How to choose hardwood flooring

how to choose hardwood flooring

Want something truly impressive for an interior floor? Hardwood flooring could be the right solution. Find out how to specify the perfect hardwood floor…


Hardwood flooring comes in both solid and engineered forms. To make sure you specify the right product, consider where and how the flooring will be used. You need to anticipate the likely wear and tear on the surface.

All wood flooring, whether solid or engineered, needs to be left in the room in which it will be fitted to acclimatise for at least two days.

Solid hardwood flooring
Many species of both temperate and tropical hardwoods are suitable for use as flooring. Many can also be obtained as parquet blocks. Some species you might encounter are:

Specialist sawmillers may offer a wider range of species.

Oak parquet flooring, from the Renaissance range by Atkinson Kirby.

An example of oak flooring, from the Renaissance range by Atkinson Kirby.

Dimensions and availability
Less common timbers are available to order, while some ready-machined tongue-and-groove hardwood flooring is usually available from stock.  Some products are also ‘end-matched’ with a further tongue and groove at the ends of each board.
Be aware that the supplier may only have random lengths, and remember that the thickness of the product may also be a key factor at installation – so check that you are ordering sensibly.
Dimensions depend on timber species: some trees produce wider or thicker boards than others: check this with your supplier.

Oak
This is the most popular species. Oak, at a 20mm thickness, comes in widths of 120mm-240mm and in lengths from 1m to 2.4m.

Temperate hardwood species
Temperate hardwood species such as sweet chestnut, elm, sycamore and ash at a 20mm thickness are normally available in widths of 75mm-200mm, and generally in lengths of 1-3m.

Tropical species
Solid hardwood flooring from tropical species such as iroko, sapele and cumaru vary in dimensions but, in general, are available in thicknesses from 14-20mm and widths from 90-140mm.

Hardwood finishes
Multiple finish options are available for solid hardwood and engineered wood floors. The grade of the timber also influences its appearance.

For solid hardwood floors, the finish can be sanded or unsanded, and either waxed/varnished or oiled.
Engineered wood flooring can have a lacquered or an oiled finish, depending on customer preference.

A lacquered finish may perform better in a kitchen, sealing moisture out. UV filters can be incorporated into some types of coating to help retain the original wood colour over time. Certain hardwoods accept coatings well; others resist having a coating applied.

Ask a TDUK member supplier for any advice you may need: you can use the Find Your Timber Partner search function on the TDUK website to help you find a good local supplier.

Engineered wood flooring
Popular hardwood species, incorporated into the top ‘wear layer’ of the engineered flooring ‘sandwich’, include oak, American black walnut and iroko, mirroring trends in solid hardwood flooring.

Dimensions and availability

The Merchant Guide to Selling Timber

The Merchant Guide to Selling Timber is packed with helpful info about all common timber products and where they should be used.

The depth of the engineered timber floor board matters. An engineered floor laid over joists may need a 20mm thickness to support the loads applied; if laid over a concrete floor a 14mm thickness may suffice, but whatever the species in the top layer of the flooring, as it is fully supported from below, typical dimensions are:

  • Total board thickness: ranges from 9.8mm-22mm
  • Width: from 140mm-290mm
  • Length: from 1.9m-2.2m; random lengths may be supplied.

Lead times
Ask your supplier when you will need to place an order, as lead times may vary depending on the particular species and the availability of suitable dimensions.

Is timber treatment required?
Hardwood flooring, solid or engineered, may benefit from either a lacquered finish or a UV oiled finish to help retain colour and repel spills, e.g, in a kitchen.

This article uses information from TDUK’s Merchant Guide to Selling Timber. Download your copy for free from the TDUK website: it’s packed with information about all kinds of wood product, and what to ask for