Engineered hardwood flooring is a mix of multiple layers of wood veneers and a synthetic material that are laminated together to form each plank of flooring. This synthetic material serves as the bottom layer and is generally impervious to moisture. This resistance to moisture from below makes this an excellent choice for concrete subfloors and rooms that are below grade. All engineered flooring comes prefinished from the factory. The advantage to prefinished engineered wood flooring is that the factory is often able to coat the finish as many as 7 times or more. This creates an extremely durable surface that will stand up to a great deal of traffic. Still, the top layers of engineered flooring are made of natural wood and can be scratched or damaged by water. Engineered hardwood flooring tends to be much thinner than solid hardwood flooring and it is often glued to the subsurface though it can also be nailed or stapled. The thinner nature of engineered flooring reduces or eliminates the option of refinishing the floors when they wear over time.
Laminate flooring is made of synthetic materials and contains no natural wood products. For this reason, laminate flooring is extremely resistant to moisture. The finish of laminate flooring is plastic-like and extremely durable. Laminate flooring is available in a wide range of colors and finishes that mimic wood flooring, tile, and stone. Laminate flooring is often called a floating floor, as it does not require the use of glue or nails to adhere it to the subsurface. This is a good choice for areas that see an extremely high traffic volume or are susceptible to scratching or gouging for other reasons, such as pets.
Solid hardwood flooring is milled from a single piece of lumber, and it is available either unfinished and prefinished. Unfinished hardwood flooring is sanded, stained, and coated onsite after installation. This method allows for custom stain colors to match a home décor, or simply to create a unique appearance. The downside to unfinished flooring is that there is often a considerable mess from sanding the flooring as well as fumes from the stain and urethane coatings. High quality contractors do have equipment that will minimize the dust from sanding process. They may also offer low VOC stains and water-based urethane coatings to reduce the fumes associated with oil-based products. This finishing process can be done multiple time in the future to restore the beauty of the floor as it wears over time. Solid hardwood flooring is best installed over a wood subflooring material as it is generally nailed or stapled to the subsurface. Always install solid wood flooring above grade as it is highly susceptible to moisture and may warp in damp areas.
In order for the investment in new hardwood floors to last a lifetime, it is crucial to understand the differences in solid and engineered hardwood flooring. Several factors must be considered to select the best option for each unique situation. Homeowners can feel good about choosing their hardwood flooring if they learn a few basics first.
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