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………
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.
- 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.