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Choosing a Wooden Floor

Choosing a Wooden Floor

Wooden floors provide a stunning backdrop to any renovation, complimenting both period features and modern interiors. We explore the pros and cons of the three main types

The two main factors to consider are the conditions and wear and tear of your area, e.g.  a kitchen or bathroom will produce more moisture than a bedroom or study.  A porch, hall or reception area will see a greater footfall and so experience greater wear and tear. Let’s take a look at the three main types:-

1. Hardwood: 100% solid wood

2. Engineered Wood: a multi-layer base topped with a veneer of 100% real wood.  More suitable than solid wood floors where moisture levels are problem.   The inner layers are made of plywood, high density fibre-board, or hardwood

3. Laminate: Made from man-made materials.  Laminate flooring has no plywood and no natural real wood.  Its multi synthetic layers are fused together by a process which simulates real wood (or sometimes stone).  The surface of the product looks like natural wood because it is a photograph covered by a thin but strong transparent top layer   Even when viewed close-up laminate flooring can look very realistic.

Advantages of Hardwood Flooring:

  • Long shelf life and durability
  • Ages well – its appearance and charm can improve over time.
  • A long shelf life. Hardwood flooring can last a lifetime.
  •  Hardwood floors tend to attract less dust, so allergens that cause allergies are reduced.
  • They are hard and are less prone to damage.
  • Hardwood flooring can be repaired by sanding down imperfections and re-finishing.
  • The laying of hardwood is easier than some laminates.  Since the planks are reasonably thick, slight indifference in floor height presents no problems.

Disadvantages of Hardwood Flooring:

  • Regular polishing is required to maintain its finish, especially in high traffic areas.
  • Water is its worst enemy.  The surface must be kept as dry as possible at all times.
  • It is susceptible to scratching from heavy traffic, including children’s toys and pet claws. High-heeled shoes can cause serious indentations.
  • Hardwood is a natural product and fading can occur from exposure to sunlight.

Advantages of Engineered Wood Flooring:

  • The core layers make the product more stable than solid wood, whilst the outer veneer surface gives it the look and authenticity of real wood. Engineered hardwood is different from a hardwood laminate because the surface is made of real wood.
  • Unlike solid wood, the construction of engineered boards allows them to expand and contract slightly when exposed to rises and falls in temperature and moisture levels.
  • A good quality, well-fitted engineered wood floor is much better placed to resist challenges from the environment.  Its layers block moisture and provide added stability.   It is designed to reduce moisture problems associated with conventional hardwood.
  • Engineered boards can be re-sanded and re-finished. A good quality engineered wood floor can be sanded two or even three times during its lifetime.
  • Engineered hardwood flooring Its layers block moisture and provide added stability to your floor.
  • Engineered flooring will not swell or warp, making it very low maintenance.

Disadvantages of Engineered Wood Flooring:

  • Good quality engineered wood flooring can be more expensive than solid wood flooring
  • If the veneers used by the manufacturer are too thin, this could reduce the amount of re-sanding and re-finishing that can be done to extend the lifetime of the floor.
  • Too think veneers may also prematurely warp or fade.
  • The core layers used in the production of the produce must be fashioned from high-quality wood. If corners are cut by using cheaper materials, e.g. fibre board, this may affect the stability and quality of the finished floor.

Advantages of Laminate Flooring:

  • Easier to install than hardwood flooring
  • Since laminate is made from a variety of man-made materials, it is more durable and resists scratches, moisture and wear and tear.
  •  Laminate flooring is also easier to clean and stain resistant.
  • Impervious to sunlight. Laminate wood flooring has UV protection integrated into its surface.
  • Unlike hardwood flooring which requires nail-down installation, laminate is installed as a ‘floating floor’.

Disadvantages of Laminate Flooring:

  • Even though laminate is more durable, it is not as visually appealing as solid wood.
  • Lower qualities of laminate may have artificial-looking wood-grain textures.
  • Laminate flooring can be prone to chipping and isn’t easy to repair. Flooring that comes in individual pieces and snaps together, may allow you to replace individual boards. However, depending on sunlight and age, the new piece may not match properly.

Before making your final choice, try to obtain samples and ‘live’ with them for a few days.  This should give you some idea of what the floor will look like when fitted.   As with all things in life, it pays to buy the best quality that you can afford, no matter which type of flooring you finally choose.