The widespread popularity of wood flooring continues to grow for one simple reason: There’s no substitute for the warmth and natural beauty of real wood. Wood flooring comes in dozens of styles and sizes, but there are only two basic types: solid wood and engineered wood.
Traditional solid-wood flooring is exactly what you’d expect: Each floorboard is milled from a piece of solid wood. Engineered-wood flooring is an all-wood, laminated plank that’s manufactured from pieces of wood. Both types of flooring come in a wide variety of colors and wood species. The specific type and style of flooring you’ll ultimately choose will depend on several factors, including price, size of the floorboards, wood species, ease of installation, type of subfloor, and the room itself.
Here’s a brief look at each type:
Solid-wood flooring is commonly available in narrow strips, wide planks, and parquet squares. Many homeowners choose traditional, unfinished hardwood-strip flooring in either red oak or maple because it’s affordable, attractive, and they can choose the stain color or leave it natural. However, unfinished wood requires sanding, staining (if desired), and a clear topcoat finish. Prefinished wood flooring costs more than unfinished flooring, but doesn’t require sanding or finishing. As soon as you install the last plank, you can nail up the baseboard trim and carry in the furniture. Remember that while wood is a renewable resource, some species take so long to grow and are being harvested so quickly that they’re no longer considered sustainable. To ensure that you are buying responsibly harvested wood, confirm that it’s certified by the Forest Stewardship Council or similar environmental agency.
Engineered-wood flooring was introduced to North America in the mid-1980s and quickly became the most popular type of do-it-yourself wood floor. It’s composed of three or more wood layers glued together into long planks, with a top layer composed of a thin solid-wood veneer. This laminated construction creates a floor that’s much more dimensionally stable than solid-wood flooring, so it’s less likely to cup, split, shrink, or warp. There are more than two dozen wood species to choose from, including both softwood and hardwood. When shopping for engineered-wood flooring, be sure the top veneer is at least 1/8 inch thick, which will allow sanding and refinishing if necessary.
The reason DIY-ers love engineered-wood flooring is that the planks snap together and “float” over a thin foam-rubber underlayment. There’s no nailing or gluing, so installation is quick and neat. Plus, the planks can be laid directly over most existing floors, as long as the surface is hard, flat, and in sound condition.
Still not sure what’s right for you?
At J. Douglas Design we’re here to work with you on major interior design and decorating decisions. Our years of expertise will help steer you in the right direction.