How to Shop Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood flooring not only adds a natural warmth to your home, it can also be a great way to increase the value of your home. There are many different styles of hardwood flooring to choose from including: domestic, exotic, hand-sculpted, distressed and wire-brushed. 

Choosing the Correct Construction

Hardwood flooring can be installed on any level of your home, and it’s available in a number of constructions to allow for flexible installation over different subfloors in a variety of spaces.

Great Lakes Wood Floors offers six constructions of hardwood floors to address each primary type of subfloor and budget:

3/4-inch Solid
1/2-inch Engineered
3/8-inch Engineered

When choosing a construction style, you need to ask some important questions:

1.) What is the subfloor? 

Solid flooring can be installed only on plywood, oriented strand board (OSB) and wood subfloors, while engineered flooring can be installed only on plywood, OSB, wood and CONCRETE subfloors. These questions are very important in determining what type of floor can be installed in your house.

Engineered flooring has been designed for installation over concrete to help mitigate potential moisture issues.  Engineered flooring is not one solid piece of wood. Instead, it features cross-layer construction that is designed to reduce expansion. Engineered flooring can be glued down, while solid flooring can only be nailed or stapled.  

2.) Where do you want to install your hardwood flooring?

Not all hardwood floors are the same. For example, engineered flooring can be installed on all levels (upstairs, ground level and basements), while solid flooring can be installed only on grade (ground level) and above grade (upstairs).

Solid flooring cannot be installed in basements because these areas tend to have more moisture and solid flooring does not perform well in high-moisture areas. In addition, most basements have a concrete floor, and hardwood flooring cannot be glued down.


Choosing Your Style

Great Lakes Wood Floors offers a wide selection of flooring species, textures and colors to suit almost everyone’s taste and style. When choosing a hardwood floor that is right for you, consider the following factors:


Great Lakes Wood Floors offers domestic species such as oak, maple, American cherry, hickory and walnut, along with exotic species such as Brazilian cherry, cumaru, andiroba and tigerwood. Each species has a distinct grain pattern. For example, oak has a distinguished grain, while maple is very subtle. Different species also have varying degrees of hardness. If your floors are expected to take a lot of abuse, consider a hard-surface species such as red oak. 

Janka Hardness Rating

The relative hardness of wood species is measured using the Janka Hardness Rating. This test measures the force needed to embed a steel ball (.444 inch in diameter) to half its diameter in a piece of 3/4-inch solid wood being tested –  the higher the number, the harder the wood and the more resistant to indentations. 


Great Lakes Wood Floors offers a variety of color options in domestic and exotic floors. Traditional hardwood colors are natural, gunstock, caramel and saddle. Great Lakes also features a variety of subtle and dramatic colors. Exotic and nature collections offer a range of coloring, while many exotic and some domestic species are photosensitive and need exposure to sunlight to achieve their desired rich color.   


Traditional floors across the United States have always been 2 1/4-inch width solid flooring, but in recent years floors more than three inches in width have been gaining in popularity. Wider widths showcase the natural beauty of the wood. Widths can easily change the look of the flooring – the wider the plank, the fewer the seams that can be in the floor. When choosing a width of flooring, consider the size of the space. Traditional 2 1/4-inch flooring in a small space can make the room seem larger.


Great Lakes offer a wide range of textures, including distressed and hand-scraped. Master craftsmen form hand-scraped and distressed floors by hand to create a truly unique floor.

Choosing Your Installation


Gluing involves troweling glue on the floor and setting the planks into the glue.  


Nailing involves driving a nail at an angle through the tongue of the hardwood floor into the wood subfloor. The nail is then hidden by the groove in the next row of boards.


This process is similar to nailing but with staples.





Plywood, OSB, wood

At ground level or above grade




At ground level



Concrete basement

Below ground level




Prefinished Floor vs. Unfinished Floor

Until recent decades, unfinished flooring was a popular choice to install in homes. Unfinished flooring allows users to customize the flooring finish, style and color. However, prefinished hardwood floors have now become more popular for new construction and remodeled homes, because they mess-free to install. Sanding is not required for prefinished floors, since they arrive already stained and finished. No finish sealant is required, eliminating extra installation costs. Prefinished floors or factory-finished floors are topped with a coating that is stronger than most site-applied finishes. Coordinated moldings may be stained and finished to match prefinished flooring selections.  


The wood’s appearance determines its grade. All grades can be equally defect free, but each grade offers a distinct look. Higher grades of flooring have less mineral streaks, color variations and knots. Manufacturing defects do not include natural wood characteristics such as mineral streaks, knots, grain variations and a normal difference between colors. 

Wood Flooring is a Natural Product

Wood is a natural product that will expand and contract over the course of the season. It is important to allow a one-inch space between the wood flooring and the wall of the room to allow for this expansion and contraction.  

Beware of Moisture

Take moisture into consideration when installing hardwood flooring, since changes in moisture can create issues such as warping and gapping. To mitigate the effects of moisture, keep moisture levels within the manufacturer’s recommendations. For an added layer of protection against moisture, install a moisture barrier. Aqua Shield’s moisture mat provides additional protection. Hardwood flooring is not recommended for bathrooms due to fluctuating moisture conditions.