What is a Hardwood Floor Nowadays?

I get frustrated when viewing listings that boast of “hardwood floors” but actually have pergo or laminate flooring instead. It seems that “hardwood floors” has come to mean, at least to many listing agents and owners, anything that remotely looks like wood. I even saw a listing with sheet vinyl that looked like real wood, and the agent called it “hardwood floors” in the MLS listing.

There are two types of genuine wood floors – Solid and Engineered.

Solid hardwood flooring is 100% real wood, such as you will often find in older pier and beam homes, or newer homes in which the owner was willing to spend the money for true hardwood floors. It can be sanded and refinished and should last 100s of years if cared for properly. These are normally 3/4″ to 1″ thick tongue-and-groove planks. It is typically nailed down directly onto the floor joists or onto a wood sub flooring. When Sylvia and I remodeled our last home in 2000, we opted for real wood floors. This meant we had to glue a 3/4 inch tongue-and-groove plywood sub floor on top of the concrete slab, and nail the wood flooring into the plywood. This was not cheap, but the warmness and beauty of the real wood, with inlayed accents, was worth it. Imagine my horror and devastation when a friend came over for the first time after we remodeled and said “oh, the pergo looks nice”. I nearly had a stroke. Nonetheless, we enjoyed our hardwood floors very much and they were easy to keep clean.

Engineered hardwood flooring is also 100% wood but it is manufactured by bonding together multiple thin layers of solid wood in a cross-ply construction. This type of flooring can also be sanded and refinished, but probably only once or twice at most, since the top layer is not more than 1/8th of an inch thick. They come pre-finished from the factory, which makes them a very convenient option over the solid hardwoods. Engineered hardwoods are also very durable and resistant to moisture and humidity. Because the finished planks are typically 1/4 to 3/8 inches thick, they transition well onto carpet or tile without a variance in height occuring at the transition threshhold.

Nothing else that looks like wood can be called wood, in my opinion, yet the MLS abounds with listings that claim to have wood flooring. Laminate flooring is the most common and popular alternative to hardwood flooring, but calling it a “wood floor” is like calling a nogahide sofa a “leather couch”. The laminate “wood” floors are made by gluing a picture of a wood floor onto a fiberboard, and applying a protective coating to it. This is how Pergo and other similar products are made. When you walk on Pergo, or Laminate flooring with hard shoes, you get that clickity-clack sort of hollow sound. You can also knock on it with your knuckles and tell right away that it ain’t real wood.

The other type of fake wood flooring I’ve started seeing more of is created with strips of sheet vinyl. Some of this stuff actually looks very impressive, and when you walk on it it has a firm and quiet feel, similar to real wood. But it’s still sheet vinyl and is subject to rips and tears that can only be fixed by replacing the torn or scratched strip.

Few things can create as dramatic and effective of an upgrade to a home than to install wood flooring. I just wish more agents knew what a real wood floor looks like and would stop calling all of the fake stuff “wood flooring” in their listings.

5 thoughts on “What is a Hardwood Floor Nowadays?”

  1. Report those agents to the board. It seems that the people who give you the most headache in the real estate biz are other idiot agents. They’re also giving good agents a bad name.

  2. Thank you for differentiating among wood floors. In your opinion, is engineered hardwood flooring “good enough” for most people buying in the $250-350 K housing markets? Do buyers frequently ask whether the floor is solid hardwood or engineered? Do buyers tend to look down at engineered, or are solid and engineered basically close enough substitutes in buyers’ minds?

  3. Hi Shirley,

    Yes, I think the engineered hardwood floors are “good enough” for most homes. Bear in mind that there is a wide range of quality options available with the engineered wood floors. Personally, I like the narrow planks vs. the wider ones, and I like Oak, Pine, Hickory and other traditional wood looks. Bamboo is very popular currently but I’m not sure if it will be popular 5 years from now, so I don’t know if I’d pick it for my own home.

    Buyer’s don’t typically ask about the wood. I think most are not informed enough to know the difference (unless they are working with us!).

    No, I don’t think buyers look down on engineered wood in the price ranges we work in. I’d have to ask a “luxery home” salesperson if it’s an issue in the better homes, but I would expect the higher end homes to have solid wood or very high end engineered wood anyway.

    Thanks for your comment and questions.


  4. hi there i found the information you have provided very interesting indeed, i live in australia and im thinking of having baboo flooring laid, it is going to cost $15,000 Aus as opposed to tiles which would set me back $6,000 my main worry/concern is that of scratches as there is a lot of sand where i live & we have 3 large dogs too. Do you know how hardy it is, is it true that it can only be re- sanded twice in its life, if so do you have a cost of re-sanding & in your knowledge does bamboo have a higher resale value on the sale of a house as opposed to tiles? Thank you so much for your time & help with my query & concern, with kind regards. Michelle

  5. Hi Michelle,

    Bamboo is a very hard wood, very durable. It’s a good eco-friendly product as well. I wouldn’t worry about being able to sand only twice. You’ll probably never sand it at all.

    As far as bamboo vs. tile, I’d have to know more about your area, but in general, I’d do whatever buyers most expect to see in homes like yours, in your area. But if you plan to live in the home for a long time, do what pleases you and don’t worry so much about resale.

    Good luck,



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