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When it comes time to remodel your home installing new flooring is one way to spruce up your living space and give it a more modern look. Durable and easy to clean, hard flooring can fit stylishly into any period décor, and make a home more livable and marketable. There are three types of hardwood floors to choose from, laminate, solid, and engineered hardwood. Let’s take a look at how they differ, so you can better understand the benefits of engineered hardwood.
This flooring system is popular because it is often the cheapest option for many home owners. The laminate is made up of a thin wood-core base that is bonded or laminated with a resin-based surface. The surface is wear resistant, and usually has a hardwood pattern, although it can also have a treatment to look like stone or marble. As the flooring is usually less than a third of an inch thick, it can be easily laid over existing floors, cutting down on the expense. On average it’s about half the cost of laying a solid hardwood or engineered floor.
Because of the durable surface, some homeowners say laminate flooring is easier to clean than wood floors. However, these floors do have a drawback in that they do not do well with excessive moisture. They are best not laid in bathrooms or rooms where there might be a lot of water present. When water seeps into the laminate, it can become uneven, with swelling and should be replaced. If the laminate has not been properly laid, and the planks are not glued to the subfloor correctly the situation of peaking may occur. This is when two planks are pushed together, creating a raised joint, with a lip than can catch of shoes or clothing.
These are planks of solid natural wood and are typically three-quarters of an inch thick and up to six inches wide depending upon the species of tree. Solid hardwood needs to be nailed to a wooden subfloor to be completely secure. This means they are not suitable for homes with concrete flooring. However, as they are real wood, this type of flooring can look fantastic with a great grain, and can give off a scent.
This type of flooring is the longest lasting, but the trade-off is that it is also the most expensive. A hardwood floor will easily outlast any carpet. Over time a hardwood floor can lose its luster and shine, but a simple refinishing can bring back the floor to look like new. Like laminate, if a solid hardwood floor gets damp over a period of time, it can swell and buckle, warping the planks and leave ugly gaps.
This brings together the best qualities of laminate and solid hardwood in a much more versatile product.
Engineered hardwood has a sandwich construction of some layers, with the top and bottom made from real wood. The interior layers consist of plywood, fibreboard and sometimes hardwood wafers. The layer on the top is usually a hardwood veneer, made from cherry, oak or maple. Top quality engineered hardwoods will have up to nine separate layers. Typically an engineered hardwood plank will be the same thickness as solid hardwood flooring. The advantage of this over solid wood is that it can be glued to a concrete subfloor.
This type of floor is much more resilient to dampness or heat, meaning it can be used in basements and machine rooms that can have extremes in temperature and humidity. The cross pattern construction of engineered hardwoods means buckling and bending due to moisture is greatly reduced, and in most cases is virtually eradicated. Because there is just a thin veneer of the actual hardwood on the top surface of the flooring, engineering hardwoods are much cheaper than solid hardwood flooring.
The other components come from fast-growing softer woods, which means it is more ecologically friendly. When looking at an engineering hardwood for a floor check the thickness of the top veneered layer. If it is too think it could prematurely warp or fade. Although this type of flooring can be resurfaced when scratched like a solid hardwood floor, it can only be done a few times before it needs complete replacement.
Most contractors who install flooring would not recommend solid hardwood for a concrete floor as gluing the wood to the concrete can be risky, and can void a manufacturers warranty. However, that is not the case with engineered hardwood flooring. Like solid hardwood flooring, engineered hardwood floors can be nailed or stapled to a wooden subfloor. They can also be glued or floated over a concrete base and is the recognized installation method for professional flooring contractors.
Because of the versatility of engineered hardwood this type of flooring can be placed over an existing floor which cannot be practically removed by floating it on the top. As the wafer sandwich construction makes engineered hardwood much stronger and less likely to warp than solid hardwood the planks available can be much wider. The maximum width of a solid wood plank is in the region of 6 inches, whereas engineered hardwood can be almost twice the width at 11 inches. Even though these planks are a lot wider, they do not have a tendency to cup or have gap problems.
The highest quality engineered hardwood flooring can be refinished many times, although not as many as solid hardwood floors. However, the traditional finishing of hand-scraping and oil finishing are becoming popular with engineered hardwood floors, and this means there is less need for the sanding and re-polishing people are familiar with.
Engineered hardwood comes in a wide variety of sizes and qualities. Lower quality engineered hardwood normally has a thinner upper veneer surface and does not offer the same range of plank widths. Top-grade engineered hardwood will have a thick upper veneer and hand-scraping with oil finishing and can cost as much as $10/sq.ft. ($35/sq.m). It is interesting that some of the cheapest floorings will be engineered hardwood, as well as some of the most expensive.