Solid Wood Flooring: A Complete Guide

Posted on August 22nd, 2023 09:28 PM

Solid wood flooring is a timeless and beautiful flooring option made entirely from natural wood. It offers a classic, elegant look and feel that is unrivaled by artificial flooring options. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of solid wood floors, including the different types of wood available, installation methods, costs, and more.

What is Solid Wood Flooring?

Solid wood flooring, also known as hardwood flooring, is made from planks of natural hardwoods like oak, maple, hickory and walnut. The planks consist of solid pieces of wood from top to bottom, hence the name.

This is different from engineered wood floors, which have a top hardwood veneer layer bonded to a plywood or softwood base. The advantage of solid floors is that they can be repeatedly sanded and refinished over time. Engineered floors have a thickness limit when it comes to sanding and refinishing.

Solid hardwood offers unique natural variations in color, grain and texture from plank to plank. No two floors will be exactly alike. These variations provide visual interest and character to the floor.

Benefits of Solid Wood Floors

There are many benefits that make solid wood flooring a popular choice:

  • Timeless, classic look: Hardwood floors offer a timeless, classic elegance unmatched by any other flooring type. They are always in style.

  • Durability: Solid wood can last 50-100 years or more with proper care. The floors can be sanded and refinished multiple times.

  • Easier maintenance: Hardwood requires less maintenance than carpeting. Regular sweeping and damp mopping is all that’s needed for cleaning.

  • Healthier indoor air: Wood doesn’t trap dust and allergens like carpets. This leads to better indoor air quality.

  • Resale value: Hardwood flooring increases property resale value. It’s an attractive feature home buyers look for.

  • Sustainability: Most wood used is sourced from responsibly managed forests. Hardwood is a natural, renewable resource.

  • Warmth: Wood offers better thermal insulation than tile or vinyl. Hardwood feels warmer underfoot.

  • Acoustics: Hardwood floors reduce ambient noise and echoes for a quieter interior space.

Popular Types of Solid Wood Flooring

There are many species of wood used for solid hardwood flooring. Some of the most popular include:

Oak Flooring

Oak is the most common species used for solid wood flooring. Its attractive grain patterns and range of color options make it versatile. Some oak styles include:

  • Red oak: Most common oak, light reddish-brown hue. Lower price point.

  • White oak: Pale yellow to light brown color. Higher hardness than red oak.

  • Engineered oak flooring: Top oak layer bonded to plywood. More stable.

Oak hardwood offers a great balance of affordability, durability, and style. It complements both modern and traditional home decors.

Maple Flooring

Maple is a classic choice valued for its wear resistance and uniform, straight grain. It has a smooth, creamy color ranging from nearly white to reddish-brown.

Maple is suitable for high-traffic areas because it stands up well to surface wear and abrasions. It’s a good choice for kitchens, dining rooms, and hallways.

Hickory Flooring

Hickory is one of the hardest, most durable domestic hardwoods. It has dramatic contrasting colors from light brown to dark red/brown. The grain has flowing swirls and knots for a rustic look.

Hickory is well-suited to busy family homes. It can withstand pet claws, furniture scratches, and heavy foot traffic. The bold grain masks everyday wear and tear.

Walnut Flooring

Walnut is prized for its luxurious, sophisticated look. It has rich brown colors with darker black streaks flowing through the grain. The contrast makes for breathtaking flooring.

Walnut offers a refined elegance that enhances formal spaces. But it also suits contemporary interiors. Durable enough for any room, walnut provides a touch of luxury.

How to Install Solid Wood Flooring

Proper installation is key to ensuring your solid hardwood floors last a lifetime. There are three main methods for installing solid wood:

Glue-Down Installation

In this method, the solid wood planks are glued directly to the subfloor using special adhesives. This provides maximum stability and sound dampening.

Glue-down installation works well for concrete or plywood subfloors. It allows installing solid floors over radiant heating systems. Care must be taken though to use the correct adhesive for the subfloor.

Nail-Down Installation

Here the hardwood planks are nailed to a wood subfloor through the tongue at a 45-60 degree angle. This provides a very stable, long-lasting floor.

Nail-down installation is best suited for plywood or OSB subfloors. Using a pneumatic floor stapler allows fastening down planks firmly. Nailing into concrete is not possible.

Floating Installation

The solid wood planks are not fixed to the subfloor here. An underlayment layer is placed on the subfloor first. The hardwood planks are glued or clicked together over it.

Floating floors are the easiest DIY option as no special tools are needed. They are suitable for concrete subfloors where nailing or gluing is not possible. But they are less stable long-term than glued or nailed floors.

Professional installers have the skill to handle challenging subfloors and layouts. For DIY, floating floors are the most feasible solid hardwood option.

How Much Does Solid Hardwood Flooring Cost?

Solid wood flooring costs between $3 - $13 per square foot installed. Engineered wood costs $5 - $15 while laminate and vinyl plank flooring range $1 - $5 per square foot.

Raw material costs account for about 30% of total installed costs. The species of wood is the biggest price factor. But installation labor, subfloor prep, accessories and finishing also impact the final price.

Some typical installed prices per square foot:

  • Oak wood flooring: $4 - $8
  • Hickory wood flooring: $6 - $10
  • Maple wood flooring: $5 - $9
  • Walnut wood flooring: $8 - $13

Professional installation will cost $3 - $5 per square foot depending on complexity. DIY installation can reduce costs, but is more labor intensive.

Maintenance and Care for Solid Wood Floors

With proper care, solid hardwood floors can remain beautiful for decades. Here are some tips for caring for your wood floors:

  • Sweep or vacuum regularly to remove grit and dust that can scratch the floor. Use felt pads under furniture legs.

  • Wipe spills immediately with a slightly damp mop. Excess moisture can damage the floor. Avoid mopping with wet mops.

  • Apply floor cleaners specially formulated for finished hardwood. Never use wax, oil soap or abrasive cleaners.

  • Place mats at exterior doors to reduce moisture, dirt and sand coming in. Area rugs are recommended for high-traffic areas.

  • Maintain indoor humidity between 30-50% year-round. Keeping the environment stable helps minimize gaps.

  • Protect floors from direct sunlight. Use curtains and blinds in intense sunny areas. UV rays can discolor the floor over time.

  • Consider refinishing floors every 5-10 years depending on traffic and wear. Refinishing restores the finish and repairs scratches.

Using Solid Wood Flooring in Kitchens

The kitchen is the heart of the home, so it’s important to choose a floor that can withstand spills, water splashes, and heavy foot traffic. Here are some tips on using solid wood floors in kitchens:

  • Select a very durable wood species like hickory, maple or oak to prevent dents and scratches.

  • Use large planks rather than thin strips which can wear faster in high-traffic kitchens. Wide planks are more stable.

  • Opt for a smooth, polished surface finish. It resists moisture penetration better than more textured finishes.

  • Apply several coats of polyurethane for maximum water resistance on the finish.

  • Immediately wipe spills and water splashes to prevent moisture damage. Use area rugs in front of the sink and stove.

  • Don’t install solid wood floors below grade where flooding risks are higher. Use engineered wood or tile instead.

With proper precautions, you can enjoy the warmth and beauty of real wood floors in your kitchen.

Solid Wood Flooring with Underfloor Heating

Solid hardwood flooring works quite well with underfloor radiant heating systems provided some precautions are taken:

  • The subfloor surface temperature should never exceed 80°F. Excess heat can damage the wood.

  • Use a digital thermostat and multiple sensors across the floor to maintain even heating.

  • Leave small expansion gaps between planks and the walls to allow natural expansion and contraction of planks.

  • Use floating installation over the radiant heat pipes/coils to allow the floor to expand freely. Avoid gluing down planks.

  • Select wood species with higher dimensional stability like oak, maple or ash. Avoid thin strips prone to excessive expansion.

  • Run the radiant heating system gradually from cooler to warmer temps to acclimate the wood.

With proper system setup and wood selection, you can enjoy the cozy warmth of underfloor heating as well as beautiful natural wood floors.

Solid vs Engineered Wood Flooring Comparison

Both solid and engineered wood floors offer the warmth and beauty of real hardwood but they differ in construction and performance:

ParameterSolid Wood FlooringEngineered Wood Flooring
CompositionMade entirely from solid woodTop veneer layer bonded to plywood or composite base
Thickness3/4" thick planksThinner 1/2" planks
InstallationGlue-down, nail-down or floatingMainly glued to subfloor
Sanding for refinishingCan be sanded many timesLimited sanding depending on veneer thickness
StabilityMore prone to expansion/contractionDimensionally stable, less gaps
Moisture resistanceCan be damaged by moisture if unfinishedMore resistant to moisture
Use over radiant heatCan be used with precautionsBetter suited for radiant heat

Solid wood offers the most authentic, high-end look and feel. But engineered provides better stability at lower thickness and cost. Choose based on your budget, decor, and needs.

Maintaining Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors are a major investment that can last decades if properly maintained. Here are some tips for keeping them looking like new:

  • Regular cleaning: Sweep and damp mop floors weekly using cleaner made for wood floors. Avoid excessive water.

  • Protect floor finish: Apply felt pads under furniture legs and chair feet to prevent scratches. Also use floor mats at high-traffic areas.

  • Control humidity: Keep indoor humidity between 30-50% year-round to minimize expansion/contraction of planks.

  • Refinishing: Light sanding and refinishing the floor every 5-10 years removes scratches and restores the finish.

  • Spot repairs: Use wood fillers to repair isolated indentations and gouges. Refinish repairs to match floor color.

  • Replace damaged planks: Individual planks can be removed and replaced as needed to repair extensive water or physical damage.

With regular care and maintenance, your wood floors can remain beautiful for generations. Refinishing and spot repairs restores them to like-new condition.

Alternatives to Solid Wood Flooring

While solid hardwood is unmatchable in beauty, some good alternatives include:

Engineered wood - Top veneer layer looks like solid wood but is more stable. Dent resistant.

Laminate - Simulates wood look with laminate photographic layer. Affordable, scratch resistant.

Vinyl plank - Flexible synthetic with various color and grain patterns. Waterproof.

Tile - Durable, water resistant alternative. Comes in wood-look ceramic or porcelain.

Cork - Eco-friendly, comfortable flooring with oak-like visual. Moisture and sound resistant.

Each option has pros and cons. Pick based on budget, lifestyle needs, and intended use of the flooring. For optimal ageless looks, real wood is unbeatable.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is solid wood flooring better than engineered?

Solid wood offers the most authentic natural wood aesthetics and can be refinished many times. But engineered is more dimensionally stable with less gapping. Engineered also resists moisture better. For cost-effectiveness, either can work well depending on needs.

Can you install solid wood flooring over concrete?

Yes, solid wood can be installed over concrete using a floating method or by gluing down planks. A moisture barrier and underlayment padding is recommended. The concrete must be flat, clean and dry first.

What’s the best wood for flooring?

Oak is the overall best choice for durability, cost and style. But maple and hickory are excellent options too for high-traffic areas. Exotic woods offer unique visuals but are more expensive.

Do all hardwood floors need refinishing?

Refinishing is not mandatory but it helps restores the floor’s finish and removes scratches, discoloration and other damage from wear. Floors with worn, scratched surfaces benefit the most from refinishing.

Can you put solid hardwood in a bathroom?

Solid wood can warp and deteriorate from excess bathroom moisture. Engineered wood with a thick top layer is a better bathroom choice. Better yet, use water-resistant vinyl, tile or laminate.


Solid wood flooring enhances any home with timeless beauty and natural elegance. While requiring more maintenance than artificial floors, real hardwood is a superior long-term investment. With proper care, your wood floors can last 100 years and more.

Choosing the right species, specialized installation, maintenance and refinishing allows solid wood flooring to retain its charm and value over decades. The unmatchable warmth, history and character of real hardwood floors make this a coveted and special addition to any home.

Recent Post

Your Shopping Bag

Your shopping cart is empty.