How to Choose Your Material: Wood Flooring
Ever been to one of those wood flooring shops and got introduced to a dizzying amount of flooring options?
Dent-resistant, scratch-resistant, moisture-resistant, solid hardwood, engineered wood… The pros give you the options, but the burden to choose is on you.
In reality, the numerical data you’re given (say, how a particular brand of flooring scores in scratch resistance) does not promise perfect accuracy. The pros’ banks of knowledge might be similar, while their subjective opinion remains.
Forgoing the chance to research on your own might cost you regret later when everything’s nailed in place!
To make things easier for you, we’ve boiled down the options to a simple yet comprehensive guide, so as to give you an idea what you’re really choosing from.
Types of wood flooring:
Essentially, solid hardwood is processed natural timber. Styles are differentiated by the type of timber (oak, mahogany etc.), pattern and shade. Japanese solid hardwood flooring, フローリング, literally means no-dirt. Think all-natural and additive-free.
With average thickness ranging from 18mm to 20mm, solid hardwood flooring possesses an incomparably unique pattern coming from organic growth. Its ability to retain heat in winter or cold weather and dissipate heat in summer makes this type of flooring not only a pleasure to the eye but also to the sense of touch. For these reasons, solid hardwood remains a popular choice, perhaps the top choice even, in the flooring market.
1. Value-preserving, more beautiful with age
Patterns and shades of natural timber change over time. Much like wine and collectables, it gets more valuable with age. It also carries a wooden, earthy aroma. In the eyes of some Europeans, solid hardwood flooring is a form of investment. Its value in the market is retained even with age.
2. Durable and can be refinished
Solid hardwood flooring can be refinished and used up to multiple decades. It can look as good as new with even a century’s time if they are given a careful upkeeping.
3. Interior air regulation and soundproof properties.
Natural timber absorbs and releases moisture, which regulates the interior’s humidity. For this reason, solid hardwood has the property of dispelling allergens like pollen and exhaust fumes. Because of this property, asthma sufferers are recommended by the AAFA (aafa.org) in the US to install solid hardwood flooring in their homes.
Solid wood also has exceptional soundproofing quality.
4. Recyclable and reusable
Solid hardwood is a recyclable material. Given that producing companies manage their forest harvesting at a reasonable level, this type of flooring deserves to be called the most natural and environmentally friendly.
1. Intensive upkeeping
Upkeeping for solid hardwood flooring includes two aspects: cleaning and conditioning. Basic cleaning detergents and mops can sufficiently fulfil the purposes of cleaning and bacteria control, while conditioning for this type of flooring requires more care. Because of its low resistance to abrasion and scratch, regular waxing and lacquer refinishing are needed.
Natural timber tends to be soft and not as resistant to scratch, and for this reason, it is not recommended to place heavy objects on this type of flooring over a long period of time.
Yet because of its softness, timber is afforded flexibility which reduces injuries when accidents happen. Timber is also less easy to crack, and accidental dents are usually reparable.
In fact, some species of wood like oak and cherry have a higher resistance to scratch. Therefore, not all types of solid hardwood are placed under the category of low scratch resistance.
3. High cost
Solid hardwood will cost you most than other types of flooring. Professional advice might be needed in deciding the species of timber your flooring is going to be. More cost-effective advice from designers suggests using this type of flooring for more popular rooms and cheaper alternatives for less popular rooms.
4. Vulnerable to high humidity
Natural timber is less likely to swell, warp or cup in a low-humidity environment. Prolonged exposure to water is not recommended.
5. Complicated installation procedures
Installation requires techniques and knowledge of experienced professionals, DIY not recommended.
Engineered wood is an instance of a good balance between natural timber and factory-processed flooring material. With a thickness of 12mm to 16mm, its four-layered structure consists of:
- UV lacquer
- Solid hardwood veneer
- Core hardwood
- Hardwood board plank
Design: FOMA Architects + Interiors
1. Easier installation
Engineered wood flooring is good news for the do-it-yourself enthusiast. Bearing in mind that the base surface for flooring should be kept smooth and layered with EPE foam, you may install your very own wooden floor.
2. Big variety of styles
Thanks to the solid hardwood veneer, engineered wood can have just as many styles and natural patterns as the more expensive option.
3. V. 2.0 of solid hardwood, basically
Engineered wood targets the main shortcomings of solid hardwood and remedies them. Compared to the latter, engineered wood scores higher instability and moisture-resistance, while retaining the beautiful appearance of solid hardwood. It also can be refinished upon minor damage.
It performs with good soundproofing and durability (up to several decades), as well as being more cost-effective than solid hardwood.
1. Lower dent-resistance and weaker heat regulation
Engineered wood’s dent-resistance depends on the material the core and board are made of. You might find it less durable than solid hardwood, they might also feel colder to the touch in winter or cold weather.
2. Susceptible to UV damage
Prolonged exposure to sunlight might cause discolouration on the veneer. At installation, sun exposure should be put into consideration.
3. Limited refinishing
DIY sanding can only repair the damaged wood-oil coating, but not the UV lacquer.
4. Humidity resistance
Engineered wood, being a processed product, is still mainly made of wood, and has limited resistance to moisture.
Laminate flooring is also a kind of flooring made of multiple layers, but its similarities with the engineered wood end there.
For one thing, since the decorative veneer of laminate flooring is a photographic applique layer coated with protective melamine, available styles for laminate flooring can be vast. Mahogany, granite, teak, you name it.
Advanced manufacturing technology also enables the imitation of texture, for example, the polished smoothness of crystal, and the grooved surface of aged wood.
Laminate flooring has a thickness of 7 to 12mm (thinner than engineered wood by about 30%), and is made of four layers:
- Scratch-resistant melamine coating
- Decorative photographic applique
- High-density fibre (HDF) board
- Moisture-resistant melamine base layer
1. Vast range of style at an affordable price
Quality laminate flooring’s imitation of wood and stone is almost impeccable. You can easily find that exact style in the comprehensive range of tones and textures. Brands with higher moisture resistance are generally pricier, but in recent years, more factories begin manufacturing cheaper laminate flooring. We recommend purchasing from more well-known brands for their guaranteed quality.
2. Catered to various purposes
Due to the fact that laminate flooring comes in so many types, this kind of flooring can be used in areas under both light and heavy traffic. Remember to avoid low wear-resistant flooring for spaces such as the living room.
3. High stability, mould-resistant and easy to clean
Laminate flooring is durable, mould-resistant and easy to clean. Dirt on the surface can be removed easily, which renders this type of flooring the perfect choice for a family with kids and pets.
4. Easy installation
Laminate flooring is the easiest to install among all options of wood flooring. Perfect for DIY lovers.
1. Lower moisture resistance and slip resistance
We do not recommend using laminate flooring in kitchens and bathrooms. This type of flooring has low slip resistance. Moreover, laminate flooring with full moisture resistance is so expensive that affordability, the flooring’s original and primary advantage, is lost.
2. Weak sound insulation
Laminate flooring is less sound-proof compared to solid hardwood flooring.
3. Non-recyclable and might release VOCs
Laminate flooring is not recyclable and cannot be repaired. It is advised that upon purchase, buyers should pay attention to product certificates that clearly explicate the amount of VOCs emitted from the product into the indoor environment, as well as possible related health impacts. After installation, the indoor area should be well-ventilated and the flooring kept dry.
4. Lack of authenticity and less comfortable
People used to the authentic texture and look of hardwood flooring might find laminate flooring too artificial. Laminate flooring also has a lower heat capacity, which means that in winter or cold weather, it feels colder to the touch when compared to solid hardwood.
Cork is harvested from the outer bark tissue of a type of tree called the cork oak. Cork is also made into woodblocks and flooring. The most widely known usage of cork is, of course, to make wine stoppers.
The main countries that manufacture cork are Portugal, Spain, Algeria, Italy, Tunisia, Morocco and other Mediterranean regions that are on the same latitude.
Cork oaks produce cork of varying shades which are made into the flooring with a range of colours. It outmatches solid hardwood in sound insulation, moisture resistance and sustainability.
1. Naturally harmless
Cork is naturally mould-resistant and anti-bacterial, which makes the material benefits to people afflicted with allergy and asthma. Cork flooring certified by FloorScore® and Greenguard is one of the healthiest flooring options you can find on the market.
2. A comfortable choice
Arguably this flooring material’s softness is comparable to a carpet’s. Cork as a heat-insulating material also keeps the rooms warm in winter. Its softness also provides excellent sound attenuation.
3. Durable and environmentally friendly
Not only is cork flooring durable, but it is also biodegradable and can be recycled into a range of products such as corkboards and coasters. This material is especially popular in European countries.
4. Gives an air of artistry to the interior
The texture of cork flooring gives an artistic air to your home. Its versatile colour is also suitable for various home décor designs.
1. High cost and high maintenance
Cork flooring tends to be expensive and there aren’t a lot of cheaper cork flooring options around. Cleaning and refurbishment procedures tend to be complicated and require professional knowledge, as well as specific tools.
2. Susceptible to UV damage and staining
Cork flooring tends to discolour under sunlight. Upon installation, users have to consider whether the flooring will receive prolonged exposure to the sun. Moreover, since cork readily absorbs water, heavily-pigmented liquids like wine can easily stain the flooring.
3. Lower dent resistance
The comfortable softness of cork flooring entails a lower dent resistance. It is a trade-off that not many users are willing to accept.
If you’re looking for the visual effects of hardwood flooring but worried about the intensive upkeeping it entails, bamboo flooring might be the flooring for you.
Raw bamboo goes through a few manufacturing processes before it can be made into flooring. These processes include bleaching, vulcanisation (which increases the material’s durability), dehydration, cutting and pressurisation.
The main manufacturer of bamboo flooring is China, and quality can differ so much in terms of hardness and propensity to crack. To Europeans, bamboo flooring is a relatively expensive option since bamboo is imported material.
1. Easy to maintain at an affordable cost
Although less durable compared to solid hardwood flooring, bamboo is easier to repair and clean. It is also cheaper than solid hardwood.
2. Natural and eco-friendly
Bamboo grows almost ten times quicker than trees. Harvesting bamboo is also seen as less of a crime than harvesting a decades-old tree. Therefore, bamboo flooring is loved by people who are environmentally conscious.
Generally speaking, bamboo flooring does not release harmful substance like VOCs into the interior, which makes it suitable for people with nasal allergy, given that buyers research thoroughly into what they are buying and who they are buying from.
3. Resistant to moulding and termite growth
The manufacturing processes the bamboo goes through effectively curb the growth of fungus and termite. The bamboo flooring comes as a blessing to regions with warmer climates where termite growth is a prevalent issue.
1. Lower scratch resistance despite the hardness
Bamboo is a harder material than hardwood, surprisingly though, it has lower scratch resistance. Professional advice is needed when trying to find the most durable kind of bamboo.
2. Sensitive to extreme humidity
According to professional advice, the optimal humidity for bamboo flooring is around 30%-50%. The material is prone to warping or cracking when exposed to a humidity way higher or lower than the optimal. You might need to purchase humidity control appliances for this kind of flooring.
3. Style lacking in variation
Conventional bamboo flooring might strike you as bland if you compare it visually alongside the richness of hardwood’s texture and tone. Bamboo flooring dyed to imitate timber like pine and mahogany is available on the market, yet its fibre patterns remain singular and perhaps dull. Bamboo flooring made to produce a visual impact might cost more than conventional ones.
4. VOCs content
Because raw bamboo goes through a lot of processing before it can be used in flooring, buyers should watch out for VOCs content before purchasing. Quality can vary immensely between brands, and bamboo flooring advertised as moisture-resistant might be a tell-tale sign of high VOCs content.
So, what is the best type of wood flooring?
Now that you have a basic idea of these five types of wood flooring, these five points of consideration (in order) may be just what you need to make a choice:
- The size of the renovation area in total.
- The amount of light each space in the area will receive.
- The function of each space in the area (eg. cooking, resting…)
- The décor styles and the palette of furniture and walls in the area.
- Finally, the quality of the flooring and your budget.
|Solid hardwood||Engineered wood||Laminate flooring||Cork flooring||Bamboo flooring|
Decoman, now going global as Deco-Man, is a Hong Kong-based renovation platform which provides professional consultancy services and pioneers in the development of A.I. homeowner-engineer matching. We aim at educating the public about the art of home renovation and have our eyes on transforming the traditional renovation industry, bringing standardisation, transparency, convenience and automation to the business.