Solid hardwood flooring
Like seven-year Parmigiano Reggiano, Bordeaux wine, and even some human brains, solid hardwood gets better with time. It can also last for centuries.
It’s not unheard of for even a 200-year-old house to contain its original heart-of-pine floors in great condition. Keep in mind that the wood from years ago probably originated from old growth forests and was hardier than the woods of today.
Real wood is generally going to be more expensive up front, but its longevity will more than pay for itself. Properly cared-for hardwood can live indefinitely (it may outlive you).
Hardwood is also eco conscious. If you suffer from allergies and currently live in a carpeted building, you know that dust mites like to congregate in carpet and can make you feel miserable. Your allergy symptoms will diminish with hardwood.
If you prefer a perfectly smooth floor surface, hardwood may not be for you since the surface of hardwood changes with age and wear.
Also, hardwood is not suitable for high-traffic areas of a building. If you insist on hardwood in such areas, be sure to cover the hardwood with an area rug or runner.
Bathrooms are wet, humid places and thus the worst locations for hardwood flooring. Consider, too, the climate. Here in the Midwest we get both extreme heat and cold. And you’d be surprised to learn just how much wood can expand during a particularly rainy spring.
Kitchens, because of moisture, are generally not the best locations for hardwood. However, if you’re a finicking sort, you may succeed beautifully with hardwooded kitchens. You must be hypervigilant of moisture on the floor. The best idea would be to place area rugs over the wood in your kitchen. Laminate flooring might be a better choice if you want the hardwood look without the risk.
Engineered hardwood flooring
Engineered wood flooring offers a nice middle ground, with an expected lifespan ranging from 10-20 years. Not only less expensive than solid hardwood, engineered wood can also be more versatile. Its construction allows it to be installed in below-grade building locations–places that would destroy traditional solid hardwood. Although engineered wood can be installed with a moisture barrier, keep it out of wet places like bathrooms.
Engineered wood is produced with three to five layers of solid wood– similar to how plywood is made. Each layer of wood is fused together, stacked in a cross-grain design.
Keep in mind that engineered hardwood cannot be sanded and refinished as many times as solid hardwood.
If you want to upgrade the look of your flooring but don’t want to break the bank in the process, consider laminate installation.
Maybe you are hesitant about laminate. Your spouse has threatened to make the house fall on you if you dare install it. This threat only proves that your spouse hasn’t seen the newest laminates, which look and feel very much like hardwood.
Shop around, and your spouse won’t make good on the threat. You’ll be pleasantly surprised that laminate flooring looks very convincing. You’ll need to get down on your hands and knees and look at it closely to be able to tell it’s laminate.
The new laminates also do not scratch as easily as hardwood. If you have pets, you might get a light wood or variegated that will diminish the appearance of scratches.
Color schemes from traditional to modern
Whether you decide on solid hardwood, engineered wood or laminate, consider the style of your building and the look you seek before you choose a finish. If you’re a traditionalist, you might be attracted to darker floors, whereas the modernist tends to be drawn to lighter wood. The selection available to you can be overwhelming, so if you’re unsure, consult a professional.
DIY or hire a pro?
You can watch videos, do your research, and rent tools from your local big-box store and install flooring yourself, but beware if you don’t have expereince. If you’re not much of a handy fix-it type, you might be better off leaving flooring installation in the hands of a professional (who you may end up contacting anyway when you start the project only to realize you’re in over your head).