Solid Wood Flooring
Wood floors have been around since there was houses. It has had a revival over the last twenty years, firstly with the imitation wood known as Laminate flooring, up to the more luxurious solid woods preferred today. Laminate is a sheet of MDF or in some cases HDF board with a photograph stuck to it. The planks come in various grades of thickness, the cheapest DIY shops usually starting at 6mm going up to 8 or even 10 for the higher end stuff. Originally they were all tongue and groove with glued joints but have been overtaken by the click (glueless system) that is used today.
Laminate flooring has been in decline over the past 5 or so years due to the real wood preference revival. There are basically two types of real wood finished boards used now, the Engineered board and the Solid wood plank. Engineered boards are made up of a manmade base board, usually ply or MDF with a real wood veneer stuck on top. The veneers range from 2 to 4mm and cover a wide range of wood types. The advantage of Engineered boards over laminate is the feel of real wood, warmer, plus they can be sanded and refinished once or maybe twice for the thicker veneered boards. Like the early laminates, engineered were all glued systems but now are most often click type flooring.
For the hardest and longest wearing wood finish you have to move up to the beauty and feel of the best, Solid wood. Even though there are a more limited range of solid woods suitable for flooring over the laminate you will never get the same feeling when you walk on a laminate floor in contrast to a solid wood floor. Obviously the costs are a great deal higher with solid woods but this can be reduced a lot by shopping around as not only is the wood more expensive but the primers, fixing adhesive and labour charges push the price up vastly and can catch you out easily.
Advantages and Disadvantages
There are pro's amd con's for all three types of flooring, here are some of them.
very cheap, easy to clean, quick to lay, good for allergies (dust and mites), much lower cost than average carpet, higher end laminates have good gaurentees.
cheap looking, cold, clacky to walk on, cheap end laminates have limited life span
warmer than laminate, more solid feel to walk on, easy to clean, good for allergies, quick to lay, much better to look at than laminate, can be sanded down and refinished (limited times), fairly equal in price to good carpet, larger range of styles than solid woods, no primers and fixing chemicals required
only able to be sanded down and refinished once or twice compared to solid woods, higher end planks are very expensive,
warmer than laminate, feels very deep and solid compared to a floating floor, can be sanded down and refinished many times, very luxurious look and feel, good for allergies, very long life
primers and fixing adhesives bump up the costs a lot, much more expensive than good carpet, longer fitting time, limited range of wood types, oiled finishes have to be re-oiled every one to two years, unless paying a fortune for longer planks then you have a much smaller plank size than engineered planks (usually ranging from 300mm to 1500mm),
The finished look depends on how much you want to spend and how far you want to go. As there needs to be an expansion gap around the complete floor there are two main ways of covering this gap. the first and by far quickest and cheapest is with a scotia profile. Scotia is like a coving that you put against the ceiling but a mini version that goes against the skirting and floor. They come in many styles of wood paterns or white. Many are MDF covered with a vynil to look like the floor or white that can be painted in with the skirting. The main problem with scotia is the finished look, it looks like the floor is an afterthought and is not very pleasing on the eye.
The best and nicest looking way is to remove the old skirting prior to laying the wood floor and fit new skirting after the floor has been laid. This way looks like the floor is an integral part of the room and not an addition. Obviously this way adds to the overall cost of your floor but i believe to be worth it in the end.
Expansion gaps aroung door linings and architraves are easily overcome by cutting out the base of them with a saw led on top of an off cut of the flooring and then chiseled out. this way means you dont have a gastly gap showing as these areas can't be covered with scotia etc.
If wood flooring is going to be used in large areas covering more than one room and including hallways it is sometimes more advisable to have expansion joints in the doorways, these are covered with a profile that matches the flooring and fitted under the line of the closed door.
If using Steam Pressed Bamboo I would seriously recommend expansion joints in every door way as this type of flooring even though one of the most beautiful has a tendancy to be the worst of all for movement and you will have major problems if you continue the flooring through without expansion joints in the doorways.
I do not fit solid wood flooring unless it is on a stick down basis. Oak is no good as a floating floor (laid on a quilt) as it moves too much. Plus it feels more superior when glued to the sub floor.