Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hardwood Versus Laminate Flooring - The Truth

Don’t be fooled! No matter what you have heard or people say nothing matches the richness of a real hardwood floor. Laminate flooring is a photograph of a hardwood floor laminated (glued) to a composite material made up of compressed paper and glue.

Laminate flooring does not look like real hardwood nor does it feel like real hardwood underfoot. No two hardwood floors are the same, grains vary on each and every board. It is the inherent imperfections in the lumber that creates the richness that can only be found by using hardwood flooring.

Why then has laminate flooring become so popular, you might ask? The reason is two fold. The first, cost per square foot for the material. Laminate flooring can be purchased for as little as $0.80 per sq. ft., with a top end price of $3.00 per sq. ft. The second reason is installation, laminate is very easy to install and can be done by most home handymen, it requires little in special tools (a power saw with a carbide tipped blade is really the only required tool). Laminate can be laid over any flat surface including carpeting, an underlay of thin foam is recommended to reduce floor movement, comfort and sound transmission. Even contracted out, a laminate floor, complete with foam underlay can be had for less than $3.00 a sq. ft.

A quality oak, tongue and grove hardwood flooring material will cost at least $4.00 a sq. ft. and some of the exotic hardwoods can take the cost to more than $20.00 a sq. ft. Installation will cost another $3.00 to $5.00 a sq. ft. Hardwood generally, should not be used below grade or on a concrete slab floor because of dampness rising from below the boards and producing a warping effect. Hardwood should be installed by a professional, to ensure that subtleties in grains and colors are taken into account as each board is laid. As well, on delivery of the hardwood boards some will be warped and it takes some expertise to straighten them during installation. Installation is usually accomplished using a tongue and grove nailing machine, either pneumatic or manual. Although this is a simplistic tool, it takes some practice to utilize it properly and not damage the hardwood boards during installation.

Falling in between hardwood and laminate (although it really is much closer to hardwood than laminate) is an “engineered hardwood floor”. An engineered hardwood is a piece of hardwood, anywhere form 1/16” to 3/16” glued to a plywood. The engineered floor can be floating, similar to laminate where it is not glued down to the sub-floor or it can be glued down. Engineered hardwood is approximately the same price per sq. ft. as regular hardwood the difference is in the cost of the installation. It is easier to install because the boards are all flat and there is usually a high grain and color consistency. Installation of an engineered hardwood floor is around $1.75 a sq. ft. The engineered hardwood can also be used below grade and on concrete slabs because it is the plywood that is in contact with the sub-floor rather than the hardwood itself.