Solid wood flooring is 100% hardwood milled from lumber. As a natural material, hardwood reacts to changes in its setting, like moisture and extreme temperatures, which cause solid wood to shrink or expand. All solid hardwood can be sanded and refinished if needed over the years. Solid hardwood is not recommended for installation below ground level or in bathrooms.
Engineered wood flooring is built up of layers of wood. It consists of three to ten layers, called plies, that are glued together. This multi-ply structure gives engineered wood superior stability, greater than solid wood, which reduces concerns associated with shrinking and expanding when temperature and humidity change. Engineered wood can be installed below ground level making it a great choice for finished basements.
Prefinished vs. Site-Finished Hardwood
All Armstrong hardwood flooring comes pre-finished for a no fuss, no muss installation. There's no dust from sanding, no fumes from chemicals, no waiting for the finish to dry. These floors are warranted to last longer than site-finished floors–typically 5 to 35 years, for residential use versus 3 to 5 years. This is because factory applied urethane finishes are much tougher and longer lasting than site-applied finishes. If you like the look of site-finished flooring, but want the durability of prefinished flooring, choose a product with a square end and edge.
Related Article: Benefits of Prefinished Hardwood Flooring
The great variety in wood flooring choices comes from the species’ natural colors, stains and finishes, and even the wood’s tendency to lighten or darken subtly with age and sun exposure. Home lighting is a factor in how your finished floor will look, too. Ask your retailer for samples to view in your home, or order them yourself on our website.
Board-to-Board Color Variation
Natural hardwood boards vary in color from board-to-board. This variation is part of the beauty of wood flooring. The amount of color variation is determined by the species. To see the color variation level for a product, go to the bottom of the product detail page and look for this image.
Armstrong offers a wide selection of wood species to match any design style. The differences in wood species are as fascinating as they are beautiful, from the pronounced grain of oak to the fine, straight grain of maple, and from the dark elegance of walnut to the bright, warm tones of ash. Exotics like tigerwood and Brazilian cherry offer striking looks to create a bold design statement.
Hardwoods used in flooring are given a hardness rating which indicates how resistant the wood is to dents and wear. As you would expect, harder woods are better able to withstand indentations than softer woods. Consider oak, maple, ash or Brazilian cherry for the greatest durability. Check the hardness rating for a product on the product detail page. Scroll to the bottom and look for this image.
Hardwood flooring can come in strips or planks. “Strips” are board widths of less than three inches. “Planks” are three inches or wider. Board width dramatically affects the installed look of a floor. Wide width hardwood planks are lovely in a large room, but can overwhelm a small one. Select what works with the style and size of your room.
The way the edges and the ends of the boards are cut is called edge/end detail. Options include square, microbeveled, eased and beveled. For a dramatic effect, select a beveled edge/end detail that emphasizes the definition of individual boards. Square edges/ends create a smooth and nearly seamless appearance.
Whether you choose high-gloss or low-gloss, neither will affect the durability or performance of hardwood flooring. Low-gloss and light-colored floors can hide the minor scratches that can accumulate over time. Higher gloss floors don’t hide scratches as well.
Whether your tastes run to hand-sculpted, traditional or exotic, you’ll find a look you’ll love in Armstrong’s hardwood flooring. Explore the many looks available from a smooth surface that enhances a sleek, sophisticated, more contemporary décor to a hand-scraped surface that creates a more casual look.
Hardwood floors are versatile and beautiful, but they’re not the best material for every room. In bathrooms, humidity and the potential for pooling water can create problems. Solid hardwood floors or engineered hardwood floors in half-baths—with no shower or tub—are at less risk from moisture.
With the exception of bathrooms and laundry rooms, solid hardwood flooring is great in any room on the ground floor or above. Below ground, in basements where air and moisture issues can be factors, only engineered hardwood, or laminate, vinyl or linoleum flooring are recommended.
Kids, Pets and Durability
Hardwood flooring can be durable and hard as nails, but sports shoes with cleats, a stone in a sneaker tread or pet claws are examples of things that can leave significant scratches. For hardwood floor areas with high traffic, or in rooms off foyers, a please-remove-shoes-at-the-door policy is a helpful rule to institute.
Due to the toughness of factory-applied urethane finishes, prefinished hardwood floors are typically warranted to last 5 to 35 years, versus just 3 to 5 years for site-finished floors. Prefinished hardwood floors from Armstrong carry a lifetime warranty on structural integrity.
Hardwood Visual Quality
At lower price points, you will typically see more knots, board to board color variations and natural imperfections in hardwood. As prices increase, the wood may be more consistent in color, depending on the type and look you're going for. Expect to pay more for wide plank hardwood (5" or wider).
Species and Specialty Visuals
At the high end of the price range, you'll find greater consistency and fewer visual defects, and specialty visuals like color-washing, hand-sculpting, and finishes that produce deeper, richer colors. Higher-end hardwood offers more exotic types of wood, such as cabreuva, and other domestic exotic species.
With engineered hardwood, the number of layers in the core and the thickness of the face are the two primary performance and cost drivers. At the lower cost range, expect to see three layers, at the mid-price range, five layers, and at the high end, look for seven layers or more. As the thickness of the top layer or face of the product increases, cost will typically increase as well, providing you the ability to sand and refinish if you ever need to, just like solid hardwood.
Don’t forget to factor-in the cost of removing and disposing of your old floor. Depending upon where you live, what type of floor you are having removed, and your agreement with your installer, budget around $2.00 per square foot to have it removed and hauled away.
Construction & Installation Options
The installation options available to you will vary depending on the width, thickness, and construction of the hardwood you choose and where you are going to install it. Products with Lock&Fold® technology are the fastest and easiest to install without glue, staples or nails and are perfect for DIY hardwood flooring. Engineered hardwood can typically be stapled, glued, or floated (product attaches to itself, not the subfloor) the options will vary depending on product chosen. Solid hardwood flooring is nailed/stapled to a wood sub-floor.
Concrete and Moisture
Installing a hardwood floor over concrete that has too much moisture is a common mistake. This occurs frequently in new construction where the concrete has been power washed and/or when new concrete hasn't sufficiently dried. Refer to the installation instructions for more information.
Be sure to leave sufficient room for expansion around the perimeter of the room. This is necessary to accommodate for the expansion and contraction in the wood due to temperature and humidity changes.
Armstrong Certified Installers
No one provides more depth and breadth of knowledge and installation experience with our products than an Armstrong Certified Installer. We recommend that you speak with your retailer to find an Armstrong Certified Installer to provide you with an accurate installed cost estimate