The term “hardwood” applies to varieties of wood flooring that are made entirely of wood (not to be confused with laminate, which is actually compressed fiberboard topped with a visual of wood, stone or another printed design on paper.) Genuine hardwood is real wood, through and through, providing warmth, character and sophistication to discriminating homeowners. The hardwood family of floors is large and varied. You'll want to be aware of its three main branches: Engineered, Solid, and Floating (European Longstrip).
Floating hardwood (European Longstrip) is also 100% wood. It features all the benefits of engineered plank flooring plus even more installation versatility. These floors are a version of engineered wood products, but they have their own unique composition, and therefore their own category. The top layer of these long planks is made up of individual fillets or slats that are glued together to make up the facing of each plank. This is a floor that does not need to be nailed or glued to the subfloor and can be installed over most existing floors.
You'll hear the terms “above grade” and “below grade.” “Above grade” means it's installed at or above grade level, and “below grade” describes an area below ground level, such as a basement. Not every kind of hardwood can be used in every location.
Engineered flooring's cross-ply construction enables installation below, on, or above grade; even over concrete. It resists expansion and contraction caused by temperature and humidity changes. Engineered flooring is typically glued down, stapled down or floated. Some manufacturers offer locking engineered flooring for a floating installation without glue, nails or staples.
Most solid hardwood flooring needs to be nailed to a subfloor and is susceptible to shrinking and expanding from excessive moisture and extreme temperature changes making it unsuitable for installation directly over concrete (the main subfloor in Southern California) and not usually recommended for below grade use. Some manufacturers offer a thin-profile (5/16”) solid that can be glued down over concrete. Hardwood flooring is a great choice for just about any room in your home. However, it is not recommended for full baths where frequent tub and shower spills are likely to occur.