There are a dizzying array of wood and wood-look flooring options on the market today and shown in almost every decorating TV show, design magazine and home improvement photo on-line. If you’re considering one of them, learning about the available options and knowing the advantages and disadvantages between these floors is critical to making a flooring decision you’ll be happy with for years to come. As interior designers, flooring specifiers and flooring suppliers, we at Lorain & May make it a priority to continually educate ourselves about all the flooring choices on the market so we can help our clients make the best selection for their needs and priorities. Here’s a quick introduction and the pros and cons about various wood and faux-wood floors.
WOOD FLOORING: SOLID WOOD and ENGINEERED WOOD
SOLID WOOD flooring is made of solid boards typically between 3/8” and ¾” thick and between 2” and 8” wide, with the wider widths (between 5” and 8” wide) being much more popular today. Before the invention of wood floors pre-finished in the factory, 2”-2 ¼” wide solid white oak flooring finished on site was the norm and it has performed well over decades in many homes from the late 1800s thru the 1960’s. Solid wood floors can be refinished multiple times over the life of the floor and can be made of maple, birch, hickory, cherry, walnut, acacia and many exotic species. The downside of solid wood flooring is that it is more susceptible to cupping and warping with changes in the moisture content of the slab below or with exposure to heat and direct sun.
ENGINEERED WOOD is the other authentic wood option also available in planks of 3”-8” wide and is available in a myriad of wood species and stains and with various levels of distressing. Engineered wood is made of a wood top layer backed with multiple layers of other wood running in opposite directions and sandwiched together. This construction makes the engineered wood less likely to cup and warp and depending on the thickness of the top wood layer, most floors can still be refinished once or twice in their lifetime which is sufficient for most buyers. Engineered wood floors come is typically stained and clear-coated in the manufacture’s facility, which allows for a harder, more durable UV-cured finish than floors that are finished on site.
WOOD-LOOK FLOORING: LUXURY VINYL PLANK, LAMINATE AND PORCELAIN TILE
LVT or LUXURY VINYL PLANK is the newest addition to the wood-look market which offers some important advantages over laminate flooring. The top layer of material is a vinyl that imitates the color and texture of wood while maintaining flexibility and resilience. The backing is typically water-proof greatly expanding the practical applications in rooms where water exposure could be an issue. LVT can be as thin as 1/16”- 1/8" thick or if it has a rigid backing, it can be approximately 1/4” thick or more and will not have issues with transferring thru unevenness in the subfloor below. As with engineered wood and laminate, pay attention to the wear-layer thickness to evaluate the expected lifetime of the floor.
LAMINATE FLOORING which gained popularity 10-12 years ago is actually a high-resolution image of wood laminated to a wood substrate. Popular because of it’s affordability, the quality of laminate floors varies greatly depending on the thickness of the wear-layer and the composition of the substrate. Most laminate floor backing is made of MDF (medium density fiberboard) which can swell and distort the face layer if water or spills penetrate the seams between boards, so it is not recommended for bathrooms or other wet areas. Unlike engineered wood which usually has solid coordinate pieces for stair tread nosing and transitions, flooring level changes with laminate flooring usually require a raised trim board which can be a trip hazard. Pay attention to wear-layer thickness to determine the durability of the floor.
WOOD-LOOK PORCELAIN TILE is the other new flooring option with many good-looking styles and practical applications. If you would like a rustic-looking floor in your bathroom, kitchen, laundry room or restaurant, the low-maintenance, easy clean-up and durability of wood-look tile can’t be beat. Often designed for minimal grout-spacing, these tile planks can yield looks that are warmer and more inviting than other tile styles. The downside is the harder surface is less comfortable on our bodies for an aging population and unevenness and cracks in the subfloor should be evaluated by the installer before 36” long and longer tiles are selected.
If you’re considering a new wood or wood-look floor and would like a designer’s professional recommendation for your specific project goals, please contact Lorain & May for a design consultation and preferred pricing on a vast array of flooring products.