A Comprehensive Guide To


What you need to consider when looking for a new wood floor.

How To Buy Unfinished Hardwood Flooring

unfinished hardwood flooring
Download a free PDF version of this guide to share with your team and customers!

Think of unfinished hardwood flooring like a blank canvas. You can make it look any way you want.

Using unfinished hardwood in a home or commercial project will give you the ultimate flexibility to make your floor unique and fit your exact specifications.

We have put together a master list of the things to consider when choosing unfinished hardwood flooring.

While this list is comprehensive and covers most of the typical options people consider, there is always the ability to go even further to create something truly custom.

When it comes to unfinished flooring, we can work with you to source just about any floor you can dream up.

See our gallery of customer’s photos for inspiration or contact us for more information about our products.

See more installation photos here.

Solid vs. Engineered Wood Flooring

True wood floors can either be made from one solid piece of lumber or engineered with a true hardwood veneer on top of a plywood core. There are benefits to both formats.


Traditionally, unfinished hardwood flooring is made from a solid piece of lumber. Lumber is harvested from trees and is kiln dried to somewhere between 6-9% moisture content.

The lumber is then milled with a tongue and groove, resulting in a flooring plank that is usually ¾” thick. Other thickness options include ½” or ⅝”, but ¾” is the standard thickness for most unfinished flooring.

Solid wood floors are ideal for homes where conditions can get dry, homes with plywood subfloors, and jobs that require custom work (more options are usually available with solid wood flooring than engineered).


Recently, engineered unfinished floors have become more popular and the quality of these floors is truly amazing. Instead of using one solid piece of lumber for each plank, lumber is cut into thinner veneers. These can range from 2mm to 5mm.

Veneers are then bonded with a plywood core which gives the floor exceptional stability. The thickness of each plank can be ½”, ⅝”, or ¾”. Many times, engineered unfinished floors are pre-sanded so that only minimal final sanding is required once the planks are installed. This can speed up installation time and result in a very high quality floor once installed.

Engineered floors are ideal when being installed over concrete, in a home that can have higher moisture content, or when looking for an efficient and fast way to complete a job. We have a collection of unfinished engineered from Teckton. Contact a location near you for more information.


One of the most important choices to make when considering unfinished hardwood flooring is how wide the planks will be. Unlike the thickness or construction type of the floor, this is a choice you will be reminded of when you look at your floor every day. This is largely a matter of taste and what you want your floor to look like.

One thing to consider is that the wider the floor, the more significant the movement of the plank can be when it is exposed to either a very dry or very moist environment. Wider planks can gap more significantly in dry weather, or swell and cup more noticeably in very moist conditions.

For nail down installation of planks that are 5” and wider, we recommend that a glue assist method be used in addition to the nails to keep the boards from moving. As always, it is important to keep the humidity in the home controlled between 35-55% RH.

We have many resources that cover the ins and outs of humidity, RH, and moisture. See our complete guide here.

Standard Widths

2 1/4" Select and Common Red Oak Floor Sand and Finish
2 1/4″ Select and Common Red Oak installed in a Kansas City home.

Unfinished flooring typically comes in a few standard widths which we keep in stock daily. “Strip” widths are: 1-½” and 2-¼” and standard “Plank” widths are 3-¼”, 4” and 5”.

Other Widths

6" Walnut floor with Emulsion
6″ Walnut with Emulsion installed by Midwest Hardwoods in Kansas City.

Just about anything can be customized with unfinished wood flooring, including the width. The current trend is to see wider and wider widths being specified. A 6” or 8” White Oak is not that uncommon anymore. Sometimes we will have these widths in stock, but typically they will be custom ordered from a mill.

Multiple Width Floors

Multi-width Red Oak
2 1/4″, 3 1/4″, and 5″ inch planks installed by Hardwood Floor Essence in Kearney, MO.

Another trend is to combine multiple widths. This is typically done in a repeating row pattern (ex: 3-¼” – 4” – 5”), but can also be mixed randomly. There is no limit to how many widths you can combine, but typically we see three widths being the most popular.

We will use a specific formula to figure out how many square feet of each width you will need to install the floor. Just let us know the total job size of your unfinished hardwood flooring project and we will handle the rest.


Unfinished hardwood flooring is a natural forest product. The species of tree that is used for lumber determines the species of your floor. Every species has its own distinct characteristics and appearance. In addition to the width of your flooring planks, the species you choose will be the main factor in determining how your floor will look.