You’ve decided to install timber flooring. Excellent choice. Nothing adds a touch of warmth quite like hardwood. It’s durable and even when it does become scratched or worn, many types of timber flooring can be refinished and restored to their original beauty. For those reasons, it has become the flooring of choice for homeowners all over the world.
Now it’s time to select a timber floor product. Flooring is milled from a wide variety of species, each of which look slightly different and offer varying degrees of hardness and durability. In addition, there are a variety of ways to manufacture timber flooring. Basically, they all fit into one of two categories; engineered or solid. Let’s start there and break down the differences between the engineered and solid timber flooring options that are out there.
Engineered flooring consists of multiple layers of wood adhered together. The interior layers are typically plywood and the top layer is a veneer that provides the desired appearance. Many people presume solid flooring is superior to engineered flooring, but it actually offers both advantages and disadvantages compared to solid flooring.
It’s more resistant to moisture. No wood floor will stand up to being completely soaked with water, but in damp or humid environments, engineered flooring is the best choice. It was, in fact, invented so that homeowners could install timber flooring over concrete slabs, which give off more moisture than other subfloors. Over the years, as manufacturers have created more and more varieties, engineered flooring has found its way into many parts of the home.
It’s often easier to install. Most solid flooring is installed with a tongue-and-groove process, which hides the nails and requires specialized equipment if not a professional installer. Some engineered floors, on the other hand, are glued down. Others utilize a “floating” system that enables them to be interlocked with each other with no gluing or nailing required. Additionally, because it is available in a variety of thicknesses, it is often easier to manage transitions with other flooring types in adjacent rooms.
It can be refinished (sometimes). The thickness of an engineered floor will determine whether or not it can be refinished. The veneer layer on better quality floors is typically between 2mm and 6mm. Those can be refinished at least once. Thinner veneers can not.
It’s environmentally friendly. While the toxicity of the adhesives used to manufacture engineered flooring are something you should pay attention to when selecting a product, engineered floors typically have a smaller impact on the environment than solid timber flooring, particularly when it comes to exotic species. It takes fewer Bolivian Rosewood trees, for example, to make a 2mm veneer than it does a 2cm solid plank.
It’s less expensive. What ultimately becomes the bottom line for homeowners looking for the look and feel of wood, engineered flooring is almost always cheaper than solid alternatives.
No matter how far engineered timber flooring technology advances, some homeowners just have to have solid wood underfoot. If it’s a quality product and it’s installed correctly, you can’t go wrong. It can be refinished multiple times, if necessary, and it can last, literally, hundreds of years. There are a few things you should know, however.
It can warp. – Solid timber is more susceptible to the effects of moisture and contraction and expansion than engineered products. For that reason, most companies do not mill solid planks wider than 15cm. Additionally, professional installers will leave space for expansion underneath the baseboard moulding.
It can’t go everywhere. Most manufacturers recommend that the home’s relative humidity remain between 45% and 65% in order to prevent warping. Additionally, it should only be installed above grade and it requires a wood subfloor.
Installation can be tricky. Solid timber flooring is attached to the subfloor with a tongue-and-groove system. The tongue of each board holds the nails, which are driven in at an angle, and the groove of the next board covers the tongue so that the nails are hidden. The process requires a specialized flooring nailer. A confident do-it-yourselfer can successfully complete an installation, however, make sure you have the right equipment and are ready for the job.
Bamboo flooring has become an increasingly popular choice in recent years. Flooring companies have manufactured beautiful flooring from this renewable resource and consumers have responded by adding it to their homes. The process consists of adhering strands of bamboo together under high pressure. The end result is a quality product, but as with other types of flooring, there are a few things to be aware of.
It’s more water resistant than solid timber. Bamboo does not warp as easily as solid hardwood, but it is not quite as stable as engineered flooring.
It’s softer than hardwood. Bamboo is inherently softer than other flooring materials. Depending on the manufacturing process, however, it can be made more or less durable. Natural, uncarbonized bamboo is typically stronger than carbonized bamboo. The carbonization both makes the bamboo darker and weakens it structurally.
It can be refinished. Like solid timber, bamboo flooring can be sanded and refinished. The thicker the plank, the more times it can be refinished.
Environmentally friendly. As with engineered flooring, buyers should be aware of the adhesives used during the manufacturing process and their toxicity levels. In terms of carbon footprint, however, bamboo stands out because it is made from a raw material that has been known to group up to 10cm within 24 hours.
Whether you choose engineered flooring, solid timber or bamboo, you can have a beautiful floor that will stay that way for decades, if not longer. With all three product types, choose a quality product, install it properly and the results will thrill you.
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