Things to Consider When Choosing Hardwood Flooring

Things to Consider When Choosing Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood Flooring in Living Room

Hardwood flooring is a coveted option for homeowners because of the warmth and beauty it brings to your home. Available in a variety of species, colours, widths, and finishes, hardwood flooring fits in with virtually any decor style and complements your lifestyle.

If you are considering hardwood flooring for your home, there are a few things to consider to ensure you choose the right type for your family and lifestyle.

Solid vs. Engineered

Solid hardwood is just as it sounds, a solid plank of wood through and through. Typically, solid hardwood is ¾” thick and comes in widths up to 5”. In Alberta’s dry climate, when going wider than 3½ inches wide, it is advised to go with an engineered product that is more structurally stable. An advantage of solid hardwood is the longer life span due to being able to be refinished many times.

The main disadvantage of solid hardwood is that it is less dimensionally stable than engineered hardwood and more susceptible to humidity. It expands with high moisture levels and shrinks with low humidity levels.

Finally, solid products can only be installed above grade (not in basements), should not be installed in high moisture areas like bathrooms, must be nailed or stapled, not floated, and cannot be used in areas with in-floor heat. For these spaces, consider luxury vinyl plank flooring.

Engineered hardwood combines a natural hardwood veneer with a cross-layered plywood core, creating a more stable product than solid hardwood. It is available in different thicknesses up to ¾” and widths ranging from 3” to 9”. However, products wider than 5” require a more specialized and costly installation, such as glue assist.

Unlike solid hardwood, engineered hardwood can be installed below grade, over radiant heat (most species), and stapled, nailed, glued, or floated. Not all engineered hardwoods are manufactured equally, and some inexpensive options are more likely to have issues such as delaminating and checking.


Depending on your lifestyle and preferences, hardwood flooring will reflect your home. If you have children, pets, and high-traffic areas, the flooring will sustain dents, dings, and imperfections. Hardwood is easy to clean and maintain, but it won’t be secretive about what goes on in your home. It can tell a story about a well-loved and lived-in space.

Humidity and Temperature

Hardwood is susceptible to changes in humidity and temperature in your home, causing it to expand and contract. Alberta is very dry and experiences temperatures from -40°C during the winter and +30°C during the summer. Engineered hardwood is designed to mediate the expansion and contraction of the wood when there are fluctuations in humidity and temperature.

However, it is still essential to maintain a temperature of 18°-24°C and humidity at 35-55% at all times. It is also important to acclimate your hardwood to your home’s environment prior to installation. Excessive heat or dryness can cause boards to gap or split, while excessive humidity can cause cupping. Damage from humidity or temperature will not be covered under your hardwood warranty.

Sheen and Colour

When selecting hardwood flooring, the sheen level is also something to consider. Hardwood used to have a glossy finish, but new styles come in semi-gloss, matte, and brushed finishes.

Glossy and semi-gloss finishes have the most sheen and are quite reflective, while matte and brushed finishes have little to no sheen or light reflection. Glossy and semi-gloss hardwood tends to show minor scratches and wear more readily, but matte and brushed hardwood helps hide the wear and tear of a busy household.

Whether solid or engineered, hardwood is available in various colours. Dark hardwood can create a cozy ambiance in medium to large areas, but smaller spaces can make a room appear cramped. Dark stains also show foot traffic, scratches and dirt more readily, causing many homeowners to opt for a medium, light or natural stain.

Medium stains help bring out the wood’s natural grain, while lighter stains can make space appear larger. Natural-finished hardwood is just a clear stain that allows the wood’s beauty to really show through.

Wood Species

Each wood species has its colour tone, grain pattern, hardness, and physical properties. Domestic hardwoods such as Red Oak, White Oak, Hickory, and Maple tend to have a lighter tone unless stained, while woods like Walnut or Acacia are naturally darker.

Colour variation and grain patterns can be quite strong, as with Red Oak, Hickory and Acacia, moderate, seen in White Oak and Walnut, or very clean, as with Maple. Depending on the look you are going for, stronger grains and colour variation tend to be busier, especially on narrower boards. In comparison, cleaner grains and less colour variation are more uniform.

Walnut is a relatively soft hardwood that is less susceptible to changes in humidity but is more likely to dent. Red Oak is the benchmark for hardness and performs very well in Alberta’s dry climate. White Oak is similar to Red Oak but is harder, making it a stable and durable choice.

Harder than White Oak, Maple is another durable option that resists scratches and dents but can shrink and expand with changes in humidity. Hickory and Acacia are hardier species and are more sensitive to low levels of humidity, which can result in shrinking and even cracking of the boards.

Choosing the Right Company to Work With

It’s important to know that cost is always a factor, and the hardwood flooring industry has had an influx of inexpensive choices. Unfortunately, these less expensive hardwood options have resulted in poor quality and disappointed homeowners. Dealing with a company that is knowledgeable and committed to quality, environmental responsibility, and fair pricing will ensure that your floor looks beautiful and performs for years to come.

Hardwood Flooring Specialists in Cochrane

Choosing the perfect hardwood flooring for your Cochrane home is a decision that combines aesthetics, durability, and value. At Riverbend Interiors, we pride ourselves on offering an extensive selection of high-quality hardwood flooring options to suit every style and budget. Our experienced team is dedicated to helping you find the ideal flooring solution that meets your needs and enhances the beauty of your home.

Visit our Cochrane showroom to explore our wide range of hardwood flooring and discover the perfect match for your space. With expert advice and personalized service, Riverbend Interiors is your trusted partner in creating a warm and inviting home. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward transforming your living space with stunning hardwood flooring.

Our shop local guarantee means we will match any competitor’s price on identical products.  If we don’t have the products you’re looking for we’ll gladly search the market for it.  With over 25 years of experience in the industry, we’ll also be glad to explain how you get what you pay for with quality products and installations.