A hardwood floor can enhance the look of just about any room when it’s selected and finished with care. It’s those last qualifications that make all the difference, though. The only sure way to end up with a bad-looking hardwood floor is by picking out the wrong one for your needs and tastes.

A little time spent familiarizing yourself with your various options in hardwood flooring will go a long way toward ensuring a good match-up between your room and your new floor. Here are the most important product categories to consider in the contemporary hardwood floor market:

Unfinished Wood Flooring

As the name suggests, this is flooring material supplied to you with several important finishing steps left undone. Unfinished flooring will need to be sanded, buffed, stained, and coated in place after you install it.

At first glance, this might seem like a big disadvantage. Why buy a product that requires a significant labor investment when you know you have much easier options available to you?

Unfinished wood floors actually have a lot to recommend them. For instance, they’re ideal for installation in cases where you’re not yet sure what finish will be right for your needs. Say you’re building out or renovating a block of condominiums, for example. Installing prefinished wood floors would set constraints on the decorating options available to your future buyers. You wouldn’t want to lose out on a sale because your floors don’t match a buyer’s furniture!

Instead of resorting to complete replacement of a brand-new floor in a situation like this, an unfinished wood floor leaves the widest possible range of options available to the final owner of the space. The color and polish of an unfinished wood floor can be adjusted quite dramatically depending on how it is stained and finished.

Prefinished Wood Flooring

Prefinished flooring is now probably the most common and popular type of hardwood flooring product being sold. In this case, all of the sanding, finishing, and sealing work is done for you before you buy the flooring. All you need to handle is the installation.

The major advantage offered by this type of flooring is speed and simplicity of installation. Once you pick out the finish that best suits your rooms, putting down your floors is relatively easy. Also, prefinished wood flooring removes any uncertainty about what the end result will look like.

Solid Wood Flooring

This was once an extremely popular type of hardwood floor, but it’s being installed less and less today. This type of flooring is hard to work with; installation, removal, and refinishing are all labour-intensive processes. Solid wood floors do offer exceptional durability, though. The three main types of solid floors are plank, strip, and parquet.

Engineered Wood Flooring

In an engineered wood floor, the product you’re installing is built up out several different layers of material, including natural wood veneers. One of the biggest benefits offered by an engineered floor is the opportunity to combine multiple materials into one floor and thereby enjoy multiple benefits.

Say, for example, you are installing a new floor in a room where you know you’ll have birch furniture. A top layer of birch will help your floor match your furniture, but with an engineered floor you could combine that birch with the unbeatable durability of oak layers further down.

Another significant advantage offered by engineered hardwood is exceptional stability and durability in harsh environments. Engineered wood holds up wonderfully to high humidity levels, high temperatures, and other stressful conditions. Engineered wood floors can be installed in spaces where normal hardwoods would deteriorate rapidly, including basements.

Acrylic Impregnated Wood Flooring

An acrylic wood floor is a special form of a prefinished hardwood floor. What distinguishes it from other products is the way in which it is finished. Extremely high pressure is used to force acrylic and pigments into the pores of the wood itself when creating acrylic flooring. This gives it a notably durable finish.

The deep penetration of the pigments into acrylic flooring means there is less chance of its color changing or fading over time. The acrylic content also helps these floors stand up to the roughest treatment and harshest environmental conditions.