There’s no doubt that hardwood floors are beautiful. They add a touch of elegance and sophistication to any home. But before you install solid hardwood floors in your own home, there are a few things you need to know. Keep reading as we review everything about hardwood floors and if they’re right for you.
Table of Contents
Everything to Know about Solid Hardwood Floors
Solid Hardwood Floors Appearance / Types Available in most types of woods/stains (e.g., Oak, Maple, Hickory) Popularity Common in older and higher-end homes, engineered hardwood has become more popular in recent years Cost $4 to $16+ per Square Foot Material Mix of plywood and solid wood with a solid top layer Durability Very durable Lifespan 80-100+ years Moisture, Water and Heat Can warp or gap if there is moisture or extreme temperature changes Refinishing 4+ times Thickness 1/2" to 3/4" Width 2 1/4" to 10"+ Installation Method Nail Down Maintenance Very little maintenace
Solid Hardwood Floors
Appearance / Types
Available in most types of woods/stains (e.g., Oak, Maple, Hickory)
Common in older and higher-end homes, engineered hardwood has become more popular in recent years
$4 to $16+ per Square Foot
Mix of plywood and solid wood with a solid top layer
Moisture, Water and Heat
Can warp or gap if there is moisture or extreme temperature changes
1/2" to 3/4"
2 1/4" to 10"+
Very little maintenace
Hardwood floors are available in a wide variety of colors and styles. That means you can choose from light to dark and different wood grain patterns. There are also a variety of finishes available, including natural, stained, and distressed.
Since these floors are made of solid wood, you’re picking between types of trees. The most common type of wood is Oak, but other popular choices include Maple, Cherry, Birch, Walnut, and Hickory.
The first step in finding flooring is to pick your type of wood. Then you’ll need to select your stain or color. While some hardwood floors come prefinished, many are left unfinished so that you can choose what they look like. The stain you select will ultimately determine what your floors look like in your home.
Solid hardwood floors have been a popular choice for centuries. Their classic look and durability have made them a timeless flooring option over the years. Because of this, it’s very common to find solid hardwood in older and historic homes.
In recent years, engineered hardwood floors have surged past solid hardwood in popularity. This is because engineered hardwood is often cheaper, easier to install, and has fewer issues with moisture than solid flooring.
Hardness / Durability
One of the main benefits of solid hardwood floors is that they’re extremely durable. If you have kids or pets, solid hardwood floors are a great option because they can withstand a lot of wear and tear. And since they have a solid wood core, unlike engineered hardwood floors which have a plywood core, they can be refinished many times over their lifespan.
However, while they’re durable, they aren’t indestructible. Keep in mind that solid hardwood floors can be scratched or dented if something heavy is dropped on them. This can usually be fixed during your next refinishing, but you’ll still want to be careful.
Solid hardwood floors are built to last. With proper care, they can last for generations. Even in high-traffic areas, a solid hardwood floor can last for decades.
However, there are a few things that can shorten the lifespan of a hardwood floor, such as using softer woods or not properly caring for them. Under normal circumstances of daily wear-and-tear and no extreme events, most wood flooring lasts an average of 100 years.
Significant damage to untreated wood flooring, using softer woods, and a lack of maintenance can all shorten the lifespan of wood floors.
Moisture, Water, and Heat
Solid hardwood works best between 40% and 60% humidity to avoid issues. You’ll also want to avoid installing hardwood near water sources, like sump pumps or dishwashers, as this can cause the wood to warp or cup.
Common hardwood problems due to moisture, water, sun, and humidity include:
- Gapping – When solid wood floors lose moisture, they can “gap” in between planks of wood, creating a visible space
- Splits – If the humidity in your home changes drops after installation, boards of wood may split after the wood dries out too much
- Cupping – When wood floors are exposed to high humidity or too much moisture they “cup” or form into a visible bowl shape from absorbing the water
- Crowning – If the humidity is much higher above the floors than below it, or standing water is left on solid flooring, your floors may crown leaving a bulge like appearance in the center of planks
- Fading – If your floors are exposed to large amounts of sun, they may fade over time, although this can be easily repaired by refinishing
Solid hardwood floors are one of the most expensive flooring options on the market.
The cost of solid hardwood floors will depend on the type of wood you choose. Some woods, like Oak or Maple, are more expensive than others, like Hickory. And the quality of the wood will also affect the price. In general, you can expect to pay anywhere from $6 to $20 per square foot for solid hardwood.
Hiring a professional to install your floors will also add to the overall cost of the project. Installation typically costs between $2 and $4 per square foot.
So, if you’re considering solid hardwood floors for your home, be prepared to spend some money. But keep in mind, these floors will last you a lifetime if properly cared for, so they are definitely worth the investment.
Purchasing Solid Hardwood
If you’ve decided that solid hardwood floors are the right choice for your home, there are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing them.
First, you’ll need to decide on the type of wood you want. As we mentioned earlier, the most popular choices are Oak, Maple, and Hickory. But there are many other types of wood to choose from. Your best option is to visit a local flooring showroom to get an idea of what these floors look like in person.
The next area to consider is the quality of the wood. The higher the quality, the more expensive the floors will be. But it’s important to remember that you get what you pay for with hardwood floors. The better the quality, the longer the floors will last.
Finally, you’ll need to decide on the stain and finish of the wood. Finish ultimately determines what your floors will look like. You can choose lighter or darker finishes for the same type of wood and have very different results.
To choose the right finish, you’ll want to test the stain and finish on a sample of your wood to see how it reacts. Once you’ve decided on your wood, stain and finish, you’re ready for installation!
While you can install solid hardwood floors yourself, it’s more common to hire a professional installer. This is because installing solid hardwood is more complex than engineered hardwood or other floating floors.
Since solid hardwood needs to be nailed down, you’ll need to be more precise on your measurements and cuts while installing. If you’re not comfortable with this level of precision, it’s best to leave it to the professionals.
The cost of installation will vary depending on the size and complexity of your project but typically is in the range of $2 to $4 per square foot.
Once your floors have been installed, you’ll likely need to do a deep clean of your house. We spent 12+ hours cleaning every crevice of the house after our wood floors were installed and still found dust in random places for months after.
Maintenance and Care
Now that your floors are installed, you want to maintain them properly. Luckily, solid hardwood floors require very little maintenance. You should sweep or vacuum them regularly to remove dirt and dust. While you may also need to use a wet cloth them from time to time, you want to always dry them thoroughly since water is the enemy of hardwood floors.
We use a combination of ammonia and water that works great and doesn’t harm your wood floors.
Engineered Hardwood vs. Solid Hardwood Floors
If you’re deciding between engineered hardwood and solid hardwood floors, you’re not alone. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages. Typically the three biggest factors for deciding between solid and engineered flooring are:
- Your home and your environment
- Value and lifespan
Plus, read more in our comparison of Engineered Hardwood vs. Solid Hardwood vs. LVP Flooring.
Your Home and Your Environment
The biggest factor for deciding between hardwood and engineered hardwood is typically your home and environment. Since solid hardwood floors are more sensitive to moisture and temperature, they are only typically recommended in specific areas that don’t have large seasonal changes. Additionally, solid hardwood floors aren’t typically recommended for homes with slab foundations or concrete subfloors.
Alternatively, engineered hardwood can be installed in almost any home and on most foundations, including in basements. While they are still made of wood, they are less sensitive to moisture changes in your foundation and environment.
The first step in deciding between hardwood and engineered hardwood is which floors can actually be installed in your house! But if you have the option of both floors, then you’ll want to weigh the value, lifespan, and installation.
Value and Lifespan
Solid hardwood floors are usually more expensive than engineered hardwood, but there is a big difference in lifespan.
Since solid hardwood floors are made from 100% real wood, this means they can be sanded and refinished multiple times over their lifetime.
In comparison, engineered hardwood floors are made from a layer of real wood on top of a plywood or HDF core. This makes them more resistant to moisture and temperature changes, but they can only be sanded and refinished a limited number of times.
When choosing between solid hardwood and engineered hardwood, it’s important to consider your lifestyle and the level of traffic in your home. If you have pets or children, or if you live in an area with high humidity, engineered hardwood may be a better choice for you.
Finally, the last factor to consider is installation. If you’re hiring an installer, there shouldn’t be much of a difference in installation cost. But if you’re planning on installing your floors yourself, you’ll want to consider each type of wood carefully.
Solid hardwood is more complex to install since it needs to be nailed down, and you’ll need to watch out for humidity and moisture changes.
Engineered hardwood, on the other hand, is fairly easy to install and can be “floated” (installed with no adhesive), nailed down, or glued down. This makes it very easy for smaller projects and rooms that you may just want to do yourself.
If you’re thinking about installing hardwood floors in your home, solid hardwood is a great option. It’s durable, classic, and adds value to your home. Since it’s more commonly found in classic and higher-end homes, it instantly gives a premium look to your house.
However, in recent years, engineered hardwood has increased in popularity thanks to its ease of installation, affordability, and ability to be installed on concrete subfloors. After comparing options, we choose to install engineered hardwood in our home and have no regrets! You can read about that full experience installing hardwood floors here.
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