Friday, June 24, 2011

The differences between solid wood, engineered hardwood and laminate flooring

An example of solid wood flooring with a top c...Image via Wikipedia
Selecting flooring can be a confusing process with so many different labels, styles, colors, and types of flooring available today. Breaking down some of the terminology and types of flooring is necessary to ensure that you get the product you are after. It is equally important that it functions properly in the room you select. If you live in South Carolina and are interested in installing new flooring, see: DirectBuy of Columbia SC.

Hardwood flooring characteristics and uses:
Also known as solid wood flooring, solid wood is milled from a single 3/4" thick piece of hardwood. Because of its thickness, a solid hardwood floor can be sanded and refinished over several generations of use. Solid wood flooring expands and contracts with changes in your home's relative humidity. In many cases installers compensate for this movement by leaving an expansion gap between the floor and the wall. Base molding or quarter round is traditionally used to hide the extra space.

Hardwood flooring installation has some limitations, if you plan to install over concrete, you must use an engineered product to ensure structural integrity. The existing cement floor needs to have a moisture barrier installed prior to installation. Solid wood flooring or Engineered flooring may be used over plywood, wood, or OSB subfloors.

Ideally, solid wood flooring if properly installed, can go in bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms and kitchens (*however it could be a risk in a kitchen, with a dishwasher. A faulty dishwasher can leak all over a floor and possibly damage hardwood floors and their finish). If you are considering flooring for a bathroom where continuous moisture is expected, you will want to select a product other than hardwood.

Wood FloorImage via WikipediaEngineered hardwood flooring characteristics and uses:
Engineered wood is produced with three to five layers of hardwood. Each layer is stacked in a cross-grain configuration and bonded together under heat and pressure. As a result, engineered wood flooring is less likely to be affected by changes in humidity and can be installed at all levels of the home. This makes it typically more flexible with installation.
Engineered flooring can be installed in any room that you choose, even a basement, because it can withstand moisture due to the multiple layers of wood material that withstand buckling and rippling. It's also fairly easy to install and looks just as beautiful as hardwood flooring. Engineered hardwood flooring is comparable to hardwood flooring, with the single biggest differences being in the amount of times you can refinish engineered hardwood, vs. solid hardwood.
Solid hardwood can be sanded and refinished over and over, and while engineered hardwood can be refinished, it can't be refinished over and over a result solid lasts longer. The other difference is the price, typically engineered hardwood flooring is less expensive.
Laminate flooring characteristics and uses:
Laminate flooringImage via WikipediaLaminate is different from solid wood flooring and engineered flooring due to the fact it is manufactured using synthetic materials. The interesting hardwood “look” of laminate flooring is achieved by a process in the manufacturing where a picture of real hardwood floors is installed underneath a finish of melamine.
Visually speaking laminate flooring today can replicate the look, feel and texture of true hardwood flooring. Laminate is less expensive than both solid wood and engineered flooring, however, it has some disadvantages- unlike engineered flooring, laminate can not be used in areas where moisture can be a problem. It is not ideal for laundry rooms, kitchens with dishwashers, see above note*. Laundry rooms like kitchens can be susceptible to leaks from washing machines and in some cases if your hot water heater is located in the area and has a leak. Leaks that are large get under the laminate causing the planks that are floating to become distorted and separate.
Laminate is very durable product and is very difficult to scratch or damage. It is an ideal choice for living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, hallways, and playrooms. Very few substances stick to the coating on laminate flooring. Installation is easy as it can go over existing flooring and snaps into place. It is ideal for a do it yourself project.
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