Are you looking at your kitchen or dining room floor with a critical eye? Your visitors are. Oftentimes, it's the quality of your home's flooring that is the first thing that catches the eye.

Until about a decade ago, do-it-yourself flooring options were limited. Now, manufacturers have come out with a vast range of wood and wood-composite flooring materials.

What's the difference between the two? Well, solid wood flooring has been around for years and it's still the top-end choice. You can select hardwood, softwood or even bamboo. And don't be fooled by the "hardwood" and "softwood" labels. Softwood just means the tree is an evergreen. Douglas fir, a softwood, is a lot harder than many hardwoods.


Bamboo flooring hit the market in a big way about a decade ago. It's actually a grass. But don't let that fool you: It's harder than oak! And bamboo is ecologically-friendly because it's so fast-growing.

While solid wood flooring provides a supremely high-quality look in almost any room, it is not always the best choice for areas susceptible to moisture, such as basements. Be careful with it in bathrooms, too.

A more moisture-proof option for those areas is wood-composite, also known as "laminate" flooring. Laminate is generally less expensive than solid wood, yet it can look fantastic. This "engineered" flooring contains a real wood surface with underlying layers of plywood or fibreboard. These give the product its strength and resilience.

Cork flooring belongs to the laminate flooring category. It's got a surface made from the cork oak tree. About half of the product is air bubbles, giving it a comforting, cushioned feel. Still, it has surprising durability, even in moist environments. It's a fashion-forward choice.

To install your own flooring like a pro, sign up for our "Wood Flooring Essentials " course at We'll give you hands-on instruction in underlayment, layout and installation of all kinds of build-it-yourself wooden floors.

Jim Caruk, HGTV Host, has been a renovation contractor for more than 30 years. He is the founder of Build It Yourself Learning Centers which teaches homeowners how to complete their own repairs and renovations (

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