Popular Hardwood Flooring Options

While hardwood floors often exhibit a sense of timeless, old-world charm, they aren’t exempt from the whims of fashion.

The distressed look. Some homeowners appreciate the rustic quality suggested by the markings and burls of distressed hardwood floors, which can be scraped by hand or distressed by a machine. While manually distressed slats are more expensive, their worn-in appearance adds character and coziness.

Exotic woods. Though oak is still the most popular choice for hardwood floors, many homeowners are opting instead for more exotic woods, often grown outside of the United States. Brazilian cherry is among the most stylish of these offerings. It has a rich, russet hue and a high density, which makes it extremely durable. And while it is not really a hardwood, cork is also becoming popular due to its lithe feel and vast range of shades. As not all woods are appropriate for all climates, it’s important to consult a professional before making any purchases.

Bamboo. Homeowners concerned with the environmental impact of their hardwood floor may want to consider bamboo as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional wood, or wood in general—bamboo, though it behaves like a wood for flooring purposes, is technically a grass.

There are several reasons why bamboo is a more environmentally friendly choice than wood. For one, bamboo grows more rapidly than almost any other plant in the world, fully maturing in only four years, compared to forty or fifty for most hardwoods. This means that harvesting bamboo can be highly sustainable. Also, fast-growing plants like bamboo can absorb and trap carbon much faster than hardwoods; floors made from it will contain the carbon for as long as they are viable. Finally, bamboo will grow in a wide variety of climates and soils, which translates into less pesticides and chemicals used to produce it.

As a word of caution, remember that not all bamboo producers are concerned with the environment. There are plenty of ways that bamboo production can be destructive for the local ecosystem, especially in countries with little oversight of the industry. Try to find a bamboo supplier that is endorsed by a trusted environmentalist organization, such as the Forest Stewardship Council. Also inquire about the amount of formaldehyde glue used in the planks. For safety reasons, they shouldn’t emit over 0.01 parts per million of the glue.