While I am no expert in the field, I have bought, sold, and installed several thousand square feet in the past few years. At the request of some others I thought i would make a brief guide to the variety of hardwood flooring products that are available in my marketplace.
Laminate flooring - this flooring is the cheapest product. Basically think of it as a piece of hard compressed cardboard with a photograph of wood grain on the top of it. Some laminate looks convincingly like real hardwood floors, some does not. All laminate requires a thin underlay product to help cushion it (about 30 to 60 cents a square foot). Cheap quality laminate is thin, the boards do not lock together smoothly, and the photo of woodgrain on the boards is very repetitive, meaning every third or forth board will look the same. This type of flooring should cost around 79 to 99 cents a square foot.
Some cheaper and older style laminate floor requires that you apply glue between the boards to secure them together. All newer style has a better tongue and groove which 'clicks' the boards tight together. Generally, the better quality laminate flooring you buy, the thicker the boards and the better the locking of the boards. Some high quality laminates ($2/sq foot) are half an inch, some are completely waterproof, and certain brands of laminates are the most durable of all hardwood flooring products.
These are the best product for flips/rentals (cheap) or high traffic locations (durable). Easy to install it yourself.
Engineered floor/floating floor - this flooring is designed to be laid on concrete, specifically basements and slab homes (also great for theater rooms). The board is a sandwich with the top layer being real hard wood and the bottom layer being thin plywood. The product is designed to handle the temperature/moisture characteristics of being laid on concrete. The cheap stuff can look like laminate, and the more expesive stuff indistinguishable from regular hardwood. Once again when laying this flooring an vapor barrier underlay is used. Also, the boards must be glued together with wood glue when installing. Some variations can be glued down to the subfloor and some thicker versions can be nailed down like regular hardwood. I prefer the floating variety, which can be used with thicker underlay to help soundproof and really eliminate noise transfer since the floor is not connected. This product should cost between $1 to $3 a square foot. A little more work to install because of the glue, but still pretty easy and the only choice for basements.
Hardwood floor - this wood is made from real trees. It comes in a ton of varieties with oak, maple, cherry, walnut, beech, bamboo, and cork being the most common. In general, the thicker the board the more expensive. This is so that should the surface of the floor become scratech, it can be sanded down and refinished, just like the hardwood floors of 100 years ago. Depending upon the wood type, some hardwood floors are actually not that hard at all, and the surface will scratch easily. This is especially noticable the darker the color of the floor and the less grainy the wood. This flooring requires a thin underlayment in most cases and is nailed down securely to the subfloor below it. For that reason it must be laid over wood subfloor. Hardwood can be bought from between $2 to $20 a square foot depending on where you get it and how flexible you are on exotic wood type and color. I have bought it as low as $1/sq foot at auction. Not the greatest for high traffic locations, kids or pets, but looks amazing and classes up any house. More work to nail down, probably have to rent the nailer and compressor, etc.
board size - some products have every board in the box the same length and width. Other products come with an assortment of 4 to 6 different lengths in a box, which is called random length (even though it is not random, its assorted). Generally, the wider and longer the planks, the more expensive the product.
board type - some boards have bevelled edges which accentuate the seams between boards.
finishing - some hardwood floor products come prefinished with a varnish/stain already preapplied. This saves a ton of time and mess for the consumer. These products are a wonderful time saver and the floor finish will be uniform, much better then trying to finish hardwood by yourself.
pattern - this is my pet peeve area. Some laminate products have a photo which looks like butcherblock of smaller boards. Others appear to have no seams and look like a single plank. It is important when laying the flooring to avoid having seams between planks end up at inappropriate spots or adjacent to each other. I have seen many floors laid by 'experts' that looked like crap. If you start every row from the same wall so all your board seems end at the same spot your floor will look like crap. If you cut every second board in half and do the same thing it will look only marginally better, still better but not by much. Depending upon your hardwood product, your boards should be laid either in a random length pattern or a pattern of thirds to look their finest. (this is based on my personal experience and the comments of others who have viewed my fine work, lol). You will discover that random is much harder to do then one would imagine, and certianly much harder then a pattern of thirds.**********************************************
Robert May is the broker and owner of Rainbow Realty of Lethbridge Alberta. He is also a licensed mortgage associate and financing expert with Canada First Mortgage of Calgary Alberta. He has been in the real estate industry since 1993 and offers full MLS real estate services to Lethbridge and surrounding area, as well as mortgage financing, refinancing/renewals, preapprovals, and home equity financing to Lethbridge and Southern Alberta. He can be found online at www.LethbridgeLoans.com
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Robert May is a Realtor, as well as the broker and owner of Rainbow Realty of Lethbridge Alberta . He is also a licensed Lethbridge mortgage broker and financing expert with Canada First Mortgage of Calgary Alberta. He has been in the Lethbridge real estate industry since 1993 and offers full Lethbridge real estate services to Lethbridge and surrounding area, as well as Lethbridge mortgage financing, mortgage refinancing , preapprovals, and Lethbridge loans financing to Lethbridge and Southern Alberta. He can be found online at this link: mortgage broker Lethbridge
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