There are different ways to categorize hardwood flooring, including by the type of wood, the form of the material, and the way the wood is laid out. Considering what kind of traffic and wear the floor will receive is key in deciding what type of flooring a person should use.
In terms of the material used, there are many hard woods that are used for flooring. Perhaps the most common include maple, oak, and walnut, although exotic woods like teak can also be used. A hardwood floor can also be made out of pine, although it is technically a soft wood.
In addition to the type of wood, hardwood flooring also varies in the form of the wood. It can be solid wood, engineered wood, or acrylic impregnated wood. Solid hardwood is just that — solid. Engineered hardwood takes thinner pieces of wood and layers them on top of each other, alternating the grain of the layers in different directions. This cris-cross effect makes this type of floor able to withstand more weight and force. Acrylic impregnated hardwood is made of a combination of solid wood and acrylic to create a stronger material that can withstand heavy traffic.
Another way to categorize hardwood floors is the size of the material and the way it is laid out. Wood can be measured in strips, which are long pieces of wood that can vary in width from 1.5 inches to 2.25 inches (about 3.8 to 5.7 centimeters) in width. Planks are another style and are also long pieces of wood, but they are wider than strips — at least 3 inches (about 7.6 centimeters) wide. Parquet flooring is a little more intricate, using pieces of wood and configuring them in a geometric pattern. A parquet floor often takes the form of small strips of wood that produce small squares in alternating directions, but it can also have a zig-zag look or other design.
Installation methods are another way to differentiate types of hardwood floor. Many types of flooring — including engineered products &mash; are affixed to the flooring beneath it, by nails, glue, or staples.
Another type is known as a floating floor because isn't attached to the subfloor. A foam underlay is laid on top of the subfloor to absorb sound and protect against moisture, and the pieces of hardwood are then laid on top of that. The material isn't attached to the floor, however; instead, the pieces are glued or snapped together in a tongue and groove fashion and the entire floor simply "floats" above the subfloor. Floating hardwood floors are often preferred because they are easy to install and generally can be put in over nearly any surface.
How the hardwood is treated is another consideration. Wood can be stained to give it a dark or light appearance. Alternate treatments are also available such as crackling, whitewashing, or antiquing. Some hardwoods are simply left natural or untreated.
Types of hardwood floor can vary in the finishing, or top coat, of the material, although some are left unfinished. Finished floors can use a top coat that simply lies on the surface or penetrates deeper into the wood. Surface finishes include urethanes and varnishes, and the differences between these types of finishes involve considerations of drying time, ease in application, odor, and durability. Some finishes penetrate into the hardwood more than surface finishes do and require an additional coat of wax to give the surface a sheen. The sheen that the finish provides is another differentiation, with high gloss, low gloss, and satin finishes available.
Many alternatives to hardwood flooring also exist. Laminate flooring, for example, uses high-density fiberboard and melamine laminate instead of wood. This product gives the appearance of hardwood at a fraction of the cost.