The beauty of wooden flooring is undeniable. The natural color and grain pattern of wood gives a feeling of warmth and welcome to any room, whether the wood is laid in intricate patterns or long planks. Choosing wooden flooring can be a challenge, because wood floors are categorized in several different ways.
The most common way to describe wooden flooring is by the species of wood used -- for example, oak flooring or maple flooring. Almost any species of wood can be used as flooring, although hard woods are the most durable. The hardness of wood is measured by the Janka Scale, which designates Brazilian ebony as the hardest of woods commonly used for flooring and pine as one of the softest. Oak, ash, and maple are popular for wooden flooring because they are both hard and readily available.
The style in which the wood is laid is another method of describing wooden flooring. Wide plank flooring, with thick planks cut from logs in varying widths, is the most ancient style, and some floors made this way are still in use hundreds of years later. Ordinary plank flooring is made of long wood pieces wider than three inches (7.6 cm), laid to give a uniform look to the floor. Strip flooring, made with shorter pieces about two and one-quarter inches (5.7 cm) wide, is most common type of wooden flooring today. Parquet flooring uses several species of wood laid to make a pattern.
The thickness of the floorboards is another way to describe wooden flooring. Antique wide plank flooring was usually very thick and could withstand wear and rough use. Solid wood flooring pieces are usually between 3/4 and 3/8 inches (1.9 and 0.95 cm) thick. At the upper end, these floors can last for generations and be refinished many times. Wood veneer flooring, also called engineered wood flooring, has several thin layers of wood, usually three or five, glued together; the top layer is normally of a particular attractive wood. This is the least durable wooden flooring, but it is widely available and relatively inexpensive.
Wooden flooring can also be described by the kind of finish applied to the floor. Surface finishes, where the floor is first stained and then sealed with varnish, are the most traditional and least durable. These floors are usually waxed to give additional protection, and they may be re-stained and sealed when worn. Today, penetrating finishes are popular. These finishes actually penetrate the wood and bond with it to provide long-lasting color and a hard finish. Often specially formulated cleaning agents are needed to care for floors with this kind of finish.