How to Select a Floor – The Full Guide To Selecting the Right Floor For Your Home

Follow this 5-step selection guide to determine the hardwood flooring style that best suits the design, form, and functionality of your interior space.

STEP 1 – reviewing your design and situational factors

Hardwood flooring is a large investment, so you’ll need to think a bit about your overall interior design style to ensure the right floor for your style is selected to ensure proper design harmony.  Nothing looks worse in a house that a poor flooring match, and it is an expensive mistake to remedy.   

Floors anchor the interior design

Flooring is one of the most important interior design elements for an interior space because it provides the visual foundation for your rooms.  The color you choose can have a dramatic influence on the mood or feeling of a room.  Your decorating style preferences should be your largest influence on floor color selection.

Contemporary / Modern style

Defined by clean lines, neutral elements and bold yet simple coloring.  The simplicity of line, shape and form dominate this design style. Natural earth tones and muted colors combined with bold high contrast colors create a clean and sleek interior space. Use lighter grain woods to maintain clean lines, neutral earth tones, light tones, and even bold colors work well to accentuate the modern interior style.

Traditional style

Defined by an updated comfortable version of the past, blending understated details, mid range colors, fabrics, textures, and darker colored floors.

Use of bold grain textures is common, accentuated planks, and colors gravitating towards darker tones.

Country style

Think simple farm house life.  Highly personalized style, eclectic mixing and matching of antiques and accent treasures, simple wood furniture designs, painted furniture and rustic planks. 

Colonial style

American Colonial style from 1730 to 1790 blends classical English Georgian elements and new world accents creating a traditional yet relaxed feeling.  Lots of books, carpets, wood paneling and wainscoting dominate, with simple pine flooring planks.

STEP 2 – selecting the best wood flooring for your interior space

To help narrow down your flooring choice you should review several factors in a systematic comparison format to select the optimal flooring choice that suits your homes’ particular functional and design needs, as well as personal tastes and cost considerations. 

You’ll also have to consider situational factors in your home like sub-floors, humidity and heating levels, floor traffic expectations, and floor grade levels.  It is likely that some of your situational factors will limit the flooring choices you should be selecting for optimal performance.  It is estimated that poor situational decisions account for more than half of all flooring enjoyment problems, which could have easily been avoided with a little pre-planning.

Ease of installation, design and quality, warranty, and maintenance are all additional factors that should be reviewed. 

How to narrow down your flooring choice

The optimal hardwood flooring choice for your unique space will depend on several key factors that you will need to consider carefully. 

Situational factors

These factors involve the physical space where your flooring will be installed.  There may be certain physical limitations to what type of floor you can install – just remember that every space has unique requirements.

Expected traffic

The amount of traffic and wear you are expecting for the space will effect your flooring choices. Laminate flooring is best for extreme traffic situations, as well as bamboo and harder species of hardwoods are also acceptable. If you have pets and children, laminate floors are an excellent choice. With lower traffic situations you don’t need to be as concerned about the type of flooring material.

Sub flooring

Your finished floor will only be as good as the sub floor – it should be flat, level, and dry. Strip hardwood flooring requires a sub floor that accepts nails – ideally plywood or tongue and groove planking. If you have a concrete sub floor then you’ll need to consider a floating floor system of laminate or engineered hardwoods.


Grade level of floor

The floor level where you are installing your new floors will impact your flooring selection. Below grade installations (basement), will usually require floating laminate installations due to the concrete slab and moisture issues. On grade (ground level) levels are the most rigid and stable sub floors are ideal to accept any type of flooring. On grade floors are optimal for strip hardwood flooring that requires a nailing installation and rigid sub floor. Above grade floors (floors above ground level) tend to be less rigid, and are again best suited for a floating floor system.

Temperature and humidity

To prevent future warping and cupping of floors make sure there is adequate ventilation and regulated temperatures thought the year. Bamboos, laminates, and engineered hardwood planks expand and contract less and are better solutions for areas that experience temperature fluctuations. Laminates are the best solution for areas that experience higher levels of humidity and moisture.

Budget constraints

Laminate flooring has the greatest versatility and choice of colors to select from, and also is one of the more economical solutions.


Manufacturer selection criteria

These decision factors focus on the actual flooring product and what is best for your particular needs.


Ease of installation

The time and cost of installation is an often overlooked factor in floor selection decisions. Glueless click-style floating laminate floor systems are the easiest to install and are within the capabilities of most weekend do-it-yourselfers. Obviously the size and scope of the installation will also effect your decision. Glue down and nail down flooring does require more expertise and time, and is usually not a typical do-it-yourself project.


Warranty

In many cases, the warranty provided with the floors is not worth the paper it is written on, as many warranty claims are denied based on poor installation workmanship and normal wear and tear. Still, there is something to be said for dealing with an established brand with a decent track record of customer service. You may pay a few cents more per square foot for an established brand, but chances are it will be worth it. Assuming the manufacturer has been in the business for a while, generally the longer the warranty provided, the better the product.


Quality of hardwood construction

Solid hardwood planks are ranked on the quality and grade of the species, and the milling and finishing of the planks. The Wood Flooring Manufactures Association has a detailed wood species grading system to assure quality, which can basically be simplified to read “the clearer the wood grain, the higher the quality cut”. Its all about the look, the more knots and characteristics in the wood, the lower the grade of that species.

 
Quality of laminate engineering

Assessment of quality laminate flooring is a completely different. You’ll need to assess the locking mechanism carefully – it should be seamless, moisture-resistant, and sturdy. Thicker tongue-and-groove joints provide better stability as do isometric locks which have 2 locking joints that put counter pressure on each other when joined to provide maximum joint stability. It is important to look for a laminate floor that has a strong and durable core material, generally thicker is better. Quality laminate flooring has moisture resistant sealed backing and durable scratch resistant wear layers.

STEP 3 – review hardwood flooring manufactures and brands

With over a thousand manufactures and distributors of hardwood and laminate flooring in the US, it can become very confusing and difficult to separate the good from the not so good.  Based on several design, quality, and functionality criteria we have identified several of the leading national brands. 

Popular manufacturers of wood floors

The following manufactures scored well on a balance of factors and generally have a good name and reputation in the marketplace.  We encourage you to check out their brands and products in detail before making any purchase decisions (see the special tips in step #5 for inspecting samples).

Mannington floors

www.mannington.com

Alloc wood

www.alloc.com

Bruce hardwood floors

www.bruce.com

Hartco

www.hartcoflooring.com

Pergo

www.pergo.com

STEP 4 – Hardwood floor installation tips

Depending on what product you select it could be a do-it-yourself installation, or may require special tools and installation methods to get the best results.  Do you order the product yourself, or will your installer have access to better wholesale pricing?  How to check your installers references and tips to help make your installation smooth and trouble-free. 

Do it yourself installations

Depending upon your skills, product selection, and size of project, some installations can be handled on your own (this assumes you are reasonably comfortable with basic do-it-yourself projects).  Glueless floating floor systems that use click-lock systems are the easiest to install, and are available in laminate, engineered hardwood, bamboo, and cork.  We recommend you hire installers for all other flooring installations.

Depending upon the scope and size of the project, you could install a floating floor system by yourself and save significant $$$ on all of the installation labor costs.

Buy the product & hire installation labor

If you are reasonably certain you can find a good installer in your area, purchasing your product on-line from wholesale outlets and having it shipped directly to your location is a way to potentially save a lot of money.  You may actually find that the savings you accrued on the direct wholesale purchase will pay for your installation labor, and actually cost less than buying the product retail and installing it yourself.

Professional installers and contractors

We recommend you hire professional help for all flooring types other than glueless click-lock floating floor systems.  Professional contractors usually have established relationships with flooring wholesalers and good access to installation labor.  We recommend you get at least 3 quotes from reputable contractors in your area and to check there references carefully before signing any contract or making a deposit payment.  If you are living in London, our vetted wood flooring London specialists are woodflooringfitting.

STEP 5 – Cleaning and maintaining wood floors

Now that you’ve installed the floor of your dreams you’ll need to learn how to protect it, how to repair it, the best way to clean it, and how to make it last a lifetime.  

Hardwood floor care

  • Vacuum regularly – you need to remove small particles, grit, and debris that have the potential to scratch your flooring finish.
  • Mop with approved cleaning products – each flooring type has slightly different cleaning product advisories.  Follow the manufactures directions for your flooring type and do not wet mop your floor as excessive moisture may seek into joints and seams and cause damage.
  • Wipe up accidents immediately – to avoid potential moisture damage
  • High heels – make sure the heels have not worn down to the metal nails as these can scratch through all hardwood flooring surfaces
  • Use furniture protective pads – use felt padding on all furniture that comes in contact with your floor.  Install these before placing your furniture on your new floor
  • Potted plants – to prevent water damage and staining always ensure potted plants are placed in special containers with legs to allow airflow underneath the waterproof saucers.
  • Entry mats – use mats at every outdoor entry point to prevent grit and dirt from tracking onto your floors and potentially scratching its surface.

Hardwood floor repairs

  • Floor creaks – sprinkle talcum powder in the creaky seam as a filler as needed to reduce or eliminate sounds.
  • Gouges – use manufactures suggested floor putty repair, sand, and touch up with same flooring finish.
  • Surface refinishing – every 4 – 5 years a buffing and refinish coat should be applied.

Laminate floor repairs

  • minor cuts – manufacturers putty repair kit
  • major damage – the flooring section that is damaged can be dismantled and the damaged piece can be replaced.  Depending upon where in the floor the damaged piece is, it could be a large job.