By Steve Cooper
In today’s market, there is no shortage of sellers trying to put new wood flooring into your home. There are flooring retailers, online outlets and big-box stores, each promising the best material. If finding products is easy, how will you know what to buy? Consider these three characteristics of wood floors as you shop:
How is it made?
Real-wood flooring materials are either solid or engineered wood products. Solid flooring is simply that—each piece is solid lumber all the way through. Engineered wood is more like plywood, with a top beauty layer sitting on a foundation of several plys. Generally, two pieces of oak flooring—one solid, one engineered—will perform about the same until it is time for a refinishing. Then, the solid wood can be sanded as needed, but the top layer of an engineered wood is so thin, it may only allow one or two sandings.
If you are thinking about engineered wood flooring, be forewarned about one thing. Purchase only name brands that you trust. This is not a product to buy on price alone because some low-cost import products are poorly assembled, which means you could be facing costly repairs or replacement when the material can’t stand up to household traffic.
Is there a cost difference?
There won’t be much difference in purchase price between a solid wood and an engineered wood floor, if both are the same common species. But the engineered floor may cost substantially less if it is a less-common species. Engineered may also cost less for installation. If you are investing for the long haul, however, look seriously at solid. Remember, it can be refinished many times through the years.
Will it last?
Your new floor may look wonderful on the day it is installed, but if it won’t hold up to foot traffic, you’re probably not going to be a satisfied customer. Durability is a key factor. There are two chief considerations: hardness of the wood and hardness of the finish.
The Janka Hardness Test (JHT) was invented to determine wood hardness. JHT is a scale that puts hardness into number form. The higher the number, the harder the wood. Generally, any woods in the 1000 to 2000 range will give you many years of good performance. But make sure you know the specifics of the species you consider. For instance, Black Cherry has a hardness of 950 and Brazilian Cherry has a hardness of 2350. The former may get damaged by constant heavy traffic, while the latter should stand up well.
The other factor is the hardness of the finish. For an active household, shop for a baked-on clear topcoat. Purchase from a brand name and get products with warranties of 25 years or longer.
For more information on flooring visit the World Floor Covering Association’s Consumer Carpet & Flooring Guide.