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How Thick is Oak Flooring?

A black shoes walking on an thick oak floor.

Carpet vs Hardwood for Stairs? What’s Best?

I grew up with hardwood floors, so when my toes first curled into a carpet, I was amazed at the softness. No more cold toes on nippy winter mornings. No more down on my knees polishing hardwood planks with lemon oil. What a miracle! 

Today, of course, wood floors are the thing. Anyone choosing wood floors has to choose two things: the type of wood floor and its thickness. You’ll choose solid wood or engineered hardwood. And you’ll choose between 5/16 to ¾ inches in thickness. 

For now, we need to know about the thickness of an oak plank and why it matters. So grab a coffee and we’ll look into how thick oak flooring planks are.

Why Do Different Thicknesses Of Oak Flooring Planks Exist? All You’re Going To Do Is Walk On Them, Right?

The answer to that question lies in the substrate or what you’re using for a subfloor. Professional builders deal with moisture and vapor. These must be neutralized before a wood floor can be installed.

The flooring has to be at a certain grade level before it can be installed: at or above grade (usually where the attic or loft is located,) ground level or on grade (street level,) and below grade (used in a basement.) 

Slab Preparation

Photo of a man installing a french oak flooring to his clients new house.

Several layers of material are used to prevent moisture from damaging your hardwood floors. A waterproof film is placed above the slab. Lengths of wood or sleepers are layered above the film. The floor planks will be nailed into these pieces. Next, another layer of waterproof film is placed just beneath your newly installed hardwood flooring.

Plywood Subfloor Preparation

Plywood subflooring is different because the wood already absorbs moisture. Some plywood subfloors require no underlayment because it’s already attached. Other subfloors need underlayment between the plywood and the oak flooring planks. 

Underlayment supports your wood floor, evening out rough spots. It also protects your wood floor from moisture. Bonus: underlayment adds soundproofing to the room.

So Why Does The Thickness Of The Oak Flooring Plank Over The Subfloor Matter?

A unfinished oak floor and subfloor being mixed.

Everybody cuts corners here and there to save money and time. The construction industry does it all the time to bring in a structure on time and at or under budget.

This means that sub-standard materials are used where the buyer won’t notice (out of sight, out of mind.) Generally, the subfloor and its integrity are one of those cut corners.

Thickness Matters

Here is where the thickness of the oak planks matters. A thicker plank adds stability to a questionable quality subfloor. Moreover, a thicker oak plank aids in controlling the climate. Many homeowners swear their thicker planks insulate better. 

The thickness of the wood also makes a difference when radiant or under-floor heating is used. You won’t get the full benefits of that with a thicker plank. 

Thickness Matters Part Two

A new and freshly finished white oak flooring done by an expert.

Both solid hardwood and engineered hardwood come in standard thicknesses. Five-sixteenths and three-quarters are the rules rather than the exception. Solid hardwood can be made at one inch if that’s what the homeowner prefers. Thickness matters for two reasons. 

One is that a thicker wood floor will outlast the homeowners’ possession of the house if it’s cared for properly. The second is that getting engineered wood floors instead of solid wood (which costs more) would be more appropriate if you’re flipping the house instead of living in it.

Related: How Much Does Oak Flooring Weigh?

How Thick Is Oak Flooring FAQs

How Do Old Oak Floors Differ From Today’s Floors?

Older homes enjoy thicker boards, but antebellum, or at least before 1850, homes have floors that are 11/8 inches thick. Boards were either quarter-sawn or plain-sawn, which means the grain of the wood differed. The planks were cut from the full length of the tree and were nailed into place.

What Is The Lifespan Of Oak Flooring?

Close up photo of a damage oak wood floor.

Engineered wood floors last about 25 years. Solid wood floors last the life of the house or up to 100 years, given proper care.

Related: How Long Does Oak Flooring Last?

How Will I Know If My Oak Flooring Is Sealed?

Use a corner no one notices and drop a drop of water onto the floor. It will either bead up, which means it’s sealed, or it will not. If the drop of water doesn’t bead, your oak floor isn’t sealed properly or at all.

Do Solid Oak Floors Add To Resale Value?

Yes. Buyers today are expressly looking for wood floors, especially if they’re solid oak planks. Wood floors generally give sellers a 75 percent return on their investment.

Does Oak Flooring Scratch Easily?

Yes. Keep after the dog or the kids to repair any scratches her nails or the kids’ toys make on your oak floor. Sometimes scratches add character to a wood floor, but that’s up to the homeowner.

Is Oak The Best Wood For Solid Wood Flooring?

Yes. Oak, cherry, and maple are the best woods for solid wood flooring. They’re available and hard. Solid oak is what you want in something you walk in heels on, the kids bounce on, and the dog drools on all day.

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