above: Bamboo is actually a grass, not wood.
pictured: Morning Star Natural Bamboo from Lumber Liquidators
Dreaming About Wood Floors
So, what’s most important to women buying wood flooring?
Whether for a special area or your whole home, the look of wood flooring presents an unrivaled aesthetic. From classic and elegant to contemporary and casual, the tremendous variety in wood species, finishes and plank sizes presents attractive options for just about every style and budget.
Besides its natural good looks, wood flooring is a popular choice because it is relatively low-maintenance. Compared with carpeting, spills and muddy shoe prints on wood flooring are generally much easier to clean up. Carpeting can also be a haven for dust, bacteria, mites and pet dander—all of which can present health risks, particularly for small children and individuals with respiratory ailments—making wood floors a healthier choice.
But all wood flooring solutions are not the same. In fact, some aren’t actually wood at all! Which is a good thing, because traditional solid hardwoods aren’t recommended for some applications, such as bathrooms and basement floors. Turn the page to learn about five of the most popular wood flooring and wood floor alternatives.
VINYL WOOD PLANKSUnlike sheet vinyl flooring, individual vinyl wood planks come in sizes which replicate true hardwood flooring planks. Installation is easy—some varieties are self-adhesive (“peel-n-stick”), others simply click together. A wide variety of highly realistic wood species “looks” are available, the vinyl wood planks are essentially waterproof, surprisingly durable and some are even made from recycled materials. If budget is an issue, know that the vinyl wood planks are likely your most affordable option.
LAMINATE WOOD FLOORINGTwenty years ago, laminate wood flooring was introduced in the United States under the Pergo® brand. Easy to clean and very scuff/scratch resistant, laminate wood flooring gained widespread acceptance. Printed photographs of various wood species, beneath an extremely tough surface layer, provide laminate its authentic good looks. Easy to install and suitable for higher moisture areas, laminate can be hard and some people dislike the “unnatural” sound of walking on laminate wood flooring. Both of those issues can be minimized by installing a pad under the flooring.
ENGINEERED WOOD FLOORINGCommonly consisting of a 1/8”-thick layer of the wood species you select over a plywood base, engineered wood flooring is more stable, with less shrinkage or swelling than solid wood. It can be nailed down, glued or installed as a “floating floor”. Consistent high quality factory-finishes are a hallmark of engineered wood flooring. Because the boards are pre-finished there is minimal off-gassing, so this can be a healthier option compared with finished on-site hardwood flooring and typically, they can be sanded/refinished once or twice.
SOLID WOOD FLOORINGAbundant and relatively hard, oak has been the most common wood flooring but many buyers today are opting for other species, with bamboo, hickory and maple among the most popular. Price varies by species, plank size (wider planks are typically more expensive), board thickness (ranges from 3/8” to 3/4”—thicker boards can be sanded/refinished several times), finish (gloss, dull, hand-scraped), and the wood’s “grade” (degree of color variation, number and size of knots, etc.) Carefully consider the wood’s “hardness”. Harder woods wear better and are less prone to scratches and other damage.
WOOD TILE FLOORINGThough not wood at all, wood tile flooring is imprinted with the look of wood while offering the durability and easy maintenance of ceramic and porcelain tile. Well-suited for bathrooms, laundry areas and other areas that experience humidity and temperature changes, the wood tiles are available in common wood plank sizes and offer realistic textures including slip-resistant finishes. As tile can be colder to the touch, you may want to consider radiant in-floor heating. And while minimally visible, take special care in selecting the grout color.
One-On-One with Bill Schlegel, Chief Merchandising Officer at Lumber Liquidators
Bill Schlege - Chief Merchandising Officer at Lumber LiquidatorsBill Schlegel is a guy who knows wood floors…and he knows a lot about today’s wood flooring buyers, starting with gender. “Ninety-eight percent of the time women are the ultimate decision makers when it comes to wood flooring purchases,” said Schlegel. So, what’s most important to women buying wood flooring?
HOW IT LOOKS.
Beyond the wood species chosen, selecting the right finish is important. According to Schlegel, “High gloss finishes are beautiful, but they show dirt. So many women are opting for duller finishes, though not as formal. Additionally, hand-scraped finishes don’t show dirt as much.” Schlegel also mentioned that grays and blacks are “hot” wood flooring colors for 2013.
IS IT GREEN?
Wood flooring requires cutting down trees. Accordingly, Schlegel stated “At Lumber Liquidators, our flooring comes only from managed forests and styles such as butcher block utilize more of the log.” Bamboo and cork regrow from the same plant after harvesting, so no replanting is necessary. With its plywood base, engineered wood makes maximum use of timber that is harvested and both can be refinished, keeping the flooring out of landfills.
HOW DOES IT WEAR?
High traffic areas warrant special attention. “Harder wood species such as bamboo and dull finishes are good choices for high wear areas,” suggested Schlegel, who also suggested that wear and scratches are less perceptible with hand-scraped finishes due to the surface irregularities. Warranties are another indicator of wear. Schlegel pointed out that Bellawood, Lumber Liquidator’s top-of-the-line wood flooring, carries a 100 year, transferable, finish warranty for wear. The company’s other solid wood, engineered wood, laminate and vinyl wood planks are warranted from 15 to 30 years.
Schlegel was proud to point out “Lumber Liquidators has flooring options for every price point.” Of course, the material price is just one of the costs involved. There’s also moldings for where the floors and walls meet, underlayment plus installation tools and supplies. Then there’s the expense of installation labor. According to Schlegel, Lumber Liquidators can arrange professional installation through a network of local, independent contractors. The company also offers to teach do-it-yourselfers how to install their flooring and save as much as $2 to $4 per square foot.
Finally, we asked Schlegel “What was the one thing women regretted or wish they had known once their new floors were in? He replied, “That would probably be women wishing they had more carefully followed the instructions. For example, after the wood flooring arrives, it should be left for a few days in the area where it will be installed to acclimate to the temperature and humidity levels.”