Choosing the Right Product

Nothing would be more rewarding to us at Hardwood Cafe than to hear you say "I got a great floor at a great price." That's why we're always on the lookout for specials on brand-name products offered by the best flooring manufacturers. We will not install an inferior product and we will not pay full price. Our savings are your savings!

The most common hardwood floor in Colorado Springs is red oak. This is a very stable wood (meaning that it expands and contracts very little), is of medium hardness, and more affordable than most other woods. As with all the woods we install, red oak is available in pre-finished or site-finished. Other woods we have installed include: maple, hickory, walnut, ash, white oak, american cherry and brazilian cherry. All of these hardwoods have their own distinctive looks and characteristics.

We install laminates as well but do not recommend them in most situations. Our price for real, solid hardwood usually comes within one or two dollars - per square foot - of the cost of a good laminate.

So, what kind of floor is right for you? The good news is that there is a whole range of flooring options for you to choose from. The bad news is that it's more difficult than ever to figure out which option is right for you. Here are some of the basic options available today with a list of pros and cons for each:

Solid hardwood (3/4" thick):

  • It's the real thing! It's been around for centuries.
  • Solid hardwood can be finished numerous times providing a floor that will likely outlive the homeowner
  • Unfinished hardwood can be "worked" in the installation process to include decorative accents and borders and provides the smoothest and most seamless of all products
  • Solid hardwood floors are considered by many to be the most aesthetically pleasing
  • According to a majority of realtors, solid hardwood flooring adds value to your home and helps it to sell faster
  • A wide range of selection is available including many African and South American hardwoods
  • The customer can choose between pre-finished products and site-finished products
  • Depending on the tastes and selection of the customer as well as the kind of installation, solid hardwood can be a costly option
  • A site-finished installation can be very messy and take roughly twice as long to finish
  • The finish on a site-finished floor is not as durable as an engineered finish as there are 2-3 coats applied as opposed to 5-7 coats and the finishing products and processes are not as high of a quality
  • Solid hardwood is rarely a good choice for below grade installation
  • Solid hardwood is more prone to problems with temperature and humidity variations

Engineered flooring:

Engineered floors are what the name suggests. They are produced in a controlled environment and "engineered" to precise and consistent specifications. The top layer of an engineered floor is real wood and generally about 1/8 inch thick. There are 3-5 wood layers beneath the top layer. The grains of these layers are criss-crossed to provide a stable product that resists expansion and contraction.

  • Engineered floors look and feel like real wood since that's what they are
  • They are pre-finished so that there is very little mess during installation
  • Engineered floors come with an extremely hard finish which often carries a 25-year warranty
  • Most engineered floors can be refinished at least once
  • There is a wide range of selection with regard to the type of wood including many exotic woods
  • There are a variety of options for installation including nail down, glue down and floating (the floor is not adhered to the sub-floor). In addition, engineered floors can be installed above grade, at grade or below grade.
  • Engineered floors generally increase the value of your home
  • Engineered floors are not solid. This is only a disadvantage for those who are set on a solid floor
  • Engineered floors can be quite pricey though the installation is fairly straight forward and less costly than site-finished floors
  • Refinishing of engineered floors is usually limited to one time as the top veneer is only around 1/8 inch thick in most cases

Laminate flooring:

Laminate floors are made from synthetic materials. An actual picture of real wood is imposed on the laminate surface giving it an "authentic" look. A good eye can distinguish however, between laminate and real wood.

  • The costs for both materials and installation are less than the cost for real wood
  • Laminate can be a good choice for do-it-yourselfers who do not insist on real wood
  • Laminate can be installed over virtually any type of sub-floor and works well below grade (basements)
  • There is very little mess with the installation of laminate
  • Laminates come in a range of quality ratings and typically offer 5-25 year warranties
  • Laminate flooring is an imitation of the real thing and will probably not satisfy those who are set on having real wood
  • Laminate floors do not offer the solid feel beneath one's feet that comes with solid hardwood
  • Laminate floors cannot be sanded or refinished. When they're worn out, they must be replaced
  • Laminate floors do not add value to your home

"Pre-finished" vs. "Site-finished"


Pre-finished flooring - as the name implies - is flooring that has the finish applied to it at the factory before it reaches the suppliers. This flooring has become very popular in recent years becase of the advantages it offers:

  • During installation, you skip all the dusty mess and smells that go along with sanding and finishing.
  • The boards are already finished, so as soon as they're installed, you can walk on them.
  • The boards are finished in a factory under ideal environmental conditions. Seven to nine coats of urethane are applied. In addition, the finish contains aluminum oxide. The result is a very hard, smooth, and durable floor.
  • Because there is no sanding and finishing, a pre-finished floor can normally be installed in a little over half the time, cutting the cost of labor.
  • Borders, inlays, and other fancy flooring techniques are difficult or impossible because of the sanding that's normally required.
  • When boards are finished in a factory rather than on site, milling inconsistencies are more noticeable. Because of this, in order to avoid sharp edges, all prefinished boards are bevelled on the sides and some on the ends and sides. This creates "micro-grooves" between boards, and accentuates the seams. Some people do not mind this and some actually like this look.
  • The wood is more expensive. However, since you save money on labor, your ending price is usually very similar to the price of a site-finished floor.


A "site-finished" floor is a floor that is sanded, stained and finished after it is installed on site.

  • The end result is a smooth surface with no detectable high or low points between the boards as you run your hand across the floor. There are no grooves as with pre-finished floors.
  • The cost of the wood is less than prefinished wood.
  • Any conceivable borders, fancy inlays, or other flooring techniques can be employed for those interested in a custom floor.
  • The finish is not quite as hard or smooth as that of a prefinished floor. Also, It will contain imperfections. One of the most common examples of this is the result of airborne dust that settles on the floor while the finish is drying, leaving tiny "rough" spots. These will completely, or nearly completely, disappear within a few months as the floor is walked on.
  • The sanding process creates a lot of dust. Hardwood Cafe uses vacuum systems on its sanders which captures close to 99% of the dust. Even so, the remaining 1% can find its way to anywhere that is not completely sealed off. In other words, there will be some cleaning to do after the floor is finished. A few companies offer a truly "dustless" installation. Expect to pay more for this since the equipment required is extremely expensive.
  • The finishing process creates a powerful odor (in most cases) which can linger for several days. The odor is strongest the first two days. Opening windows helps eliminate the smell. If this is a major issue for you, you might consider a water-based finish which produces very little odor.
  • The entire installation takes almost twice as long as it would with prefinished, costing you more in labor.
  • Because of the finish drying time, you will be required to stay off of the floors for at least twelve hours. Heavy furniture should not be put back in place for 48-72 hours.

Hardwood Cafe installs all the products listed above. We would be happy to discuss these options with you at greater length to help you make the best choice. You can contact us by email or call us at 262-WOOD (9663).