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Flooring Types and How To Choose?

Choices, Choices Everywhere!

There are literally hundreds of different flooring styles that you can choose from.  In this article, we will take a look at some of the most popular ones, try to expose the advantages and disadvantages each of them brings to the table and hopefully help you find the ideal solution for you.

Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood flooringHardwood flooring is the most expensive one on the market right now and for a good reason – It has unique qualities no other product can offer. Even more so – wood is a timeless classic made from natural materials. In the past, wooden floors were a luxury reserved only for the aristocracy until the modern industry allowed the average person to have them in his home. Over the years, there have been many attempts to find a better alternative and they have all failed. Hardwood has remained the most desired flooring solution to this day. The list of benefits is rather long so we will cover only the most important ones.

Natural. Wood flooring doesn’t contain any VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) nor does it emit any harmful chemicals throughout the course of its life (unlike some synthetic alternatives like vinyl). Children and people suffering from allergies may find this a particularly useful trait.

Lasting. You can buy a laminate or vinyl and they will serve you for around 20, maybe 30 years if they are of good quality. Once they become worn and distressed, there is no going back. You have to get rid of them for good. Hardwood, on the other hand, can be sanded and refinished multiple times. There are wooden floors of over 300+ years and a modern one can last around 100 if you maintain it properly. The sanding process does not simply make the floor look as good as new but also improves its health.

Durable. Modern floor finishes and lacquers, in particular, are incredibly tough. However, if they get scratched or distressed you can always remove them and apply a completely new finish. The sanding process does not simply make the floor look as good as new but also improves its health. A quality finish can last up to 10 years if it is given enough attention. Of course, this depends a lot on the amount of traffic and conditions in the area. Combine it with the fact that a solid ¾- inch board can be sanded around 10 times and you can already see what makes this kind of flooring so desirable.

Wood floors can be divided into two major groups – solid and engineered. As the name implies, solid hardwood boards are created from a single “solid” piece of timber. This consistent structure allows them to be sanded much more often, endure more damage and generally last longer than engineered floors. Usually, comes with a tongue and groove system but in rare cases, you may find click installations.Engineered wood floors are more resistible to moisture

Engineered flooring is made from multiple layers of ply with a hardwood veneer on top. They work very well with underfloor heating and can be installed even in places where solid wood would be a bad choice for bathrooms or kitchens. The unique structure of engineered floors makes them better capable of withstanding changes in moisture and te

Engineered flooring is made from multiple layers of ply with a hardwood veneer on top. They work very well with underfloor heating and can be installed even in places where solid wood would be a bad choice for bathrooms or kitchens. The unique structure of engineered floors makes them better capable of withstanding changes in moisture and temperature. The fact that they are cheaper than solid flooring also contributes to their popularity.

The biggest downside of hardwood floors is their weakness in moisture. There are many ways to deal with it, including the installation of a vapour barrier or a damp proof membrane but the truth is that wood is vulnerable to it and even engineered flooring isn’t completely resistant. In the end, hardwood is attractive, stylish and practical. It's few downsides pale in comparison to the benefits.

Bamboo Flooring

Bamboo flooring textureIt is debatable if bamboo is a type of hardwood flooring because it is, in fact, grass. It is a renewable resource that only takes 5 years to fully grow while a tree takes decades. Bamboo is a controversial product because the quality offered varies greatly. Some people bought cheap bamboo flooring only to find out the hard way, that it is garbage. Others went for more expensive bamboo and praised its durability, claiming it is actually better than regular hardwood. What is the truth? How good or bad is bamboo?

There are four types of bamboo – traditional, strand woven, solid and engineered bamboo. To explain the difference between those, we will talk a bit about the Janka hardness test. The Janka test is a method of measuring the resistance of wood species to wear and denting. Thus, we can determine how tough a flooring material really is.

Traditional bamboo is made by slicing the cane of the grass, turning it into thin planks and nailing those planks to wooden beams. Stilted houses in South Asia are built that way. The strength of natural bamboo 1,380 lbf. For comparison, an English Oak only has 1,120 lbf.Bamboo floor in a living room

Strand woven bamboo is created from bamboo fibres compressed under extreme heat and combined with resin in order to make a plank. They are extremely tough with a hardness rating of exactly 3000 lbf (even exotic hardwood species rarely reach similar numbers). 

Solid bamboo is manufactured by cutting thin strips from the stalks of the grass, boiling them in boric acid, drying and glueing them together horizontally or vertically in order to compress them and form a plank.

Engineered bamboo is created similarly to solid one but after the plank is formed, it is then cut into layers and glued on top of plywood core under high heat and pressure.

Overall, the quality of bamboo varies greatly and some manufacturers could be using adhesives containing high amounts of VOCs. Bamboo, and more specifically strand woven bamboo is very tough and certainly has a lot to offer. Make sure you purchase from trustworthy sources and the product will prove to be a fine investment.

Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring installed by FlooringFirst!Laminate is a man-made product known mostly for its low price compared to other types of flooring. However, besides that, it has an incredibly tough wear layer capable of taking significant amounts of damage. Laminate is also hard to scratch or burn, stain-resistant and can even be made waterproof. This allows it to be used in kitchens and bathrooms without any trouble.

Laminate flooring consists of four main layers. First, we have a very strong overlay which provides very good protection against any kind of surface damage. The second is the decorative layer containing a printed image of some natural material – wood, stone or other. Modern laminates have actually become quite good at imitation. The third is the high-density fiberboard core made from chips of wood mixed with sawdust, turned into sheets and glued together at a high temperature.

Most, but not all laminates, also have an additional back layer added in order to protect the core from moisture. Some people compare engineered hardwood to laminate because those two have a similar multilayered structure, there is no place for comparison. Engineered floors actually have a natural hardwood veneer while laminates possess only chips of real wood!

Laminate flooring has its fans but unlike hardwood, it can never be refinished. Once its overlay is penetrated, it is over. Pretty much everywhere where you can put a laminate, you can also use engineered hardwood. It also has to be considered that cheap laminates are usually of poor quality and break easily. More expensive ones are not that much cheaper than engineered wood. This again brings the question – Why use laminate at all then?

There are some quality laminates from companies like Quick-Step which can offer products with a guarantee of 20-25 years but this comes at the appropriate price. Quality never comes for free so beware of cheap imitations!

Ceramic Tile Flooring

Ceramic tile floor in a kitchenTile flooring is made from clay mixed with a lot of water and other materials, shaped into a tile, put in a kiln and heated under certain conditions. However, this only creates the “body” of the tile. There also exists a technique called “glazing” which fuses an additional layer of coating that can make the tile impervious to water as well as provide decorative effects. In fact, based on the availability or lack of glaze, you can recognize several types of tile - glazed, unglazed, single or double glazed. Naturally, the biggest difference lies between the glazed and unglazed alternatives. The latter option is vulnerable to moisture and stain damage since it is lacking protection on top. It must be sealed in order to be of any use in a bathroom or kitchen.

What do ceramic tiles really offer? What would make you pick them over any of the rest?

Durable. This is a hard surface material and as such, it is extremely tough. It can last more than a few decades if you take good care of it and is hard to crack.

Medium cost. Well, when it comes to prices, ceramic tiles are somewhere in the middle. They cost more than other flooring types but less than hardwood.

Cleaning and maintenance. It is a waterproof material that cannot really be scratched … What more to say? Cleaning cannot get any easier than this.

The downsides of this type of flooring are mostly when it comes to comfort and warmth. Or should we say the lack of them? Ceramic tiles are a hard material that doesn’t exactly feel cosy or welcoming. It is cold to the touch and doesn’t feel exactly comfortable on the feet, especially during the winter. Tiles will do a great job in places where moisture can be an issue like bathrooms but hardly anywhere else unless you don’t mind the discomforts that come with it.

Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl flooring in a kitchenVinyl flooring is a highly versatile synthetic flooring material with excellent durability that can be used everywhere you can think of. It has two variations – inlaid or printed and comes in three forms – sheet, tile or plank. Now, let’s see what vinyl is all about, shall we?

Customisable. There is a wide variety of choices when it comes to patterns and colours. In this regard, you should never feel disappointed with vinyl flooring because there are plenty of options.

Durable. It can last up to around 20 years and more but cannot be refinished, If individual pieces are damaged, though, replacing them is rather easy. Sharp objects can be a problem since vinyl is soft and susceptible to cuts. This type of flooring can take a lot of floor traffic but can never match the longevity of tile or hardwood.

Comfortable. Unlike a tile, vinyl doesn’t feel hard or cold. Many vinyl floors have a foam backing to make the walking experience even more pleasant. 

Waterproof. This quality puts vinyl flooring among the best choices for a bathroom or kitchen.

Easy to maintain. Vinyl tiles, in particular, have a layer capable of repelling stains and spills. This combined with the fact it is waterproof material makes it a breeze to clean.

Among the cheaper solutions. In many ways it is similar to a laminate, if you get a cheap product, expect to replace it soon. A quality vinyl will be expensive but will do a much better job.

Now for the bad part. As good as vinyl flooring is, nothing can ever be perfect. We have already talked about VOCs and the possibility of unhealthy consequences of exposure. However, it isn’t simply a finish, stain or adhesive that can emit VOCs, it is also the floor itself. Vinyl is a are petroleum-based product and can emit VOCs for years after installation. How strong the effect truly is, is debatable but it is there. Vinyl flooring is an excellent option in many respect and as we previously said – usable anywhere. We do not recommend it for kids’ bedrooms, though, for the reasons listed above.


FlooringFirst! Services
158 Coles Green Road
London, NW2 7HW
T: 020 88309782