Solid Wood Flooring Vs Laminate Flooring — What to expect

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Solid Wood Flooring from Colling-Wood Flooring

As a life long carpenter with nearly 30 years of experience, I can assure you that the vast majority of people that buy flooring, or decide what flooring to use, lack the basic understanding of what they are deciding to buy. They just don’t know the difference between laminate and wood flooring.

The trend in new homes and renovations is to use low cost engineered, (pre-finished) flooring. They call it hardwood, because it contains a very thin layer of hardwood on the surface of a plywood/Masonite/adhesive core. They vary greatly in how they are made, the quality of finish and components and for our purpose we will refer to them as Laminates. Engineered flooring is just another name for the same thing.

We strip out old style flooring from time to time, but normally the flooring has been in place for a half a century or more, and refinished numerous times. The two floors seen here are brand new wide plank floors. Laminate flooring producers strive to make their floors look like this.

Wide Plank Butternut Flooring

What to Expect?

Cost 

Laminate flooring installed will vary between about $5 and $20 per square foot installed.  Solid wood, finished in place flooring will range starting at about $7 and range up to the $30 per square foot, finished and installed. The higher end number will feature a faux finish that is labor intensive, with clad staircases and transitions to tile included. It could take 2 weeks to do a floor like that in your average house.

Durability

Laminates in high traffic areas could look quite worn within 3-5 years. Dogs and high heels can be tough on them and you need to remember that refinishing these lacquer coated faux panels is not possible. There simply isn’t enough wood there to work with.

Solid wood flooring depending on the species can last centuries. It gains character as it ages. Pine will show more wear–hard wood like ash or hickory will show less wear. So, your decision for flooring can last a few years…or a lifetime, with a similar cost.

Thickness

Our solid wood flooring is a full 7/8″ thick when you get it.

Laminate flooring will vary between 1/4″ and 3/8″ generally.

Consider levels when deciding on flooring. When you change the height of a floor, this will affect the stair risers, (height of the top and bottom step–as well, finishes may not match well. Laminates are notorious for not having parts readily available or enormously expensive and time consuming to source. Many engineered flooring does not get fastened to the floor–they lay on a mat and are glued to each other. This system does not work particularly well on stairs which means jury rigging your tread cladding.

Sound Transfer 

Depending on the species, solid wood will help deaden sound transfer from the upper floors to the lower. Laminate is light weight and will not deaden sound much. We recommend gluing our floors in place, which increases the mass to include the sub floor in one thick mass. This will help keep sound transfer down and actually add strength to the floor.

Stair Treads, Nosings and Transitions

We can fabricate stair treads, nosings and transitions if you need them–or sell your contractor the extra raw materials to do it from the same species.Since the finish goes on after installation, color matching is not an issue.

Uneven sub floors

Before installing laminate flooring you will have to achieve an even–smooth sub floor, otherwise the flooring will move and cause premature failure. When it comes to renovation work, this often means sanding the entire floor area with a large drum sander, belt sanders or palm sanders and the amount of work can be cumbersome and affect the overall budget.

Working with our solid wood flooring, the odd inconsistency in level of flooring, up to about 3/8″ is fine– just glue the flooring in place and you won’t have any issues.  When you sand the flooring after installation, the inconsistencies will not be noticeable.

Choice of finish, colour and style

Laminates change their look and style with the weather–so what you buy today, may not be available 5 years from now. Buy enough for repairs and patches, and realize that if you have your new staircase finished to match your stylish new flooring, you may not be able to buy a match for the flooring later.

Old school wide plank solid wood flooring gets finished in place after sanding in place. There are tens of thousands of specialists that do the finishing for you in North America–just google it.  You choose the colour, texture, finish type and whether they accentuate flaws or knots or keep them to a minimum. The flooring specialist can supply you with finish samples prior to applying the finish.

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