There are some aspects of our home decor where it is natural to look for values. If you are looking for an end table for a college dorm, or a rug for a fickle teenager’s bedroom, it might make sense to look for lower cost items that might not be as durable. If you repaint every year, it may not make sense to invest in high end long-wearing paint, since it will be covered well before it would look faded and old.
Other elements of your home design probably justify a little more expense. If you have chosen to go to the expense of installing real hardwood floors, you don’t want buyers remorse in a year when you can’t stand the look, or a cheaper option didn’t provide the durability you needed for your high traffic entryway. Having said that, there is no such thing as the “best”, since there is no one size fits all option. Knowing what the best type of hardwood for your situation is key to remaining happy with your floor for years to come.
What is the Aesthetic of the Room?
A major part of choosing hardwood is understanding what look you are going for. A traditional grained wood like oak is going to be fairly versatile, and will work with almost any style. If you want a statement flooring, you may want to choose an exotic like acacia. A larger room may work better with wide plank versus narrow plank flooring.
Knowing what look you are going for will help you decide what is best for you. The interesting thing about the aesthetic choice is that it is simultaneously the easiest and most difficult part of choosing the best hardwood for you. Experts can tell you a great deal about what type of floor works for certain scenarios, but at the end of the day, no one knows what you like except you.
Choosing the aesthetic should be done early on, since most types of flooring can be produced in whatever color and finish you are looking for, but the wrong floor won’t work in some applications.
Where in the Home Will the Flooring Be?
This is the question that requires a bit more knowledge of building standards, and definitely justifies a conversation with an experienced installer, even if you are going to DIY. There are some general rules that can be followed to make your life easier.
Traditionally, when someone says they are looking at hardwoods, they meant solid wood flooring, made of hewn and sanded planks of a single wood. While that is still the primary intent of the term, modern engineered hardwood or even vinyl planks may be a more appropriate option in certain settings.
While most would consider solid hardwoods the “best” wood flooring, that all changes if the setting isn’t right. If you put traditional hardwood floors in your laundry room, be prepared for warping if your washer springs a leak. True hardwood floors also can’t be installed at or below grade, since excess moisture will cause them to buckle.
In scenarios like this where solid flooring can’t be used, there are really two options. Vinyl flooring can be virtually impervious to water damage, and many of today’s vinyl floors look as good as real hardwoods. These vinyl floors also come in an endless array of finishes, mimicking pretty much any wood you might purchase.
Straddling the line between durability, versatility, and aesthetic, engineered hardwoods can offer the best of both worlds. These are made by sandwiching thin layers of hardwood with high quality plywood. This structure makes it indiscernible from true hardwoods (it literally is the same in the visible surface) while offering increased water and humidity resistance when compared to traditional hardwoods. This means you can install them at or below grade. If you have a slab home, or are really into the idea of hardwood flooring your basement, engineered hardwood is the best option for you.
In summary, there is no single “best” type of hardwood flooring. The best flooring for you will be dependent on several factors that have to be decided before you can say what is best.