There are many different styles of flooring to choose from. Many people are intimidated by the amount of options that are available today. Walking into a showroom with thousands of samples makes it difficult to know where to begin. No matter how many samples you may see, your options are actually quite simple. In general, there are really only 4 main options to choose from...site finished raw materials, pre-finished, engineered and laminate flooring. The rest is just color.
Site Finished Raw Materials
This type of flooring is just what it says. Raw materials that need to be sanded, stained and finished on site. These floors have more options to match your home's decor and existing trim or cabinet colors simply because stain can be mixed to just about any color. The overall finished look of this product is often referred to as "a sheet of glass". All of the boards are butted tight with a true 90 degree edge that is then sanded extremely smooth. While these floors typically cause a bit of a dusty mess, as well as lingering smells from the stain and clear coat, there is no comparison to a site finished product. The process takes about twice as long as a pre-finished floor but in the end, is worth every bit of the time and money spent.
Pre-Finished flooring has come a long way over the past 15-20 years. As you may have noticed, walking into a showroom can be a little confusing when it comes to which brand to choose from. Every manufacturer has their own species of wood, multiple colors, and warranties that can push 50 years. In most cases, the cost of these floors is based on the length of time that the warranty covers. These warranties have a lot of fine print so be cautious as to what you're buying into. Typically, hardwood floors need to be refinished every 5-10 years, depending on the amount of traffic and abuse they take on. Having said that, as soon as the floor is refinished, you no longer have a warranty. On the brighter side, these floors are a dream to install due to no dusty mess or smells, and a generally quick intsall compared to site finished flooring. Most of these floors have a slight beveled edge so each individual board is easily noticable compared to a sanded floor. However, the finished product is just as beautiful in the end.
Engineered flooring is mostly designed for installing hardwood over concrete surfaces. Due to the amount of moisture that comes out of concrete, solid wood flooring would absorb the moisture causing it to buckle and bow. Engineered flooring is made up of multiple layers of wood that typically don't allow moisture to set in which helps with expanding and contracting. While the finished product looks exactly like a real floor, there is only a thin layer of real wood on top. The rest of the floor layers are more like a plywood. These floors are great for basements, condos, or anywhere else that a floor may be subject to ground moisture. Most of these floors can be refinished, but only one time. Engineered flooring can be nailed, glued down, or floated. Each manufacturer has specific installation instructions so do your homework before selecting a floor. Installing a glued down floor can cost as much as double what a floating floor will. When the product is finished, it is almost impossible to tell that it is not a solid wood floor.
Laminate & Vinyl Flooring
Laminate and vinyl floors are a great way to update your home. These floors can be very affordable, and come in more colors, sizes, and species than just about any other product. The material is digitally imaged to give the appearance of a real floor. Both styles are a floating material that can be installed over existing floors which saves time and money by not having to tear out old flooring. The tongue and groove system does not allow the floor to become separated once installed. Older styles of laminates did not have the technology of this system and required the seams to be glued. These floors have come a long way and are becoming more and more popular. While some look like completely fake flooring, others have amazing colors and even textured finishes that can fool even the most experienced professionals. These are truly amazing products simply based on their wide range of options.