Without question, my favorite type of flooring for most areas of the home is wood. It adds warmth, durability and a great classic and finished look to your room.
There are a lot of products on the market that fall into the “Wood Floor” category, but not all are actually 100% wood, sourced from a tree. It’s a little confusing if you don’t actually know what you’re buying. So, here are the main types of products out there, and their properties, that you should know about. A “Wood Flooring 101,” if you will:
Solid Hardwood Flooring is in my opinion the best, and therefore usually the most expensive. This type of floor exactly what it says it is: a real honest piece of solid wood, all the way through (about 3/4″ thick.) It can be re-sanded and stained multiple times, comes in a variety of widths and patterns as well as pre-finished color options.
As it is a living thing, solid wood is sensitive to moisture, and will still expand and contract with the moisture in the air as well as with natural temperature changes. This feature makes it important that solid wood is only installed above grade level, not in the basement, because otherwise the excessive moisture would be too much for the wood to handle, and it would probably warp pretty quickly.
These are the marathon runners of the group, though. If installed correctly, solid wood floors can last a lifetime (mine have been in my home over 100 years) which is great if you don’t want to think about ripping up and installing new floors again any time soon.
Engineered Wood Flooring is kind of “Wood-ish.” It is made by adhering layers of plastic laminate with real wood. So, it’s mostly wood, but the bottom layers are plywood. This is a more economical choice than solid wood and has some similar properties. For example, it can be sanded and re-stained, but only 1-3 times, depending on the kind you select.
A good thing about these floors is that the better ones can be installed below grade level, as they are more stable and resistant to warping than solid wood. However, poor quality engineered woods can not only unravel in moist conditions, but if low-quality glues were used during manufacturing, lots of VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) will be emitted from the flooring for years, and that is not great, especially if you have kids or pets. Make sure you know what you are buying!
Laminate Flooring is not not do much a wood floor as it is “Wood-looking.” (You may have heard of ‘Pergo’ which is a brand of laminate flooring.) It is made in layers: the bottom resists moisture, the center/substrate is fiberboard and adds its thickness, the third is basically a photograph of wood glued onto the fiberboard with some kind of pattern and/or texture, and the top is a clear (or “wear”) layer that protests the rest.
They are manufactured to be scratch, stain, water and sun resistant, and are reasonably durable. They are very easy on the wallet, but as with all things… you get what you pay for! They won’t last forever. I wouldn’t put these in a high-traffic area. Furthermore, they do have a shelf life. I’ve seen lesser grade laminates really show their wear after 5 years or so, and some better ones after 10. Just make sure you know this walking in, and don’t expect them to last nearly as long as solid wood.
Acrylic Impregnated Wood is a manufactured flooring that is used in commercial applications as well as higher-traffic or moist areas (kitchens, bathrooms, foyers, mud rooms.) The color and sealants are infused throughout the thickness of the wood strip, to ensure consistency, and create an extremely durable product.
They are pretty expensive, but do make up for it in ease of maintenance. These floors cannot be sanded and re-finished, but they do come in quite a good variety of colors, so there will probably be something that you like. They can also be installed over radiant heat, which is always a nice touch.
Well, I hope this explains wood flooring a little better so that you can make a more informed decision when purchasing. The important thing is to know what you would need from a floor (durability, moisture-resistance, ability to re-sand, longevity) and then purchase the appropriate products for your home.
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