You may already know the pros and cons of hardwood flooring, but before you go shopping for new flooring make sure you also understand the differences in construction, installation methods and pricing. To help you with this task, I have answered a few of the most commonly asked hardwood flooring questions.

Q.) What is the difference between solid and engineered hardwood?

A.) The difference is based on whether each board of hardwood is made of one piece of wood or multiple pieces.

Solid hardwood: Each piece of flooring is one solid piece of wood. There are no layers; the top part has been sanded smooth, often times a wood stain is applied and then finished off with a protective cleat top coat.

Engineered hardwood: Instead of being one solid piece of wood flooring, engineered hardwood is typically made up of three or more layers of wood with the grain going in opposite directions from one layer to the next. The top layer consists of a thin strip of hardwood, known as a veneer and it is the wear layer. The middle layer or layers are plywood. Usually the middle section is made up of layers of cross-grain plywood for extra strength. Some engineered hardwoods have a MDF (medium density fiberboard) core instead of plywood. And the bottom layer is another piece of rough plywood that sandwiches the middle layers together with the top piece.

Hardwood Flooring QuestionsQ.) Why are there so many different types of installation methods for hardwood flooring?

A.) The installation methods are based on the construction of the flooring. There are two different types of board construction that dictates how the flooring should be installed. Tongue and groove and click together.

Tongue and Groove: Nail Together Installation

Tongue and groove flooring fits together like a puzzle piece. The “tongue” of one board fits into the “groove” of another. If the installation instructions call for nailing the flooring together, then a specific tool called a hardwood nailer must be used. Before deciding whether to install this type of flooring yourself, it is helpful to decide whether you have enough physical strength and endurance to use the nailer. As you have to hit the nailer with a mallet, each time you wish to place a nail. This will need to be done several times per piece of flooring. Pneumatic nailers are also available, and they require less physical strength; however, they are much more expensive.

Tongue and Groove: Glue Together Installation

If the installation instructions call for glue, determine whether it is a full spread adhesion or just glue on the joints. If it is a full spread adhesion, then you will use a notched trowel to spread adhesive on the subfloor. However, if it is a tongue and groove adhesion, then you will also need to purchase foam underlayment. In this scenario, the joints of the flooring are glued together, but the wood flooring is not glued to the subfloor. Instead, it “floats” over the subfloor by resting on the foam underlayment.

Click Together Installation

For click together installations, the flooring is similar in appearance to tongue and groove only the edges interlock. Unlike tongue and groove, when you put two pieces of click flooring together and pull them apart horizontally they will not separate. This is how click together installations stay together without glue or nails. Click together flooring is also a “floating” floor and gets installed over a foam underlayment.

Q.) Which factors determine where hardwood flooring can be installed?

A.) While the construction of the board dictates how the flooring is installed, it also determines what area of the house it can be installed in. Solid hardwood is only warranted to be installed on or above grade. Which basically means ground level or above. Engineered and click together wood flooring can be installed anywhere. This is because it can handle moisture and expanding and contracting better than solid hardwood. Thicker pieces of wood can take in more moisture, therefore, expand further than smaller pieces. If you were to install solid hardwood over a cement floor in a basement, the pieces would start to buckle because as expansion happened the individual pieces would have nowhere to move to. This is why it is especially important to follow the above guidelines for the proper places to install hardwood.

Q.) What causes the cost to vary from one hardwood to another?

A.) The cost of one particular hardwood flooring over another one varies based on species and thickness.

Species of Hardwood: The main reason there is such a large price difference between various hardwoods is determined by the species of the hardwood. One of the most common and least expensive types of hardwood is oak. Some of the more expensive hardwoods are cherry, walnut, hickory, and tiger wood.

An important note about wood species: The type of wood also determines how durable the flooring will be. This is also called the hardness of the wood. And, if you have a busy household with kids and pets, you will want to make sure your wood flooring can hold up to your lifestyle. To find out the hardness of any hardwood species look at the Janka Hardness Scale. The higher the number, the better.

Thickness: Generally speaking, the thicker the board the more expensive it is. This is because it is made of more material. Boards vary in thickness form 3/8″ to 3/4″.

An important note about thickness: If the hardwood is replacing another flooring type, it is important to measure the amount of clearance you have between the subfloor and the bottom of all interior doors in the areas hardwood will be installed. Otherwise, you may have the extra expensive of planing them to fit. It is also important to consider the height difference between the wood flooring and any other flooring that it butts against. This will make sure that you are not creating extra issues during installation. Some height difference is okay, but if it exceeds the height of the transition moldings that connect the two there will be added costs and problem solving to make it work.

Written by Amanda Hartley