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Hardwood Flooring

A Guide To Choosing Hardwood Flooring

Providing an instant connection to nature, hardwood flooring never goes out of style. Each room is a unique work of art, and modern options include many finishes and many types of wood. Shoppers must wade through scores of options and decisions: there are dozens of different species to choose from, each with unique characteristics. And each species of wood floor can have any number of variations of stain, finish, and decorative treatments applied to the surface. This means that hardwood has nearly limitless potential as a beautiful and long-lasting way to bring the bounty of Mother Nature into your home.

Hardwood Flooring Cut & Size Options

The cut of a piece of wood refers to how the actual log is sliced in order to produce the material, explains TheSpruce.com in their in-depth guide to “Hardwood Floors: Size, Shape, Finish and Grade.” Some cuts, like the premier-level Rift Saw cut, will produce stronger planks and boards, while a Plain Saw cut is more efficient, resulting in less-expensive – but often less-durable – pieces of finished material. In between the two is the middle-ground Quarter Saw cut.

Standard size options for hardwood flooring ranges from Strip Hardwood, with each piece ranging from 1.5″ to 2.25″ wide for a more variegated look, to Hardwood Planks, each ranging from 3″ to 12″ wide for a more natural, luxurious appearance.

Hardwood Flooring Grades

Hardwood flooring grades refer not to the quality of the wood, but to the features found in the surface. 

Hardwood that is rated Clear Grade – the most uniform, pure surface grade available – does not have any splits, knots, worm holes, or excessive mineral streaks, and its pieces fall within a consistent range of color tones, with none significantly lighter or darker than any other.

Select Grade is similar to Clear Grade in that these pieces will not have any knots, checks, splits, mineral stains, or contrasting sapwood features, but this grade is allowed to vary somewhat in color tone and hue. Low Select Grade are the pieces taken from Clear and Select Grade because of excessive color variations, but it also contains no surface defects.

Natural Grade pieces are allowed to have moderate natural features and color variations. Strips minor to moderate surface defects will be included for a very natural-looking effect.

Rustic Grade hardwood materials will contain numerous defects, features, and color variations, with pieces varying – sometimes sharply. Rustic Grade floors are popular in rustic, cabin-style settings and in rooms where the floor’s personality is meant to be the star of the show. 

Engineered Wood vs Solid Wood

Times have changed from when manufacturers, marketers and even some homeowners considered engineered wood to be sub-par. Now, engineered wood comprises a majority share of the wood floor market. Truthfully, neither can be called the outright “best.” Each type of wood flooring has its strengths and weaknesses, and deciding which is best for you really depends on your needs and circumstances.

This article breaks down the pros and cons of engineered and solid wood flooring in a number of categories worth considering.