Consumers guide to hardwood flooring

Real Estate Sales Representative with Robert W May - Lethbridge Real Estate

While I am no expert in the field, I have bought, sold, and installed several thousand square feet in the past few years.  At the request of some others I thought i would make a brief guide to the variety of hardwood flooring products that are available in my marketplace.


Laminate flooring - this flooring is the cheapest product.  Basically think of it as a piece of hard compressed cardboard with a photograph of wood grain on the top of it.  Some laminate looks convincingly like real hardwood floors, some does not.  All laminate requires a thin underlay product to help cushion it (about 30 to 60 cents a square foot). Cheap quality laminate is thin, the boards do not lock together smoothly, and the photo of woodgrain on the boards is very repetitive, meaning every third or forth board will look the same.  This type of flooring should cost around 79 to 99 cents a square foot.

Some cheaper and older style laminate floor requires that you apply glue between the boards to secure them together.  All newer style has a better tongue and groove which 'clicks' the boards tight together.  Generally, the better quality laminate flooring you buy, the thicker the boards and the better the locking of the boards.  Some high quality laminates ($2/sq foot) are half an inch, some are completely waterproof, and certain brands of laminates are the most durable of all hardwood flooring products.

These are the best product for flips/rentals (cheap) or high traffic locations (durable).  Easy to install it yourself.


Engineered floor/floating floor - this flooring is designed to be laid on concrete, specifically basements and slab homes (also great for theater rooms).  The board is a sandwich with the top layer being real hard wood and the bottom layer being thin plywood.  The product is designed to handle the temperature/moisture characteristics of being laid on concrete.  The cheap stuff can look like laminate, and the more expesive stuff indistinguishable from regular hardwood.  Once again when laying this flooring an vapor barrier underlay is used.  Also, the boards must be glued together with wood glue when installing.  Some variations can be glued down to the subfloor and some thicker versions can be nailed down like regular hardwood.  I prefer the floating variety, which can be used with thicker underlay to help soundproof and really eliminate noise transfer since the floor is not connected.  This product should cost between $1 to $3 a square foot.  A little more work to install because of the glue, but still pretty easy and the only choice for basements.


Hardwood floor - this wood is made from real trees.  It comes in a ton of varieties with oak, maple, cherry, walnut, beech, bamboo, and cork being the most common.  In general, the thicker the board the more expensive.  This is so that should the surface of the floor become scratech, it can be sanded down and refinished, just like the hardwood floors of 100 years ago.  Depending upon the wood type, some hardwood floors are actually not that hard at all, and the surface will scratch easily.  This is especially noticable the darker the color of the floor and the less grainy the wood.  This flooring requires a thin underlayment in most cases and is nailed down securely to the subfloor below it.  For that reason it must be laid over wood subfloor.  Hardwood can be bought from between $2 to $20 a square foot depending on where you get it and how flexible you are on exotic wood type and color.  I have bought it as low as $1/sq foot at auction.  Not the greatest for high traffic locations, kids or pets, but looks amazing and classes up any house.  More work to nail down, probably have to rent the nailer and compressor, etc.

Other considerations

board size - some products have every board in the box the same length and width.  Other products come with an assortment of 4 to 6 different lengths in a box, which is called random length (even though it is not random, its assorted).  Generally, the wider and longer the planks, the more expensive the product.


board type - some boards have bevelled edges which accentuate the seams between boards. 

finishing - some hardwood floor products come prefinished with a varnish/stain already preapplied.  This saves a ton of time and mess for the consumer.  These products are a wonderful time saver and the floor finish will be uniform, much better then trying to finish hardwood by yourself.


pattern - this is my pet peeve area.  Some laminate products have a photo which looks like butcherblock of smaller boards.  Others appear to have no seams and look like a single plank.  It is important when laying the flooring to avoid having seams between planks end up at inappropriate spots or adjacent to each other.  I have seen many floors laid by 'experts' that looked like crap.  If you start every row from the same wall so all your board seems end at the same spot your floor will look like crap.  If you cut every second board in half and do the same thing it will look only marginally better, still better but not by much.  Depending upon your hardwood product, your boards should be laid either in a random length pattern or a pattern of thirds to look their finest. (this is based on my personal experience and the comments of others who have viewed my fine work, lol).  You will discover that random is much harder to do then one would imagine, and certianly much harder then a pattern of thirds.


Robert May is the broker and owner of Rainbow Realty of Lethbridge Alberta. He is also a licensed mortgage associate and financing expert with Canada First Mortgage of Calgary Alberta. He has been in the real estate industry since 1993 and offers full MLS real estate services to Lethbridge and surrounding area, as well as mortgage financing, refinancing/renewals, preapprovals, and home equity financing to Lethbridge and Southern Alberta. He can be found online at

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Robert W May is a Real Estate Broker in Lethbridge Alberta, having now been in the industry for over 23 years. . He was also a licensed Lethbridge mortgage broker and financing expert with Canada First Mortgage of Calgary Alberta for the past 10 years.  He is an industry leader always willing to help train and educate others in how to improve their business models for financial and personal benefit.




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Greg Bell
Bell Inspection Service - Titusville, FL

Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge.

Nov 27, 2008 09:39 PM #1
Carol Swain
Keller Williams Real Estate - Langhorne, PA
Realtor, Bucks County, Pa

Thanks for sharing.  I have never been a fan of laminate wood flooring.  I have always thought it looked cheap in the homes I have seen it in.

Nov 27, 2008 11:41 PM #2
Diane Daley
Caron's Gateway Real Estate - Northumberland, NH

Thanks for the sharing,  I learned something about flooring today...  I used a good laminent in my office when I first opened, I needed the job done fast as the deadline was approaching.  It is a temporary fix; I wanted to use ceremic tile... 

Nov 27, 2008 11:47 PM #3
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
Keller Williams 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce - Short Sale

We have a maple floor in our kitchen/ is gorgeous but you forgot the part about maintenance....ceramic tile...not as warm....a different look and feel but easier to life with...happiest of holidays !

Nov 27, 2008 11:56 PM #4
Richard Pino

Good post. After having my own building and remodeling company for 32 years and installing many hardwood floors, the way to go today if you are installing real hardwood flooring, is with the prefinished micro groove floors. When installed properly you will not see the groove, not as labor intensive as installing unfinished floors.

Nov 28, 2008 12:10 AM #5
Richard Shuman
The Only B.S. I Have is from the University of Massachusetts - Lake Mary, FL
Real Estate Broker - Orlando Area - Love Referrals

great information - I hate laminate and your description should make others hate it too. It's cheap crap!!!

Nov 28, 2008 12:31 AM #6
Paul S. Henderson, REALTOR®,CRS,
RE/MAX Professionals. - Tacoma, WA
Tacoma Washington Agent/Broker & Market Authority!

Robert, This is a great post. I don't ever think I have seen it covered this well, not even in a brochure, good job...

Nov 28, 2008 12:45 AM #7
Mick Michaud
Distinctly Texas Lifestyle Properties, LLC Office:682/498-3107 - Granbury, TX
Your Texas Lifestyle is Here!

Good guide.  Now for the installation manual. 

Rule # 1 when installing traditional T&G real wood floors: WEAR KNEE PADS. 

One day I was wearing shorts while installing red oak flooring in my house with the flooring hammer.  Had my knees right over the seam between the two pieces when I hit the trigger.  Pinched the **** out of my knees.  THEN I remembered the pads.


Nov 28, 2008 12:46 AM #8
Ilyce Glink
Think Glink Media - Chicago, IL
Best-selling author, award-winning TV/radio host.

Robert- Good summary! Thanks for explaining this clearly and easily.

Nov 28, 2008 04:22 AM #9
Robert May
Robert W May - Lethbridge Real Estate - Lethbridge, AB
Real estate consulting

Wow thanks so much for the positive comments people!  I really appreciate the encouragment.

Nov 28, 2008 05:58 AM #10
Richard Pino
RE/Max Advantage Real Estate - Gloucester, MA

Keep in mind that like anything else there are cheap grades as well. Most companies today make three grades to fit every bodies pocketbook. They come in standed grade maybe 10 year warranty, good or builders grade 15 year warranty or better grade,(commercial)20-25 year warranty. The home depots and lowes store that basically sell the cheaper grade and you think that you are getting a bargain.

Most of the laminates are made with wood fibers, are only water resistant, not water proof. In the bathroom area you may want to go to a flooring company and ask about the Wilson Art ProFX. It is their best grade and the core material is 100% plastic.

When using laminates around potential wet floor areas, infront of kitchen sinks, bathtubs, toilets etc. you want to use a 100% silicone adhesive sealer along that 1/4" gap that you are suppose to leave. 

Nov 29, 2008 12:46 AM #11
Robert May
Robert W May - Lethbridge Real Estate - Lethbridge, AB
Real estate consulting

good point Richard.  I am installing 400 square of floating floor tomorrow, yee haw

Dec 02, 2008 09:38 PM #12
Robert May
Robert W May - Lethbridge Real Estate - Lethbridge, AB
Real estate consulting

This post oddly enough is one of my highest points awarded for a blog, I am not sure why this one scored so well.  Glad some people found it helpful though.

Feb 19, 2009 08:18 AM #13
Robert May
Robert W May - Lethbridge Real Estate - Lethbridge, AB
Real estate consulting

Great spam, thanks for stopping to flog your mudd shoes idiot.


I would just like to point out to people how dumb spammers are that they do not realize the blog comments contain a 'no follow' link that prevents them from being spidered by search engines.  So all the effort that idiot puts into putting his link in comments is totally worthless.  It will never get followed or indexed.


Just goes to show you that spammers are stupid people.

Jul 15, 2009 02:23 PM #14
Robert May
Robert W May - Lethbridge Real Estate - Lethbridge, AB
Real estate consulting

Speaking os stupid spammers.......   

seriously are people that stupid?  I am shocked that there are people that dumb and that they have the ability to even access the internet.

Nov 23, 2009 05:21 PM #15
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