Hardwood flooring is any material made from wood that’s intended for use as decorative flooring, both residential or commercial. Wood is an extremely popular choice for flooring materials and is available in a variety of different species, colors, patterns, and cuts. Hardwood flooring comes in two basic forms: solid hardwood and engineered hardwood. Solid hardwood is the more expensive of the two varieties, and comes in several different styles and types. Engineered hardwood is cheaper than solid hardwood but not quite as durable.
Both solid and engineered hardwood are susceptible to the dreaded ‘scratch and dent’ problem, which is the inevitable cause of many unsightly, even cracks in wooden flooring over time. Oak, ash, cherry, maple, walnut, bamboo, and beech are among the most common hardwood species used in hardwood flooring. Each of these hardwood species has distinctive grain patterns that are unique to their respective species; therefore, one hardwood may look ‘just like’ another, despite different grain patterns. The scratches and dents often occur in the center or near the edges of the hardwood, especially in the case of solid hardwood. Engineered hardwood, on the other hand, is created by adding resins to hardwood and using a bonding agent between the resin and the hardwood itself.
Laminate hardwood flooring is made from a composite of polymers and laminates. Like hardwood, each laminate hardwood flooring type has distinct grain patterns, but the laminate grains tend to be finer and less noticeable than those found in hardwoods. Some laminate is actually made from recycled hardwood flooring (reclaimed by companies that re-store old hardwood cabinets and doors) and others are made from recycled furniture (recycled couches and chairs, tables and dressers). Nevertheless, in spite of its similarities to hardwood flooring, laminate is a durable, attractive, easy to care for, and affordable option.
If you want the best grain patterns, ask your local flooring retailer which types of hardwood flooring are available for the style of room you have in mind. For example, if you are looking for a lighter grain pattern, an Indian quarter sawn hardwood flooring may not be the best choice for your home. If you want something with more of a dark brown, walnut, or cinnamon hue, consider what variety of hardwood flooring would look best in your room, along with the type of finish you’d prefer.
When it comes to choosing quality hardwood floors, it’s all about the planks. Different manufacturers use different types of planks, and in many cases, different types of planks can mean different levels of quality. Maple, for example, has a tighter grain than oak and a straighter grain than maple-synthetic decking. The right planks will help to make your wood floor feel substantial and comfortable to walk on. As with any other type of floor, if you choose inferior materials, your floor will not last long.
Choices for plank construction include maple and oak, as well as some specialty planks such as quarter sawn, morticed and sawed, as well as laminates like plywood planks. Ask your local hardwood flooring retailer, what kinds of planks they have available, and make sure to look at pictures to see what kind of grain patterns each planks contains. Also inquire about the number of planks in a set. Ideally, you want a set that has at least three-and-a-half inches of planks. If a set has fewer planks, it can mean that the planks are prone to splitting or wearing down more quickly.
Some homeowners choose to install hardwood flooring using laminate. Laminate is made of several layers of thin plastic, which are bonded together under high pressure. Many laminate flooring packages come with installation instructions, but many do-it-yourselfers would be wise to seek out professional assistance when installing laminate. Some laminate planks are more vulnerable to nicks and cuts, so it is best to lay down the plywood or other top layer of wood first and lay the laminate planks over that. If you do-it-yourselfers decide to install laminate, remember that the quality of the laminate will vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer and may not be worth the extra expense.
There are also some differences between the two. In comparison to hardwood flooring, laminate is a much cheaper option, and some manufacturers offer even cheaper discounts for their laminate floorboards. Nevertheless, the laminate is not as durable as hardwood and may crack and split much more easily. When deciding between hardwood and laminate, it can be difficult to make the call between durability and style. Ultimately, it is up to you to choose the type of flooring that fits your lifestyle and budget.