When shopping for wood flooring, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the choices. 

There are different sizes, different materials, different colors, different prices, and so on. 

The first thing you need to decide when shopping for wood flooring is the type of wood flooring you want. 

Here is a list of the different types of wood flooring available with the pros and cons of each.

Types of Wood Flooringphoto courtesy of Douglas O'Brien flickr.com/photos/douglasobrien/3802320510/

Solid Hardwood
Solid hardwood flooring is flooring made of one piece of wood. 

The wood can generally be refinished and sanded a few times (the thicker the wood, the more times it can be sanded and refinished). 

They are available both factory finished and unfinished. 

Unfinished hardwood  will need to be sanded and a finish applied after they are installed. 

Unfinished hardwood floors are cheaper to purchase and you can get a custom finish to your specifications, but they require much more labor and additional time to sand,  finish, and dry. 

Hardwood floors can be installed floating on a cement slab or nailed to a wood underlayment.

To avoid squeeks, make sure to glue the floor to the subfloor.

Real hardwood floors should not be used in a basement.

 

Engineered Hardwood
Engineered hardwood is a thin layer of hardwood on top of plywood. 

Engineered hardwood is very stable since the wood below runs in different directions. 

It can be installed in basements since it expands and contracts less than solid hardwood. 

Unfortunately, it typically can't be refinished as many times as solid hardwood since the top layer is much thinner.

 

Bamboo
Bamboo is not actually a wood but a grass. 

The good news is that bamboo grows quickly so it is a renewable resource, but the bad news is that the process for making floors uses many chemicals and they have to be shipped from overseas using many fossil fuels. 

Bamboo should not be used in humid environments, such as a basement, since they can swell and crack.

 

Laminate
Although it may look like wood, laminate "wood" flooring is a picture of wood stuck to compressed wood chips. 

It is typically easy to install, inexpensive, and very durable. 

The surface is water resistant, but don't get water in the joints. 

Since it is only a picture, it is not able to be refinished at all.   

 

Vinyl
There are many wood looking plank vinyl floors available. 

These floors are extremely durable, totally water resistant, very easy to install, very inexpensive, and a great solution for a wet environment.   

Many of these vinyl plank floors go by the acronym LVT, meaning luxury vinyl tile.

 

Tile
Wood looking ceramic or porcelain tile has become very popular recently. 

This is very trendy but does not mimic the look of hardwood very well, especially with larger grout lines.

If it cracks or chips, the tile will need to be replaced because it is unable to be repaired.

Make sure to keep extras in case any tiles break because they will be nearly impossible to find a replacement at a later date.

 

Tips
For a timeless solution, opt for real hardwood floors.

For a low maintenance solution, wood looking vinyl.

For a cheap solution, go with wood-look laminate.

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