With the number of solid hardwood flooring brands slowly dwindling due to the dominance of engineered wood flooring, it gets easier to identify the winners and the losers. It's no longer good enough to put out plain old solid hardwood; now, the field is atomizing into various niches that appeal to buyers' specific needs. With that in mind, here are the top brands of solid hardwood in no specific order.
01 of 05
Best for quick availability and returnability
Sometimes you just need to strike while the iron's hot. Impulse-remodeling is fine when it comes to interior painting, floor sanding, and laminate flooring installation. It's a different matter when dealing with solid hardwood installation. Unless you are experienced, the learning curve itself will eat up a significant amount of time.
Bruce is the fast-food chain of wood flooring: competent but none too exciting. Much of its solid hardwood offerings are devoted to good old domestic oak, and options with hand-scraped or distressed finishes tend to be limited.
By virtue of being carried by The Home Depot and Lowe's—unaffiliated companies which collectively have nearly 4,000 stores—Bruce blankets the world. Wherever you live, you don't have far to drive to purchase Bruce flooring.
Consider the value of being able to pick up your flooring in person, eliminating freight costs. Almost as important is the ability to return extra flooring—or the entire batch, if needed. Online retailers may cut special "free shipping" deals for sending it to you, but never will they offer to ship the product back for free.
02 of 05
Best for plank sizes
New Hampshire-based Carlisle is intent on changing the lofty status of a plank so that it is accessible to more homeowners and that these homeowners understand this unique product.
Wide-plank flooring, despite the brand, will always be more expensive than an ordinary 3 1/4-inch solid wood floor. It is more difficult to mill because premium center-cut sections are needed. As Dan McMillan of Carlisle says, "Cheap wood flooring is cut from every part of the tree, with lengths ranging from 1 foot to 6 feet."
This 40-year-old company factory-finishes its flooring in a site-finished manner. Most factory finishes have a hard, onion skin-like quality; site finishes are tight and adhere well to the wood. Factory finishes require chemical stripping; site finishes can be sanded down with relative ease.
03 of 05
Best for cheap flooring from a brick-and-mortar store
Lumber Liquidators has very low prices. If you check it out regularly, you will find strange, odd-ball items priced incredibly low. That cherry piano-finish (glossy) floor may not be for everybody, but it may be for you. If so—and you're fine with the 137 square feet on offer—it costs mere pennies per square foot.
Lumber Liquidator's house brand, Bellawood, includes prefinished solid and engineered hardwood flooring at highly competitive prices. Its reputation for quality is decent but not great. It's a good idea to follow the store's recommendation to order 17 percent more flooring than needed for your project (more than the standard 10 or 15 percent) because a relatively high percentage of boards may have some defects.
04 of 05
Best for high quality
You won't find Hearne Hardwoods at your local strip-mall Discount Flooring-O-Rama (you know the one, it's always "Going Out Of Business"). Based in Pennsylvania for more than three decades, this company has taken specialty hardwood flooring seriously, with Hearne family members making regular buying trips to South America and other wood-producing regions.
Hearne keeps in stock more than 140 domestic and non-domestic hardwoods, some unique. You've heard of ash and chestnut, but what about Bubinga, monkeypod, tulipwood, shedua, and padauk? If not in stock, Hearne can get them.
Hearne's massive, on-site 67-inch band saw and equally wide belt sander make short work of most sizes of hardwoods. Everything—soup to nuts—is done at Hearne's 20,000 square-foot Oxford, Pennsylvania, facility. As with any premium product, you will pay the price, but this is the real stuff.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05
Best for reclaimed solid wood flooring
So many reclaimed wood flooring companies do not instill trust with consumers. From pre-millennial websites to outdated price lists to incorrect product descriptions, it's a wasteland out there, which provides more opportunities for reputable reclaimed wood flooring companies, such as The Woods Company (TWC), to gain traction.
Even though new wood flooring has been added to TWC's stock, reclaimed wood is still their forte. TWC is located in the right place (south-central Pennsylvania) for sourcing wood from old barns.
No, your flooring does not come from flooring. Only a small percentage, mostly maple, started as flooring, but you don't want it to begin with flooring. Better to begin with "beam stock" as Pete Mazzone of The Woods Company says.
It cuts the distressed grade flooring from the sides of the beams, where the wood has been authentically distressed for over a century. Inner cuts allow for a lighter patina and "a less rustic character than the distressed, less saw kerf, knot, nail hole, and checking," says Mazzone.
Reclaimed wood flooring is expensive; most niche flooring is, TWC included. For eagle-eyed shoppers, TWC does have an enticing "Specials" list that provides bargains of limited quantity reclaimed and new flooring. If the quantity is right and your credit card is handy, you might just score a great deal.