How to choose the right wood floors

July 29, 2015

If you like the look of wood floors, there are three ways to get it. Here are some pros and cons for each:

How to choose the right wood floors

Solid wood

  • This traditional flooring — usually 19 millimetres (3 /4 inches) thick — is the most durable and beautiful choice, but it is also the most expensive to buy and to install.
  • Installation is best left to professionals.
  • Solid-wood flooring often is sanded and finished in place, but it is also available in prefinished planks. (Prefinished planks meet with a V-groove that can collect dirt.) When the finish wears off, you can strip it off and refinish the floor.
  • Wide flooring boards evoke old-fashioned charm but will shrink in dry weather, causing dirt-grabbing cracks.
  • Solid-wood parquet won't shrink, because it is made of small strips — usually in 30 centimetre (12 inch) squares.
  • But parquet is extremely difficult to sand for refinishing because the strips change direction every few inches.

Engineered wood

  • This is essentially plywood. It consists of three or five thin plies of wood glued together in a crisscross pattern that makes the product strong and more stable than solid wood — you won't have to worry about gaps forming.
  • The top layer is hardwood, so the look is nearly indistinguishable from solid-wood flooring.
  • The drawback — you usually can't refinish the floor, because you'd quickly sand through the top layer.


  • This manufactured flooring consists of a thin layer of plastic laminate — the same stuff countertops are made of — bonded to a composite material.
  • The surface feels like a countertop.
  • The wood look comes from an image printed onto the top layer, which is then treated with a plastic-wear layer.
  • Laminate flooring is very tough — it will still look good when it would have been time to refinish a solid-wood floor.
  • That's fortunate, since laminate can't be refinished. Laminate is easy to install — the planks interlock, some without glue, and they are not attached to the subfloor.
  • Laminate flooring is actually flatter than solid wood, which can make it look more artificial, especially in large areas.
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