Image from myhomeideas.com
The boring basics first: a great place to begin is with some measurements. You won't get very far into the process if you don't have a general idea of how many square feet of carpet you are going to rip up and replace. If you will be installing the floors yourself, it might make sense to do it in stages, which will ultimately help you budget the project as well. Prioritize which spaces need the most immediate attention, and tackle them room by room. (Just in case: To find the square footage of each space, just multiply the length of the room by its width.)
Now, onto the fun, visualization part: to help you focus your search for the perfect type of wood, you need to ask yourself a few questions:
What kind of look am I after? Cottage or modern, warm or dark, glossy or satin?
In thinking about that first question, take into account your furnishings, rugs and accessories, the period of your home, etc. Look through magazines for inspiration, since it is hard to imagine how fabulous those floors are going to be when what you're staring at right now is boring beige carpet.
Where will I use the hardwood? Will the area sustain heavy traffic? If so, you'll probably want to rule out softer woods like pine and fir. Want it in the bathroom? You may want to use laminate to get the look, instead of the real thing, which will expand and contract quite a bit with excessive humidity.
Is this my forever house? Yes: choose a wood that is classic enough to stand the test of time. No: maybe you can save some money by using a laminate option instead.
Different types of woods featured on Marta Stewart's site.
Try checking out this article from Martha Stewart's website, it has some great information on selecting the right type of hardwood for your flooring needs.
Next you need to consider your budget and time constraints. Undertaking a home improvement project which will ultimately add tons of value, not to mention charm, to your home is a big investment. Projects like this usually take more time and money that you originally plan for.
Once you have narrowed down a few types of wood you might want to use, it would be smart to get quotes from several resources. Just to give you a general idea on pricing I found the following information on Home Depot's website(if you are installing it yourself):
Engineered Hardwood: $60-$120 per 19 - 24 sq. ft. package
Wood look Laminate Flooring: $40 - $90 per 19-24 sq. ft. package
Some other sites for helpful tips:
This Old House has a website that is loaded with video relating to flooring, and there is one about choosing reclaimed wood for flooring, which is a great option if you have the means.
Doityourself.com also features a lot of valuable information about installing hardwood floors on your own. There are step-by-step instructions on where to begin and how to do it.
My Home Ideas is great site for inspirational images to guide you in choosing the look that suits your desires.
Any flooring store should be happy to answer any questions you have about the process and investment of adding hardwood floors to your home. Maybe an outing to a couple of places in your area should be your next step.
Well, Kerry, I hope that gives you a place to start, and offers a little insight for any other readers that might be contemplating the same project! Let me know how it turns out!