BDU Laminate Flooring College™
Not Just Another Name: Avoiding Confusion Between Laminate, Engineered Hardwood, and Solid Hardwood Flooring.
What you will learn: What makes solid hardwood floors, engineered hardwood floors and laminate
floors altogether different; advantages and characteristics of laminate floors; advantages and
characteristics of engineered hardwood floors.
When it comes to modern flooring materials, one of the most common errors that many people make,
including some contractors, is to confuse laminate floors with engineered hardwood – not to mention
confusing them both with solid hardwood flooring! Read on, and be confused no longer!
Solid Hardwood flooring is an elegant way to achieve a decorative and practical floor, but in areas
where moisture is a big problem, where there is no year round environmental control, or where you’re
thinking of floating your floor, solid hardwood may not be an option. This is where either a laminate
floor or an engineered hardwood floor may be the answer. But it is important to note what the differences
are, not only in solid hardwood floors and engineered hardwood floors, but also in laminate floors; laminates
must be viewed as entirely separate from the other two. So, with this firmly in mind, let’s first clear up
some of the major misconceptions surrounding laminate flooring. Then we can look at engineered hardwood
flooring, so neither of them will be confused with solid hardwood flooring.
Laminate floors: Photo Finish
A laminate floor may satisfy your needs when a solid hardwood floor has been eliminated as a feasible option.
Laminate flooring is durable, scratch-resistant, and designed for high traffic areas. It is also very easy to
maintain, with an attractive quality that separates it from other flooring options. But here is where it parts
ways with both solid hardwood flooring and engineered hardwood flooring; laminate flooring is an imitation of
real wood. Actually, it’s literally a photo of real wood, constructed with a top photographic layer laminated
with an aluminum oxide finish. This finish gives laminate floors their rugged resistance to abrasion. Beneath
the photograph or "décor" layer is layer of dense fiber board which is strong and serves as a good core. A bottom
layer or "backing" will act as a stabilizer as well as providing moisture protection. So in very clear ways,
laminate flooring is quite different from both solid hardwood flooring and engineered hardwood flooring. A solid
hardwood floor is, of course, made completely of a natural hardwood species; an engineered hardwood floor has a
single top layer of natural hardwood. So while both solid hardwood and engineered hardwood contain real hardwood
species, a laminate floor contains no hardwood species at all. Technically then, if you have a laminate floor,
you don’t have a hardwood floor.
Much like engineered hardwood floors, you can typically float laminate floors. But, you can’t glue laminates to a
subfloor, nor can you nail them down. A laminate floor requires an underlayment. Many lines of laminate floors
have incorporated a tongue-and-groove design which makes it very easy to install, particularly if you’re not a professional.
Engineered Hardwood Flooring - Reliable to the Core
If you were to ask which of the two options was closer to solid hardwood, the answer would be engineered hardwood
flooring, simply because engineered hardwood contains a top layer of real hardwood. This top hardwood layer lends
the floor an air of authenticity without the additional expense. The look and feel of solid hardwood is reflected
in your flooring, but with an additional layer of either high density fiber or multiple layers of plywood underneath.
This additional layer is what is called a core. The core in the engineered hardwood flooring gives you a considerable
advantage in certain areas where solid hardwood would not be as suitable; for example, it is designed to reinforce the
hardwood when it is exposed to humidity or other environmental factors which can damage solid hardwood.
You can float an engineered hardwood floor as well, unlike solid hardwood, with locking systems designed for an easier
installation. There are some varieties of engineered hardwood flooring that can be glued down to a concrete subfloor.
The glue acts similarly to an underlayment to protect the flooring from temperature changes and moisture. Many types of
engineered hardwood feature a locking system with a great deal of flexibility: you can put it down, and take it up when
it’s time to move. Don’t try that with solid hardwood!
Thank Goodness For Difference!
If it’s been decided that solid hardwood flooring just won’t work for your project, there may be many reasons for this,
or maybe just one big reason. Either way, you know that you must consider other options. It’s good to know then that
you can still gain the effect of a wood, or wood-like, surface in your space despite the obstacles that keep you from
installing solid hardwood floors. Now that you know what the differences are between solid hardwood flooring, engineered
hardwood flooring and laminate floors, a whole new set of possibilities has opened up for you!
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