The Best Wood For Floors: Your Complete Walkthrough

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Hardwood floors bring character and personality to your home and work perfectly for traditional and contemporary designs alike. There are many types of wooden floors to choose from, which makes the selection that much harder. 

Every hardwood floor brings its own unique qualities and characteristics, and I’m sure you’d want the very best for your home. Your wood floors need to be able to withstand the test of time (and the wrath of pets and babies), so where do you go from here? How do you choose the best and most durable wooden floors for your space? 

Rest easy because I’ve got your back. I’m going to take you through a detailed account of all the types of woods that make exceptional floors and whether you should invest in them or not. 

Let’s get started.

How To Pick The Best Floor Wood Among The Pile

Before I tell you all the different options you have, you first need to understand how to pick the best type of wood for your floors. There’s much more to it than color and texture. 

Here are the main considerations for you to keep in mind when looking for the best wood for your floors.

Your Budget

You should determine your budget before you head out hunting. The cost of the floors and the materials vary substantially depending on the amount you need. So you need to sort this one out first. (Don’t forget to account for installation costs as well.)

The Location

The amount of foot traffic you get determines which wood should be in which room. You might want to choose a more durable wood if you’ve got kids or animals running around in the house. 

Maintenance & Durability 

Your wooden floor should be easy to clean and repair. Its durability shouldn’t decrease with the frequency of use. It should also allow you to reseal and repair it if needed. 

The floor should also have enough water-resistant and stain-resistant qualities, including strength and scratch resistance. 


The aesthetic appeal of each type of wood floor is a strong factor to consider. Keep in mind furniture, wall colors, natural light, and more to help you visualize the overall look and feel you’re aiming for.

Wood Flooring Options

There are 6 main types of hardwood flooring options to choose from to bring a splash of character and style to your space. 

1. Solid Unfinished Planks

100% genuine hardwood installed without an additional factory finish makes up the solid unfinished planks. It’s a great option if you want to customize the stain and have it applied before the final finishing process. This is also the best option if you’re trying to repair a broken wooden floor or trying to transition between two floors and need to match the color and texture. 

Once the solid unfinished planks are installed, and the staining process is over, several coats of protective finish are applied to seal it. These floors are particularly one of the best hardwood types for the kitchens because the finish tends to penetrate down to the seams and seal it there, which prevents the water from seeping down, making them water-resistant. 


  • It costs around $3-5 per sq foot for the materials and the labor.
  • They’re moisture resistant.
  • The seal is applied after so it covers the entire floor, including the seams. 
  • They can be refined and sanded several times.


  • They take a lot of work to get the job done, so they’re labor-intensive. 
  • Will require repeated sealing and retouching. 

2. Solid Prefinished Planks 

As the name suggests, prefinished wood flooring comes from the factory already sealed and sanded. It means that the installation job isn’t as labor-intensive as the unfinished planks. You don’t have to deal with strong odors, and the floor doesn’t need any extra time to dry down because it’s ready to walk on after installation. 


  • Prefinished hardwood costs around $5-8 per sq foot and an additional $3-7 for installation. 
  • The installation is much faster, and there’s no need for an extra finish.
  • It gives a uniform look and a durable, multi-layer finish. 


  • Since there’s no extra finish covering the seams, the bevels and the seams are more prominent.
  • Prefinished planks are susceptible to water and moisture damage since water can easily seep down the floor between the unfinished seams. 
  • The repairs aren’t easy because it’s hard to match the original planks. 

3. Reclaimed Hardwood Planks

Reclaimed hardwood flooring uses planks made out of old wood from buildings, huts, and construction sites. It’s inspected for nails, damage, and termite infestation before it’s sent off to be processed in the mills. This type of wood brings a lot of uniqueness and character to your home and can be a great conversation starter. 


  • It has a unique vintage and weathered look to it. 
  • Since this is available in the market in limited supply, there’s a lot of added value to it. 
  • It’s excellent for the environment since you’re using old wood instead of buying newer cut ones. 


  • It’s expensive! Including installation, reclaimed hardwood can cost up to $20 per square foot. The prices may increase further depending upon availability, reclamation, and restoration. 
  • Supply is almost always limited. Reclaimed wood is hard to find, and you may not be able to get your hands on enough good-quality planks for a large space. 
  • They’re prone to infestation. Pests, including woodworm, can easily infest your planks if they’re not appropriately kiln-baked. 

4. Hand-Scraped Planks

If you’re looking for a more earthy-toned wood that gives a rustic aesthetic, hand-scraped planks are perfect for you. They look best in traditional homes and cabins. 


  • Hand-scraped wood is known for its weathered look, which works to your advantage because minor dents, cuts, scrapes, and scratches blend in well with the overall texture of the wood to add more character to the overall aesthetic. 
  • It’s easier to maintain compared to the other types of wood.
  • Because of how well it hides imperfections, it’s the perfect choice for families with children and pets. 


  • The installation and hand scraping are labor-intensive, and the wood itself is costly, so it rounds up to about $10-20 per sq foot installed
  • The installation is tricky and needs to be installed professionally. 

5. Engineered Wood Flooring

Engineered wood flooring consists of a fiberboard and plywood base layer with an additional thin layer of solid hardwood veneer on top. Engineered wood is thought of as fake flooring, but there’s absolutely nothing fake about it; it’s merely a different flooring type as compared to solid wood.


  • Engineered hardwood flooring falls in the midrange and costs $6-$12 per sq foot.
  • They look exactly like solid wood flooring and aren’t easily distinguishable.
  • They’re much more resilient and resistant to water damage than solid planks.
  • Great to be installed with radiant heating systems.


  • More susceptible to scruffs and scratches than other solid floors.
  • Because of the thinness of the veneer, you can refinish it only a few times.
  • Tend to fade with continual exposure to light

6. Wood-Look Laminate Flooring

Wood-look laminate isn’t wood, but it’s a great inexpensive option if you’re on a tight budget and need to remodel. It’s a layer of laminated, printed plastic that’s made to look like real wood planks and is glued to a base of high-density fiberboard.


  • The price for laminate flooring costs around $3-$8 per sq foot, including installation, which is relatively inexpensive.
  • It gives a neat and uniform look.
  • It requires minimal maintenance, and it’s easy to clean.


  • It’s pretty easy to tell that it’s not real wood.
  • It can get water damaged rather easily.
  • You can’t refinish in case of damage. You’d have to replace the flooring entirely.

The Best Types Of Wood For Your Floors

Now that we’ve gone over the types of wood flooring in the market, we can look at the wood species. Here, you can focus on design, pattern, cost, and maintenance along with hardness and durability.

1. Hickory

Hickory is a gorgeous and unique wood with a lot of grain character. It’s one of the most durable wood species with a Janka score of 1820 and gives you a scratch-resistant wood floor. Because of how durable it is, it’s excellent for high-traffic areas like hallways and living rooms.


  • Natural hickory is a sustainable wood flooring species.
  • It lightens up the room because of its characteristic rustic grain character and natural tone.
  • Stains quickly and the finish is excellent.
  • Hickory is harder than oak flooring.
  • It’s durable and requires less maintenance than other types of hardwood species.
  • Hickory is great for temperate and humid environments and doesn’t get damaged because of moisture damage.
  • Because of its authenticity, hickory flooring increases your home’s resale value in the market.
  • It’s less expensive than other exotic floorings.


  • Expensive.
  • Because of its hardness, hickory isn’t an easy wood to deal with for beginners and makes DIY projects difficult to execute.
  • Hickory’s grain pattern is off-putting for many people, but that’s mainly a personal preference.

2. Santos Mahogany

Santos Mahogany is one of the most durable exotic woods you can find on the market. It’s famous for its hardness, with a Janka score of 2200 on the scale. Most mahogany floors that you see are made up of Santos Mahogany. It’s a great choice for bedrooms and kitchens.


  • Mahogany is famous for its striking, deep color. New mahogany starts with a slightly pale color that tends to darken over time when exposed to the sun.
  • It’s hard and durable, making it a great choice for living rooms and families with pets.
  • It’s relatively easy to work with, and the installation process is relatively painless.
  • Mahogany floors are easy to clean and maintain. All you need is a sweep with a dry mop or a swipe of your vacuum cleaner. You can also spot clean stains with a microfibre cloth, warm water, and vinegar.


  • Not a great choice if you’re on a tight budget.
  • Since mahogany’s color changes over time, you’ll never know what color your floors will end up being, which may clash with the entire aesthetic of your home.
  • If you have never had any experience wood shopping, it would be tricky to identify true mahogany. Unless you’re buying from a certified dealership, it’s easy to get duped.

3. Oak

Oak is one of the most common woods sold for flooring. It’s a great choice for living rooms and hallways. With a Janka score of 1300+, it falls in the middle of the scale, but that in no way means it’s a weak wood.


  • Oak will always be considered a high-end material which will make people instantly put a higher value on your house.
  • Appearance-wise, oak is stunning. It’s classy and gives an air of sophistication to every room it’s put in.
  • Oak is generally a durable wood and resistant to wear and tear while being water-resistant.
  • Easy to maintain; all it needs is one sweep with a mop.


  • If your room is well lit with natural sunlight, the color of your oak floors will fade over time.
  • Though it’s durable, it’s still not scratch resistant. Sharp and heavy items tend to leave their impression on oak woods easily.

4. Ebony

Ebony is an extremely strong wood with a 3220 on the Janka scale, but the most appealing thing about it is that it’s the only wood in the entire world that’s naturally black.


  • Because of its dark color, authentic ebony adds character to your home and can be a great conversation starter.
  • Because of its durability and strength, it’s an excellent choice for hallways, living rooms, and kitchens because it can withstand high temperatures and occasional spills (daily, if you’re me). 


  • Because it’s such a rare species, ebony is really hard to find.
  • It’s an expensive wood because it’s so high in demand.
  • The durability and hardness of ebony may pose a problem since contractors usually find it difficult to work with. You might have to find a specialist.

5. Bamboo

Ok, yes. We know that bamboo isn’t technically wood but since it looks and behaves like pure wood, we tend to categorize it as such, and that’s why it’s on this list.


  • Bamboo is HARD. You’d think that it would be soft because it isn’t technically wood, but it rates higher than oak on the Janka scale with a whopping score of 3800+.
  • The best option in the market for people looking for eco-friendly and sustainable wood flooring options. It grows quickly and easily and can be replanted.
  • It’s readily available.
  • Inexpensive.
  • It provides a clean contemporary look and is a great option for modern homes.
  • Easy to clean with a mop.


  • Unfinished bamboo floors scratch easily.
  • Not a good choice for basements and bathrooms since it readily absorbs moisture and water.
  • It doesn’t work well with decor or houses with a traditional look.

5. Ipe (Brazilian Walnut)

Brazilian Walnut or Ipe has one of the highest Janka ratings and is on top of the list for the most durable exotic woods.

The Pros

  • Brazilian walnut is a gorgeous exotic wood, and this characteristic alone makes it hard to resist. It’s quite appealing and a great conversation topic for when you have guests over.
  • Walnut floors will last 100 years and maybe even after that. 
  • The material is hard and durable, which makes it scratch resistant. It doesn’t bend or form dents easily, making it great for homes with children and pets.
  • The beauty of a walnut floor can be refreshed by refinishing it, which also improves its longevity.
  • While most woods attract bugs and termites, walnuts do not.


  • It’s expensive.
  • There’s a higher installation cost for Ipe because the installation technique is more labor-intensive and requires more time.
  • Not an easy wood to work with for beginners.

Which Type of Wood is Best for Flooring?

The best type of wood for flooring are the ones that are durable, inexpensive, and readily available. These include oak, maple, cherry, and mahogany. Other species include hickory, teak, and ebony.

Which Is Better: Solid Hardwood or Engineered Hardwood? 

Engineered wood flooring is the better and less expensive option among the two since it performs well in high humid and moisture environments. On top of that, it’s stronger than solid hardwood because of its added layers. 

The Best Wood Floors For Your Space

At the end of the day, the best type of wood for flooring depends on you. Wood has a variety of different characteristics that fulfill each need differently. You get to decide which type can turn a house into a home. 

Which are you leaning more towards? Comment your top picks below and let us know! We’d love to hear about your thought process.

Photo of author


Joe McGuinty
I’ve been working with floors for over 12 years. I started as a flooring contractor, primarily in materials selection. Then, I switched careers into accounting, so my wife and I began buying, renovating, and re-selling homes on the side. You’d be surprised how much value you can add to a home simply by adding new floors.

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