Types of Hardwood Floors

By Cezar

There are many types of hardwood flooring on the market. Each has advantages and disadvantages in terms of cost, quality, appearance, and how many times they can be sanded and refinished. Engineered hardwood and “true” hardwood floors, for instance, are actually quite different from each other.

On this page, we’ll discuss the different types of hardwood floors and what factors to consider when choosing between them.

What Is Wood Flooring?

What is wood flooring? The answer may seem obvious, but the reality is somewhat complicated.

The category of hardwood floors is made up of solid hardwood floor and engineered hardwood floors. Solid hardwood is just as the name suggests. Engineered hardwood is made by laying a veneer of “true” hardwood over a plank of composite wood—usually very high-quality composite wood, but composite wood, nonetheless.

There are also differences between unfinished and prefinished hardwood floors, and between species of wood. We’ll get into all of these topics on this page, starting with the difference between engineered and solid hardwood flooring.

What Is the Difference Between Engineered Hardwood and Solid Hardwood Flooring?

Modern engineered hardwood is often visually indistinguishable from solid hardwood. You have to look at the sides of the planks to see the composite underneath. The truth is that the two varieties of hardwood flooring are quite different, though.

Engineered hardwood planks made of composite wood with a veneer of “true” hardwood over top of them. Solid hardwood planks, on the other hand, are made of true hardwood through and through.

Engineered hardwood is usually the cheaper alternative. It can offer some benefits, too, such as the way it endures certain environmental conditions. The most significant difference, though, is the number of times it can be sanded and refinished.

Engineered hardwood can only be sanded and refinished as long as that upper veneer of true hardwood lasts. For most instances, that means that you can sand and refinish engineered hardwood flooring two to three times. In some varieties, this can be bumped up to five times.

Solid hardwood, meanwhile, can be sanded and refinished up to ten times. Basically, solid hardwood has a much longer lifespan if it’s going to get worked on a lot.

What Is the Difference Between Unfinished and Prefinished Wood?

Unfinished hardwood flooring is raw wood fashioned into planks and not layered with stain or finishing protection. These hardwood floors will need to be treated after installation.

Prefinished hardwood floors have already been finished with stain and a protective layer. This type of flooring can be installed and put into use without any further work done to it.

Species of Wood Flooring

Many species of wood are used for hardwood floors, but five of them stand out as being the most popular anywhere they are available. We’ll discuss each of those five species below.

Each of the wood species has a number on the Janka Hardness Scale, which was named for the Austrian researcher (Gabriel Janka) who developed it in 1906. The higher the number, the harder and more durable the wood is.

All species of hardwood flooring can be refinished multiple times. Generally, solid hardwood floors can be sanded and refinished up to 10 times.

Cherry Wood

This is a softer variety of solid hardwood flooring, scoring only 950 on the Janka scale. The softness means it’s not really suitable for high-traffic areas and is a better fit for dining rooms, bedrooms, and other such areas.

Cherry wood is widely considered to be beautiful, though, with a rich coloration and artistic grain patterning. Cherry can be refinished.

Hickory Wood

Hickory is highly durable wood. It scored 1,820 on the Janka scale. The wood’s strength caused it to be a popular choice for high-school gyms.

Hickory has a rich variation in mocha-coloration, with warm browns and reds flowing into beige. Conspicuous knotting gives it a rustic appearance that many people find charming.

Maple Wood

Maple scored 1,450 on the Janka scale, making it another highly durable wood flooring option. It’s maybe the most visually interesting option on this list, with its tendency towards beautiful, graceful specks and streaks in the wood.

In terms of coloration, maple is on the lighter side with a creamy, beige, tan complexion. Occasionally it has an appealing reddish tint that adds warmth to any room.

Oak Wood

One of the most popular wood species for hardwood floors is oak. Specifically, red and white oaks are prized for hardwood flooring. Red oak has a Janka rating of 1,290, while white scores at 1,360. The higher score makes white oak hardwood flooring ideal for high-traffic areas.

White oak has an elegant, subtle coloration that is even throughout the plank. Red oak has a warmer, variable coloration and beautiful, swirled grain patterning that works in a diverse range or situations.

Walnut Wood

Like cherry wood, walnut is on the softer side of the prized hardwood floor options, scoring 1,010 on the Janka scale. It’s not one of the woods better suited for high-traffic areas.

Walnut tends to have an even coloration with large grain patterning and deep chocolate tones. The net effect adds a sophisticated character to any room.


The world of hardwood flooring is more complicated than people tend to imagine it will be, but with a little basic information you can determine the right choice for your needs. Roughly, while choosing between hardwood flooring, you’ll want to first decide between engineered hardwood and solid hardwood. If you go with solid hardwood, you’d then want to select the species that’s right for your needs.

The information provided on this page will help you make those decisions. If you have any questions, consider contacting a professional in your area. They can help you decide which wood is best for you.

There is no “one size fits all” solution here! Each wood floor and its condition are unique. We will provide you with the best and most cost-efficient solution for your floors.

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As a general rule, professionally refinished hardwood floors last 5 times longer vs DIY.