If wood flooring has always fascinated you, know that you are not alone. In a class of its own, wood flooring imparts an old world charm to the décor without looking outdated. One of the most popular forms of natural flooring which has also stood the test of time, wood flooring has followers all over the world who admire its organic origins, its longevity and its earthy beauty. They are easy to maintain and lend a warm and cozy atmosphere to a home like none other. And they come in many colors and finishes to suit a variety of tastes. But did you know how many types of wood floorings are out there? The popularity of such floorings has brought many variants to the market, some real and some not-so-real. It is important to know of the pros and cons of various types of wood and substitutes available before you make your final choice.
Let us find out more about those wood floorings which have originated from real wood, whether treated or untreated. Variants in the form of laminates and derivatives are also widely sold, but we will discuss the floorings made from hardwood here. Wood floorings are all made from timber, the real hard wood that comes from trees, and they can be installed all on their own or on surfaces like concrete, stone, plywood, etc with the help of different binding agents. There are so many options in the market when it comes to wood floorings that you will be spoiled for choice. They are also available in budgets that will suit all pockets.
Solid Hardwood Flooring. Hardwood flooring is solid wood cut into various sizes or planks for easy installation. Solid hardwood flooring is cut out from the same piece of timber and usually available in standard lengths of up to 3 inches wide called strips or up to 3 inches thick called planks. The hard wood flooring can be cut to custom sizes but that would make the flooring more expensive. This is the type of flooring that we see in most buildings which have existed over the last few centuries and the beauty of this wooden flooring is that it can survive for many years with minimal wear and tear.
Solid hardwood is an expensive option to install; both in terms of the installation costs as well as the price of the wood, but that cost can be equalized with lesser maintenance cost over the years. Solid hardwood floorings have a thicker surface and they can be sanded and polished every few years to make them look new. Since these floorings are made from solid wood so they can take multiple sanding downs (sometimes within an inch and a half before being considered for discarding) and stay good for years. There are many homes in Europe, America and Canada, which were built years ago but still have their beautiful hardwood flooring intact.
Solid hardwood floorings come in two broader categories - the Domestic Woods or American woods and the Exotic Woods. As the name suggests, the Domestic wood floorings are derived from American trees like Maple, Oak, Alder, Cherry, Ash, etc. The Exotic wood floorings typically come from the forests of Asia, Australia and South America and these wood floorings are comparatively much harder than the Domestic type.
All solid hardwood floorings, whether domestic or exotic, have their signature patterns which impart a typical texture to the flooring depending on the origin of the wood. For instance, maple flooring will have a different texture, design and tactile features compared to oak flooring. Each type of flooring also reacts differently to the chemical processes it is subjected to. Some can take staining and polishing easily while some are stain and scratch resistant. They all age well and can keep your home looking beautiful for years.
Because the hardwood floors are natural, they are susceptible to the moisture in the environment. Even though most of the hardwood floorings are treated before being sold, they would still go through some degree of contraction and expansion due to seasonal changes. Therefore in areas that have extreme climates, hardwood floorings are not very popular. For this very reason, hardwood floorings are not advisable in areas like basements, bathrooms and outdoor decks.
Another limitation of solid hardwood flooring is that it can be hard to install this flooring on concrete surfaces. It needs another layer of wood or ply over which it can be nailed or glued for seamless installation. Since the surface over which this flooring is laid has to be prepped and dried, the installation costs of solid hardwood floorings are higher than those of the other types of flooring.
Engineered Wood Flooring. Engineered wood flooring looks and feels like solid hardwood but it isn’t hardwood. It is made up of multiple layers of ply, hardboard, particle board or fibreboard fused together mechanically and then covered with a solid wood veneer. The ply layers are put on top of each other in alternating grain patterns to provide a higher level of strength and stability to the wood flooring and keep it free of the limitations of the hardwood flooring, especially the susceptibility to moisture and extreme weather conditions.
To touch and feel on the surface, engineered wood is similar to hardwood but its installation can be much easier because it does not require a wooden sub-floor. The engineered wood flooring can be laid in moisture prone areas therefore it can be laid on concrete slabs, on ply floors, in basements, for outdoor decks and more. This versatility of the engineered wood along with its hardwood-like looks has made it a popular option worldwide. Since the real wood is used only for the veneer, the engineered wood flooring costs are comparatively lower than the hardwood floorings. The real wood veneer means that engineered wood floorings are also available in various types, whether domestic wood or exotic wood.
On the downside, since the layer of wood veneer is not as thick as for real hardwood flooring, the engineered wood flooring does not have the longevity that solid wood commands. Where solid and hardwood flooring can take multiple sanding-downs, the engineered wood can take only a few or none at all, depending on the thickness of the wood veneer. Therefore, in the long run the engineered wood flooring may not be as economical an option as it would seem.
Engineered wood flooring should not be confused with laminate and vinyl floors because the latter two are not wood at all. Laminate floors are usually made of resins or fibre boards fused together with an image of wood on top. It is a simulated version of hardwood which is popular because of lower cost and easier maintenance. Vinyl flooring is made from plastics and resembles wood flooring. Though look-alikes, these two forms of flooring are nowhere related to hardwood flooring.