Wood Flooring: Engineered, Solid, or Laminate

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When we purchased our first and current home in 2011, we had big, big plans to give it a facelift. One of the projects that topped our list was to redo the flooring throughout the house. Our home is on the smaller end spanning 1,142 sqft with two bedrooms and two baths. We wanted to create a visually spacious home, considering its small size, by eliminating the separation of spaces as much as we could. This didn’t necessarily mean tearing down walls. For us, it meant installing one type of flooring throughout the house except for the bathrooms and laundry room. We didn’t like that our living spaces were divided up with various types of flooring—laminate in the kitchen, tile in the entryway, and carpet everywhere else. We wanted all of these spaces to seamlessly flow together.

We spent several weeks contemplating the type of flooring we wanted, window-shopped at local flooring stores, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and researched online. The winning vendor was BuildDirect based on the ease of ordering free samples, their affordable prices, and excellent reviews. We decided to go with pre-finished engineered hardwood instead of solid hardwood flooring. Engineered hardwood is similar to plywood in that it is made up of several layers of wood glued together and topped with a layer of the particular type of wood that you chose, such as, oak, maple, walnut, etc. The layering provides the benefit of less expansion and contraction of the overall floor, and this is especially important for a floating floor that is not attached to the foundation whatsoever.

Since we have a concrete foundation where we cannot nail down wood flooring, we felt that engineered hardwood was the best option. The disadvantage of engineered hardwood flooring is that it cannot be refinished because the top layer is only a few millimeters thick. Though solid hardwood will expand and contract more than engineered wood, both types of wood flooring work great if you have plywood subfloors because you can nail them down to limit some of its movement. The greatest advantage of solid hardwood is the ability to refinish the floor many times over its life time.

You may have seen a type of flooring called laminate flooring. It is composed of high-density fiberboard and topped with a synthetic film with a picture of wood grain printed on it to give it the appearance of wood flooring. Personally, I’m not fond of laminate flooring because it doesn’t allow easy fixes for nicks and dings (which are bound to happen!), but it’s a good alternative to keep costs down if you’re considering an affordable remodel.

The flooring we chose to install is called hand-scraped Indian Yellow Maple. We decided on a flooring that was pre-conditioned with “character” instead of having perfectly smooth flooring. I knew it would drive me mad to see a gash or deep scratch staring back at me among the vast smooth flooring. New scratch? No problem. Dab a little wood stain on it, and it’s just another flaw in the sea of imperfections!

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One of the details I enjoy most about the installation of the floor is how we changed the direction of the flooring by 90° as you turn into the kitchen.

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As for the rest of the house, we kept it in one direction along the longest length of the house.

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Here’s a spiffy gif I generated showing the process of demolishing the old carpet flooring and installing the new floor. This is the basic process:

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  1. Move out furniture
  2. Rip carpet out
  3. Rip carpet padding out
  4. Scrape carpet glue off concrete
  5. Pry carpet nails out of concrete
  6. Vacuum/Sweep
  7. Lay down underlayment
  8. Apply glue in groove of each wood plank and install [REPEAT 1 MILLION TIMES!] 

I may be exaggerating a bit on step 8, but it certainly felt that way. The worst type of flooring to demolish is tile—tile adhered to concrete, that is. This little entryway of tile felt like an eternity to demo! ↓

IMG_0706Lo and behold, there was light at the end of the tunnel, and now it looks like this from the other end of the entryway. ↓

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I love the little hooks we installed on the half wall. They’re so useful and pretty—a perfect combination. ↓

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It took us about 3 months to complete the demolition and installation working weekends only. We suffered, we learned, and we were greatly rewarded. So goes the recurring theme of the avid DIY-er.

I hope this helps you in making the right decision on choosing your wood flooring. Let me know if you have any questions or comments!

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