One of the first choices you will have to consider in buying a hardwood floor is whether you are going to choose a solid hardwood product or a laminate product. Laminate is also known as engineered flooring and uses real wood on top of another material, usually plywood. Hardwood, or solid, as the name implies, is made of only one type of material. Laminate can also refer to other products made of plastic, but that will not be addressed in this article.
Generally, engineered products offer the same variety that you can find in solid products. Engineered floors can be installed in a variety of ways, including free floating, glued down, and stapled or nailed down.
Engineered floors tend to remain more stable and flat in conditions where heavy moisture is present. Changes in climatic conditions cause all floors to expand and contract, but engineered floors are more resistant to the influences of moist air. This kind of floor is the floor of choice for any basement or sub-grade installation and may also be a better choice for tropical locations that are subject to extreme humidity, or in areas where there are extreme fluctuations in temperature.
Laminate floors are somewhat thinner than solid wood planks and may be a better choice for installations over an existing floor. Door clearances and transitions from one room to another with and without a wood floor are kept to a minimum.
Engineered floors enjoy many advantages over solid hardwood floors, especially in Southern California, but there are also many good reasons to install for the hardwood flooring.
Solid wood floors have a certain feel to them that other floors cannot match. There is something almost indefinable, but still very much present, in the sound and the feeling of walking on a hardwood floor.
There is a broad selection of styles and colors that solid hardwood flooring offers, as well as a wide range of species, cuts, and finishes.
Solid wood floors also have a long lifetime that adds value to a home. While laminates are excellent floors, the psychological appeal of a solid hardwood floor is hard to deny. Hardwood floors are associated with tradition, elegance and endurance—"The Mighty Oak" and other floors have similar connotations—the richness of walnut or the warm and rare cherry.
Finally, there is no doubt that the solid hardwood floor is an enduring addition to any home. One only has to visit homes hundreds of years old to witness firsthand the sturdy and ever-lasting quality of a solid plank floor. Solid hardwood floors work great in areas above grade (second floor or raised wood foundations).