Here are the three most common types of hardwood floors installed today: Unfinished Hardwood Flooring, Pre-Finished Engineered Flooring, Pre-Finished Laminate Flooring.
Unfinished Hardwood Flooring
The biggest advantage of unfinished hardwood flooring is that it’s the real thing. While engineered flooring and laminate try to emulate traditional hardwood nothing compares to the look, feel and finish of real wood. Unlike engineered or laminate, unfinished floors must be sanded, stained and sealed onsite.
Common Widths: 1 1/2, 2 1/4, 3, 3 1/4, 4, 5, inches
Common Thicknesses: 1/4, 3/8, 5/16, 3/4.
Common Lengths: Unfinished wood generally arrives in random lengths that when installed by a professional looks beautiful
Grades:Clear, Select. #1 Common, #2 Common, Rustic.
Deciding which species of hardwood floors you choose is a matter of your personal taste and budget. The most popular species are oak, maple, mahogany, pine and cherry, but there are hundreds of possibilities available. A popular trend in recent years is eco-frienly bamboo and cork flooring. The most beautiful are the exotic species from Africa and South America such as Zebra wood or Purple-heart, however these are also much more expensive.
There are different grades. The better the grades, the less knots, holes and color variation. Some prefer a lower grade in order to show “character”, but most people like the higher select or clear grades. Grades may be determined according to your budget, since the better grades are most expensive.
The standard width is 2 1/4“. The wider the plank, the bigger the room will look. The wider planks are considered nicer looking, but are also more expensive, because it is harder to find large pieces of wood.
Pre-Finished Engineered Flooring
This product has become very popular within the last decade. Only the top part is the real wood, and all the rest is made of different woods or man-made products. The biggest advantage is that it is more resistant to changes in humidity or water damage. It looks perfect because all the strips join perfectly together. Being man-made there are no imperfections, which is why the strips connect perfectly. It is thinner than hardwood and usually can be glued down. In many cases the reason for using it is to avoid installing a plywood sub floor. Eliminating the sub floor in addition to the thinner strips is a great advantage in cases that require cutting down the bottom of doors, because the new installation will raise the height of the floor. A big disadvantage is that because the top layer is thin, it can not be refinished as many times as a thick hardwood floor.
Pre-Finished Laminated Flooring
Is the fastest to install and does not require a plywood sub floor although it is recommended. It may be installed using a floating floor technique. This technique allows each strip to connect to one another, but not to be attached to the sub floor. The whole floor is one piece, which is floating above the sub floor. The advantages of this system is that it saves time and money on installation and plywood. The biggest problem is that if the floor is not perfectly level, you will feel it when you are walking on the floor. There will be pockets of air underneath you, and when you step the floor may sink. The biggest disadvantage is that it is not the real thing. The top layer is a high pressure laminate (like FORMICA), which is made to imitate the wood look, but is definitely far from the real thing.