There are four different types of wood flooring products available: reclaimed wood, solid wood, engineered wood and wood alternatives. Within these groups, there are over 50 domestic and exotic species currently being used in flooring – a staggering amount of choices, especially when you factor in finish colors! Let’s examine the four categories of wood flooring products, to help you zero in on what might suit your next project best.
Let’s first turn an eye to reclaimed wood. Reclaimed wood is for the customer who is environmentally conscious, and has the money to back it up. Typically recycled from abandoned barns, railroad ties, old mill lumber lost at the bottom of a river and more, it is re-sanded, re-planed and otherwise honed to renewed beauty. And think about this: some reclaimed wood is no longer available as new flooring material – a big plus for any client who wants something nobody else has. These hard-to-acquire “cradle-to-cradle” woods include heart pine, redwood and chestnut.
Understand, though, that reclaimed wood flooring is often difficult to obtain in large quantities, due to the “scavenger”-type nature of acquisition. Be certain that when the product is ordered, you have enough resources to not only cover the floor, but also have back-up product should warping or cupping occur during installation. If you are looking for reclaimed wood products, a quick web search under “reclaimed wood” will no doubt offer plenty of options. And, if you have time, do some research on its history. I guarantee you will find it quite fascinating!
Moving on, solid wood, is very durable and relatively soft underfoot. Some of the more popular types of solid wood floors are pine, oak, teak and walnut. The cost of a solid product will vary depending upon the type and grade of wood selected, but will usually be less expensive than solid reclaimed wood. Solid wood can be cut into planks of varying sizes, as well as used for intricate floor patterns such as medallions and parquet. Easy to refinish, distinctive due to natural patterns and markings and exceptionally strong, solid wood is a terrific choice for many areas of the home.
Best, it can be sanded and refinished for generations, making it an optimal choice for those of you who want something permanent. Finally, remember that wood can be negatively affected by moisture and fluctuations in humidity, so its not suited for high-moisture or below-grade (such as a basement) areas.
Engineered wood is a type of flooring created with a layered construction. This reduces the twisting and cupping that may occur in solid wood planks and strips. In some ways, it is similar to laminate flooring, which we will discuss shortly, in that there is a top “beauty” layer that may conceal a less favorable wood product beneath.
This type of flooring is less expensive than both reclaimed and solid wood floors and also handles changes in temperature and humidity better than solid wood.
What is terrific about engineered flooring is that it makes exotic woods more available, as some just can’t be produced in solid styles. Better yet, engineered wood can be installed on any level of the home, as it handles expansion and contraction with increased ease.
It is good to note that engineered wood is not a product that performs as well in high traffic areas. When engineered wood is assembled, each layer is set at a 90-degree angle from the previous layer, for strength. Grain mismatch may appear if the top layer is often refinished and/or sanded.
Finally, bamboo flooring is grouped into the hardwood category, but is actually (as you may know) grass, with a wood-like stem. Environmentalists agree that this product is highly sustainable. Bamboo is taken from the original rough, round cane and cut into smooth, beautiful planks.
Don’t be concerned about the possibility of hungry koala bears losing their favorite treat: the type of bamboo used for flooring is the Moso species; it is not the type used for animal food!
Remarkably, despite being a grass, bamboo is as solid as maple and more stable than red oak, so you can expect a superior product with outstanding durability.
Whether left in its natural tone of light blonde or stained to a variety of colors, bamboo is an environmentally friendly option for the “green” consumer.