Discover Fantastic Flooring Options
According to the Appraisal Institute of America, installation of hardwood flooring is one of the ten most popular home improvements in the United States – putting it in your kitchen is the second most popular new trend. Since hardwood floor increases the value of your home you can expect an average payback of up to 75 percent of the cost. In other words, bringing the beautiful warmth of wood to your home is a great investment!
There are two different methods of applying finish to hardwood: site-finished and pre-finished. Pre-finished floors are factory finished with aluminum oxide; the particles are suspended in the topcoat by exposing it to ultra-violet light. This makes them tougher – on average pre-finished floors offer ten times the wear resistance of site-finished floors. However, site-finished floors can be slightly less expensive and offer you the opportunity to customize your stain color exactly.
Solid hardwood is unlikely to require replacing, just refinishing. If you’ve decided on pre-finished, this process is called “screen and re-coat,” which means scoring the floor’s surface and applying a coat of urethane. The factory finish is unaffected because it is well protected.
Milled from one piece of wood, solid wood floorboards are three-quarters of an inch thick. Solid hardwood can be installed above or on grade, but you don’t want to install this type of wood below grade, since moisture makes it expand and contract. Remember: if even part of the area you’re finishing is underground (like a walk-out basement) it is considered below grade.
All engineered hardwood is generally pre-finished and constructed of multiple layers of cross grain that are bonded together (much like plywood). It is typically about 3/8” thick or thicker, and can be refinished if needed. The main advantage to engineered hardwood is increased flexibility as to where you can install it. You can install it above, on, or below grade, and in come cases with an underlayment and moisture barrier.
Some engineered floors can also be installed in a floating fashion, and are a comparatively easy install for the do-it-yourselfer. Unlike solid wood, engineered hardwood can be used with in-floor heating systems.
Not all laminates are created equal, but they are all constructed in more or less the same way; a bottom balancing layer/moisture barrier, core material, decorative pattern (wood grain) and finish. The bottom balancing layer should be as thick as the top layer to prevent warp or cupping. The best core material is high-density fiberboard (HDF), which is the most stable.
A good way to test the overall integrity of a laminate system (and you should only consider “glue-less”, or “click” products, due to the ease of installation) is to click two sections together and try to pull them apart. If there is any movement, the product has a weak joint system and you should look for something else. Laminates are “floating floors” which are installed atop a special under pad and not fastened to the sub floor (boards are simply cut to size and clicked together). Since these floors need some space to float you have to be sure not to lay the boards too tightly against the walls – follow the manufacturer’s instructions exactly. The edges can be finished with the molding of your choice.
Care and maintenance:
The beauty of most hard-surface flooring is how easy it is to maintain and care for. Cleaning kits made specifically for solid and engineered hardwood and laminate floors are recommended to deal with spills, spots, and regular maintenance. Remember that water is the enemy of laminate and hardwood flooring. Do not let water stand on your floor for any length of time. For all floor types, spray the cleaner on the mop head, NOT directly on the floor.
One of the additional benefits of clickable engineered and laminate systems is that if something terrible happens to one board or section of your floor, you can actually unclick and replace the damaged pieces very easily, without having to refinish the whole room.