One of the first choices you will have to consider in buying an oak floor is whether you are going to choose a solid hardwood product or a laminate product. Laminate is also known as engineered flooring and uses real wood on top of another material, usually plywood. Hardwood or solid is, as the name implies, made of only one type of material. Laminate can also refer to other products made of plastic, but that will not be addressed in this article.
Generally, engineered products do not offer quite the variety that you can find in solid products. Engineered floors can be installed in a variety of ways including free floating, glued down and stapled or nailed down.
Engineered floors tend to remain more stable and flat in conditions where heavy moisture is present. Changes in climatic conditions cause all floors to expand and contract, but engineered floors are more resistant to the influences of moist air. This kind of floor is the floor of choice for any basement or sub-grade installation and may also be a better choice for tropical locations that are subject to extreme humidity or in areas where there are extreme fluctuations in temperature.
Laminate floors are somewhat thinner than solid wood planks and may be a better choice for installations over an existing floor. Door clearances and transitions from one room to another with and without a wood floor are kept to a minimum.
While it may seem that engineered floors enjoy many advantages over solid oak floors, there are arguments for the hardwood plank camp as well.
Solid wood floors have a certain feel to them that other floors cannot match. There is something almost indefinable, but still very much present, in the sound and the feeling of walking on a hardwood floor that is missing in the alternative.
There is a broader selection in styles and in addition to oak, solid flooring offers a wider range of species, cuts and finishes.
Solid wood floors also have a high level of trustworthiness that adds value to a home. While laminates are excellent floors, the psychological appeal of a solid hardwood floor is hard to deny. Oak floors are associated with tradition, elegance and endurance-”The Mighty Oak” and other floors have similar connotations-the richness of walnut or the warm and rare cherry.
Finally, there is no doubt that the solid hardwood floor is an enduring addition to any home. One only has to visit homes hundreds of years old to witness firsthand the sturdy and ever-lasting quality of a solid plank floor.
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