Choosing a new floor is exciting and overwhelming at the same time. With so many flooring options it can be confusing to figure out what is the best floor for your home.
It doesn’t have to be complicated, and we’ve broken down the main aspects to consider when choosing a floor. We’ll start by looking at lifestyle, climate, style and color, before moving on to the differences between hardwood and waterproof flooring.
We always recommend working with a reputable installer who will help you choose the best floor and type of installation for your home.
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Begin by considering your lifestyle and how you use your home.
- Where is the flooring being installed?
- How much traffic will the flooring get?
For homes with just a couple of people, you likely put low stress on your floor and would have more flexibility with your choices. But, if you have a full house with roommates or kids and pets, then you’ll want a durable floor that can resist scratches and dings.
Another consideration is how much maintenance and care you are prepared to do. Think through if the space will:
- Have spills
- Be exposed to high humidity
- Be likely to get scratched
If you live in an area with seasonal humidity changes, do you have a whole home humidifier, or are you able to invest in one?
What to look for based on your lifestyle:
For rooms with high traffic, look for:
- A durable finish: Floors with factory-applied finishes offer more protection and typically a better warranty. For a sand and finish project, opt for high traffic finish.
- Hard species: Hardwoods can hold up great to wear and tear. The biggest differentiators are the type of finish and species.
- Matte sheen and texture: This will hide scratches better than a smooth, dark, glossy floor.
For rooms likely to have spills or leaks, look for:
- A water-resistant finish
- A water-tight locking system
What to look for based on your climate:
If you live in an area with high humidity, opt for an engineered hardwood, waterproof floors, or laminate. These can withstand changes in moisture better than most solid wood floors.
For areas with moderate seasonal humidity changes, you can typically choose any type of flooring. If you choose a solid wood floor invest in a whole home humidifier to help maintain humidity levels.
For a dry climate, choose solid wood flooring in lieu of engineered wood. Engineered flooring layers can become over stressed and inter-layer adhesive failure can occur in extremely dry regions.
Style and Color
When it comes to picking out the perfect hardwood floor, designers will usually receive inspiration from the home environment or natural surroundings. A natural light cabin in the high desert requires different interior dcor than a dark city apartment.
Your floors should match your personal aesthetic and preferences.
For example, if you desire a traditional look that features warmth, select a wood floor in a warm chocolate stain. For a farmhouse style with its rustic but vintage charm, you can blend old and new with a reclaimed look in dark grays or cool browns, which will contrast nicely with the clean and bright dcor.
For an industrial style that is urban and edgy, focus on metals and distressed looks. For the popular Scandinavian style, a minimalist look will showcase organization in simple elegance. Black, white, gray and neutral tones with bold pops of color are the signatures of this color palette.
Ultimately, color choices are subjective because only you know what you like.
Here’s some general suggestions to help narrow down your options:
- Dark flooring often gives a timeless or traditional look that is flexible with many design styles. For instance, you can choose a dark floor with warm tones and pair it with wainscoting, or other old wood features or antique furniture.
- For a modern style, pick a dark floor and complement it with neutral or gray paint and equally neutral, sleek-lined furniture.
- Light colors go well with design styles like coastal, nautical, and modern.
- Light tones are neutral enough to work with most color palettes. You can add drama with deep colors or create a Zen energy with light walls and furniture.
Already have hardwood flooring in your home? If you decide to install another hardwood floor, we recommend using the same species to create a consistent look to your space.
Hardwood floors are the traditional time-honored choice that provides beauty, longevity, and warmth to any space. You can choose an unfinished floor that’s finished on site or a prefinished one. Hardwood flooring is available in two constructions, solid or engineered.
Should I choose unfinished or prefinished?
Solid and engineered flooring are each available in unfinished or prefinished.
The biggest considerations are:
Do you already have wood flooring in your home you want to match?
Determine if the existing flooring was prefinished when it was installed. If so, it may be difficult to find the product that would still match. Most likely you would need unfinished flooring that can be professionally color matched by a flooring professional. Your contractor can help you determine what species, thickness and grade of flooring you have.
Do you want a custom one of a kind floor?
Unfinished hardwood is custom stained and finished inside the home allowing you to decide the exact color and sheen you prefer. Your flooring contractor can also install custom borders and medallions as an added touch of class.
How flexible are you with the installation timeline?
In general, unfinished flooring takes longer due to the multi-step process of installation, sanding and finishing. When choosing a flooring professional, ask about the timeline and determine what you are willing to commit to. Overall, prefinished flooring has a quicker installation time, but if un-stocked locally may end up taking longer for the product to arrive. Unfinished floors are typically more readily available, but the installation process is slower.
If you don’t currently live in the home, you have more flexibility to have the floors done before you move in.
If you already live in the home, determine how long you can be out of the room or your home. Most sand and finish contractors recommend moving out of the home or living in the basement during the flooring process. With both prefinished and unfinished installations, you’ll have to move furniture out of the room.
Whether you decide unfinished or prefinished, both can be a beautiful floor you love and one that you can live on for a lifetime.
Should I choose a solid or engineered floor?
Let’s start with what the differences are. Solid wood flooring is typically ” thick pieces made of solid lumber. Engineered wood flooring is available in a variety of thicknesses and designed with a hardwood veneer layer over a plywood core.
While solid wood floors have stood the test of time and still perform well, engineered wood floors are a great choice for many modern scenarios.
The most important considerations when choosing a wood floor:
The look you want, the climate you live in, where the flooring is being installed, and how long you want the floor.
Prefinished engineered flooring has become more plentiful and available in wider widths. Solid wood flooring in widths over 5″ has limited availability, because of the lack of wide planks retrieved from smaller diameter trees.
When it comes to the look, choose an engineered floor if you want a floor over 5″ wide. If that is not important to you, keep reading to find out whether you should choose an engineered or solid floor.
Solid wood floors perform best in either consistently dry or consistently humid climates. Dramatic change in moisture causes wood flooring to expand or contract. When flooring is exposed to a period of high humidity followed by dry air, the fluctuation in relative humidity (RH) can cause some unwelcome results such as cracks, squeaks and buckling.
Thanks to the layered plywood core of engineered wood floors, they can withstand high humidity and moisture changes better than solid wood floors. This doesn’t mean that they won’t have issues in extreme changes, but they are more stable than solid wood floors.
Alternatively, in climates with extremely dry climates, engineered flooring layers can become stressed and the glue layers fail if kept in minimum 35% RH environment.
When it comes to climate, consider an engineered wood floor if you live in a high humidity climate. If you live in a high altitude where it is very dry, a solid wood floor may perform best. For moderate climates with some swings in moisture, choose either.
There’s always nuance with this conversation, because just as important as the outdoor climate is indoor climate.
While outdoor conditions can affect a floor, it’s important to keep the RH in your home consistent. We highly recommend getting a whole-home humidifier to ensure that your floor doesn’t gap or squeak with the changing season.
To best prevent squeaks and gaps, keep the home at your living conditions before installation. We recommend 35-55% RH and between 60-80 degrees. Once wood acclimates to your home’s environment, then it can be installed. Keep the environment consistent at these levels during and after installation. This consistency will keep your wood floor from squeaking and gapping.
If you’re not installing in a basement, then you’re good to go to install an engineered or solid wood floor. Solid floors can’t be installed in basements.
Another consideration is what kind of installation is needed. Solid wood floors can be nailed or glued, while engineered ones can be nailed, floated, or glued. Engineered floors also do well over concrete.
How Long You Want the Floor To Last
A final consideration is how long you intend the floor to last. Because solid wood floors can be resanded and refinished multiple times, it will last the lifetime of your home. Thanks to advanced technology, many engineered floors can also last for many years and some can be re-sanded if they have a wear layer greater than 3mm.
If you desire flooring that lasts a lifetime, choose solid, or engineered that can be re-sanded. Wood floors are a great investment that carry rich history for generations.
If you are looking for an highly durable, water-safe floor, then this is an excellent choice. With waterproof floors, you get a beautiful wood aesthetic, with the added bonus of resiliency and water resistance.
There are different types of waterproof floors, but they all have similar benefits.
Benefits of Waterproof Floors
Waterproof floors can be installed on any grade and in areas where there’s likely to be spills or high humidity. Thanks to the click lock system, installation is relatively easy and quick, with no need for fasteners or adhesives.
Wide Variety of Looks, Widths, and Textures
As technology improves, the visuals and aesthetics of waterproof flooring keeps getting better.
For the best look and feel, look for these features:
- Texture that matches the wood grain
- Multiple lengths – gives a natural wood look
- Painted bevel – blends in seems and makes planks seem more realistic
- Bonus Points – Multiple images and color tones
This is where there can be some disappointment with waterproof floors. Don’t expect all waterproof floors to have the same level of toughness. For the best durability, look for:
- Ceramic Bead Finish – this is an anti-scratch, anti-stain finish that can hold up to a lot of wear and tear.
- Thick Wear Layer – this will help keep the floor from wearing out quickly. 20-Mil is a great option for homes and light commercial.
When you think of laminate, you may recall a poorly constructed, easily destructible floor. But we want you to put those thoughts out of your mind. There have been huge advances in new technology and engineering in laminate floors.
One feature you may see missing – waterproofness. Let’s talk about that.
What does waterproof mean?
Due to its finish, core and locking system, waterproof floors can withstand spills and messes better than others. Even so, it’s important to have the right expectations.
While they hold up well to spills that set for a while, they won’t necessarily survive flooding due to an waterline break or natural disaster. If you have flooding and catch it early, simply uninstall the flooring, lay it out to dry, and determine if the damage is minimal so it can be reinstalled.
Additionally, waterproof floors are only as good as their installation. We recommend using a moisture barrier before installation to prevent moisture from coming up through the subfloor. Even more important – make sure the boards are clicked together properly. Then if spills happen, it won’t seep between the boards into the subfloor.
Find the Right Floor For Your Home
Whether you decide on a wood or watersafe floor, we are here to guide you to the right floor for you. Stop by one of showrooms where we will help you pick out a floor and refer you to a professional in your area to install the floor.