Answers to Your Most Common Wood Flooring Questions

Wood flooring.

Photo credit: Dan Cutrona



Of all the elements of interior design, hardwood flooring is one of the most common topics people ask about.  So, I’m going out on a “limb” here guessing you’ve probably wondered about at least one of these questions. And, since I’m obsessed with all things design, you know I have a lot to say about the subject.


Because it’s one of the largest surfaces in a room, flooring is a critical element of interior design. As the “foundation” of a space, flooring has the power to inspire an entire aesthetic all while standing up to the day-to-day life that happens on top of it.  In my designs, flooring is typically one of the first things we decide on for these very reasons. My goal is always to make the flooring look amazing while functioning even better.


In this blog post, I’m answering the hardwood flooring questions people ask me all the time. Hopefully I’ll be able to help you debunk some of the flooring facts from the fiction.



Q1.   Is it OK to change up the color of my hardwoods from one room to the next?   


Consider changing the material of the flooring instead of just the color. 


Let me explain. 


This is probably the most popular question I’m asked which is why we’re tackling it first. You probably already know solid hardwood flooring has long been considered the VIP of flooring. It’s 100% pure hardwood – the real deal. It’s gorgeous, timeless, increases home sale value and has the ability to be restored by sanding. However, it’s expensive, susceptible to scratches, water damage and general wear and tear. 


When it comes to renovations, many homeowners with existing hardwoods aren’t sure how to handle extending the flooring into a new addition or another portion of the home.


It’s hard to find that same flooring you originally installed 12 years ago and make it match brand new hardwoods. I get it. So don’t. 


Here’s a common scenario:


– You have an open floor plan.

– You don’t want to replace all of your hardwoods throughout.

– You want new flooring in a room that’s adjacent to your existing hardwoods.


Does this sound like your situation?


In this case, I recommend using a completely different flooring material in the new space. For example, go for carpet or tile but in my humbled expert opinion, don’t try to make the new material “look” like the original hardwood (i.e. using a different species of another hardwood). It’s best to embrace the difference and change it up completely. We’re not trying to pull the “wood” over anyone’s eyes here. Instead, go big and embrace the difference. Use a completely different material.


Ceramic tiles and hardwoods vibe together in this hard-working space.


If you’re shaking your head like, “Thanks, but no.” and you’re determined to install hardwoods in your new space, find a way to incorporate the old with the new. 


I’m planning something similar in my home. We originally installed hardwoods throughout except in the master bedroom which is wall-to-wall carpet. But a girl’s got a right to change her mind, so I’m repurposing some of the leftover hardwood flooring from my original installation and creating a border around the perimeter of my bedroom. If you’re wondering why I don’t just buy some more…I have one word…discontinued. The border will surround an inlaid carpet made to look like an area rug. It’s OK to embrace some creativity and a completely different material altogether. Go for it.


For a modern, clean look we installed inlaid carpet in our lobby design for Boston’s Treadmark condominiums.




Q2.   What’s better: engineered hardwoods or laminate flooring?


It depends on your budget, lifestyle and application. Here’s why:


Engineered hardwoods sound so…engineered, but they are in fact a real wood veneer on top of an engineered base. If you love the look of hardwoods but your budget or sub floor requirements won’t allow for them, engineered hardwoods are  a smart, attractive option. My home’s subfloor is concrete and required a flooring material that wouldn’t contract and expand the way solid hardwood could.  So we installed engineered wood flooring. Made of a thin veneer of natural wood on top (many available colors) and a sturdy plywood base which allows for contraction and expansion, this was the right solution for my home.  The cost is slightly lower than hardwoods, yet you’ll still get maximum resale value as you would with hardwoods. If you’re someone who needs a more moisture-tolerant product, doesn’t mind making an investment in flooring for the long haul and wants the look and feel of hardwoods, this could be a great choice for you. Expect to pay about $6 to $15 a square foot including materials and installation. 


Luxury vinyl plank exudes sophistication in one of the high-end condominiums we designed in my own neighborhood.

Laminate flooring has come a loooong way. Pergo is to laminate flooring as Kleenex is to tissues which means you’ve most likely seen those composite high-density fiber boards layered (laminated) together into planks in someone’s home if not your own. The image is printed giving the illusion of a material such as stone or wood. DIY’ers rejoice because it’s easy to install by gluing to a sub floor or snapping and clicking over an existing floor. Busy families, pet owners or homeowners looking for an inexpensive but reasonably durable flooring solution for their basements tend to seek out laminate options. The look and feel isn’t as natural as real wood because like everything else…you get what you pay for; about $4 to $10 a square foot including materials and installation.  



If neither of these options appeal to you, check out luxury vinyl plank (LVP). These long, smooth or textured planks are traditional hardwood’s doppelganger made of multiple layers of PVC. The finishes are printed on but don’t let that dissuade you from using this material. We’ve worked with this product in several of our luxury condominium projects with stunning results. At about $3 to $8 a square foot including materials and installation, LVP’s are a cost-conscious, durable, water-resistant alternative.







Q3.   Is it true that you should never install hardwoods in kitchens and baths?


Maybe. It depends on how you take care of your space.


Hardwoods and moisture don’t mix so typically, kitchens and bathrooms are two rooms in the home where you wouldn’t usually find this flooring. However, I enjoy the unexpected look of wood in a kitchen and bath as long as you understand that it’s going to be a little more high-maintenance as spills will need to be cleaned up promptly to avoid damage to the floor.


If  you want that hardwood look in a moisture-prone room, bamboo flooring can be a suitable option. Not made from wood, but a fast-growing woody grass, it’s highly processed by slicing bamboo poles into strips, boiling them in boric acid or lime then dried and planed. The process also includes curing, pressing, sanding, milling and finally lacquering.  Since natural bamboo is very light in color, there is an additional carbonizing step for those who want a darker tone. Try to seek out available bamboo products that avoid formaldehyde adhesive which can be harmful to indoor air quality.


Bamboo flooring is available in horizontal or vertical grains as well as a variety of colors. Image credit: Cali Bamboo



Bamboo flooring isn’t waterproof but it is more tolerant than typical hardwoods and will hold up better in humid environments. Perhaps use it in the master bathroom or a half bath with no tub/shower rather than the main family bathroom where water will come in contact with it several times a day. The reason why bamboo is so durable is that it’s a strong material to begin with but in the manufacturing process,  it’s milled into a powder and compressed, much like a quartz stone countertop.  This material offers a better chance for longevity in a moisture-rich environment.




All woods. All good. In one of our residential projects, the flooring, end table and wall frames are different finishes but because the flooring has variations of each color, it works.

Q4.   Can you mix and match wood types/tones with flooring and furniture?


Short answer: YES!


Most people have furnishings (console/coffee tables, chairs, accent furniture and cabinetry) in diverse wood tones.  So how do you pull it together for a cohesive look?


As one of the largest and most dominant surfaces in your space, choose wood flooring with color variations that speak to all hues from your decor. When the accent wood tones are represented in the flooring you’ll effortlessly create a unified look. Like mixing metals, incorporating a blend of wood shades can be beautiful plus you’ll add visual interest and depth to the space.


Wood flooring (or flooring that gives the appearance of wood) is always a hot topic for my clients…and with good reason! For allergy/asthma sufferers they’re easy to clean and keep dust and allergen particles in check. Increased home resale value is always top of mind as is cost of materials and installation. Judging by the number of times I’m asked about wood flooring, there’s clearly a thirst for knowledge so hopefully I was able to help you weed through your most burning questions.





Thanks for reading!!  If you know someone who’d enjoy this blog, please share it below! Message your ideas for future blog posts to me @taniyanayak.  I’m listening and always inspired by you.


Photography credit: (top) Dan Cutrona