Which Wood Floors are Real?

November 15, 2019 - 6:00pm

The market has never had more choices in wood and wood-like flooring. With modern materials and the constant demand for wood floors, it can be difficult to figure out just which floors are right for you. And if you’re looking for real wood, it’s often confusing to figure out which options are actually wood instead of being some sort of composite.

Temple Johnson can help those who want high quality wood flooring, as this is we only install real wood flooring—not any of the substitutes that you might have seen moonlighting as wood.

Not Wood Flooring at All

Some of the wood-like options on the market are not real wood at all. Take, for instance, laminate flooring.

Laminate is one of the most popular "wood" options on the market today. It is composed of four layers: a bottom layer that balances the floor and protects against moisture from below, a core layer composed of fiber and melamine (formaldehyde) resin, a layer with a photograph of the intended surface, and a durable, clear aluminum oxide top layer.

The appeal of laminate for many homeowners is that it’s cheaper and much simpler to install as a DIY project. That comes with downsides too though. Just like real wood flooring, laminate doesn’t love moisture. But unlike wood flooring, if standing water is left on laminate and damages it, the entire floor will need to be replaced. Often real wood can just be refinished.

Another downside is that some glueless laminates can come apart at the seams. This leaves permanent gaps where dirt can come in. Though it is intended to replace wood or stone, laminate also only approximates the look of these materials, and it’s readily apparent to even a casual passerby that it is not actually real wood or stone.

Wood-look tile is another option that many people are substituting for wood flooring. Although It is much more resistant to moisture than laminate flooring, it just doesn’t look quite like real wood and is cold to step on.

Vinyl plank and sheet vinyl are two more options that are on the market, but they are lower quality than either of the other two.

Hardwood Flooring: The Original

Hardwood flooring is the true, high-end flooring option that has been around forever. It is REAL wood. The beauty of hardwood flooring is its high quality finish, warmth, and the added value it brings to the home - that’s the thing that sets it apart from its competitors. Hardwood floors are made from naturally tough species of wood, so they are designed to stand up to the wear and tear of everyday life.

There are two options for hardwood floors when they’re bought: pre-finished and unfinished. Pre-finished hardwood is just what it sounds like. It has been finished at the factory with the surface sealed and protected and a stain applied. This has some installation benefits, particularly when it comes to a home that’s already being lived in. There are no odors or volatile compounds left in the air from finishing, which makes it much easier for a remodel. The advantage of unfinished hardwood comes from being able to see how it looks in the home, test any stains to make sure they match the decor and do the finish with it in place.

Solid hardwood is a great option for longevity, as it can be sanded and refinished for many, many years. Because it is the same all the way through, refinishers don’t have to worry about the material loss from sanding las they would with engineered wood.

Because wood is a living material, it does have some “special care” requirements that the owner needs to be aware of such as sensitivity to moisture and humidity. When real wood floors are installed in a home, that home needs to keep its temperature and humidity as constant as possible to avoid the shrinkage and warping that can come outside of those norms.

It is wise to refrain from using wood flooring in any place that’s likely to see a lot of water like a bathroom or a kitchen or basement. For those areas. it’s better to use tile, finished concrete or a more water-resistant real wood product.

Engineered Hardwood: Real Wood Remixed

Engineered hardwood is still real wood, unlike its laminate cousin. The difference with engineered hardwood is its composition. Where hardwood flooring is the same material all the way through, engineered hardwood uses a sandwich of materials, building a strong finished product that’s indistinguishable from the real thing.

The face of any engineered wood product is called the lamella, and it can be flat-sawn, quarter-sawn or rift-sawn for a different grain appearance. Underneath the lamella is a core of another type of wood laid perpendicular, often a softwood. Sometimes there are multiple layers of this laid in layers, or plies (hence the term plywood). Finally, there’s another layer of durable wood on the bottom. Some higher-quality engineered floors have only one ply in the middle and the same durable hardwood on top and bottom, especially in Europe. These layers are held together by various glues that add stability.

Engineered Hardwood is much more flexible in its installation and application than regular hardwood flooring while still maintaining the warmth of real wood. It stands up to moisture, humidity, and temperature fluctuations much better than hardwood as well. This makes it suitable for installation over concrete and allows it to be placed in bathrooms and kitchens (though it’s still not always recommended). If extreme conditions occur, it can still warp or buckle, but overall it’s much more stable than hardwood flooring. This stability also makes it compatible with in-floor heating systems. It can be hard to find a solid hardwood product that will stand up to the temperature changes that come with radiant heating, but most engineered wood will handle it without an issue. If you want to combine heat with real wood, Engineered Hardwood is a great choice.

Engineered wood floors cannot be refinished as many times as solid hardwood floors because the top layer is composed of veneer. If refinished too many times, the sanding and finishing process will break through into the inner layers, making it necessary to replace the floor.

For the most part, engineered and solid hardwood have similar properties. They are both real wood, though they differ slightly in the flexibility of their applications, and they are beautiful and add value to any home.

Real Wood, Real Installers

Temple Johnson only installs real wood flooring, whether that be engineered or solid hardwood. With 92 years of experience and expertise, we can help our clients make the best choice for the environment their flooring will occupy, and the most pleasing look.  Our installers have many years of experience and work with clients to achieve a beautiful end result.  With our combination of experience and quality, Temple Johnson is Oklahoma City’s choice for real wood flooring.

Are you looking for a real wood floor for your house? Whether it’s new construction or remodel, we have the tools, the expertise and the material to make your house glow with the warmth of real wood. Call us today or visit our showroom and see the real wood difference.