Types of Floors

Darrell Black

Custom Wood Flooring, Inc.

Laminated Flooring:

The definition of laminated flooring has evolved to most often mean a melamine product that has a backing applied. The backing is made up of a photographed ply that looks like wood, that is applied to either to chipboard or high density fiberboard.  Again the wear surface is the hard durable melamine covering placed over the photograph. The following is a diagram taken from http://www.armstrong.com showing their construction used in laminated flooring:

Pros:

Less expensive than most engineered, solid, or parquet flooring. Very hard top surface.

Definition of Melamine: 

Melamine is a thermosetting plastic. It is strong, lightweight and hard, but can be scratched, broken or cracked. It resists acids and alkalies, and most food stains but can be stained. It also stands fairly warm
temperatures, but absorbs heat and softens if it gets too hot. It's used for dinnerware, mixing bowls, laminated counter tops, and other items. Melmac is a common trade name.  Avoid exposure to hot objects. Stains may be removed with commercial cleaners made for melamine. Never use scouring powder or any other abrasive. This article was written by Anne Field, Extension Specialist, Emeritus, with references from Ohio Extension bulletins Choosing and Using Microwave Utensils and Accessories and other Plastics handouts.

Since the product is a photo of wood, overall appearance of floor is more uniform than real wood, but there may be some repetition to the wood grain.  Floating floor is easily installed by homeowner.  Does well in basements, kitchens, powder rooms, utility rooms, and heavy traffic areas.

Cons:

It is not real wood. Wet mopping (not recommended) can cause swelling of the center core product. Product is not impervious to scratches, denting, or staining(grape juice/berries must be cleaned up).  Can never be sanded and finished. If it is abused and looks bad, it will have to be replaced.

Engineered Flooring:

Engineered flooring is a 3 or 5 ply product that consist of layers of wood pressed together, with the grains running in different directions.  This lamination of the product helps make expansion and contraction of the surface wood much more stable.  Thickness of the product can range on average 3/8” up to 3/4”. Shown below are three ply and five ply construction:

A side note here, when you look at the photo above you can see a difference in the wear surface on these two products.  Examine the wear surface on engineered products for thickness, some can be sanded multiple times and others may not be sanded at all. The example above shows a three ply product and a five ply product.  Most companies use real wood for these layers.  Using materials that expand and contract in a similar fashion as the wear surface makes the product more stable.  This reduces the number of small cracks that develope between boards during different seasons of the year.

Pros:

Real Wood is used for the wear surface.  Due to construction of the product, it is more stable than solid flooring.  This means it will expand and contract less than solid wood during fluctuations in humidity and temperature. Can be glued to slabs and plywood or nailed to plywood.  Can be used in below grade installations. Land is sloped towards home and basements. A moisture check of the slab should be performed before installing flooring.  Some engineered products can be installed as a floating floor system, which a home owner can easily install.   Engineered products can be installed throughout a home.

Cons:

Most companies that produce these products use peeled cuts as opposed to plain sawn cuts for the wear surface.  If the floor is sanded and a dark color is chosen it will accent this grain effect much more than a solid floor that is plain sawn. I do not recommend the home owner attempting to install a glue down product. It is better to have these products installed by a professional, not your local expert installers from Home Depot or Lowe’s, just my opion. Most failures occur from improper slab preparation , improper glues, improper spread rates/wrong glue trowels with glues, and homes flooding. Yes, slab preparation causes dust with pre finished floors.

Solid Flooring:

Solid flooring includes all floors, regardless of pattern, width, or length that is one piece of wood from top to bottom.  

Pros:

Can be installed ground level and above. Solid flooring gives a great opportunity for customization.  You can easily add borders, medallions, a mixture of woods, stone/marble, and choose from a wide selection colors and finishes. This product can be installed throughout a home as long as the product is above grade.

Cons:

If you have a concrete slab, installation of 3/4” strip flooring requires installation of 3/4” plywood sub floor for a nailing surface, making the overall height 1 1/2 inches. The following is a list of problems that can be encountered in existing homes that have a slab that is not recessed at least 1 1/2 inches:  baseboards may have to be removed, doors will probably have to be cut (metal exterior doors will require a speciality company), toe spaces at cabinets are now only 1 1/2” tall, and finally can you remove your appliances for service/replacement. 

The above list can be problem on pier and beam homes if you are using 3/4” solid material. Appliances should be checked. Can they be removed after the floor is installed?  Will doors need to be cut?    Will  the baseboard width/height still look proper/good after 3/4” has been taken away.  Parquet patterns that are not 3/4”glued down. We do not glue down 3/4” strip floor shorts. Plank flooring will develop more cracks and cupping when there are wide changes in the humidity and temperature ranges.  Completed job takes longer due to acclimation time for the wood and curing time for finishes.

Acrylic Impregnated:

Acrylic impregnation is a process where the moisture content of the wood is reduced, then the wood is injected with acrylics, next the moisture content is returned to normal levels.

Pros:

Very hard and durable product. Produced in strip product for glue down or nail down application.  This is an engineered product. There are also parquet patterns that are available that are solid or engineered. Wide array of colors and styles. Choice between ultraviolet cured urethane, or no top coat.

Cons:

The color is impregnated into the wood, cannot be changed. Will show dull spots when water is left standing on floor. Has a tendency to develop small cracks between boards. Using wrong cleaning products will cause color changes in product.

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