Hardwood Flooring Types For Your Home

Typical Cost To Install New Flooring Average: $1,410 - $2,460
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When installing hardwood flooring, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the number of hardwood flooring types available.

With choices ranging from wood species to grain type to parquet, the list of decisions you need to make around your hardwood flooring is seemingly endless.

This guide breaks down each choice you will need to make in detail, walking you through the process so the hardwood flooring you choose best matches your needs.

If you are ready to install new hardwood floors, contact your local installers for FREE ESTIMATES!

Hardwood Flooring Cost Based On Type

There is a big range in price between wood species for hardwood floors, and comparing prices is a good place to start when trying to decide between wood species.

While each species has many unique qualities that distinguish it from other types, one critical feature to pay attention to is price.

The table below provides average cost per square foot for hardwood flooring based on the wood species.

Wood Species Cost per Square Foot Red Oak $7 – $13 White Oak $7.50 – $13.50 Walnut $11 – $20 Cherry $12 – $21 Maple $6.50 – $10 Hickory $6 – $12 Ash $9 – $14 Birch $6 – $10

You can use our Flooring Cost Calculator to get an accurate estimate for the cost of hardwood flooring in your home.

Types of Hardwood Flooring Species

Hardwood flooring can be made from a variety of tree species. As the name implies, hardwood flooring can only be made from hardwood, not softwood.

Red Oak Flooring

Red oak is the most popular tree type used for hardwood flooring. Red oak is warm-toned and ranges in shades between reddish brown and a sandy tan. Red oak has a swirled grain pattern and each board tends to look distinct.

Red oak flooring is well suited for a wide range of home styles, including modern, traditional, and farmhouse.

Red oak is strong and can withstand heavy impacts, although it is prone to scratching. Red oak is a mid-range priced hardwood flooring type.

Average Costs For:
Most Homeowners Spent Between: Most People Spent: $1,769 - $3,192 (for 180 sq. ft.)
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High End

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White Oak Flooring

White oak has cooler tones than red oak and ranges in shade between a rich brown and a grey tan. Unlike red oak, the grain and pattern of white oak varies only slightly, giving the flooring a more seamless, uniform look than red oak.

Like red oak, white oak is durable and strong but susceptible to scraping. It is similarly priced to red oak. White oak is somewhat stronger than red oak, making it better suited for high traffic walking areas.

Walnut Flooring

Walnut’s rich, dark hues are sophisticated and elegant. Walnut flooring varies only slightly between boards, giving the flooring a more consistent appearance.

Walnut flooring is less hard than oak, making it less well suited for high traffic areas such as family rooms or hallways. Walnut flooring is perfect for a home office or foyer.

Although walnut cannot withstand heavy foot traffic, it is very resistant to light damage, it is a good choice for rooms that have heavy sun exposure.

Walnut is one of the most expensive hardwood flooring types.

Cherry Flooring

Cherry hardwood has a unique, striking warm brown hue that elevates any room. Cherry has a smooth, consistent grain pattern. Cherry’s beautiful hues make it one of the most popular flooring types. Over time, cherry wood may darken, especially if exposed to direct sunlight.

Cherry is a softer hardwood, making it ill-suited for high traffic rooms, much like walnut. It is an expensive choice because of its aesthetic qualities.

Maple Flooring

Maple hardwood flooring is lighter than walnut and cherry, and generally comes in creams or tans. It has a fine grain pattern with occasional darker areas that add visual complexity and interest to the flooring.

Maple is one of the strongest, durable hardwood choices available, suitable for high traffic areas. It will not scratch or dent easily, unlike other choices. This makes maple a good option for homes with young children or pets that may damage other types of wood flooring.

One of the advantages of maple is that it is easily stainable, so many people decide to stain it to mimic the visual appearance of other hardwood types while reaping the benefits of maple’s durability.

Another advantage is that maple flooring is one of the most affordable options available.

Hickory Flooring

Hickory is ideal for high traffic areas because of its high durability. Hickory ranges significantly in appearance from a rich mocha to a paler light brown.

The wood has a distinct grain pattern and each panel varies significantly, giving the flooring a distinct look.
Because of this feature, hickory is well-suited for farmhouse our country style homes.

Due to its hardness, hickory is more expensive to install than some other woods because cutting it is more difficult.

Ash Flooring

Ash is a beautiful hardwood with a distinct grain pattern, well suited for both modern and traditional style homes. Ash is fairly light and can even have pale white tones. Because of its light coloring, ash will require frequent cleaning in order to appear clean.

Ash has a medium hardness, making it well-suited for both high and low traffic areas of the home.

This is especially beneficial if you want your whole home to be the same wood type. Ash is one of the more affordable hardwood flooring types.

Birch Flooring

Birch is a popular choice for hardwood floors. Birch comes in neutral browns with distinct grain patterns, well-suited for any room in the home. It can also be stained easily to mimic the appearance of other wood species.

One downside to birch is that it is a soft hardwood, making it more susceptible to scratches and dents.

Also, birch is relatively unstable and expands and contracts with temperature and humidity changes more than other wood types.

Birch is an affordable hardwood flooring choice.

Comparing Wood Hardness

When purchasing hardwood flooring, you will need to decide how hard you need your hardwood to be.

Although all hardwood is harder than softwood, there is still significant variation between wood types.

Wood hardness is measured in the Janka scale. The higher the number on the scale, the harder the wood.

Some of the hardest types of wood include walnut and hickory.

Softer hardwoods include birch and cherry.

For a room with extensive foot traffic such as a hallway, living room, or dining room, you will want a harder wood than for rooms such as a home office or bedroom.

Families with pets or children may want to consider a harder wood to avoid damage.

Average Costs For:
Most Homeowners Spent Between: Most People Spent: $1,769 - $3,192 (for 180 sq. ft.)
Low End
High End

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Solid Wood vs. Engineered Hardwood Flooring

One difference between hardwood flooring types is whether it is genuine hardwood or engineered hardwood.

Engineered hardwood has the appearance of real hardwood floors but at a lower price point. Engineered hardwood is made from a man-made base of compressed resin, topped with real hardwood to give the flooring a natural appearance.

Each flooring type has advantages and disadvantages.

The primary advantage of real hardwood flooring is the appearance. Real hardwood flooring looks completely natural.

Additionally, real hardwood can be refinished many times, which extends its lifetime significantly and can make your flooring look as good as new many years down the line.

One advantage of engineered hardwood over real hardwood is that engineered hardwood can be installed in a wider selection of areas in the house than real hardwood.

You should not install real hardwood in a basement, for instance, because it will likely be damaged from moisture. Engineered hardwood on the other hand can be installed in basements and other high moisture regions.

Also, engineered hardwood can be installed over a range of flooring types. If you have existing tile flooring, linoleum, or even hardwood flooring, you can install engineered hardwood on top of it.

All in all, the decision between engineered hardwood and real hardwood will depend on what your goals are for the flooring.

For a more flexible installation in a wider variety of areas, engineered hardwood is likely a better choice, but for aesthetic and longevity reasons solid wood is the right choice.

Hardwood Flooring Planks vs. Strips

Hardwood flooring comes in two main dimensions: strips and planks.

Strips are thinner than planks, and usually measure three inches wide. Planks are considered any board wider than three inches. Some common plank widths are four, five, and six inches.

The board width will depend on your desired aesthetic. Wider boards are better for large, open rooms. They are also well-suited for wood species with unique grain patterns to show off, such as cherry.

However, smaller rooms can feel claustrophobic with wider planks, so a thinner option is more apt.

Average Costs For:
Most Homeowners Spent Between: Most People Spent: $1,769 - $3,192 (for 180 sq. ft.)
Low End
High End

See costs in your area Start Here - Enter Your Zip Code

Pre-Finished vs. Unfinished Hardwood Flooring

When you purchase hardwood flooring, you can either purchase it pre-finished or unfinished.

Pre-finished hardwood comes in a set selection of colors and cannot be customized, whereas unfinished hardwood flooring is stained on site and can be customized into a wide variety of shades.

Unfinished hardwood has several advantages and disadvantages. First, custom colors can be chosen because it is finished on site.

Secondly, material costs of unfinished hardwood are lower than finished hardwood. Unfinished hardwood costs about a dollar less per square foot.

Another advantage is that it is smoother than finished hardwood because it is installed and then sanded, whereas pre-finished hardwood comes already sanded.

One disadvantage of unfinished hardwood is that it is more costly to install than pre-finished flooring because staining will require extra time and effort.

Also, staining is a messy process and involves fumes, which may make the house unpleasant to inhabit for a little bit. The installation process is longer than pre-finished wood, taking about three days.

Pre-finished wood, on the other hand, is cheaper and faster to install, although the material costs are higher. It also has a longer warranty, ranging between 5 and 35 years.

In comparison, unfinished hardwood has a warranty of only 3 to 5 years.

Pre-finished wood comes in a set of colors and stains, so you cannot customize your flooring, which is its primary disadvantage.

Types Of Hardwood Flooring Finishes

Hardwood floors can be finished in a wide array of options, which are available for pre-finished or unfinished hardwood flooring. The type of hardwood finish will largely depend on your needs for the flooring.

● Water-based polyurethane: This is the most common type of hardwood finish. Water-based polyurethane finish is available in a range of gloss levels, it dries very quickly, it is clear, and it has a much less unpleasant odor than some other finishes. All these factors make it a top choice for flooring finish.

● Oil-based polyurethane: Oil-based polyurethane is thicker than water-based polyurethane, which means it takes longer to dry but also needs fewer coats. This finish gives the floor a lovely amber hue. Oil-based polyurethane finish has a strong odor.

● Natural Oils: Natural oils are another popular finish option, such as linseed and tung. These oils soak into the wood and give it a hard finish, giving the wood a rustic appearance with some added protection as well. Natural oils do require refinishing more often than some other finishes.

● Aluminum-oxide: Aluminum oxide is added to finishes to protect against dents, scratches, UV fading, and other blemishes. It is frequently used in pre-finished flooring, but is becoming more popular in unfinished flooring as well. Aluminum oxide finish provides some serious protection to your hardwood and likely will keep your floor protected for years to come.

Cut and Grain Hardwood Flooring Patterns

The way the wood is cut will be a large determiner of its grain pattern. There are three distinct ways of cutting wood: plain-sawn, quarter-sawn, and rift-sawn.

Plain-sawn is a flat, straight cut perpendicular to the tree rings. It is the most common type of cut, and produces a wide, varied grain.

Quarter-sawn wood is made by cutting a tree into quarters, then cutting across the grain. This produces a standard graining across all wood pieces. It also will have a flecked appearance. Quarter-sawn wood has the advantage of being less prone to warping than plain-sawn wood.

Rift-sawn wood looks like quarter-sawn wood but without the flecking. It is made by cutting the wood into quarters and then sliced like a pie. This results in a very straight, standard looking grain pattern.

Types of Hardwood Flooring Parquet

The parquet of your flooring is the pattern that the wood planks or strips are installed in. There are many different parquet types and styles, each with unique appearances. The parquet is one of the key determining features in how your hardwood flooring will look.

● Horizontal: This is the standard way of installing wood flooring. The panels are lined up and oriented to opposite sides of the room.

● Diagonal: Diagonal parquet is almost exactly the same as horizontal, but instead of orienting the panels towards a wall, the wood is oriented towards a corner. This technique makes the space look larger, an ideal choice for cramped rooms.

● Mixed-width: One popular style of flooring is to use multiple different widths of hardwood, giving the room an interesting and unique appearance.

● Herringbone parquet: Herringbone parquet is a timeless, classy arrangement of wood planks. The wood is arranged to create arrow-shapes on the floor. This gives the area a sense of movement which is unique to the herringbone pattern.

● Chevron parquet: Chevron is similar to herringbone in that it creates arrows, but it is a more modern iteration of the style. While herringbone planks are standard rectangles, chevron hardwood must be cut specifically to fit the style.

Flooring Parquet Cost per Square foot
Horizontal $4.50 – $10
Diagonal $5 – $12
Mixed-Width $6.50 – $12
Herringbone $7 – $20
Chevron $7.50 – $20

What Is the Most Durable Type of Hardwood Flooring?

There are many features that work together to create durable hardwood. The finish, the type of wood are two primary factors that influence durability.

You may need durable flooring if you want to install it in a high traffic area, if you have kids or pets, or if you simply want to ensure your hardwood will last for many years.

One of the hardest types of hardwood used for flooring is maple. Maple is highly strong and does not scratch or dent easily, making it one of the most durable flooring options.

In terms of finishes, probably the most durable type of finish is aluminum-oxide. Aluminum oxide finish helps protect against scratches, dents, UV rays, and any other damage that might occur.

For the most durable hardwood, choosing maple with aluminum-oxide finish is an excellent choice, but there are several other options that would work well too.

What Is the Best Type of Hardwood Flooring?

The best type of flooring will depend entirely on what you want from it. Do you need your hardwood to withstand running children and playing pets, or will it be in an occasionally used guest room?

Are you looking for a simple, straightforward appearance or a more interesting one? Do you want a modern, contemporary home or a more traditional farmhouse style?

Figuring out your answers to all these questions will help you determine what the best type of hardwood flooring is for your home.

Average Costs For:
Most Homeowners Spent Between: Most People Spent: $1,769 - $3,192 (for 180 sq. ft.)
Low End
High End

See costs in your area Start Here - Enter Your Zip Code

About Ilan

Ilan G. has been working in the remodeling and construction industry for over 15 years. His focus is on construction planning and design as well as project cost estimating. Ilan also has a personal interest in interior design, as well as in unique DIY remodeling projects. Read more about Ilan

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