Solid Wood Flooring – Hardwood Options, Installation and Maintenance

$3 – $22 per sq/ft (Materials Only)

Solid hardwood flooring is arguably the most sought-after flooring amongst homeowners ; so much so that manufacturers of other types of flooring such as luxury vinyl or porcelain tiles have invested heavily into making their faux wood flooring look as close as possible to the “real deal” as possible.

It’s clear that real hardwood flooring has a cachet that is hard to beat. Partly because it is universally loved: it appeals to both those who favor classic style, as well as to those who want their home to look and feel as natural as possible. It can suit numerous interior design styles, from polished minimalism to farmhouse chic.  It also remains one of the more durable types of flooring, and it can be periodically refinished to look as new.

Domestic hardwoods such as oak, maple, hickory and ash are still favorites, but they are being challenged for supremacy by more exotic woods like Brazilian cherrywood or koa, kempas, tigerwood, teak and sakura. Whether you choose pre-finished hardwood flooring or plan to finish it yourself, you’ve got many exciting options.

Our goal is to help you decide if solid wood flooring is the best choice for your home or office. In this comprehensive overview of solid hardwood flooring where you will find:

Buying Guide: We will look at the different options when choosing solid hardwood flooring, including the differences in wood species, hardness levels, styles, and finishes. We’ll also look at other factors to consider when buying, such as project suitability, and set out the pros and cons of solid hardwood flooring.

Price Guide: In this section we will look at the prices of solid hardwood flooring, and what factors will affect those costs. We’ll also see how solid hardwood prices compare with other popular flooring types and look at how to make the most of your solid hardwood flooring investment.

Installation Guide: We follow with information about the best ways to install solid hardwood flooring, what you need to know if you’re planning a DIY installation, or what you’ll need to discuss when choosing the best professional hardwood installation team.

Cleaning and Maintenance Guide: Finally, we go through the best practices for cleaning and maintaining your solid hardwood flooring, including the refinishing process that is key to keeping your solid hardwood looking its best for years and years.


Solid hardwood flooring is made of one and only one material: a solid piece of the same species of wood throughout. This is not the case for engineered hardwood, which is made by adhering a real wood veneer layer to a composite material base.  There are advantages and disadvantages of both versions, and if you are unsure which option to go for, then you can learn more about engineered hardwood vs solid hardwood.

Further Reading:
5 Reasons Hardwood Floors are Worth It
Where to Buy Hardwood Flooring Near You

But assuming you’re already keen on solid hardwood,  here’s everything you need to know to make an informed purchase:


When we speak of types of solid hardwood flooring, what we really mean is the wood species. The most common solid wood flooring species for home flooring installation are white oak and red oak, maple, walnut, ash, hickory, beech, yellow birch, mahogany and pine. Oak is one of the harder and more durable options while pine is the softest (see more about this below).

Most of these common hardwood species are farmed and forested domestically, though some manufacturers do offer mahogany species that are not sourced locally.

Alongside these domestic hardwoods, in the past few decades the hardwood flooring market has increasingly seen the introduction of imported hardwoods. These are commonly known as exotic hardwood species, examples of which are Brazilian walnut (ipe), acacia, santos, and tigerwood.

There is no right or wrong option when it comes to choosing which hardwood species to go for; your decision will depend on factors such as personal taste, where you want to install it and budget.

Further reading:
Brazilian Walnut (Ipe) Hardwood Flooring | Walnut Hardwood Flooring | Acacia Hardwood Flooring | Maple Hardwood Flooring | Hickory Hardwood Flooring


Whichever type of solid hardwood flooring you choose, it is likely to be a great investment. Because solid hardwood floors are highly sought-after, both for their looks and their durability, they will add to the value of your home. Hardwood flooring return on investment is one of the best in the flooring industry.

That being said, if you are specifically looking for a great return on investment, then we at Home Flooring Pros would advise opting for a hardwood species that is universally popular. Oak flooring, for example, is a very neutral backdrop, whilst tigerwood has a distinct grain pattern that is not to everyone’s taste.


Solid hardwood is naturally very durable: there are historic buildings with wood floors that are still in use more than 100 years after they were first laid!

However, not all solid hardwood floors species are equally durable. How long your solid hardwood flooring will last will depend on several factors including species, Janka hardness rating, correct installation, topcoat sealant/ finishes and careful maintenance.

We at Home Flooring Pros estimate that a properly maintained solid hardwood flooring will last anywhere from 75 to 100 years, particularly if it is refinished every 8-20 years.


Hardwood species all have different levels of hardness, and they have been collated into a handy reference tool called the Janka Hardness Chart. It’s good to know the hardness of  your chosen solid hardwood flooring, as it’ll give you a good indication of how it will perform against everyday traffic.

Softer hardwoods like pine tend to dent easily, so not a great choice for a dance floor where high heels will be worn! On the other end of the scale, super hard options such as Brazilian Cherry might not dent that easily but may cost more to install due to it being so hard and inflexible.

One of reasons that maple, hickory, beech, and oak are such popular options for home flooring is that they are the middle ground on terms of Janka hardness,  offering just the right level of hardness – making them both durable and easy to work with.


You may see some retailers referring to solid hardwood grades. It is important to note that the grading system in the hardwood flooring industry does not refer to the functional quality of the wood, but rather it’s aesthetic quality. Lower grades will have more knots and more pronounced grain patterns, more “character” in a way; higher grades will look more uniform. The lower, more rustic grades are cheaper than the higher grades.


Solid hardwood flooring, if finished correctly, will be able to withstand occasional splashes or spills – especially if they are dried and clean quickly.  However, due to its more porous nature, solid hardwood flooring is NOT an ideal choice for areas of your home that will have continuous high levels of humidity such as basements, bathrooms, and laundry rooms.

A usual fix for that conundrum is to either swap in matching engineered hardwood flooring or opt for a different flooring such as porcelain tile or composite vinyl  into those moisture-prone rooms.

Further Reading:
Hardwood Floors in the Kitchen
Hardwood Floors in the Bathroom


Solid hardwood flooring most typically comes in thicknesses of 1/2″, 5/8″ and 3/4″, though 3/4” is the most common.  Widths are much more varied, ranging from  1 1/2 ” to 8”.

As a rule of thumb, narrower widths produce a more contemporary or formal appearance; wider widths are used where a traditional, colonial, old world or country style is desired.

Planks can be as long as 12’ and as short as 24”. Unless you are planning a herringbone of chevron pattern which requires planks sizes that are small and equal length, when you purchase standard hardwood flooring you should typically receive pieces cut to differing lengths to make it easier to blend pieces. This gives the floor the random look you want.

Related Reading: Herringbone Wood Floors


Most big box stores will only offer pre-finished solid hardwood flooring, whereas independent retailers and manufacturers often offer a choice between unfinished hardwood flooring or pre-finished planks.

The pre-finished planks come in dozens of styles and finishes, so you’ll have no trouble finding just the right width, look and shade for your installation. If you enjoy DIY projects and plan to finish the floors yourself , you’ve again got almost unlimited options from unfinished natural or bleached to very dark woods.

Further Reading: Dark Wood Floors | Cost to Sand and Refinish Hardwood Floors

Whilst solid hardwood floors are naturally quite tough and scratch-resistant, they can be marred by heavy, sharp objects. Using a good top-coat when finishing the floor will go a long way toward reducing scratches and staining from water or other substances. For pre-finished planks check that the topcoat contains aluminum oxide for maximum scratch resistance.

Note that applying a fresh coat of sealant/protector in-between refinishes can extend the time before refinishing is required again.

Further Reading:
How to Apply Polyurethane
Water Based vs Oil Based Polyurethane Floor Finishes
How Long Does it Take for Polyurethane to Dry?


In terms of environmental credentials, domestic hardwood is sustainable, and most manufacturers resource their wood from forests that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for responsible forestry.

Exotic hardwoods are not always certified in this way, so if you’re going that route, it’s best to do due diligence on forestry laws in the country of origin.

For your home, hardwood flooring is one of the safest options as it naturally doesn’t harbor allergens. You can check on this with all flooring by looking for FloorScore® third-party certification which guarantees strict indoor air quality thresholds.

Further Reading: Eco-Friendly Flooring


The leading brands in the pre-finished solid hardwood flooring industry are Anderson Tuftex, Bruce, Carlisle, Homerwood,  Kentwood, Lauzon, Mirage, Mohawk, Mullican, Shaw Floors, Somerset and Kentwood. Most of these brands have a large range of solid hardwood options and are available at many of the big box national stores.

You can read Home Flooring Pros Review of many top solid hardwood flooring brands and manufacturers:
Best Hardwood Flooring Reviews
Mullican Hardwood Flooring Review
Anderson Tuftex Hardwood Review
DeChateau Hardwood Flooring Review
Somerset Hardwood Flooring Review

But note that, if you are looking to install unfinished hardwood to be stained and site finished, you may be better off looking at options from a local wholesaler who sources raw wood from different regional mills.

While hardwood floors never went completely out of fashion, they are certainly enjoying a resurgence in recent years. The appeal to buyers is that hardwood floors are a great backdrop to any interior design, work well in traditional homes and contemporary homes alike.

In terms of current trends, you’ll find that the most sought-after options are:

  • Authentic Styling:In a fast-paced world, homeowners are looking for design elements in their home that are timeless, brought from an era where life was slower and more relaxed.
  • Hand Scraped Hardwood:Sometimes referred to as handscraped, it comes in many styles and harks back to the days when each plank was worked by hand. Planks are often milled with the appearance of age and some wear. Distressed wood flooring is very similar. It has the look of reclaimed wood.
  • Wider Wood Planks:The overall trend in wood is obvious. People are longing for a return to simpler times and old-fashioned charm with wider planks and reclaimed wood both increasing in popularity.
  • Exotic Woods:Each year, new exotic woods are introduced. Currently, sakura, kempas, Brazilian cherrywood, tigerwood and teak are among the most popular.

You can find out more about current hardwood flooring trends and you might want to consult our article detailing hardwood floor colors and design ideas.


There are a whole range of things to consider when you’re choosing solid hardwood flooring. There are aesthetic considerations such as wood species, whether to buy pre-finished planks or unfinished planks to stain and finish on site, what size of plank to choose, and whether to opt for a sleek contemporary look or a more rustic, handscraped style.

Whichever type of solid hardwood flooring you choose, you’ll get a great return on investment, particularly because it can be refinished several times over its lifetime to look good as new each time. You can further qualify your investment choice by understanding the value of the Janka hardness rating and the hardwood grading system.

The most important thing to remember is that solid hardwood should not be installed in basements, bathrooms, or laundry rooms.



  • very large range wood species, sizes, stains and finishes to choose from to suit any interior style
  • very popular and thus great investment
  • durable, can last well over 70 years
  • relatively easy to clean
  • can be refinished several times over its lifetime
  • unfinished options allow you to customize finish exactly to suit your home
  • can be installed over radiant heating
  • domestic hardwood forestry is well regulated
  • solid hardwood flooring is safe for your home environment


  • not the cheapest option
  • should NOT be installed in basements, bathrooms, or laundry rooms
  • only suitable as a DIY installation if you’re experienced


Head over to our Solid Wood Flooring Pinterest Board for lots of hardwood floor ideas and images:

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The average cost of solid hardwood flooring is $2.50 to $8.25 per square foot.  However, the prices range for solid hardwood flooring goes from as little as $1 per square foot to as much as $18 per square foot.

What you will pay depends on several factors:

  1. Which species of wood you want; domestic hardwoods tend to be less pricy than exotics.
  2. What grade of wood it is.
  3. What width and length size you want; more common dimensions are cheaper.
  4. If it is pre-finished or unfinished.

Added to that, unless you plan to install it yourself, are professional installation costs which average between $2.75 to $6 per square foot. You can read more about the factors that affect professional hardwood flooring installation costs.


If you’re still unsure about which type of flooring you like best, working out the pros and cons of hardwood flooring versus engineered hardwood, carpet or other types of flooring is essential.

One aspect to consider is whether or not you have the budget for solid hardwood flooring, or if a cheaper alternative would work just as well.

In terms of cost, solid hardwood is in the same price range as wall-to-wall carpet, though of course there are many reasons why one might choose hardwood over carpet and vice versa.

Natural stone flooring is in a similar price range as solid hardwood flooring, though natural marble can be significantly higher.

Alternatives to solid hardwood that offer similar aesthetics are engineered hardwood, laminate and composite or luxury vinyl. The later options are significantly cheaper than solid hardwood; but interestingly engineered hardwood is not necessarily much cheaper than solid hardwood.

Further Reading: Hardwood Vs Laminate Vs Vinyl Flooring

Hardwood – solid $3 – $22
Hardwood – engineered $3 – $16
Bamboo $3 – $9
Carpet (wall-to-wall) $1 – $20
Ceramic tile $0.50 – $15
Concrete $0.60 – $2
Cork $3 – $12
Laminate $0.70 – $5
Linoleum $3 – $8
Natural stone – slate $3 – $15
Natural stone – marble (basic range) $4 – $15
Natural stone – marble (top range) $10 – $45
Rubber $1 – $15
Vinyl Sheet $0.60 – $5
Luxury vinyl tile (LVT) $1 – $7
Composite vinyl  (aka rigid core, WPC / SPC) $2 – $12


With solid hardwood it is worth shopping around to get the best prices, especially if you are looking for the more common species such as oak or maple. Here is a list of the 36 best places to buy hardwood flooring to start your bargain hunting!

Remember that big national stores cater to their client base, so they will have a broad selection, but perhaps not as large a selection as a specialist hardwood flooring retailer. And, whilst cost is important, buying from a retailer who you can trust to offer excellent client service might be worth the extra cents per square foot!

Further Reading: Hardwood Flooring Prices


Installation of solid hardwood flooring has its challenges, but they can be overcome, and your floors can look their best with the unsurpassed beauty and durability of solid wood flooring.

If you’re not a proficient DIYer then we highly recommend that you opt for a professional hardwood installation contractor, with plenty of experience and a warranty to back it up.

It costs between $2.75 to $6 to professionally install solid hardwood flooring. You will need to get a fully itemized quote, as there are several different factors that will dictate the cost of professional hardwood flooring installation, such as location, type of subfloor etc.  Read more below about how to go about installing hardwood flooring to help you better understand all the factors to consider.


Unlike engineered hardwood flooring, solid hardwood flooring does not perform that well in humid, moist conditions. Therefore, it is very important to know that solid hardwood it NOT a good choice for basement, bathrooms or laundry rooms.

If you’re looking to have wood flooring throughout your home, your wood retailer may be able to offer you the same wood species and finish of planks in both engineered hardwood and solid hardwood planks. That way you can have matching flooring on all levels and rooms.

Solid hardwood flooring can be installed over radiant heating.

Related Reading: Radiant Floor Heating Costs


If you are comfortable with moderate to advanced DIY projects, you might consider installing hardwood flooring rather than hiring a contractor. The money you save will be far greater than the price for an extra box of flooring to make up mistakes, if they occur.

Below is a brief outline of  the tools you’ll need, and a step-by-step installation guide for standard planks. Note that slightly different installation techniques are needed if you’re installing hardwood in a herringbone pattern. They’ll help you decide if doing it yourself is the right choice. The biggest piece of advice we’d give is to not underestimate the time it takes to install hardwood flooring – making sure you have optimum working conditions will ensure optimum results.


Here’s a list of the essential tools and supplies you’ll need for the installation of solid hardwood floors.

Power Tools: Compound miter saw, jigsaw, circular saw if installing subflooring, jamb saw for cutting door stops – though you might be able to use a jigsaw or hand saw.

Installation Tools: Air compressor and nailer. Tape Measure.

Supplies: Chalk line, vapor barrier, nails for the nail gun and for hand-nailing first and last boards. You should also consider wearing safety goggles for all cutting jobs.


The first step is to get rid of any existing flooring and shoe molding. If it is carpet, make sure you nail down or remove the padding staples. A flat shovel is a great tool for removing staples and loose debris. Remove the tack strip too, of course. If it was vinyl flooring or linoleum flooring, get rid of glue by sanding it down or scraping it off with a flat shovel. If it tears out wood with it, fill the gap with wood filler and sand the rest.

The subfloor should be OSB or plywood and needs to be reasonably level. If it contains significant dips, you may need to fill the dips with something. One favorite technique of Home Flooring Pros is to use 3-tab, single-layer asphalt shingles, or parts of them, to raise low spots. Once that is done, a final subfloor layer of plywood is necessary to give the hardwood flooring a uniform base.

If the subfloor is high in spots, you can sand it if it is plywood. If OSB, you’ll need to pull the sheet and sand or plane the crown on the joist below. Glue and screw down the OSB when replacing it.

Walk all the subfloor listening for squeaks. If you find one, pull the subfloor, add glue and screw it down too.

If you’ve got a concrete floor beneath, you’ll need to install a wood subfloor. Another option is to use engineered wood flooring directly over concrete. That’s a very good choice when you’ve got radiant heat in the concrete floor.

For installation over OSB or plywood, you might want to install a vapor barrier. Get the wood dealer’s recommendation on using a barrier. Tar paper and felt are best, and there should be an overlap of 4”.

Related Reading:
How to Remove Carpet
How to Remove Vinyl Flooring
How to Remove Floor Tile
How to Remove Laminate Flooring


Bring the flooring into your home a week to 10 days before installation to let it adjust to the climate. This is especially necessary in winter. Then, before you start, mix 3-5 boxes of wood to ensure a blend of tones and shades.

Step 1: Decide which Direction to Install the Wood

If the subfloor is very solid and there are few dips, then you can lay the planks either direction. If there is any concern about the subfloor, installation of the solid hardwood floor planks should be perpendicular to the joists.

Step 2: Get the First Row Right

When installation of the first row is correct, the rest of the job can go very smoothly. When possible, start along the longest run of outside wall in the room. Snap a chalk line 3/8” out from the base of the wall, and align your wood planks with the chalk. The gap will be covered by molding, and you’ll get off to a straight start.

The nailing face of the board is below the surface. Do not use your pneumatic nailer because its power will knock the plank off the chalk line. Instead, drill pilot holes for your nails and countersink them with a nail-set. Don’t drive the nails directly with a hammer because you’ll risk hitting the top of the plank with the head and damaging the wood.

Depending on the style and size of your nailing tool, you may have to install several rows in this manner until you’ve got room for the tool.

Step 3: Install the Flooring Field

The boards of the floor are known as the “field.” Once you’ve got room to use your power nailer, nail each new piece through the tongue and into the subfloor or joist. Make sure your pneumatic tool is correctly set so that the nail head is level with the wood or slightly below the wood service. Back off on the power if the tool is driving the nail too far into the hardwood flooring plank.

Stagger the planks in the field so that ends of pieces that are side by side don’t align. A random look is more preferred.

Step 4: Measure and Cut Boards for Going Around Vents

HVAC registers in the floor need special attention. Make careful measurements and use a jigsaw along with your miter saw to make the necessary cuts. If you make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world. Just cut the board before and after the mistake and save the pieces as filler.

Step 5: Cut Door Stops and Trim to Meet the New Floor

When going through doorways, start by cutting away material from the stops and the trim so that they are the right height for the new flooring. That’s easier than making the difficult scribe cut around the stops. Then, trim your flooring to fit before laying it. Measure twice as they say, and cut only once. With practice, you’ll soon get the hang of trimming and make very few mistakes.

Step 6: Hand Nail the Last Few Boards

When you get to the far side of the room, you’ll have the same issue you started with. Your nailer won’t fit. So, you’ll have to drill pilot holes and blind nail the boards using a nail set. Be sure to trim the last board so that a 3/8” gap exists between it and the wall. This allows for expansion of the wood in warm and humid weather. If it is too tight, it will buckle in high humidity and warmth. The gap will be covered by the shoe molding.


Installation of shoe molding completes the job and gives the room the finished look you want. There are many different options for this molding. Select a style that works well with the total design scheme you are aiming to achieve. Painting or staining the trim before it is installed, then touching it up afterwards, will save time and hassle.

Installation FAQs

Q: How long does it take to install hardwood flooring?
A: On average it takes between 10-15 days to install hardwood floors.

Q: What is the best time of year to install hardwood flooring?
A: Home Flooring Pros recommend spring and fall when the humidity tends to be the most “average” for the year. This will allow the wood to quickly acclimate and prevent problems that occur when installing wood that is too humid or too dry.

Q: What’s the right humidity for installation?
A: Relative humidity should be 35% on the low side and 60% on the high side. Get an inexpensive hygrometer to measure it. You may need to use a dehumidifier or air conditioner in the summer or a humidifier in the winter to get the humidity within acceptable ranges.

Q: What is the best moisture barrier?
A: Most hardwood installation pros use 15lb black flooring paper made for use with hardwoods.

Q: How often should each piece be nailed?
A: Place a nail every 8”, but avoid placing a nail within 4” of the end of a board to avoid having it split.

Q: Can hardwood floors be glued to concrete?
A: No. Solid wood expands and contracts with changes in humidity and temperature. Gluing it to any surface will lead to cracking and other issues. It should not be used over concrete unless it is a floating wood floor or there is a subfloor beneath it.

Q: Can hardwood flooring be used in a basement?
A: Any level of a home that is below grade will probably have more moisture near the floor than isn’t good for wood flooring. The wood can absorb the moisture and buckle. Engineered wood is a better choice for basement flooring.

Related Reading: Basement Floor Ideas

Q: Can solid wood flooring be used over radiant floor heating?
A: Yes it can, but a subfloor must be used. When nailing down the floor, be careful of the underlying water lines if they are exposed. Home flooring pros recommend installation of quartersawn hardwood over radiant heat systems.


Solid hardwood floors are quite tough, and today’s technologically advanced finishes add to their ability to withstand scratches, dents and spills. However, they are not indestructible, and there are some things  you should keep in mind when planning for solid hardwood flooring maintenance and care. A little TLC goes a long way with wood flooring


Less is more with solid hardwood floors :

  • Sweep your flooring regularly and then clean with a mop that is only slightly damp.
  • A very light vacuum can be used for sweeping if you have dust allergies and don’t want to use a broom.
  • A vacuum without a beater bar, just suction, is preferred.
  • Use floor cleaners that are recommended by your solid hardwood manufacturer or retailer.
  • Avoid scratches and dents by using mats, rugs and furniture pads
  • Avoid water damage and clean up liquid spills immediately.

For more detailed tips and advice, be sure to check out our in-depth article how to clean hardwood floors and get some top tips on how to make hardwood flooring shine.


Your hardwood floors will get scratches in the protective finish, and that is to be expected. Most won’t be visible. Putting on a new top coat after 3-4 years can rejuvenate the luster of the floor.

For deeper scratches that are visible, you’ve got several options:

  • Use a cotton swab to apply stain to the scratch.
  • Use a scratch kit from the wood manufacturer.
  • Use a magic marker of similar color for very small scratches.
  • Use a wax stick of the same color as the stain.
  • If your floor is not prefinished, you may be able to sand out scratches and reapply the finish.


One of the benefits of solid hardwood flooring is that it can be refinished multiple times before it needs to be replaced. Depending on the level of traffic your floor gets, it may last 7-20 years before refinishing becomes a necessity. The average age for refinishing is 12 years.

Refinishing hardwood flooring can be a DIY project for handy homeowners. There are plenty of pros around too who can restore your floors to their original beauty or give them a different finish if you’d prefer.


Q: How do you keep hardwood floors warm in winter

A: To keep warm wood floors all year round consider installing underfloor radiant heating. If that’s out of your budget then strategically placed area rugs are a goo idea too.

Q: What cleaning options are bad for floors?
A: DO NOT use a steam cleaner on hardwood flooring. The cleaner will force moisture into the cracks and crevices, and that is the best way to destroy solid wood flooring. Water and vinegar have been used for a century or more, but it is not recommended for today’s floors. Avoid ammonia cleaners too. Do not use wax on floors with polyurethane finishes because they will dull the finish.

Q: Can juice stains be removed from hardwood floors?
A: If the stain has penetrated into the wood, it will be impossible to remove without sanding. The good news is that most of today’s prefinished hardwood floors stand up to juice, wine and oil quite well. Clean up any spills as soon as they occur.

Q: What should you do if your hardwood floor gets really wet?
A: if the floor gets a good soaking from a pipe leaking or something similar, don’t panic. Soak up all the water you can as quickly as possible. Use absorbent towels for the purpose. Then, place a fan so that it moves air directly over the floor. If it is summer, turn up the air conditioner since ACs are wonderful dehumidifiers.

Q: Can you mop hardwood floors?
A: Yes, but do not make the mop overly wet. Wring it our completely so the mop is just damp, se the mop to clean the floor and the slight dampness with take up the dust.