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Totally Floored

If you’ve been considering a hardwood floor for your home, you may have discovered that there are far more choices available than you have imagined.  And it can get confusing.  What’s the difference between solid wood, engineered wood and laminate?  And what’s this Pergo® thing?  How come all these different types of flooring are called different names, cost differently, yet look almost the same?  To help you make sense of it all, here are a few pointers.

HARDWOOD FLOORING

 If you want real hardwood floor, two types of construction are available — solid and engineered.  With solid hardwood floors, each plank is made of a single piece of wood.  With engineered hardwood floors, each plank is made of several sheets of wood sandwiched together, much like plywood.  The top sheet (the only visible one after installation) is made of the wood species that you picked (say, oak), whereas lower sheets can be of a different type of wood. Which one should you choose, solid or engineered?  It depends on a couple of factors.  Solid hardwood floors are installed by nailing or stapling, so they require a specific type of sub floor which can’t be concrete.  Engineered hardwood floors can be installed by gluing or “floating,” so they can easily be installed over concrete, vinyl, or even tile.  Costwise, if you prefer the look of wider planks, engineered hardwood will be cheaper; for narrower planks, solids are more economical.  Also, if you are looking for an exotic type of wood, you will be more likely to find it in engineered form. Both solid and engineered floors are real wood, and overall have similar pros and cons.  On the plus side, real wood has a warm, homey look that’s hard to beat.  It will last for decades, can be refinished several times (including changing colors), and it ages gracefully with scratches and cracks even adding character.  On the minus side, real wood can get stained, and it can also fade if exposed to direct sunlight.

LAMINATE FLOORING

Available in Europe for decades, laminate flooring didn’t arrive on our continent until 1996 when it became a huge hit. The best-known brand is Pergo, which in our country is now synonymous with this type of flooring (much to the annoyance of numerous other manufacturers). A laminate floor consists of three layers.  The top layer is a sheet of photographic paper with an image of wood, which is coated with a material called melamine.  The core is a highdensity fiberboard, which is made of a combination of materials.  The backing can be made of plastic (higher quality) or paper (lower quality). Laminate floors offer several advantages over real wood.  First, they are easier to install, with some brands even being available in glueless variant. They are very strong and more resistant to impact and scratches than hardwood, so they are ideal for households with children and pets. Quality laminate flooring will look very much like the real thing, yet is much easier to maintain.  It cannot be stained and it won’t fade.  And since the surface is essentially a photograph, there are almost endless possibilities with color and style. There are, of course, a few minuses. Laminate floors cannot be refinished, but since they are so durable, they probably won’t wear out before you decide to redecorate anyway.  No matter how close it looks to the real thing, it’s still not real wood, and some people are bothered by this.  And because laminate flooring is very thin, it makes a hollow sound when walked on with hard-soled shoes. Which one is better: real wood or laminate?  The cost is about the same, so the choice boils down to personal taste and the question of convenience