QWhat’s the difference between engineered flooring and laminate flooring?
Let us start with the original term laminate flooring. Before plastic laminate flooring became popular in the mid ’90’s those in the hardwood flooring business called today’s engineered flooring laminate. Engineered flooring is designed and “Engineered” specifically for laying onto concrete, or even wood subfloors. It’s constructed in layers similar to plywood with an actual finished hardwood veneer layer on the surface. The thickness of the top layer and overall product usually increases cost.
Today’s laminate flooring (such as Pergo) is an enhanced urethane finish with aluminum oxide over a picture image of wood or tile that is bonded to a high-density fiber core similar to MDF. Laminates cannot be refinished. Laminates are not real wood. Whereas many engineered products can be refinished.
QCan I have a solid 3/4 in hardwood glued to concrete?
Yes, in some cases. But it’s a more expensive process because the floor has to be sealed from the moisture first to keep the wood from buckling. Furthermore, if the slab is tested with moisture content too high it will not work at all, also the process to do this is still newer technology. Recently some of the big box stores and adhesive manufacturers have been advocating this procedure. However, those that have dealt exclusively in hardwood flooring for some time will try to avoid that method. Only time will tell if it’s a viable procedure, we typically recommended it only as a last resort if an alternative isn’t found.
QWhat kind of hardwoods can I place on concrete subfloors then?
If moisture conditions are acceptable, two of the most widely used applications would be engineered hardwood floors glued direct with the proper adhesives, and floating engineered flooring types. The latter typically glued by tongue and groove and floated over a foam-cushioned underlayment. Floating floors are also available in the click together or lock and fold style that requires no gluing. The drawback to floating floors is some people say they sound hollow when you walk on them since we’re not actually gluing them down. But in poor slab conditions a floating floor may be the preferred method. Where possible, I personally prefer gluedown rather than floating.
More traditionally, a 3/4″ solid hardwood floor on concrete can be accomplished with the addition of tar and screeds. Whereas hot tar is poured onto the cement then screed material usually a 16” or 18” 1”x4” laid in still hot tar which is what the floor is nailed into. However, this raises problems with door entries and other items, unless the builder originally lowers the slab in the areas to be installed when the home is built, this method is seldom used. Some unfinished engineered hardwood floors have a comparable wear layer to solid wood, This in turn, can eliminate vertical height issues and can be stained and finished for a very custom look.
QI have a particleboard subfloor. Can I have nail down hardwoods installed?
No, not unless we add a 3/8” minimum layer of plywood onto it. Many confuse particleboard with OSB (Oriented Stand board). True particleboard commonly used in some manufactured homes does not have the holding power of hardwood flooring fasteners and will loosen over time. There are certain types of OSB that can be used for solid nail down hardwood floors. It is best to consult the manufacturers warranty specs.
QWhen should hardwood floors be installed?
If you’re having a home built or making some renovations it is highly suggested to have the hardwood flooring work scheduled very near the end. Unfortunately too many times, builders rush hardwood flooring projects and don’t realize the consequences until it’s too late and major repairs become necessary or moisture problems caused by other work rears it’s ugly head.
QIt seems everyone is selling hardwood floors. Who knows what they’re doing?
Ah, welcome to the new century. In the last five years alone we’ve noticed the yellow page ads explode with so called “hardwood specialists.” Our suggestion is to look far and deep for the right installer. After all, hardwood flooring doesn’t come cheap and replacing gets very expensive should installation problems occur.
A few suggestions to ask installers right off the bat would be; what kind of moisture meters they use. Other useful questions would be; how long should the flooring be acclimated? Some aren’t aware of the need to acclimate material. This is especially important with solid hardwoods and not as much with engineered.
QWhat one should you choose? Prefinished hardwood floors or custom sand stain & finish.
We do them all. However, today’s prefinished hardwood floor finishes are vastly improved and are finished in controlled settings. Many prefinished styles offer high performance finishes made with aluminum oxide that’s baked into the urethane finish. These type of floors are very scratch resistant. Aluminum oxide is the same material they use on the laminates like Pergo and it’s also what sand paper is made out of. With this type of finish, you would replace a board or two if its damaged vs sanding and finishing it. Whereas a normal site finished (sanded in place and finished) Never has an aluminum oxide finish but has a more custom look and can be more pricey though.