The following overview of hardwood flooring types is offered to help you understand the features and advantages of each to guide you in your selection of a beautiful, lasting floor. You may call us at (415) 459-1800 or email us through our contact form with any questions, or to schedule an individual flooring consultation with the owner of TamFloors, Dermot Coogan.
Engineered Hardwood Flooring
Engineered Hardwood Flooring is designed to resist wood’s natural tendency to change dimensionally over time. Developed for installation in areas with variable humidity levels, it is more stable than solid wood. These floors are comprised of multiple layers of wood which are cross-banded for stability and glued onto a plywood base. The graining of each layer runs in opposite directions, which makes engineered floors very stable.
This means that the wood will expand and contract less than solid wood flooring during fluctuations in humidity and temperature. For this reason engineered floors are a better choice for applications that may not be ideal for solid floors such as over radiant heat installations, in kitchens, bathrooms, and basements, or where a floor is needed to span two differing subfloors like plywood and concrete.
The top layer (also called wear layer) of engineered wood flooring consists of high-quality wood.
Compared to solid wood flooring, engineered flooring makes better use of our dwindling natural resources, as it can yield up to four times the amount of flooring using the same amount of high quality wood. Engineered floors can be sanded and refinished, but not as many times as solid wood flooring.
Most engineered floors can be nailed or stapled to a wood sub floor, or glued down to a wood sub floor or concrete slab. Some are designed to be floating floors only.
Pre-finished vs. Unfinished
Engineered and solid floors are available in pre-finished or unfinished options.
With pre-finished (also known as factory finished) wood floor, the finish is applied in the factory, long before the wood reaches your home. A major benefit to factory finished wood floor is that there is minimal dust and noise during the installation process, and there are many options available in terms of species and color. Pre-finished solid hardwood flooring almost always has a micro beveled or V-groove between each plank to lessen the appearance of slight changes in thickness between boards, whereas engineered floor boards can be manufactured to exact thicknesses and can have square edges that create minimal seams between boards.
Unfinished solid wood flooring, on the other hand, is design to be
sanded and finished in place and can be stained virtually any color imaginable, allowing you a higher level of customization than pre-finished solid hardwood flooring. A job-site finish is one that is applied on the job site, in your home. With a job-site finished floor, you can choose the type of finish to be applied to your floor, which will impact maintenance, as well as the stain, if any, and sheen of the final product. In other words, a job-site finished wood floor offers you unlimited possibilities for customizing the final appearance of your floor. However, because your floors will be sanded and finished in your home, there will be noise, dust and some disruption during the installation process, and you will need to allow time for the finish to dry before you can walk on your new floor. In the past few years, many dust containment systems have been developed to help control dust and debris, so ask your contractor if one can be used in your home.
Solid Hardwood Flooring
Solid hardwood flooring is exactly what the name implies: a solid piece of wood from top to bottom. The thickness can vary, but generally ranges from 3/4" to 5/16". Solid hardwood flooring has been the staple of the industry for the last 150 years. It is hardwearing, resilient, it can be re-sanded several times, and it is a good choice for situations where there is no danger of high moisture levels or radiant heat systems. These kinds of floors can be used in any room that is on or above grade, or on or above ground level, in your home. Solid wood floors are ideal in family/living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms and even kitchens and powder rooms. It is available in many different species, many different sizes and comes in both unfinished and pre-finished options (see above).
Hand-sculpted / Distressed Hardwood Floors
Distressed hardwood floors are an excellent way to add atmosphere to any area and give the look and feel of a worn or reclaimed hardwood floor despite being brand new. The lived-in, antiquated look of distressed hardwood flooring gives a home a warm, welcoming glow and that extra little touch of class. Hand-sculpting (also called hand-scraping) is a very labour intensive process involving denting, scooping, roughing and even creating wormholes, splits and other markings that are normally only achieved by extensive use and the passage of time. All manner of tools such as chisels, planes, wire brushes and even ice picks are used to achieve a worn look, and each individual plank is hand distressed separately. Darker finishes showing the scraping more than floors that are lighter in color.
Hand distressed flooring gives the most truly unique look and is a popular choice for many of today’s upscale homes. Some manufacturers will also give you the option to choose between heavy, medium and light scraping, giving you an even wider range of options to achieve the desired effect. It still pays to carefully choose the manufacturer of your hand distressed flooring because the quality and look of the flooring depends greatly on the skill of the artisan, as is true of any hand-made product.
If hand distressed flooring is a little on the expensive side then there’s also the option of machine distressed hardwood flooring. Admittedly machine distressing is a cheaper imitation of the real thing and can result in repetitive markings throughout your floorboards, but the old, comfy, lived in feel can still be achieved with this less expensive option.
Reclaimed Wood Floors
Reclaimed wood floors are made from planks of wood that have been salvaged from a wide variety places. Reclaimed wood can provide the benefits of old-growth timber without the environmental costs. Vast quantities of old-growth lumber can be found in old warehouses, buildings, bridges, tanks, and other structures that await deconstruction and reuse. Nail holes, bolt holes, and other fastener marks are part of the antique appeal of this unique resource.
People who know wood understand that the best quality wood comes from old-growth trees. Old-growth timber is harder, denser, and more stable than wood from young trees. It also tends to have fewer knots and structural defects. However, old-growth timber usually comes from ancient forests – a precious and threatened resource. Consequently, a growing number of building professionals and consumers are choosing alternatives.
Wood products used to create reclaimed hardwood flooring can also be carefully salvaged from urban areas, orchards, and river and lake bottoms. Every year, for example, a huge number of trees are removed from city streets, backyards, and parks due to disease, storm damage, and other causes. The majority of this wood winds up in landfills, but a growing percentage is being diverted as people discover this overlooked resource, which includes top grades of both unique and common hardwoods and softwoods.
Whether wood is reclaimed from existing structures or from urban forests, the result is the same: high-quality wood products that alleviate pressure on overflowing landfills and virgin forests alike. This makes reclaimed wood floors an environmentally sound option that at the same time is high in quality and unique in character.