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How to buy wood flooring

Types of wood flooring

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Types of wood flooring

This expert guide will help you to decide between laminate, engineered wood and solid wood flooring.

 

Laminate flooring

What is it?

Laminate flooring is a compressed fibreboard plank, covered by a photographic image of wood, stone or tile, with a protective overlay.

How much?

Prices start at £3 per sq m, but the cheapest kinds are smooth and appear relatively unrealistic.

Bevelled edges, a more varied set of photos and embossed features, such as knots, give higher-priced versions of brands, such as QuickStep (about £13-£32 per sq m) and Pergo (about £18-£49 per sq m), a more natural look and texture.

Where to lay it? 

Living areas, studies and playrooms. Some products include a waterproof core, which manufacturers claim are suitable for bathrooms and kitchens. If you're thinking of tackling these rooms, see our guides to planning a kitchen and planning a bathroom. If you do intend to lay laminate flooring in these rooms, check the guarantee carefully before buying to ensure you won’t breach the stringent conditions.

Pros 

  • It’s cheap and hardwearing.
  • Click-lock designs are simple to install.
  • A wide variety of imitations of natural materials are available.

Cons 

  • Even the best laminate flooring won’t look or feel exactly like the real thing.
  • The joins wear over time, and once the surface is damaged it’s hard to fix. It’s easily swollen by moisture, and the damage can’t be repaired.
  • Poorly laid laminate is a turn-off for homebuyers.

Engineered wood flooring

What is it?

Each floorboard consists of three or four layers of wood, glued together at right angles to create a plank around 14mm thick. It has a real-wood veneer of around 4mm thick on top, which means it can be sanded back and treated to restore the original finish if it becomes scuffed, worn or damaged.

How much?

Prices range from about £19 per sq m, to more than £166 per sq m for expensive woods.

Where to lay it?

Anywhere it won’t be exposed to water or a humid atmosphere. It is time-consuming, fiddly and noisy to lay wood on stairs, and in some places it is hard to achieve a good finish – for instance, around toilet pans and pedestals.

Pros

  • The way it is constructed makes engineered wood flooring more stable than a piece of solid wood, and less prone to changes caused by a room’s temperature or humidity.
  • It is more attractive than laminate flooring and cheaper than comparable solid-wood planks.

Cons

  • There are very few cons, but tongue-and-groove is harder to install than click-lock.
  • It can be a lot more expensive than laminate.

Solid wood flooring

What is it?

Each board is made from a single piece of wood, typically 18-20mm thick. It is usually fitted using tongue-and-groove. All types of wood have a hardness score, which indicates how easily they can be damaged, dented or worn by everyday wear and tear.

Solid wood flooring can be sanded back to restore the finish – the number of times is determined by how deep the tongue is set from the top of the board.

How much?

Prices vary, depending on the cost of raw wood, from £15 per sq m for parawood to £82 per sq m for IPE tropical hardwood.

Where to lay it?

Anywhere with a relatively constant atmosphere, particularly in hallways and living areas where you can show it off.

Pros

  • It looks fabulous and, provided it’s installed correctly, is an appealing feature if you decide to sell or let your home.

Cons

  • Solid wood flooring swells in damp conditions and shrinks in dry ones.
  • It’s the toughest to install because it has to be glued or nailed down, and fitting the individual boards together can be difficult because they change shape once they’ve been manufactured.
  • Highest price for entry-level products.