Maple vs. Oak Flooring: Choosing Between Affordable Hardwood Floors

Wood Floors are relatively inexpensive and can quickly increase the value of a home. Here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for hardwood flooring.

When it comes time to design or re-model a home, many people face the question of whether to opt for maple or oak flooring. Maple and oak are both reasonably priced and durable enough to withstand the wear and tear of daily foot traffic.

Maple is appealing to many people because of its light “blond” color, while oak is an extremely popular choice in wood flooring because of its widespread availability, low cost, and color variety. Here are a few things to consider before heading to the store:

Domestic vs. Exotic

Domestic Hardwood floors vs. Exotics

Maple and oak flooring sold in the U.S. comes from the U.S. and Canada, as well as from abroad. Wood from outside the country is called “exotic” wood, and its often more expensive than domestic wood.

Exotic wood (like Brazilian Maple) tends to be more light-sensitive than North American varieties, so if the room is exposed to a lot of UV rays, the wood is likely to change color.

Grades: 1 2 3

The price range for oak and maple flooring is partially based on the grade of wood the panels come from. Grade one is the most expensive wood, with no knots or visible imperfections.

Grade two is a lower cost option where some knots show, but the wood is still fairly clean.

Grade three is the lowest priced wood, and is extremely rustic in appearance, showing all blemishes and knots of the tree. Each grade is equally strong, and the differences are cosmetic.

The Room

Question about the room to consider:

  1. Can you afford the square foot price? Be sure to bring accurate square foot measurements of your room or rooms with you to the store.
  2. How much light does the room get?
  3. What color is the furniture going in the room? Bring home a few samples of different shades of wood to compare against one another in natural and artificial light.
  4. Which sample looks best next to the couch?
  5. Which one picks up the most sunlight?

Engineered vs. Solid Wood

Engineered vs. Solid wood floors

Engineered wood is stronger than solid wood because it is made by gluing together perpendicular pieces of wood to create 3-10 layers.

Solid wood planks are also susceptible to expand and warp under humidity or dramatic temperature changes; Engineered wood is more stable.

The advantage of solid wood floors is that they can be re-finished, and tend to last longer than engineered wood. Both are fine for home use, but be sure to consider the differences before purchasing anything.

Pre-finished vs. Unfinished

Most people these days opt for pre-finished wood. This means that each piece of wood has been coated before it is brought home, and no additional finishing needs to be done after installation. Unfinished wood will be less expensive, but it comes with several drawbacks: first, it must be finished after installation, which is a messy, smelly process, and is virtually impossible to do if you have already moved in.

Next, it must be done right, or the wood could be permanently damaged. Finishing the floor yourself, or finding a reliable and skilled person to do the job, is much riskier than buying pre-finished wood which is subject to mass production and quality control.

As with any major purchase, always be sure to shop around for flooring. Crosscheck the prices and information each store hands out, and ensure a full warrantee before handing over a credit card.

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