Wood Flooring Options: Real, Fake and Wanna Be
So you want a wood floor or at least the “look” of wood. There are so many options it can make people dizzy! Do you want a solid wood floor nailed to plywood because it is ultra-traditional? Do you want real wood but more stable than solid? Do you want the look of wood but if water gets on it it’s less worry? Or do you want to go the “cheaper” route? Lots of questions and all are the right answer. The question to answer for yourself is really what is right for you, your home and your family?
Photo courtesy of Mirage Floors, one of the top of the line wood manufacturers at our store
Let’s stop and have some Real Talk on Real Wood and the Other guys… (for Tree type, Cut of wood, Style & Color download our FREE ebook)
First let’s talk REAL. The following wood floors ARE REAL wood flooring.
- Unfinished Solid hardwood
- Pre-Finished Solid Hardwood
- Unfinished Engineered Hardwood
- Pre-Finished Engineered Hardwood (glue down or some can float)
In Solid the boards are cut to the thickness, assigned a Quality or rating for Grade and are sent out unfinished or the Mill will sand and finish the wood at the Mill in advance of being boxed up. The Pre-finishing process gives you more quality control on the selection, since the Mill is looking closer at it now, and there are more layers of stain and finish applied in a controlled environment. These floors can be sanded and refinished multiple times but the advantage of the Pre-Finished is that it is guaranteed for MANY years versus the one that is stained and finished at your home and warrantied for 1-2 years only. Also keep in mind when you choose solid, it has to be nailed to a plywood subfloor. It can cause issues with the baseboards looking too short, the doors need to be undercut, and transitions to shorter floor types like carpet or tile can seem “tall”.
In Engineered Hardwood the Veneers (or top layer you see and walk on) are cut and put on the layers below. Layers underneath, also called substrate, can be the hardwood or manufactured wood or material to support the veneer on top. Engineered floors all have different thicknesses of veneers that vary from style to style (Product Name) even from the same manufacturer. This allows them to make products that fit your budget, requirements or look you want. There are a few manufacturers that even have the same thickness of veneer above the “tongue” that a Solid floor has. Making allowable to be sanded and refinished just as easy. Remember that the Pre-Finished will last longer before having to do this, if ever! The advantage of an engineered floor is it is more structurally stable from moisture. The wood grains underneath are moving in the opposite direction or cancel out what happens on the other layers. Therefore it is stable if the house gets lots of moisture or you have a small water problem it can dry out better when you get the water off and put air on it. The Fakers. These “woods” get us that look but are not really wood.
- Laminate floating floors
- Ceramic or Porcelain Tile
- Vinyl Plank or Sheet Vinyl
In all of these floors many pictures of real wood species and trendy designs have been studied and now have become a pattern put on a computer to help manufactures make these floors from scratch. Simply put, Laminate floors are a picture of wood. The substrate material is put together with the picture and a clear topper and under Direct Pressure and adhesives (or glue) the pieces are laminated together as a countertop essentially is. This is a cheaper way to get the look of wood. While the laminate doesn’t scratch as easy as wood may, the seams and around the sides of the room are vulnerable to water. When the seams or perimeter gets wet, say bye-bye to the floor there. Laminate does not recover from water damage like real wood does. It has its place in the flooring market for price but keep this in mind.
Ceramic or Porcelain tile are ideal for areas that get a lot of water! If you want to have a wood bathroom or kitchen, then go for it with tile that looks like wood. You can put real wood in the kitchen but it’s not recommended in bathrooms or utility/laundry rooms. If you want a wood look on your back porch, pick a porcelain tile for outdoors since it doesn’t absorb moisture and won’t crack like a clay tile will if it freezes.
Vinyl comes in roll goods or what is also called Sheet Vinyl. Sheet vinyl can get a water spill on top and stay for days without worry (just be sure the sides by the wall stay dry). Vinyl Planks or tiles are also available and can give you a look closer to the planks of real wood. If you are doing it yourself make sure to make sure all the seams are fit together perfectly and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for rolling the floor and you can have the same benefits as the sheet goods!
This article is meant as a starting point for your wood buying purchase. For more on style or look, species and basics on Wood Choices download our FREE eBook for real world tips!
After weighing the options above you are ready to find the style and color that is as unique as you.
Kristen Mangus is Floor Partners’ in-house designer. For help, call her or any other member of the Floor Partners’ team at 817-735-8500.