We Know: The Differences Between Real Wood and Fake Wood Floors

Wondering whether to replace your old carpet with a real hardwood floor, or one of the new laminates? You may be on to a good idea!

Floors can make a real difference in the ambience of your living space, not to mention the resale value of your home. Before you head off to Home Depot or your local flooring shop, however, here is some pre-shopping information about the current variety of wood-type flooring that may help you decide more specifically what to look for.

If you want the warm, clean look of wood flooring, there are basically three options:

  • Solid Wood Floors
  • Laminate Wood Floors (made from plastic)
  • Veneer Wood Flooring (a combination of real wood and plywood)

Real Wood is Good

It looks like the real thing-because it is. Solid wood floors come in variety of woods and colors and are generally more expensive than laminate. (Veneer flooring costs about the same as, or slightly more than, real wood.) You can save money by buying unfinished and unstained solid wood flooring, but then you have the challenge of finishing the job. Also, real wood is more difficult to install than the substitutes because it comes in smaller pieces and must be nailed down. Itís also easier to scratch, stain and gouge.

However - real wood looks like real wood, and it can always be refinished when it begins to look shoddy.

Fake is No Mistake

Laminate floors like Pergo imitate the look of real wood by using a photograph beneath a clear plastic coat. These floors are available in a large variety of styles and are generally less expensive than real wood. They are also more durable, more scratch and gouge resistant, and tend to do better in highly trafficked or damp rooms such as bathrooms. They are easer to install because they come in larger sheets that use a tongue and groove system for installation and are glued, not nailed down. Besides Pergo, other brand names are Crystal Clic, Kronoswiss, Balta, Armstrong, and Shaw.

However - faux finishes are never as interesting as natural wood patterns and once the finish is gone, you canít refinish it.

Half and Half Works, Too

Veneer flooring (also known as engineered wood flooring) uses a thin veneer (meaning, applied top layer) of real prefinished wood over plywood. The cost is similar to the cost of real wood. But, like laminate flooring, it is easier to install because it is comes in sheets or planks with tongue and groove and is glued or even double-sided taped instead of nailed to the subflooring. Veneer floors are not as durable as laminate floors.

However - veneer floors are as interesting to look at as real wood, and they can be refinished, but their thin layer of wood limits how much they can be refinished.

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