Flooring Buying Guide

In today’s slow housing market, it’s more important than ever to think about which home improvements will add value. Whether you’re looking to sell or simply change your look for the future, a new hardwood floor is a great choice. For an experienced contractor, choosing the right flooring is simple. But for the average Do-it-yourselfer, the number of options can often be overwhelming. The following guide will help you find the perfect floor based on your needs.



The subfloor in a room will determine what types of flooring you can install. The first consideration is whether your subfloor is concrete, plywood, or particle board.


The primary type of flooring recommended for a concrete subfloor is engineered, meaning that the flooring is pieced together in layers, as opposed to solid hardwood flooring. Engineered flooring can be glued down or floated over a concrete subfloor. In addition cork, laminates, and bamboo can be installed over a concrete subfloor.

An important consideration with concrete subfloors is the level of moisture. The subfloor should be tested for moisture prior to any installation and, if necessary, treated with Bostik’s MVP Moisture Protection solution.


Our primary recommendation for a plywood subfloor is hardwood flooring, which can be nailed down or floated. Cork, laminates, and bamboo can also be used over a plywood subfloor. In addition, cork tiles can be glued down.

An important consideration in a nail down installation over plywood is that the base must be a minimum of 5/8" thick.

Particle Board

If your subfloor is particle board then a nail installation cannot be used. Your only options is a floated floor, which can include hardwood, bamboo, engineered, and cork.

Types of Flooring

Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood flooring offers solid construction, as it is milled from one thick piece of wood. This allows it to be sanded and refinished several times, meaning that the resulting finishes are of the highest quality. Brands include Bellawood, carrying a 50 year warranty, as well as Virginia Millworks and Dura-Wood come with a 25 year warranty.

Engineered Flooring

Engineered flooring is produced by adhering layers of real hardwood with a plywood backing. Since they are bonded together, this type of flooring is less likely to be affected by changes in humidity. Engineered wood floors make an excellent choice over concrete sub-floors, radiant heat or areas with higher moistures. Brands including Schon and Virginia Millworks carry a 30 year warranty, while Timber Top comes with a 15 year warranty.

Bamboo Flooring

Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on Earth making it an ecologically sound choice in flooring. Bamboo is actually a grass and has an extensive root system that creates new bamboo shoots and requires no replanting. Although Bamboo floors can be as hard as Maple there are no known values set for its hardness. That being said, they will still dent, ding or scratch like any other wood. Bamboo is a very dense grass product and should be treated just like a fine piece of furniture. Brands Schon and Morning Star carry a 30 year warranty, while Supreme Bamboo comes with a 15 year warranty.

Cork Flooring

Cork flooring is durable, acoustical and an insulator. It comes from harvesting the outer bark of the cork tree found mostly in the Mediterranean region. It is considered a green product because the same tree can be harvested numerous times. The primary brand, Lisbon Cork, includes a 25 year warranty.

Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is typically constructed with a high density fiber board core, sandwiched between a melamine laminate backing, high quality photographic paper with an image of wood and a ceramic finish, abrasion resistant laminate top. Brands include Dream Home, with warranties from 10 to 25 years, as well as St. James with a 30 year warranty.

Floor Grades

Floors are ranked using grades based on appearance, length and size of knots. Higher grades are considered to be of a higher quality and thus, generally carry a higher price.


Select grade has the most uniform color with no knots and the longest average length of planks. Also referred to as Clear or First Grade


Natural grade has some color variation, mineral coloring and small pin knots. Also referred to as #1 Grade or Second Grade


Tavern grade has extreme color indifference, knots, and shorter boards within the flooring.


Rustic Grade has larger tight knots and the most color variation. Also referred to as #2 or Third Grade.

Utility Grade

Utility grade will have defects, knots, open knots, missing tongues, machine burns, splits in the wood and short pieces (12"-8"). No returns allowed. This product comes in square-edge or v-groove and may be mixed product.

Types of Wood

All of the species of flooring are broken down into three main categories. Based on color, they are considered to be light, medium or dark. Using these categories, you can select finishes that will best match the color scheme and furniture of your room.

Caring for Your Floor

Cracks Are normal, and can appear and disappear between floor boards during seasons of high and low humidity. Generally, anything less than the width of a dime is considered normal, and will correct itself as seasons change.

If the humidity level increases, the wood will absorb moisture and begin to swell, cup or buckle. Maintaining indoor temperatures at 65-85°F and the humidity at 30-50% will add life to your floors add give you years of problem free service.

Whether finished or unfinished, all wood can change color over time due to oxidation and when exposed to light. Some species darken in color over time, while others tend to lighten. There is no known set value for “color fastness” of a species, so contractors and or customers should be aware of this normal condition.

Finally, keep your wood floors looking their best by properly maintaining them. Use a cleaning product that’s recommended for your floors and use it regularly to keep them looking beautiful for years to come. Our finishes are Water based Urethanes so whichever product you choose to use, ensure its compatibility with your new flooring.

This article was provided by Lumber Liquidators. For more information on flooring installation, visit the flooring 101 section 101 of the Lumber Liquidators website.

Article Author

Lumber Liquidators has the largest inventory of hardwood flooring in the United States. We offer incredible deals on solid hardwood flooring starting at $.89 a square foot. Our inventory includes Bellawood prefinished flooring with a 100 year warranty- the best in the industry, Morning Star Bamboo Flooring with a 30 year warranty and Virginia Mill Works Handscraped Rustic Flooring. Lumber Liquidators offers solid and engineered hardwood floors in domestic species and hard to find exotics such as Bolivian Rosewood, Birdseye Maple, and Brazilian Cherry. At Lumber Liquidators you get More Floor for Less $$$. Visit us online at www.lumberliquidators.com, by phone at 1-800-HARDWOOD or visit any of our over 160 Nationwide store locations. Catalogs and samples are available. No one else has hardwood flooring for less.

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