Wood and laminate floorings explained
Wood has been a traditional flooring material for centuries, it is relatively warm under foot, it has a natural attractive appearance and its ease of maintenance makes it a natural choice in many applications.
Laminate flooring has some advantages over other floor coverings such as carpet, tile or vinyl;
- Laminate flooring is easier to keep clean and doesn't normally stain.
- It's not a 'breeding ground' for the dust mite and offers advantages for those suffering from allergies.
- Moisture resistant laminate can be used in areas which may be damp - i.e. kitchens, bathrooms etc.
- Laminate floor is ideal where underfloor heating is installed.
- The wide range of underlay available for laminate flooring include some which offer good sound deadening qualities.
Today wood and wood effect laminate flooring is widely used to give a high quality appearance to modern floors. Often they are all referred, incorrectly, to as 'laminate floorings', they fall into three basic types the main difference being (apart from price) the thickness of the wood, or wood effect film, on the surface. The three basic types of flooring are:
- Solid wood (Solid Wood).
- A thin top layer of real wood (Real Wood Top Layer).
- A thin film with wood (or other) effect printed on it (Laminate).
This list is in the order of price and durability (starting with the most expensive and most durable). Only the second two are truly 'laminate' flooring.
Laminate flooring may be classified as suitable for different locations around the home, the common classifications are:
- Living areas - bedrooms, studies, conservatories etc (areas which get light usage).
- Busy areas - living rooms, hallways etc (areas with a greater footfall).
- Humid areas - bathrooms, kitchens, utility areas etc (areas where the air may be humid and/or there's a likelihood of water getting on the floor).
To ensure that the flooring lasts for a long time, a particular product needs to be checked for suitability for the intended location.
Solid wood flooring
As the name suggests, Solid Wood flooring is made from solid wooden boards or planks usually around 18mm thick and with bevelled edges. Various types of wood are available giving different colours and shades, the top of the wood is usually lacquered or oiled offering a range of different finishes. Solid Wood flooring will mark and mellow over time which is generally considered to enhance their look and add to their natural appearance.
Most Solid Wood flooring incorporates a simple tongue and groove system to join the separate pieces - this makes installing the flooring fairly simply. The pieces are simply pushed together to create a stable joint which is fixed to the sub-base.
Solid Wood flooring is usually fixed to the sub-base by concealed nailing (through the tongue of one piece before the next piece is abutted to it) or gluing down; where the planks are so fixed, an underlay is usually not required. Some people choose to glue the tongue into the groove without fixing each piece to the sub-base - in this case, an underlay is normally required.
Once fitted, Solid Wood flooring can be sanded and relacquered (in fact, treated just like a traditional wooden floor) when required and it should last for years.
Typically Solid Wood flooring can be used in bedrooms, studies and conservatories, hallways and living rooms. The only areas generally not suitable for Solid Wood flooring are kitchens, utility areas and bathrooms where the high moisture may cause the wood to expand and contract excessively. But always check with the manufacturer to see what particular area it is recommended for.
Real wood top layer flooring
Real Wood Top Layer flooring has the same look and feel as solid wood flooring but only the top 2 or 3 mm of the planks is real wood with typically plywood or HDF (High Density Fibreboard) below that. Real Wood Top Layer flooring is sometimes referred to as engineered or multi-layer flooring.
Various types of wood are available giving different colours and shades, the top of the wood is usually lacquered or oiled offering a range of different finishes.
The multi-layer construction of Real Wood Top Layer flooring means that the boards are very stable and have minimal expansion and contraction - this makes Real Wood Top Layer flooring ideal for above under floor heating.
Fitting Real Wood Top Layer flooring is usually easier than Real Wood flooring as it usually fits together using a locking system where one piece just clicks into the next piece with no need to fix each piece to the sub-base - this normally necessitates the use of an underlay to accommodate any movement. The locking system allows for pieces to be removed and adjusted during installation - if necessary, the whole floor could be dismantled and reused at a later date.
Typically Real Wood Top Layer flooring can be used in bedrooms, studies and conservatories, hallways and living rooms. The only areas generally not suitable for Real Wood Top Layer flooring are kitchens, utility areas and bathrooms where the high moisture may cause the wood to expand and contract excessively. But always check with the manufacturer to see what particular area it is recommended for.
True Laminate flooring is usually made up of layers of HDF and other materials with a very thin, upper patterned film underneath a tough protective film. The patterned film can be different wood effects or even very realistic tiles.
Laminate flooring usually fits together using a locking system where one piece just clicks into the next piece with no need to fix each piece to the sub-base - normally an underlay is needed to accommodate any movement. The locking system allows for pieces to be removed and adjusted during installation - if necessary, the whole floor could be dismantled and reused at a later date.
Modern Laminate flooring can be very durable and they offer a wide range to suit different tastes and locations. Care needs to be taken when selecting Laminate flooring as different types will suit different locations - some are only suitable for lightly used areas while others can be used anywhere around the home.