Wood Flooring 101
Look down: what’s the floor for you? It’s a huge subject so I asked materials expert Rob Jones of Build Direct, an online warehouse, to give us an introduction to the most popular wood floor options he’s seeing at the moment (not including solid wood floors, which are defined as floors that are real wood throughout). I have edited his notes for space.
Strand-woven bamboo is a subset of bamboo flooring made from the parings of conventional bamboo floors.The example below is by Yanchi.
The parings are the left-over strips of bamboo that result from the manufacturing process, when the rounded bamboo stalks are cut for flat flooring boards. The parings are then woven together, heated, put under pressure, and laminated into flooring boards. Because this flooring is made from a renewable resource and from post-industrial material, you could call it “super green.” The result is a very hard attractive flooring surface that takes stain easily and stands up to high traffic.
The news in laminate flooring is that thicker options — 12 millimeters and up — are now available.
This example is Toklo laminate. Such a floor incorporates no real wood, but an image of a wood grain and colour on what is called a decor layer. The thicker the floor, the more like a real wood floor it becomes in terms of a walking experience. And laminates from 12mm to 14mm are still priced at less than a solid hardwood floor. Laminate floors with attached underpad are easier to install than typical laminate floors, adding to their popularity with do-it-yourselfers and contractors.
Engineered floors are considered “real” hardwood floors, with a top layer of real wood, which ranges in thickness from a fraction of a millimetre up to 4mm over a core of medium density fibreboard (MDF) and a backing layer, which allows greater resilience. A glue-less click-locking system eases installation. Here’s an example of Brazilian cherry
by Vanier. Another choice is handscraped engineered hardwood flooring,
shown here in a Peppercorn example from Burlington. Handscraped is popular because the contours in each board add texture and aesthetic versatility. These engineered versions are making the look more affordable.
Rob’s Notes on Retail Pricing
Bamboo. $2.50 – $8.00 per square foot. Factors that affect this pricing include grade, which accounts for more consistent and more vibrant natural colors, the cost of staining, and milling standards which affect how the boards fit together.
Laminate. $0.75 to $2.00/square foot. Some important factors affecting price are thickness, locking systems, and AC rating. The last factor is an international test that determines how much wear a laminate flooring product has been proven to take, with the results applied to where it is recommended it be installed. For instance, an AC3 rated floor is recommended in general residential usage. Under AC3 are to be installed only in low-traffic residential settings (bedrooms for instance, rather than front halls). Above AC3 laminates can be applied to commercial settings of varying degrees of traffic. It’s hugely important to take these things into account when shopping, which is why the tests are done. There are prices listed for $0.50, but these are usually ‘bait and switch’ deals on shopping engines. There are equivalent ‘bait and switch’ products in every category of flooring.
Engineered. About $2.50 – $7.00 per square foot. Species is a huge factor, plus the thickness of the real wood layer, overall thickness, and locking system.
Hardwood. $4.00 – $10. There are loads of factors which affect this pricing, all of which are named above in the prices for engineered flooring, but finished, unfinished, and hand-scraped and brushed effects are also big factors.
Final notes: Rob says two recent forces are affecting the wood flooring industry. One is the California Air Resources Board, or CARB, which places limits on formaldehyde emissions in flooring. The other is the Lacey Act , which is concerned with the harvesting and importation of wood products, among other natural resources, into the United States. Thanks for all the helpful info, Rob!