How do I Choose the Best Wood Flooring?

Jessica Hobby

If you are planning to install wood flooring in your home or business it is important to know how to choose the best options. Although it is tempting to pick out the color and plank size that matches your decor and have it installed, to get the best flooring requires that you understand certain characteristics about wood floors and how they act under certain conditions.

Mahogany is a strong, stable wood.
Mahogany is a strong, stable wood.

One of the most important characteristics of wood to be familiar with is dimensional stability. This refers to how a wood reacts to changes in humidity. All wood expands and contracts with changes in humidity, but certain wood, such as Santos mahogany, is extremely stable and expands and contracts significantly less than other varieties.

Installing hardwood floors may help add value to a home.
Installing hardwood floors may help add value to a home.

If you choose to use air conditioning and a humidifier to keep a constant level of humidity in your home or business, you can use a less stable wood, such as maple or birch, whereas wood floors that are exposed to the elements or are installed over basement concrete floors should be stronger, more stable woods such as mahogany, cherry, walnut, or ash.

Economical, sustainably harvested bamboo floors can be stained to achieve a lighter or darker appearance.
Economical, sustainably harvested bamboo floors can be stained to achieve a lighter or darker appearance.

In addition to understanding dimensional stability, you must have realistic expectations of your traffic. High traffic areas must have the hardest wood possible, while lower traffic areas may have softer wood. You should compare a wood's hardness to its dimensional stability to choose three or four different options and then decide what fits with your decorating needs. Some of the hardest woods are pine, California redwood, and African mahogany.

Be aware that the hardest woods, as measured by the Janka scale, do not necessarily have the most dimensional stability, so it is important to weigh all your options carefully. For example, although Santos mahogany is extremely stable and flexes with humidity, it is a relatively soft wood that will dent easily. It is best used in a bedroom or sitting room as opposed to a hallway or entryway where it can be dented.

In addition to traditional nailed down wood flooring, another option is engineered hardwood. This flooring material is made specifically for areas that have high moisture. It is composed of a core that has a thin layer of wood veneer on top and sometimes a thin layer of real hardwood. Engineered flooring offers more stability in moisture, but less expensive, veneer versions cannot be sanded or refinished as true solid hardwood floors can.

Strong and durable wood should be used if applying wood flooring over a concrete floor.
Strong and durable wood should be used if applying wood flooring over a concrete floor.

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Discussion Comments


What is the best way to clean wood floors? It seems like everything I have tried still leaves streaks. I have tried everything from expensive cleaners to using a spray bottle with water and drying with a towel, but they still don't look that clean. I am trying to get really clean, shiny wood floors that don't have any streaks and would love to know what the best way to go about doing that.


When we were looking at installing new flooring we went with laminate wood flooring instead of the real wood. One of the biggest reasons was money. The laminate was not nearly as expensive as the real wood.

We also have a busy household with teenagers and dogs and I just felt like laminate was the best way to go. The salesman told us it would hold up really well and we wouldn't have to worry about it getting dented or scratched up.


I have oak wood flooring that covers the entire downstairs of my house. The only rooms in my house that are carpeted are the bedrooms. This flooring was already installed in the house when we bought it. It was the first time I have solid wood flooring and I must say I really love it. I like the light coloring of the oak wood and feel like it is so much easier to take care of than carpet.


@ GlassAxe- Can I buy unfinished bamboo wood flooring or is it only available in finished and engineered form? I have a friend who is a wood worker, and he polishes different metal foils into wood during the finishing process giving it a subtle but lustrous shine. He is willing to do the work for me at cost in exchange for business services. I think this would add a unique look to my flooring, but I want to use environmentally friendly wood.


@ ValleyFiah- A high quality bamboo wood flooring would be a good idea for your climate extremes. High Quality Bamboo wood flooring is much harder than oak wood flooring, and it is much more resistant to humidity, although high humidity will still have negative effects on bamboo products. Most high quality bamboo wood products are also made from plantation-grown bamboo that uses no pesticides, fertilizers, or herbicides. This is much better than bamboo that is grown on deforested land.

These types of bamboo products also qualify for LEED certification since they are grown, manufactured, and treated in a sustainable manner. High quality bamboo flooring also has high resistance to heat, making it a good option for certain radiant heat systems. You will be able to find many beautiful bamboo flooring colors in both solid bamboo products and engineered bamboo products.


Is bamboo wood flooring a good option for humid areas? I live in a state that has snowy winters and long humid summers. I hate carpets, but feel like tile would be too hard for my kids to play on, and it would get too cold on winter mornings.

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