What to Look for in the Hardwood Floors of a Home You Might Buy

Rod Lorenz

During an inspection of a home you are looking to buy, be sure to check every detail of the hardwood floors. Some major issues you should pay close attention to include:

Is the Hardwood Solid or Engineered?

Engineered hardwood contains a real-wood veneer, bonded with layers of cheaper wooden backing. However, it can be more resilient than many solid hardwoods. Some of them even have a veneer that’s thick enough to re-sand a couple of times if necessary. 

How do you know if you’re dealing with solid or engineered hardwood? Look for flooring vents and try to lift one and check the profile of the floors, or you can pull out a corner piece to see what’s under it. If the wood seems to be solid and around 3/4″ thick, it’s solid hardwood; if it has plies, it’s engineered hardwood.  

Are There Visible Problems?

Look for these issues, which may simply be related to seasonal humidity fluctuations, but could reveal recurring moisture problems, improper installation, or outright damage that will require professional assistance to correct.


This occurs when spaces between the floor planks become wider than normal.


This is a common issue that can happen if the plank's edges are higher than the center of the boards. This causes the surface of the board to have a concave shape.


This is the exact opposite of cupping, meaning the center of a board is higher than its sides.

Worn or Damaged Finish

The fresh “glow” of cheap finishes can quickly fade, and even high-quality finishes will lose some luster over time. The only solution in these cases is to refinish the flooring.

Finishes can also become damaged by excessive water exposure or spills of other substances such as oils or paints.


Minor scratches can easily be repaired, but some are severe enough that the scratched portion of the floor will need to be refinished. Extremely deep scratches may also require re-sanding.

Do You Like the Floor Design?

The direction and pattern in which the planks are placed can enhance or diminish your enjoyment of the flooring. This design element can also influence the selling price of your home.  

You can always change the color of the flooring if you don’t like it, but keep in mind that by refinishing the wood, you can only change its color, not the species of its graining.

The size of planks will also vary from home to home. Do you like long boards? Or wide ones? If the floor planks are sized in a way that you don’t like, the only way that can be fixed is to replace the entire floor.

Image: Shutterstock

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