wide variety of wood species available in hardwood flooring, including domestic species like Maple and Cherry as well as exotic species such as cork, Brazilian cherry and bamboo. Each of these species has its own unique grain pattern. Maple often has a very subtle pattern while oak tends to stand out. Exotics also tend to have very distinct grain patterns and color, which make them extremely popular with homeowners.

Color and Appearance

Hardwood flooring comes in a range of colors to help create a specific style for your space. Most domestic species are available in a variety of wood stain colors, but exotic species are usually not stained as their natural color is quite distinctive. Also, because most exotic species of wood are photosensitive, exposure to sunlight allows them to achieve the desirable rich color.


The width of the planks can influence the look of a floor. For example, wider planks mean fewer seams can be seen in the flooring and therefore a smoother look. Broader boards also enhance the visual beauty of the wood, especially wide-plank hickory and tigerwood.


There are different gloss levels and finishing techniques that affect the overall texture of the wood floor. The same species of wood will look completely different finished in a clear gloss, versus a hand-scrapped, distressed or wire-brush finish.

Hardness Ratings

The Janka Hardness Rating is used to measure the relative hardness of wood species. This test involves measuring the amount of force required to embed a steel ball (of .444 inch in diameter) to half of its diameter into the hardwood being tested. The larger the amount of force needed (higher rating), the harder the wood. Wood with a high Janka Hardness rating is less susceptible dents.
Different species of wood have varying hardness ratings. Because wood floors are a natural product, they are prone to indentations – which are typically not covered by manufacturer warranties. It is therefore advisable to choose a wood species with a high hardness rating if you are installing floors in your high traffic areas, where they are likely to receive lots of beating.

Hardwood Installation Options

Basically, both solid wood and engineered wood flooring are installed by:
Locking: This is an excellent option for Do-It-Yourself (DIY) projects as it doesn’t require any nails, staples, or glue. The planks automatically lock together, and the installation involves simply rolling out the moisture barrier underlayment and then floating the floor over the subfloor.
Gluing: Gluing is also a relatively cheap and easy-to-implement installation option. Simply trowel glue on the floor and set the planks onto the glue and you’re good to go. You can use an adhesive system which comes with a moisture barrier to mitigate moisture-related issues.
Nailing: Nailing requires a wood subfloor. Once your wood subfloor is ready, all you need to do is to drive a nail at an angle through the tongue of the planks. The groove of the next row of boards keeps the nail hidden.
Stapling: This process is similar to nailing, but it uses staples instead.

Hardwood Defects

Don’t forget to check the defect rate of the wood flooring you intend to purchase. If you choose wood with a high defect rate, you may need to purchase almost twice as much than you would have done if you were to buy wood flooring that’s defect-free. To determine its grade, examine carefully the wood’s appearance. Each grade usually offers a distinct look, though all grades can be equally defect-free. Clear and select grades typically have the cleanest looks with minimal color variations and knots on the surface. Millwood and cabin grades will show all the characteristics of the wood species, including streaks, knots and color variations.