You’ve probably seen the Sonic Drive-In commercial touting the 168,894 different drink combination’s they offer. So if you tried a new one every day you’d have to live 463 years to get through all the possibilities. That sounds daunting. However if I were to calculate all the different options we have available in wood flooring we would be at around 1,209,600 options. Sonic drinks, it turns out, are rather simple compared to the complexity of picking a wood floor.

In reality of course we’ve never made anywhere near that many items, but those are the options available to us. I arrived at that number by multiplying the number of species x textures x finished/unfinished x type of finish x widths x thicknesses x grades x colors. I was actually very conservative on my calculation as the color possibilities could be endless. To this point we’ve made about 20 different colors so I used that number. But to make this a little less complex, let me throw out the major choices you need to consider when purchasing a wood floor.

1. Site-Finished vs. Pre-finished
Do you want the floor truly custom to your own taste (finished to your own spec on site) or prefinished in the plant. One thing to consider; site finishing is more labor intensive but is also the only way to get a truly custom floor.

2. Engineered Wood vs. Solid Wood
Engineered floors are more stable and can be glued directly to concrete as well as can be used in basements. Solid floors can only be used at ground level and above. This is due to the stability of engineered flooring.

3. Species
We work with 6 different domestic species and 3 exotic species. The species will not only determine what color range you will be able to work in, but also the graining patterns (oak grain is much more pronounced than maple) will give different looks. In addition, the species will also determine the hardness of the floor (walnut is much softer than maple).

4. Texture
Flat finished floors are traditional and you’ll have a smooth texture. Wire-brushing will make the texture much more pronounced as you will see the depth of the grain. Hand scraping will add a time-worn appearance to the floor. Pros and Cons: Textured floors will not show wear as quickly and sometimes hide dirt better, but these floors are also more difficult to re-finish down the road.

5. Color
This one is pretty self-explanatory. What color do you want?

6. Finish
First off, if you are thinking of site-finished flooring, then this question would be for your flooring contractor as he’ll be applying the finish in your home. For pre-finished flooring, we can finish a floor with different types of coatings. Aluminum oxide top coats have become the industry standard for pre-finished floors and they offer good wear resistance. European oiled floors will offer much more depth and richness of color than aluminum oxide but will also require more maintenance on your part.

7. Thickness
This isn’t really something to worry about unless you have an issue in an existing home where you are trying to match the height of another existing flooring product. For example, if you want a wood floor that matches up perfectly height-wise with a tile floor that’s already in the home. The thinner the floor the cheaper it should be, but also the thinner floors often have a very shortened lifespan of usability so you might save up front on it but you also may replace it more than once. Our typical product is made so that it will last as long as your house is standing.

8. Width
We make floors in a number of different widths from the traditional 2 1/4” up to 7” wide. Things to consider: the wider floors are in fashion currently however they are also more expensive and can be less stable which means if you have a 7” wide floor you are more likely to see some shrinkage in the wintertime than if you have a 3 1/4” floor. Wider floors have more ability to move with the seasonal changes in temperature and humidity. But they do look awesome.

I realize I run the risk of complicating this to the point that you don’t want to have to bother with choosing. If that is the case the best thing to do is to communicate what look you’re trying to achieve and your budget and then I can make some suggestions. If you do have pets you might check out my post on wood floors and pets for some other considerations. The bottom line for choosing wood flooring: they are easy to clean, they are naturally beautiful, they add value to your home, they should last forever (as long as your child doesn’t bring the water hose into the house anyway), they are not cold to bare feet like tile, they don’t trap dust like carpet, they are the only truly renewable flooring option so they’re environmentally friendly and my son might not have learned to walk if we didn’t have them. Seriously do you think this chair would slide like that across the carpet?