There are two types of wood floors: solid and veneer. A veneer floor is a relatively modern introduction and usually consists of a thin layer of wood glued to a composite backing. Unlike a real wood floor, a veneer floor can be laid onto a solid base, thus making it possible to have wood floor where previously they would have been impractical or too expensive. This kind of flooring is supplied ready-sealed, so the only maintenance required is regular brushing with a soft brush, or vacuuming, and washing when dirty with a specially formulated cleaner called a "wood-wash."
The care of a solid wood floor depends on the finish. Some floors are sealed with a matte sealer to maintain and preserve the natural appearance of the wood. The only cleaning that is required is simple brushing or vacuuming, and occasionally wiping with a damp cloth or mop.
Floors that have been stained to darken their appearance while still allowing the grain to show through, or lightened by a chemical process such as "liming," usually have a polished finish. This can be brushed or vacuumed, and should only require a light application of fresh polish twice a year. Too much polish will cause build-up, smears, and show off each and every mark.
Wood floors can also be painted with a clear gloss, an eggshell finish, or floor or deck paint. Opaque paints completely conceal the natural appearance of the wood. This type of finish is not recommended for high-traffic areas as it will scuff and wear rather quickly, and need to be redone frequently.
If you buy a home with wood floors, ask the owners about the best way to care for the floors. If you buy a new home, ask the builder or the subcontractor who installed the floors for information on the care and maintenance of the wood. Some manufacturers recommend specific products and methods to maintain the beauty for the life of the floor.
Laminate flooring is available in a variety of wood finishes. While it has the appearance of oak, cherry, pine, maple, and other kinds of wood surfaces, the only wood involved in laminate flooring is a photograph. Digital photos of wood are sealed between a thin layer of backing and a thin layer of clear plastic. Laminate flooring is excellent in high traffic areas, and can be installed over old hardwood, sub-flooring, and even over vinyl flooring.