How to choose the right wood floors

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.

Laminate

  • 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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