Experts say solid hardwood flooring is an expensive but extremely durable choice because its usual thickness of three-quarters of an inch allows for multiple refinishings. Engineered wood flooring has a lower initial cost, but the thin top layer of high-quality wood resting atop several layers of cheaper wood allows for only one to three refinishings. Experts say solid wood flooring adds more value to a home than engineered wood, but both types are prone to denting and to fading from sunlight. Engineered wood is slightly less prone to swelling and warping with increased moisture, but neither is a good choice for rooms in which there's frequent contact with water. If you want the appearance of solid wood but can't afford it, experts say laminate flooring (*est. $4 to $8 per sq. ft.) is easy for amateurs to install.
Consumer Reports makes brand-specific recommendations of hardwood and engineered wood flooring. Which?, the British equivalent of Consumer Reports, takes a more general approach, helping readers decide which kind of flooring is best for them . We also found sound general advice on the websites of home-improvement columnists Tim Carter and James Dulley, Better Homes & Gardens and retailer Lowes.com. The American Hardwood Information Center's website offers good descriptions of various kinds of hardwoods.
Consumer Reports is one of the few sites that compares actual products and recommends brands as well as types of flooring. A subscription is required to view the ratings, however. There's also good information here on the pros and cons of flooring types, and a good discussion of green flooring options.
Review: Flooring: Green Gets Better, Editors of Consumer Reports, Aug. 2008
Nationally syndicated newspaper columnist Tim Carter explains various types of flooring in response to readers' questions. Virtually every kind of flooring is covered, including wood flooring. There's an excellent section here on whether installing hardwood floors is a job novices can accomplish.
Review: Hardwood Floor Installation, Tim Carter
This retailer website offers a basic look at wood, laminate, tile and vinyl flooring. It is written and organized in a user-friendly format, with lots of pictures and links to products.
Review: What Type of Flooring is Right for Me?, Editors of Lowes.com
4. Better Homes & Gardens
Although not comprehensive, this report describes basic flooring options and includes a guide to choosing and maintaining floors and a quick reference guide to flooring costs.
Review: A Guide to Flooring, Editors of Better Homes and Gardens
5. Which? Online
Which? is the British equivalent to Consumer Reports. This article compares real wood, engineered wood and laminate options. There's a glossary of terms, plus information on installation and costs.
Review: How to buy wood flooring, Editors of Which?, Mar. 20, 2008
This brief but helpful free report covers hardwood and laminate flooring. The paid report describes the offerings of various manufacturers but does note rank them. Still, the $3 report is a good introduction to what's out there.
Review: New Types of Hardwood Floors are Attractive, Warm, Easy to Install, James Dulley
7. American Hardwood Information Center
This is the website of a trade organization, but it's helpful because there is an enormous amount of information on various kinds of wood, and there is no attempt to steer the reader toward buying wood from a particular vendor.
Review: A Guide to American Hardwood Species, Editors of the American Hardwood Information Center
This retailer website obviously wants to sell you flooring and thus is not unbiased. But there are useful descriptions of what to expect from wood and other types of flooring.
Review: Flooring Type Comparison, Editors of WolfeFlooring.com
This website seems to exist in part to direct readers to sellers of flooring, but there is still plenty of worthwhile information about various flooring types, including wood.
Review: Flooring, Editors of SeeMyDesign.com
This website directs readers to manufacturers and retailers. Still, there's helpful information on just about every type of flooring.
Review: Flooring, Editors of FlooringGuide.com