The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Wood Flooring
Choosing the right wood flooring is not always an easy task. There are so many types of wood, each with its unique characteristics and levels of quality.
There are different species of wood including mahogany, oak and pine amongst others. Most people refer to expensive woods like teak as hardwood but there is a lot more to know about wood flooring if you really want to be an informed consumer.
In this guide, we'll go through the different types of hardwood floors and their characteristics. We'll also highlight popular wood flooring options that serve as good substitutes for hardwood flooring if you are on a budget or just prefer the variety. Hopefully, our recommendations will help you find the perfect wood flooring for your home.
Wood Flooring - How it's Made
The first thing to know about wood floors is that, unlike many of the flooring options on the market today, virtually all of them are actually "real." "Real" in the sense that they are made from actual pieces of wood and not from synthetic or cork materials.
That being said, not all types of wood flooring are created equal. Real wood can be harvested in a wide variety of ways and quality varies widely between different products. Many people don't realize this, but the majority of so-called "low cost" jobs use engineered or laminated woods rather than real hardwoods.
The types of Hardwood Flooring include -
Solid hardwood: This type of wood only comes from deciduous trees as opposed to coniferous trees (softwood). The most popular solid hardwoods come from North America and Europe such as maple, oak, ash and elm. They are available in different grades based on the number of natural characteristics such as knots, mineral streaks and other defects.
This type of wood flooring is by far the most popular because it offers the most natural look. They are made of solid planks with no gaps between them. They also have a very appealing appearance.
It's also more durable than other types of wood flooring, but it's heavier and harder to install which means additional labour costs.
Natural hardwood: It's made from sustainable, natural hardwoods. It's possible to find hardwood flooring imported from countries like China, New Zealand, Europe and USA. Minimum tongue-and-groove installation is required for hardwood flooring.
Manufactured hardwood: It's made of different types of wood fibre that are manufactured together to create a board with consistent colour and appearance. Installation requires two-sided or coated metal to maintain the floor even. It's possible to find manufactured hardwood from China, Brazil and USA.
Engineered hardwood: It features a top layer of natural wood glued onto a plywood substrate for better stability. Thus, engineered woods are more affordable than solid hardwoods yet offer a similar appearance. Minimum tongue-and-groove installation is required.
Hollow: This type of wood flooring is made from multiple layers of planks glued together with different angles, grain patterns and textures with a different appearance. On the other hand, it's very sensitive to humidity and moisture. However, the finishing process reduces the risk of warping and cupping, but this still poses a challenge when installing as it needs extra care.
Other hardwood substitutes offer the same style and appearance but for a lower budget include -
Engineered Wood Flooring: Engineered wood is made by bonding together thin layers of real wood with synthetic materials. The resulting material is then pressed into tiles or planks that are much thinner than true hardwoods, which means engineered wood flooring often feels and sounds less durable underfoot.
An example is the Oriented Strand Board (OSB). OSB is a type of engineered wood flooring that's made by compressing wood chips into a board using heat and pressure. It's a very inexpensive type of wood flooring, but it doesn't have the same dimensional stability as hardwood or engineered wood, which means it may expand or contract more than you'd like.
Manufactured boards are also another engineered wood option. It contains thin layers of real wood. Manufactured boards look more consistent and they're less accentuated during the finishing process which means you'll get a better surface with fewer imperfections. In most cases, it's recommended to use manufactured boards in high humidity areas because of their material composition.
Cork Flooring: Cork is made from the cell walls of cork oak trees, so it's a natural product. Cork flooring is durable and easily repaired. It's also lightweight, waterproof and extremely quiet underfoot.
Laminate Flooring: This type of wood flooring is really a photo-veneer over a thin plywood or fibreboard backing (just like wall panelling). Although the result isn't nearly as much "all-natural" as solid wood flooring, laminate still looks beautiful.
Laminate flooring has a layer of decorative wood glued to an MDF core with a low-resin content bound together by heat and pressure. It's been designed so that the top layer is scratch and burn resistant, making it a practical choice for high traffic areas and places where there's a lot of activity around the house, but it doesn't offer the same beauty or durability as hardwood.
Choosing the right flooring material -
There are so many different types of wood floors to choose from it can be hard to determine which one is best for your home. If you have pets or small children, for example, it's important to choose a floor that can stand up to wear and tear.
You should always select a high-quality underlay that will reduce sound transmission. Of course, you can further reduce the sound with extra insulation, but it could lead to an increase in costs because of the labour and materials required for this process.
For more information on choosing floors that are suitable for your needs, you can speak to our friendly team at Watford Flooring.