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Differences in Hardwood Flooring


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Hardwood wood flooring is hardwood flooring I hear you say, but to be honest, you couldn’t be further from the truth if this is how you are thinking. Hardwood flooring is a term that used to refer pretty much to solid wood flooring and solid wood flooring alone. However, the whole hardwood flooring market has changed and expanded in recent years, so if you’re about to make a purchase, it makes good sense to go out into the market equipped with the knowledge you’ll need to make the right decisions for your project.

In this article, we hope to demystify some of the terminology used in the hardwood flooring market, so when you start to shop around, you’ll know exactly what you’re up against.

What is hardwood flooring?

As we’ve already mentioned, hardwood flooring is a term that originally referred only to wood floors that were made from solid planks of wood and nothing else. Nowadays, the term has expanded in its meaning and is often used to refer to everything from top of the range solid and engineered wood floors to bottom of the range laminates – and this can cause extreme confusion. So, in this article, we’ll look at each one of these options and try to help you “get” what is meant by each, so you can confidently make the right decisions for your project.

Solid wood flooring

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Solid wood flooring, as its name suggests is wood flooring that is made from solid wood and absolutely nothing else. Most certainly the flooring option that gave rise to the term hardwood flooring, solid wood flooring is the solution of choice by fewer and fewer consumers these days. That may seem strange, but with the passage of time and the development of flooring solutions, solid wood flooring is, in many ways becoming the less attractive solution as time goes by.

When wood is in its natural state in the environment, it expands and contracts in response to fluctuating temperature and moisture levels. In the big wide world, this expansion and contraction causes no issue whatsoever. However, when you have boards of wood butted up against each other to create a floor, expansion and contraction can play havoc if you’re not careful.

As temperatures and moisture levels in our homes rise and fall, solid wood flooring moves thanks to this expansion and contraction. While very slight movements needn’t necessarily cause an issue, significant movements caused by poorly fitted boards can result in havoc. If solid wood flooring boards are fitted too tightly or without an expansion gap around the room, then the chances are that when they expand they will cup or bow because they’re being pressed together and the excess needs to rise or fall to compensate. And even in a well fitted floor, gaps can arise because of expansion and contraction. So, as you can see, while solid wood hardwood floors were (and in some cases still are) a great flooring option, they do have their drawbacks.

Engineered wood flooring

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Engineered wood flooring is a relatively new kid on the hardwood flooring block, having come into existence only a few decades ago. That said it is arguably one of today’s most popular flooring choices – and it’s easy to see why.

Engineered wood flooring has all the great, naturally good looks that you get when you choose solid wood flooring, but the way it’s constructed means that you don’t get nearly as much expansion and contraction. Put together by combining solidly bonded ply with a top layer of solid, real wood, engineered wood flooring couldn’t be more convincingly “real” looking if it tried. But the really clever thing about it is that it’s core board, that’s made from layers of ply simply doesn’t contract and expand like solid wood.

What all this means is that if you want a hardwood flooring option that stands up to temperature and moisture fluctuations; engineered wood flooring simply has to be the best choice. Suitable for fitting throughout the home and even in bathrooms and kitchens, as well as over under floor heating, we can’t help but feel that engineered is the new solid when it comes to hardwood flooring.

Laminate flooring

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We’ve included laminate flooring in this article about hardwood flooring, not because we believe that laminate should be on the list, but because many people include it in their list of hardwood flooring options. That said, it is completely foolhardy to include laminate in a list of hardwood flooring solutions because laminate simply isn’t hardwood and here’s why.

Laminate is a synthetic, man-made flooring option made from various layers that are bonded together using a lamination process.  Laminate flooring came into being in the late 1970s and was originally a direct competitor to vinyl. Typically made up layers of underlay, resin, HDF and an image (yes, an image) topped off with a clear plastic covering, laminate flooring can be made to look like hardwood, because the layer which makes up the image is just that, an image!

If you’re still confused or would like more specific help to find out which one of the different hardwood flooring solutions would work best in your interior, why not get in touch so we can guide you? At Wood and Beyond we have decades and decades of wood flooring experience and are always more than happy to help people make the very best decisions based on their needs and their budget.


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