Monthly Archives: May 2013

All About Hardwood Flooring

While I was researching online, I stumbled upon a company called Jardine Design Build.  I thought their explanation of the different types of Hardwood Flooring was a very valuable resource and wanted to share it.  It turns out there are principally four types of wood flooring. These are………

Laminate Flooring
Least expensive of all the wood flooring types, and typically no more than 3/8″ thick, laminate flooring is usually made up of a clear protective layer on top of a photographic membrane (to simulate the wood species and colour), over a base of high density fibre.

Made with tongue and groove type construction, laminate flooring typically “clicks” together and is laid “floating” over a sound reducing underlayment or building paper. This type of flooring is relatively straight forward to install as a DIY project. A 1/2″ gap should be left around all edges to allow the floor to expand and contract with changes in temperature and humidity. The gap is usually concealed with baseboard or shoe moulding. Laminate flooring usually costs between about $1.50 and $2.50 per sqft. Installation, if not DIY, will usually cost about $1.99 per sqft. It’s usually intolerant of moisture which makes it a poor choice for use in kitchens or basements.

Engineered Hardwood Flooring
Engineered hardwood flooring is typically made of a real hardwood veneer
(of varying thickness depending upon the product) applied to a base of three to five layers of hardwood or plywood which are glued together at 90-degrees to each other.

This alternating in direction of the base layers provides great dimensional stability to the floor under varying heat and humidity conditions, making it the best of the wood flooring options for basement applications. The veneered wood finish of course offers the look of more expensive solid hardwood floors and it usually has the same resistance to scratching as the more expensive solid pre-finished hardwood floors. Engineered flooring does sound more hollow than solid wood. This can be overcome to a great extent by using a sound reducing underlayment beneath the floor. Laminate flooring is usually installed by gluing the tongue & groove style boards. As with laminate flooring, engineered floors are usually laid as “floating” floors. The cost of engineered flooring falls between laminate and pre-finished solid hardwood flooring, averaging $3.50 to $4.50 per sqft.

Pre-finished Solid Hardwood Flooring
Probably the most popular flooring today, pre-finished solid hardwood flooring offers the beauty, look and feel of traditional flooring installations, but at a significantly lower cost. Modern pre-finishing technique consists of the application of multiple factory controlled layers of lacquer.

The lacquer usually includes aluminum oxide which provides great resistance to scratching. Some manufacturers are offering 35 to 50 year warranties on their products. Prices for solid pre-finished hardwood floors vary quite widely according to wood species, grade and thickness. With the exception of exotic hardwoods such as ebony, pricing will generally range from about $3.50 per sqft to $5.50 per sqft. These floors are typically nailed down and installation by a professional will be in the range of about $2.50 per sqft.

Unfinished Solid Hardwood Flooring

The original wood flooring system and still much used today. Unfinished wood flooring, after installation by nailing down, is sanded to ensure a perfectly flat even surface. It is then finished on site in one of a few different ways. Finishing may involve staining and the application of two coats of polyurethane varnish, or may omit the staining if the natural tone of the wood is desired. An alternative to polyurethane varnish is the application of a wax finish. This is particularly common in Europe and it offers a lovely natural tone to the wood. It does require more maintenance than polyurethane, although it is significantly easier to touch up. This type of wood flooring is usually the most expensive to install due to the additional finishing required on site.

Eco-friendly options

  • Purchasing hardwood from Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) approved sources is an eco-friendly option because the wood is harvested from sustainable sources.
  • Cork Flooring – is an ecologically responsible chioce as well. Cork is highly renewable, naturally resistant to mould and moisture, and is biodegradable. It absorbs sound well and is comfortable to walk on. Natural cork flooring is preferable to the composite cork / PVC backed product. In binding the cork to the PVC, melamine formaldehyde or phenol formaldehyde binders are used. Whilst these products are permitted by LEED standards, they should be considered “low VOC” not “no VOC” products. If cork is glued, it is recommended that it be glued with low VOC adhesives.
  • Bamboo – A cautionary word – It is fast growing and extremely renewable, being a grass rather than a wood product. It has gained great popularity as a result over recent years. However, because it is harvested primarily in Asia, it carries a high embodied energy cost due to transportation. Urea-formaldehyde is a common binder in this product which does “off-gas” during its life and which does contribute to reduced internal air quality (IAQ). Cheaper products using lower grade bamboo can be soft and therefore prone to scratching and mechanical damage.
Source: you are thinking of installing hardwood flooring in your kitchen, dining room, or your entire main floor, give us a call at Kopke, we would love to help you find the perfect flooring option for you. (586) 777-6633


What is the Least Invasive Countertop Material? Granite? Quartz?

In today’s Eco-conscious world, many may wonder where their beautiful countertop comes from, and how invasive the procedure is to extract it from the Earth.  Then the question arises: what is the least invasive product out there, is it granite or is it quartz?  My answer to that would be quartz.

When you mine granite, you can’t make that area of the Earth look like what it started out looking like. It is now a giant hole in the ground which eventually gets filled in with water and becomes a lake.  That’s about the most you can do because it’s very invasive. Granite mining changes the look of that environment forever.

Granite is mined by explosives; they blow off these giant blocks from the side of the mountain, take it back to the quarries, cut it into slabs, polish and seal it.  Once they are sealed they are shipped to granite yards such as Solid Surfaces Unlimited, and then they make countertops out of them.

A  Granite Quarry in Vermont

Quartz surfaces on the other hand are comprised of 93 % quartz, and 7% resin.  Natural quartz is a pure mineral that comes in chunks. I can’t go out and mine a slab of quartz because it doesn’t exist in nature that way.  There is really nothing holding it together. It’s going to be less invasive than a mining procedure, because it is found on the surface of the Earth. They can target quartz veins, extract the quartz, fill it back in, and leave it looking essentially the same as they found it.  Big crystals are then ground down into smaller crystals. The cool thing with quartz is that since its base is silica, it holds that prismatic shape.  So when you grind it down, it doesn’t get rounded off or smooth out, it retains its prismatic shape which reflects light.

Natural Quartz Crystal

Quartz is also the most abundant mineral on Earth.  If you are walking along the beach, chances are that’s quartz sand.

What  happens with the quartz? It is brought in from wherever, put into these supersacks, grated, washed, and separated according to size. Imagine a giant mixing bowl. We throw in the pigments, the quartz stone, the colorants, and it starts to mix up the mixture.  Then the material is poured onto a rubber mold.  The loose mix starts off as twice the thickness as the final product.  So if I am ending up with a 3cm thick countertop, they throw onto the rubber mold 6 cm worth of material.

Remember this is 93 % quartz and only 7% resin.  In the food industry, anything over 90% is considered pure.  The slab press converts it into slabs by shaking it, compressing it, and vaccuming the air out of it.  So all the voids are filled in.

Comparing porousness: when the plates of the Earth are moving together and moving this material around at very high temperatures, air is also being trapped within.  So by the time it reaches the surface and we are carving it out of the mountain, there is air in there.  That is why we talk about granite being porous.  In this manufactured world, we can pull that air out.  This makes quartz 3 times harder than granite.  So, here we have man duplicating nature.

Transcribed from a presentation by Ursula Schneider of Solid Surfaces Unlimited: Leader of Surfaces Materials in Sterling Heights, MI.