With advances in technology and production, the flooring market offers many options that have dramatically changed flooring design, especially in the wood category. Which flooring installation do you choose when you want the appearance of a wood floor – real or faux?
Renowned for its natural beauty and durability, hardwood flooring is the most abundantly renewable flooring material available. Sustainable forest management makes it possible to harvest wood without serious impact on the environment because trees are a renewable resource that can be replaced time and time again.
There are two basic types of hardwood floor construction: solid wood floors and engineered wood floors. Solid wood floors are cut from the tree as a solid piece of wood. Solid wood flooring requires a nail-down installation to a sub floor. It’s important to take moisture into consideration when you’re considering installing hardwood floors since changes in moisture can create issues like warping and gapping.
Solid hardwood flooring is available as strips 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches wide or planks, 4 to 8 inches wide. Domestic species include oak, maple, cherry and black walnut. Exotic species are popular for their distinct grain patterns and color. The more popular species include Brazilian cherry, wenge, bamboo and cork.
Engineered wood is real wood that is manufactured using three to nine layers of different wood veneers, with the top layer consisting of high-quality wood and the remaining layers consisting of hardwood, plywood or recycled wood fiber mixed with stone dust. Like solid wood floors, engineered wood is available in a variety of domestic and exotic hardwood species – some are even available in the popular hand-scraped styles.
Engineered floors were designed for installation over concrete. They are more resistant to fluctuations in humidity and temperature, thus the wood will expand and contract less than solid wood flooring. While this type of flooring can be sanded and finished, it cannot be done as many times as solid wood flooring. Engineered wood flooring can be nailed, glued, stapled or installed as a floating floor over a cushioned pad.
Laminate flooring installation has become a popular alternative to real hardwood floors mainly because of cost. Laminate is a flooring option that combines highly realistic hardwood and stone textures and looks with increased durability and function. Like engineered wood, laminate flooring is constructed in layers: a wear layer, design layer, inner core layer and a backing layer, which resists moisture to prevent board warping for a solid foundation.
The top wear layer is backed by layers of plywood or compressed fiber that is extremely stable. The big difference is that the top layer is not real wood but a plastic coating applied over a photograph. The photo-realism technology that’s used produces look-alike finishes indistinguishable from real wood and other materials like stone, marble and ceramic tile.
Laminates are available as planks or tiles. Most are floating floor systems, meaning they can be installed directly over existing flooring without glue or nails. Because laminate flooring can be noisy when walked on, special underlayment paddings are made to help reduce the noise level.
Laminate flooring comes in so many different styles and colors to suit any taste. More popular wood-like finishes are maple, oak, hickory, pine, cherry and exotic.