Article by Mark Westworth
Help On Deciding Between Solid Wood Floor, Or Laminate Flooring.PART ONEIf you are in this predicament, then reading this article might help you decide.
Hard Wearing – Solid WoodOne of the factors that is worth considering, is how hard wearing is it. Solid Wood flooring comes in all wood species, each having different density’s, for example Pine is a soft wood, so can be easily dented, while in contrast European Oak is roughly three times harder, If you are wanting a really tough hardwood floor then Brazilian Walnut ( IPE) is the densest wood flooring, there are woods a lot tougher than that but generally not used for flooring due to difficulty in cutting and nailing down. If you are wanting a pristine looking solid wood floor, then you have to ban stilettos high heel shoes, the pressure they produce is enough to damage any hard wood floor, regardless of the density, On the other hand some people like the lived in appearance, so the odd scrape and dent gives it more character. A brushed and oiled or matt lacquered oak floor will hide such imperfections. A well looked after Solid wood floor will last a hundred years, Hardwood flooring can be sanded many times and re-finished.
Hard Wearing – Laminate FlooringLaminate flooring is known to be extremely tough and durable, it is made up of four layers, the bottom is a barrier layer, next is the base layer which is made up of very dense particle board, usually High Density Fibre board (HDF), then the layer on top of that is a photo paper soaked in a resin, finally the top layer is a strong transparent layer, all are glued together under extreme pressure and heat. The good thing about Laminate flooring is, if you get a chip, it can be repaired using the appropriate colour match filler. There are different wear ratings for Laminate flooring, Manufacturers give it an AC rating ranging from AC1 to AC5, AC1 is for bedrooms and would be the cheapest in price, AC2 is for bedrooms, dining rooms and living rooms, AC3 is for heavy domestic areas like hallways, dining rooms and living rooms. Then there is the commercial grading, which starts at AC3, that is suitable for hotel rooms and small offices, AC4 is suited for small shops, offices, and finally AC5 which is the highest rating is used for department stores, large offices and public buildings.The actual wear layer of laminate floors is very tough, if you try and cut each plank with a electric mitre saw, it would be blunt very quick, sometimes I have had sparks emit from the laminate, but again certain manufacturers wear layer are far superior to others. Some offer a 25 year warranty, but many people probably won’t have a laminate floor for that length of time, due to change of décor and fashion, but at least you know if you did go for a quality make, then you should have no problems.
Cost – Solid WoodIf your deciding factor is the price of your floor, then choosing what wood species can have a dramatic influence on cost. If your heart is set on an exotic wood, then be prepared to pay more. Walnut flooring is a popular choice. On the rise is a wood called Acacia Mangium, which looks similar to Walnut, but harder wearing and cheaper in price.Choosing what finish the solid wood has, can also affect the price. With oak flooring you can get a multitude of finishes to suit every taste. You have hand scraped, that give it that aged appearance, then hand scraped and pegged, so it looks like the floor has been laid using wooden pegs. Oak flooring is stained in many different colours, an appealing one is white oak, then golden oak, bronze oak and dark oak. You can buy solid wood pre-finished or unfinished, pre-finished has either been finished with lacquer, wax, or oil. Un-finished wood is cheaper to buy but essentially expensive to finish.The width of each board, also affects the price you pay, cheaper solid wood would be 90mm wide, whilst 150mm – 170mm width would be the most expensive. This is due to how many boards can be milled out of each tree. Also if you are buying random length wood flooring, then these are the cheaper, whilst fixed lengths are the premium ones.The quality of each solid wood flooring plank also makes a big difference to cost, ranges in grades from “A” to “D”, “A” being the select grade with no imperfections, and “D” the more rustic grade with large knots and defects.
Cost – Laminate flooringYou can buy laminate flooring very cheap, but you do get what you pay for, buying from a well known make who offers a good warranty does help. One factor is the thickness, starting at 7mm thick to 12mm thick. Personally my favourite make is Quick-Step, I have fit these floors hundreds of times, and not once had a problem with the installation of the floor.Laminate floors also come in a multitude of finishes, imitating all wood colours and finishes, from very rustic oak with a hand scraped appearance, to walnut flooring with its smooth finish.The beauty of laminate flooring is that you can get the look of an exotic wood, but at a fraction of the price.Laminate floors in addition, come in a full range of widths, ranging from 100mm to 200mm wide boards, so you can imitate that real wood look.
Which room of the house – Solid WoodBathroomsThis is a question that I get asked many times; Solid wood is suitable for all rooms except bathrooms, due to the high risk of water contact, if your mind is set on having a solid wood floor in your bathroom then you can reduce the swelling by taking simple measures like, having bath mats in areas that are prone to water spillage, wiping up splashes as soon as you see them, installing an unfinished floor then coating with several coats of good quality lacquer. If you have children then it will be more prone to water damage.KitchensSolid wood flooring are becoming more and more popular in kitchen areas, but there will be still a high risk of water damage, the main cause is washing machines, if one leaks and then the water finds its way under the floor, then the wood floor will expand, so when the expansion can’t expand no more due to no space, it lifts up, I have seen floors lift by 6 – 12 inches, this can subside slightly, if the leak is stopped but it never goes back to normal. Choosing the right finish for your solid wood floor in kitchens is also important, having a waxed floor would be less suitable due to the water marks from drips and splashes, and the possibility of been slippery. Lacquered solid wood floors are a good choice, but try not to go for a high gloss finish; this would show dents and scratches more than a matt finished wood floor. An Oiled wood floor is also a good choice for kitchens, with been easier to maintain than the others.HallsNothing beats looking at a well looked after solid wood floor as you open your door, but be wise on your choice of wood, woods such as walnut are not the best for hallways, due to having a very flat surface and actually dents easy. Oak flooring is a good choice, the finish should not be a gloss, but a matt finish, this masks the scratches and knocks it will get, be prepared that your floor will inevitability get these.Choosing the right width board is something to consider as well, if you have a narrow hall then it best to go for a narrow plank, like a 90mm one, this gives the illusion that it is wider than it is, where as wide boards (150mm) would close it in and make it narrower.Dining room, Lounge and Bedrooms Anything goes with these rooms, due to not having to worry about water damage, but again take into consideration the width of the wood flooring. Waxed floors are best avoided if you have young children, due to the maintenance.
Which room of the house – Laminate FlooringBathroomsLaminate flooring has come a long way in the past 20 years, and now you can buy laminate floors that are appropriate for bathrooms. Some makes impregnate the core of the laminate with water proofer, another make Quick-step has a range called Lagune, that uses a rubber strip in between the long sides and you seal the shorter sides, with a glue sealer. There is also a make called Aqua-step which is a fully waterproof floor, but this is made entirely of plastic and really not classed as a laminate floor. I have found with laminate flooring that does not have bevel around each plank, these tend to be the worst for swelling around the edges of the boards. If you do not have children, then going for a good quality and thick laminate floor should be ok, using bath mats and cleaning up spills as soon as possible will lengthen the lifetime of your laminate floor.KitchensLaminate flooring in kitchens is an ever popular choice, due to able to imitate tiles, or the expensive exotic real wood floors. The range is vast so will cater for every taste. Water damage is a big issue, with so many water sources around the kitchen, it only takes one to fail and leak and you won’t know until it’s too late and the damage has been done. Don’t let that put you off buying a laminate floor, because if we all thought the worst all the time nothing would get done. I think it would be worth checking all plumbing before a new floor is going to be fitted. One of the easiest mistakes is when you disconnect the washing machine or dishwasher and the rubber seal comes out of the hose without you knowing, this would cause a slow leak that you might not see for a while.HallsAs with solid wood, you can buy laminate flooring that comes in various widths, so you can choose one that would better match the hallway. Make sure you go for a good quality one due to the high level of traffic. One that I have fitted numerous times is Quick-step 950, this has a more solid feel when you walk on, is 9.5mm thick and very tough.Dining room, Lounge and Bedrooms Any range of laminate flooring can be fitted in these rooms, but if you have children or pets, then go for a mid to high end in price, this will be more cost effective, especially if you are paying a tradesman to have your laminate floor fitted. Cheap laminate floors are fine for bedrooms, due to the low traffic it receives.
Installation – Solid WoodThe fitting of Solid real wood flooring is usually better left to a professional floor fitter, but if you are competent at DIY then you should have no problem. Having the right tools makes the job easier, but the basic tools are spacers, tapping block, pull bar and hammer, you will also need a jigsaw to cut the wood flooring. There are three ways of installing wood floors – Firstly – secret nailing, this is done with a certain machine that is designed to nail cleats into the tongue of the wood flooring at a certain angle, this is done over existing floor boards or overlaid plywood.Secondly – You can glue the solid wood floor directly to the floor with special glues designed for that purpose. The sub-floor must be very flat and had a liquid damp proof membrane applied to the concrete floor. Wide boards that are 150mm in width or greater must always be glued down, irrespective of what sub floor it is, this is due to solid wood flooring expands through the width of the board and very little in the length and the wider the board the more expansion there is.Thirdly – Self adhesive underlay is the latest of the fixing methods, this is installed by pealing back the sticky top layer just enough past the last row of wood flooring that was laid. This method also requires the sub-floor to be very flat, if it is not then it needs to be levelled using levelling compound.Expansion of solid wood flooring is the main factor many have problems with, key rule is leave as much expansion as possible, if your wood floor is to be laid in a big room, then the skirting boards will have to took off, this is to enable enough room for expansion, adding scotia (beading) around the skirting boards as well is advisable.
Installation Laminate FlooringLaminate flooring is made with a click system, making it very easy to install, someone with very little DIY knowledge should be able to install it. You must buy the correct manufacturers fitting kit to go with your laminate floor, this is due to each click system will have their own tapping block, if you don’t use the correct one, you will damage you laminate floor. If you feel that you can’t install a laminate floor, then get a professional fitter in. One popular click system that is used by many is UNICLIC. Quick-step uses this system with their laminate floors, I have found this to be the easiest to install, due to being able to click the boards together without tilting them. Laminate flooring can be installed over floor boards or concrete, never glue the laminate boards to the floor, you should always float the floor by installing a suitable underlay first, I always use a underlay with a Damp proof membrane built in, even if laying over floor boards, this is especially advisable on ground floor installations.A 10mm gap for expansion is recommended around the perimeter of the room for laminate flooring, you can hide this by installing beading (scotia).
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