There are several things to choose from once you've made the decision to install hardwood floors in your home. The first and probably most important, of these decisions is which species to choose. Your choice should be governed primarily by the amount of foot traffic that goes through your home on average. The more traffic you have, the harder the species should be, with lower traffic areas allowing for softer species.
Another choice you'll have to make is the stain color. Some species, such as cherry, have their own unique natural colors. In such cases, some homeowners choose a clear stain to allow that natural beauty to shine through. However, there are many variations of color, from clear to very dark. You also opt for pre-stained wood or your installers can stain the wood after it's installed.
Finally, you'll be completing the look with a finish of your choice. One of the oldest finishes is the glossy shine that most often comes to mind when this flooring is mentioned. However, there are plenty more options to choose from, some of which can even mask some of the signs of everyday wear and tear. Vintage, distressed and hand scraped finishes are all examples that can hide scuffs, scratches, and dings.
Hardwood floors can never be installed below grade, in areas such as basements. If you need a wood-type floor in an area like this, be sure to ask your flooring professional about engineered wood as a substitute in those areas.