If you are looking for new home flooring and are considering hardwood flooring as an option, one of the things that you will need to consider is what type of wood you will use – solid hardwood or engineered wood. As with most construction materials, there are pros and cons to each.
SOLID HARDWOOD VS. ENGINEERED WOOD
Hardwood flooring refers to a type of flooring that is made entirely of genuine wood, from top to bottom. This is different from a laminate, which is made of compressed fiberboard with a paper pattern layer sealed on the top to give it the appearance of wood, stone or another surface. Hardwood flooring comes in two types – solid and engineered.
Solid hardwood flooring is made of one solid piece of wood, rather than layers of wood. An ideal choice for most areas of your home at the ground level or above, it is usually nailed or stapled to a wooden subfloor. Alternately, engineered hardwood flooring is a hardwood that has been engineered from multiple layers of solid wood pressed together, in a cross-ply (layer) construction with the grains running in different directions. This construction makes it especially dimensionally stable and suitable for stapling, gluing down, or floating over wood, concrete, or existing flooring.
THE SKINNY ON SOLID HARDWOOD FLOORING
Let’s start by considering hardwood flooring. There are several factors that will impact both the price and quality of solid hardwood flooring.
Wood Species: An exotic wood is harder to come by than a maple, for example. The species also determines overall hardness of the wood.
Wood Manufacturer: We are often asked, "These two maple products look exactly alike. Why is one $3.25 per square foot and the other is $8.50 per square foot?" The answer is nearly always the same....quality. A mass produced product from China can look much like a Canadian grown northern hardwood. The difference is primarily how the product is milled. This determines waste factor or overage needed to complete the project. The $3.25 per square foot warehouse blowout maple probably needs an additional twenty to thirty-percent extra material because of the amount of unusable product per case.
On the other hand, the $8.50 per square foot maple will typically only require about five-percent additional material. This is because each board is hand checked by human hands and an electric eye. Furthermore, each board is milled and engineered to meet exact specifications.
Milling Technique: The way the raw logs are sawed also affects the beauty of the finished product. It is expensive for a manufacturer to saw boards from each log. Some manufacturers saw for maximum use of the log while others saw for the most beautiful planks.
Planks with really nice grain patterns have a nicer appearance and you get fewer of them per log. Good mills air dry their wood for weeks if not months after it is cut. Air drying wood is expensive for the mill. However, air drying wood produces straighter, flatter boards.
Other mills may kiln dry the wood for quick turn-around. Kiln drying is the artificial process of achieving and stabilizing a wood's desired moisture content by placing it in temperature-controlled "ovens" where excess moisture is removed by heat.
Milling Location: One should be able to easily research the manufacturer of a product. A good rule of thumb is, if you do not know where the product comes from or who makes it, don't buy it! You will have a really difficult time trying to get any help from the seller if you have problems with the wood.
Wood Origin: A northern grown red oak is more expensive than a southern grown red oak. The northern growing season is shorter so trees grow slower --therefore they are denser and harder. A southern grown red oak grows quicker and the product is usually softer and weaker. Less expensive wood is often southern grown as it can be milled much more quickly.
Finish: Most prefinished products will have at least seven coats of polyurethane and should have an aluminum oxide or similar scratch resistor in the finish. A factory finish is almost always superior to an in home finish. More layers of polyurethane are not always better.
Some products claim that they will not scratch. This may be true; however, usually this is accomplished by adding many more coats of polyurethane. This starts to distort the appearance of the wood and give it a plastic look. Too many coats of polyurethane will act like a plastic sheet over the wood that can shatter if something is dropped on it.
All hardwood flooring can and will scratch. However, we have all seen 100 year old wood floors that look as good as they day they were installed. Regular maintenance and some love will help them to last forever.
Tune in next week to learn more about another wood flooring alternative – engineered wood!