The Definitive Guide to Hardwood Floor Selection

A Simple, Step-by-Step Resource on Hardwood Flooring


Are you confused about your hardwood floor decision?

For many homeowners, choosing the right flooring for their home can be difficult at best and confusing at worst.  We’ve created this handy guide to help you with your buying decision.  By the time you finish reading this resource guide, you’ll be much more prepared to select the hardwood that will best fit the style of your home, your budget, and the functionality that you want.  In this guide, we’ll cover:


  •         The Different Types of Hardwood
  •         The Pros and Cons of Each Type
  •         Where You Can Install Each Type
  •         The Various Applications of Engineered Hardwood
  •         Types of Hardwood Species
  •         Types of Hardwood Stains
  •         Types of Hardwood Finishes
  •         Which Types of Hardwood Can be Refinished


The different types of Hardwood Flooring

First, let’s talk about different types of hardwood flooring.  We can categorize different hardwood flooring into 3 types:

  1. Solid, Site-Finished Hardwood

  2. Solid, Prefinished Hardwood

  3. Engineered Hardwood


Solid Hardwood Flooring


What is Solid Hardwood?

Solid Hardwood is the standard by which all others are judged.  Solid hardwood is made of solid wood planks milled from a single piece of hardwood.  They are typically ¾ inch in thickness and available in widths from 2 ¼ inch to 11 inch planks.   

Solid wood flooring is available in a wide array of wood species—including many domestic woods like Red and White oak, Maple, Hickory and Walnut as well as some exotic species like Ipe, Brazilian Cherry, Tigerwood or Peruvian Walnut.  We’ll discuss the types of wood species in more detail later on.  

With multiple wood species, widths available, and the ability to add custom features like inlays, borders and decorative wraps, no other floor covering offers the versatility of a site-finished solid hardwood floor.  These solid floor systems are generally made to last the life of your home and can be re-sanded and stained with new colors as tastes and styles in decor change over the years.  It is not uncommon to have solid wood floors last well over 100 years making a solid hardwood floor quite possibly  the last floor you will ever need to buy.  Suffice to say, the options are limitless with solid hardwood flooring.


Solid Hardwood Flooring Installation

Solid wood flooring is permanently nailed to the subfloor. Because of the expansion and contraction inherent in solid wood floors a gap between the wall and the floor is left to accommodate the natural shrinking and swelling.  This type of flooring should only be installed in parts of the home above grade and only over plywood, wood or oriented strand board (OSB) subfloors.

Solid Hardwood can be broken up into site finished and prefinished hardwood.  Both types have an innumerable amount of options, from wood species to color of stain, and each has their unique advantages and disadvantages.


Solid Hardwood Floor Refinishing

Of all your hardwood floor choices, solid hardwood floors are your best bet if you want to refinish your floors at any time.  The beauty of refinishing hardwood floors is that you can totally change the look and feel of your floors just by having them refinished.  This can be especially advantageous if you make a major change to another element of your home, such as the paint scheme, installing new cabinetry, or remodeling the kitchen.  This is one of the reasons why so many hardwood flooring experts still prefer solid hardwood floors.  Sure, they do cost a little bit more up-front, but after that there is so much that can be done with them!  And that’s not to mention that they will last an incredibly long time.

[Here are a couple images of a before and after project we did that drastically changed the look of the floors.]

In addition to simply making an asthetic adjustment, hardwood floor refinishing is useful to fix eyesores such as water marks, pet stains, scratches, dents, dings, and high traffic wear areas in your home.  Many clients have come to us thinking that their hardwood floors are beyond repair, but you would be amazed at what can be accomplished through the refinishing process.  

Not knowing  about the value of hardwood floor refinishing, many people consider covering up their hardwood floors with carpet.  We highly suggest you look into hardwood floor refinishing before considering this option.  In most cases, hardwood floor refinishing will actually cost less than the cost to put carpet over your hardwood floors, and will maintain the value of your home much better – not to mention that hardwood floors simply look great!

There are some important things to consider once you have decided to have your hardwood floors refinished. For starters, you may have to be out of your home for a few days, or at least without the use of the areas in your home that are being refinished.  All of your furnishings must be removed from the work areas so that the floors can be sanded in their entirety.  Most refinishing projects can be done in 3-5 days depending on the size of your floor.

In addition, the sanding process can be very involved.  This process can be dusty, however,  the equipment used to sand hardwood flooring has greatly improved over the last 10-15 years and is highly specialized.  This has helped to make the process much cleaner and more convenient for homeowners as well as improve the working conditions the craftsman who refinish floors.  We highly recommend that you ask your hardwood floor refinisher if their equipment is equipped with the latest in dust control technology.   If the refinishing contractor you’re thinking about employing does not use dust free sanding equipment,  You may want to consider getting another quote.  There is a difference between just doing something and doing something really well.   

Moore Floors craftsmen have spent years perfecting their trade and use all of the latest tools and equipment to get the job done cleanly, beautifully, and efficiently, so you can get back in your home and enjoying your newly refinished hardwood floors


Site-Finished Solid Hardwood Flooring


Site Finished Hardwood Flooring Pros and Cons


  • Because solid hardwood is composed of entirely real hardwood, it can be refinished several times.  A solid Hardwood floor can be sanded between 6-8 times and can last over 100 years.
  • Because solid hardwood can be refinished over and over, this makes it the most durable flooring option, from the perspective of how long the boards will actually last.  A site-finished floor may be able to last the entire lifetime of your home!
  • Solid Hardwood is the most customizable.  You can create inlays, wraps, and features with solid hardwood that is simply not possible with engineered hardwood.  You can also stain the hardwood to your preference of color and darkness.


  • To prevent warping, your home’s interior relative humidity needs to remain between 45% and 65% all year round.  Your HVAC system must stay up and running all year round.
  • Generally speaking Hardwood Flooring is more expensive than engineered hardwood.
  • Site-Finished Hardwood takes longer to install than prefinished hardwood or engineered hardwood.  In fact, the finishing process is typically the longest process with hardwood flooring installation.  This is because several coats of finish need to be applied and then left to dry, increasing downtime.
  • As we all know, hardwood does require some maintenance and care throughout the years to keep them looking great.


Pre-Finished Hardwood Flooring


What is Pre-finished Hardwood?

Solid hardwood is also available in a prefinished option, where the hardwood floor is finished before installation.   Prefinished Hardwood floor installations are gaining popularity with both homeowners and hardwood flooring contractors, mainly due to their ease of installation.

There are some important differences between a pre-finished hardwood floor installation and a site-finished hardwood floor installation.  A prefinished hardwood floor will have between 6-8 coats of UV cured finish applied this is normally an aluminum oxide finish that is incredibly durable hardwood floor finish.  A site-finished floor may only have 2-4 coats of finish.

Pre finished flooring can be more difficult and costly to refinish in comparison to site finished hardwood flooring.


Pre-finished Hardwood Floor Installation

Pre-finished hardwood flooring allows installations to be completed in about half the time of the standard site-finished hardwood floor.  This can be a huge benefit for busy homeowners who desire the beauty of a site finished hardwood floor but do not  have the time or flexibility to be out of the home while the sanding and finishing is being completed.  This can be especially true if you have small children or pets.

Prefinished Hardwood floor installation greatly cuts the working time down and enables you to get back to normal activities within the home compared to the conventional site finished hardwood floor installation.

Pre-finished floors are installed with a “micro-bevel” on each plank.  Because the planks are not finished on-site, a rounded edge or “micro-bevel” is present on all four sides to ensure that no dangerous edges protrude from the floor.  Because the planks are not sanded after installation, it would be possible that the hardwood planks do not lay completely flat compared to one another, even with a subfloor that is well within spec.  The bevel on prefinished hardwood floors eases any slight discrepancy between the height of the hardwood floor, making sure that the floor is not harmful to bare feet and is not a general inconvenience or tripping hazard.

Unfortunately, the micro-bevel on prefinished floors have a way of capturing dirt and other debris in your home. As you can imagine, this makes prefinished hardwood floor more challenging to clean.


Pre-finished Hardwood Floor Refinishing

Most manufacturers offer warranties on the wear of the finish coats, some up to a 50 year warranty.  This may sound like an amazing warranty, but it does not cover dents, dings or scratches to the finish coat.  It only covers that the finish will not wear through to the raw hardwood floor.  As you can probably imagine, after 50 years of use any hardwood floor will likely be showing signs of use such as dings, dents and scratches.

After about 5-10 years even a well maintained floor will be due for a re-finish because of damage that occurs from normal everyday use.  Pets, children, or dropping a can of soup out of the kitchen cabinet can leave blemishes on your hardwood floor. Over the years, this damage can add up, leaving even pre-finished hardwood floors with many finish coats due for a refinishing


Pre-finished Hardwood Flooring Pros and Cons


  • Greatly reduces installation time
  • Incredibly durable finish of 6-8 coats


  • The micro-bevel on prefinished floors (see above) can easily trap dirt and can be more challenging to clean than a site-finished floor.
  • Pre-finished hardwood floors are not as customizable as site-finished floors.  You are constrained by the colors and darkness of the hardwood that comes from the manufacturer.


Engineered Hardwood Flooring


What is Engineered Hardwood?

Hardwood planks classified as “engineered” feature multiple layers (typically three to five) bonded together under extreme heat and pressure.

Engineered hardwoods typically include a top layer of real hardwood backed by less expensive layers of plywood—although some manufacturers use substrates made from recycled wood fibers mixed with stone dust for improved durability and stability.


Engineered Hardwood vs. Laminate

Engineered Hardwood is often confused with laminate.  Engineered hardwood has one main difference that sets it apart from a laminate floor.  The top layer of an engineered hardwood is made of real wood, just like a solid hardwood floor.  Laminate is made entirely of synthetic material with a picture of wood/stone or other image on the top layer.


Installing Engineered Hardwood

Engineered hardwood floors are suitable for installation on all levels of the home and over plywood, wood, OSB and concrete subfloors. Engineered wood planks now are being created with a click lock tongue and groove installation method, much like laminate flooring. This enables them to be installed in a floating floor format without nails or glue.

In the Applications section, we will discuss why engineered hardwood is the preferred choice in basements and areas of the home with high humidity.


Engineered Hardwood Flooring Pros and Cons


  • Can be a good compromise between price and quality
  • Useful in several areas of your home where solid hardwood is impractical
  • Can be installed without nails or glue


  • Cannot be easily refinished!  Many flooring professionals will not even bother trying to refinish an engineered hardwood floor.  Because the top layer of hardwood is so thin, it is easy to sand right through to the sub-layers.
  • Because the ability to refinish engineered hardwood is greatly reduced, this reduces the lifespan of engineered hardwood significantly.
  • Like prefinished hardwood, you are stuck with the stain color and other options from the manufacturer.


Laminate vs. Hardwood Flooring

Let’s also talk about something that is definitely not hardwood: laminate.  People are often confused between the difference between laminate and hardwood.  Let’s clear this up: Laminate flooring is not hardwood!  Laminate is made entirely of synthetic material with an image of wood on the top.  It cannot be refinished, stained, or sanded.  Laminate is a one-and-done operation.  Install it once and remove it once it gets old.


Applications of the Various Types

The three types of hardwood flooring all lend themselves to certain applications in your home.  For example, engineered hardwood is really the only option for floors below grade; that is, a floor that is below ground level.  This makes it the perfect application for basements.  Another reason engineered hardwood is a good choice below grade is that it tends to handle fluctuations in humidity better than solid hardwood.

Solid hardwood flooring can only be applied over plywood and OSB sub-floors, and must be applied at or above grade.  Engineered hardwood can be applied over any sub-floor, and is the preferred hardwood flooring on concrete.  Engineered Hardwood is also perfect for areas of your home where it is impractical to permanently set your floors using glue or nails.  Engineered floors are typically installed using a “click-lock and tongue” method, allowing them to be installed in what’s called a “floating” manner without any nails or adhesive.


Wood Species

As we have mentioned briefly, hardwood flooring is available in a variety of types of wood or wood species.  Which type of wood you choose bears importance on the look and durability of your hardwood floor.


Hardwood Flooring Hardness Scale

One way that wood species can be categorized is by the hardness of the wood.  The testing method for wood hardness, believe it or not, is to see how much force is required to press a steel ball or bb halfway into the wood board.  As you can see on the hardwood flooring hardness scale, some types of woods are several times as hard as others, with pine being considered the softest and Brazilian Walnut and Ipe being considered two of the hardest.


hardwood flooring hardness scale


Harder woods are obviously more resistant to dents and dings, however, some very hard woods may not fit the look and feel of the rest of your home…and then there’s the price tag.

Choosing a type of wood species is sometimes the hardest part in the hardwood floor buying decision.  We recommend taking a look at the NWFA website to examine the look of various types of wood species.  Then contact us for an in-home estimate and we’ll be able to advise you more precisely on what will look best in your home.


Types of stain

With hardwood flooring stain, it’s important to understand where staining comes in the installation process.  Essentially, staining is coming after sanding but before finishing.  This means that after your hardwood floor is installed and sanded, the darkness and color of your hardwood is altered by the stain.  This can further adapt the hardwood floor, if it is site-finished, to fit the look of already existing elements in your home such as your furniture, cabinetry, and color of your walls.  Your personal preference of what look you are trying to achieve will also play a role.

After the stain is applied, only then are the finish coats applies.  The finish coats can further alter the color of the hardwood, typically making the color slightly darker.

Some species of hardwood naturally lend themselves to certain colors of stain, while others can have a broader range of stain.  Most domestic species come in an array of options, while most exotic species are left to their natural color.


Hardwood Floors Installation Cost

Most hardwood floor installation companies charge by the square foot to determine their hardwood floor installation cost.  Unfortunately, finding the average cost to install hardwood flooring can be a tricky figure to obtain.

Most articles and sites are pretty vague with their information.  Many list this information as a combined total with the cost of the hardwood.  Angie’s list claims the average cost to be about $2 per square foot, but this average is almost certainly pulled down by the numerous low-cost and low-quality flooring outfits that can barely be called flooring professionals.  Home Advisor is equally unhelpful, only giving the amount in total dollars for the whole job.  Although they allude to square footage being the easier method, they fail to give any specifics on what the average cost per square foot might be.

At Moore Floors, we typically start at $3.75 per square foot, making our rates extremely favorable for hardwood flooring contractors in the Seattle area, especially given our industry experience and the cost of living index for the area, not to mention our lifetime service guarantee which is unparalleled in our area.


Ready to Get Started?

To get started in the buying process, you can either fill out our online estimate form or our in-home estimate.  The instant quote is a good option if you already know exactly what you want.  Our in-home estimate is best for those that need assistance with their hardwood floor selection.

It’s important to note that our in-home estimate does not obligate you to buy anything!  We’re here to help you make the best decision possible, not lock you into anything you don’t want.  The risk is all on us, so why not get in contact now (206) 718 – 9340.



We wrote this guide because there was a limited amount of good information on the web regarding hardwood flooring decisions, and we wanted something to give to our potential customers to help them (and help us!) guide them in the their buying decision.  We hope we’ve conveyed that all hardwood floors, and all hardwood flooring contractors, are not created equal.  Depending on the species of hardwood, you could easily spend up to 10x as much for the most expensive wood species, totally decked out with all the bells and whistles. You could also spend much less on installation of your hardwood floors with a cheap hardwood flooring contractor that hires out to inexperienced subcontractors.

Don’t get stuck stressing because you’re afraid the job won’t go according to plan and you’re out of your home for longer than you expected.  Why take the risk when you can have an experienced flooring expert ensure that your job gets done right?  We at Moore Floors have a track record of excellence backed by a lifetime service guarantee.  In addition, we offer competitive pricing ensured by our 100% price match guarantee.  We are family owned and operated and employ only competent, company trained craftsman that take pride in their work and care of your home.  We look forward to bringing life back to your floors and home for those in the Seattle or Tacoma area.