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Understanding the Various Types of Wood Flooring

Wood floors have an innately classic and timeless look. People have been using wood to build homes for as long as 10,000 years. Given its natural, sustainable, and extremely durable attributes, it’s a smart investment, especially when you’re building a structure that can stand the test of time.

Selecting the material for your floors used to be straightforward. Suppliers only had solid wood available and a limited number of tree species to choose from. Nowadays, there are various types of hardwood floors to sift through, each with special characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages. Solid wood is still a popular choice, but there are also other alternatives such as engineered wood and reclaimed wood.

Making the decision can be tough. To help you out with your choice, here’s a guide to understanding the many types of wood flooring.

What Are the Different Types of Timber Flooring?

Before settling on which wood floor to install, it is important to know the various wood flooring types available in the market. Different types of wood flooring — solid wood vs. engineered hardwood vs. laminate — have varying pros, cons, costs, and design options. Taking these all into consideration so you end up with the perfect floors.

  • Solid Wood Flooring

Solid wood floors are made out of solid pieces of wood

Solid wood is the original and primary wood flooring option and is exactly as its name implies. It is made out of a solid piece of wood, anywhere between 18 to 20 mm thick. This thickness allows it to be refinished several times during its lifespan. It can last from 50 to 70 years, but a 100-year lifespan for solid wood is also possible.

The price for solid wood can vary, depending on the species of wood and the cost of the raw form.

Pros:

  • Solid wood has a classic look and feel. Its natural aesthetics
  • can add value to your property if you decide to sell or rent your home later.
  • Solid wood floors tend to outlast other types of hardwood floors.

Cons:

  • Solid wood reacts drastically to temperature and moisture. It expands when it’s humid and contracts when it’s dry.
  • Installation can be tricky since it changes shape after it has been manufactured.
  • Its starting price can be more expensive than other flooring materials.
  • Engineered Wood Flooring

Engineered wood floors consist of several layers of wood

Engineered hardwoods are made out of 3 to 4 layers of wood glued together, which can be around 14 mm thick combined. The real-wood veneer is on top and has a thickness of about 4 mm, which provides an allowance for sanding and refinishing to remove damages, wear, and tear.

The lifespan of engineered wood flooring depends on the thickness of the plank. Thinner types can last for only up to 30 years, but thicker ones can reach 80 years.

There is a misconception that engineered wood flooring is cheaper than solid wood, but solid or engineered wood is typically priced the same. What the latter has over the former, however, is stability. The engineered variety is more resistant to warping and can be used in all types of rooms, like the living room, dining rooms, bedrooms, and even kitchen.

Pros:

  • Engineered woods are more stable and more resistant to moisture and heat. It is less likely to buckle or gap.
  • It can be installed at any level. In comparison, solid wood floors cannot be installed in basements.
  • It is more attractive than laminate flooring and can be cheaper than comparable solid-wood planks.

Cons:

  • Depending on the thickness of the veneer layer, some engineered wood planks can’t be refinished.
  • It is susceptible to scratching and denting. Thinner veneer layers have a shorter lifespan.
  • Low-quality engineered wood can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as formaldehyde found in the glue.
  • Reclaimed Wood Flooring

Reclaimed woods are salvaged from older properties

Reclaimed wood is still solid wood that has been used more than once. It is usually salvaged for reuse from older properties. The biggest advantage of reclaimed wood is probably its sustainability. Anyone serious about their environmental footprint or recycling should consider reclaimed wood.

It is also more durable than some virgin wood. Reclaimed wood can come from old forests with dense growth strings, which is rare to find in trees being harvested these days.

Unfortunately, reclaimed woods can be more expensive than other wood flooring options because of the labour that goes into saving them and the rarity of the product.

Pros:

  • Reusing wood flooring is environmentally friendly
  • Antique reclaimed woods are aesthetically pleasing and will add to your property value.
  • It is extremely durable.

Cons:

  • Reclaimed woods can cost 4 or 5 times more than new wooden floors.
  • They may have existing damage, dents, and holes. Others can contain hidden dangers, like woodworms or protruding nails. Purchase them from companies that specifically process reclaimed woods.

What Are Other Wood Flooring Alternatives?

Explore your options

Another challenge today for consumers is the growing number of alternatives to real wood. Many products may appear to be wood but they’re actually not. Despite the similarity in appearances, there are key differences between them.

  • Bamboo Flooring

While it’s technically a type of grass, bamboo can look and feel similar to natural hardwoods. It is also a “green” choice for construction since it regenerates fast, preventing problems like deforestation. It is water-resistant, termite-resistant, and extremely durable. A properly maintained bamboo floor can last for more than 50 years.

Pros:

  • For the same look as natural wood, bamboo floors generally cost less.
  • It is sustainable.
  • It can be harder and tougher than some hardwood species.
  • It is easy to clean.

Cons:

  • Some bamboo flooring adhesives contain formaldehyde which can release VOCs over time.
  • While it is water-resistant, it is not waterproof. Too much water can cause the flooring to warp.
  • It tends to scratch easily.
  • Laminate Flooring

One of the most common confusion is with laminate flooring and engineered hardwood. Engineered woods contain a layer of natural wood on top.

On the other hand, the laminate floor is a compressed layer of fibreboard plank and melamine resin, and covered with a photographic applique layer, simulating wood. It is also much thinner than engineered wood, only around 12mm. Some laminate products include a waterproof core, making it suitable for bathrooms and kitchens.

Pros:

  • It is cheaper than engineered hardwood.
  • It is easy to install.
  • It can imitate a wide range of natural materials, from wood to stone.

Cons:

  • Laminates won’t look or feel like the real thing
  • It swells easily with moisture, and the damage is irreversible.
  • It cannot be sanded or refinished. Once the surface is damaged, it’s difficult to fix and must be replaced.

What Is the Most Durable Wood Floor?

The best type of wood for a hardwood floor is made from wood species that are readily available and naturally hard. Each hardwood species varies in hardness, and the lumber industry uses the Janka Hardness Scale to rank how a wood species would perform as a flooring material.

Commonly used wood species include oak, maple, walnut, cherry, and hickory.

Which Type of Wooden Flooring Is Best?

Base Your Choice On Your Lifestyle And Preferences

Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of each type of wooden flooring, no one type is better than the other. However, determining which is more suitable for your property all boils down to a few factors:

  • Your Lifestyle and Preferences – Your habits and routine should be your main consideration when choosing. If you are active or have pets, choose a type of wood that can take all the foot traffic and scratches.
  • Climate – Wood is vulnerable to moisture and temperature. Your wood flooring should be well-suited for the environment.
  • Location – Think about where you’re going to install them. Some rooms have higher temperature and humidity levels, which may not be ideal for some types of wood flooring.

The range of wood flooring can be confusing, but understanding their differences can make the choice for any project much easier. You can also work with a trusted flooring specialist to help find the right match for you.

With over 20 years of experience, Capital Hardwood Flooring has been offering Toronto a wide selection of high-quality hardwood options. Call us today at (416) 536-2200 if you want to learn more about our hardwood flooring products.

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