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ABC MONTHLY NEWSLETTER

MARCH 2016

Welcome to Our Monthly Newsletter!

We hope you will enjoy this month's articles.  

This month's topic is:
WOOD FLOOR COVERINGS AND ALTERNATIVES

Hardwood Flooring

Engineered Flooring

Laminate Flooring

Bamboo Flooring

Other Flooring Options

If there is a topic you would like us to cover in one of our upcoming newsletters, please call us at 607-272-1566 or contact us by clicking here.

Don't forget to scroll down to the bottom for your special coupon savings!


In This Issue

Hardwood Flooring,

Engineered Flooring,

Laminate Flooring,

Bamboo Flooring,

Other Flooring Options.


HARDWOD FLOORING

Solid Hardwood flooring, as its name suggests, is composed of solid wood throughout, from the top all the way to the bottom. Unlike engineered wood flooring, hardwood flooring will not fall apart or delaminate.

TYPES OF HARDWOOD FLOORING

This type of flooring is sold in  either unfinished or pre-finished planks. The unfinished type may be less expensive than the pre-finished but will require extra labor and time to lightly sand and seal after installation.

Staining can also be done before sealing, if desired. The sealant drying time can take at least 48 hours and may take even longer.

The pre-finished hardwood floor, though it has the advantage of being ready to install right away, does not offer the option of staining and sealing to specification.

INSTALLATION

It is important to take note that hardwood flooring must be nailed to a wooden sub floor and cannot be installed directly onto concrete or on top of an existing floor.

It is difficult to do this as a DIY project and it is generally recommended to engage professional floor installers.

Additionally, this type of flooring should not be installed in moist areas or in areas with high humidity such as bathrooms and basements.

KNOW YOUR TRAFFIC REQUIREMENTS 
BEFORE CHOOSING

Because wood flooring comes in so many degrees of soft and hard, from Douglas fir to Brazilian Walnut, it is important to determine the type of traffic the floors will be subjected to before making your choice. 

For example, pets, small children, regular furniture moving, etc., may require wood with a harder surface. The Janka Scale (shown below) will help you determine the degree of softness or hardness that would be best for your situation. 

Although this type of flooring is prone to scratches and dents, the thickness of the planks makes it possible to re-sand them many times to bring the wood back to a pleasing appearance. That said, avoiding those scratches and dents will definitely extend the life of the floors and avoid the inconvenience of re-sanding.

The softer the wood, the less it can stand up to a lot of traffic without scratching or denting. 

On the other hand, it may not be necessary to pick the hardest wood, which is always more expensive. Keep in mind that the finish application of polyurethane to the softer woods can actually harden them to a degree.

THE JANKA TEST FOR HARDNESS

For the Janka test and the cleaning and maintenance of hardwood flooring please continue reading here.


ENGINEERED WOOD FLOORING

Engineered Wood Flooring is a surprisingly good alternative to both solid hardwood and laminate flooring. It is much easier to install than hardwood and is actually composed of real wood as well. (Laminate flooring is melamine-infused paper on top of a wood chip composite).

HOW IT IS CONSTRUCTED

The top layer is made of 1/16" to 1/8" finish wood with non-finish plywood underneath, sandwiched in by another layer of hardwood. These layers are laminated together. 

Each board consists of 3 or 4 layers of wood glued together at right angles to create a plank. And because the plywood underneath is laid cross-ways to the finish layer, it provides additional strength to the flooring. Many more types of domestic and exotic woods can be used affordably since only the top layer can be seen.

The plywood actually comprises 80-90% of the floor. This means that engineered wood flooring uses less hardwood in its manufacture and so therefore, can be less expensive, though the consumer should be aware that high-quality engineered wood flooring can be as expensive as some hardwood flooring. That said, it is more structurally sound and not as prone to moisture problems and warping as solid wood flooring.

TYPES of ENGINEERED FLOORING

This type of flooring can be found in almost any species of solid hardwood, including Maple, Hickory, Oak, and Bamboo. It always comes prefinished with the sanding and sealing already done to the top layer, so the floor is ready as soon as it is laid down.

Depending on the thickness of the top layer (which can vary) it can be sanded should scratches and dings develop. However, it usually cannot be sanded more than 3 times and sanding should always be done by a professional. DIY sanding of an engineered wood floor could cause gouges in the top layer with the risk of revealing the plywood layer beneath.

INSTALLATION

When compared to solid hardwood flooring, engineered wood flooring performs better in areas of light moisture, such as kitchens, bathrooms, and basements. It should not be used in areas that tend to flood frequently. For those areas, it is best to stay away from wood flooring of any kind and use tile, vinyl, concrete, or any non-organic product in its place.

Another advantage of engineered wood flooring, especially when compared to solid hardwood flooring, is that it does not need to be nailed to a wood sub-floor, although it can be installed by nailing down to thin floors for stability or glued down. 

Another type of installation called Floating Floor (see below) is often used for both engineered and laminate flooring.

FLOATING FLOOR INSTALLATION

To learn about floating floor installation and the cleaning and maintenance of engineered wood flooring, please continue reading here.


LAMINATE FLOORING

Laminate flooring contains a layer of wood chip composite so technically, it is made of wood. But it is not real wood in the sense that hardwood and engineered wood flooring are and it is certainly not wood in its raw state.

On top of the wood chip composite is a thin layer of resin-infused paper. This resin layer is a photograph of wood. Surprisingly, it can be a really amazing photograph! Even examining a high quality laminate floor with a magnifying glass could possibly fool the consumer.

INSTALLATION of LAMINATE FLOORING

This type of flooring (sometimes known by its brand name Pergo) is extremely easy to install. It comes in planks that can be either snapped or glued together. As far as installation goes, the snap-together type is easier to install but it is not as structurally sound as the glued together form. There is a newer version that has a click and lock design combined with a dry glue already on the product that just needs a wet sponge or cloth to activate it. 

Unlike with hardwood floors, there are no 'bad' pieces with laminate that need to be thrown out or re-engineered. 

Most of this type of flooring is installed with a 'floating' installation, though it can be glued down to the underlayment. The floating floor allows for the floor to expand with changes in the humidity and no specialized tools are needed. This makes it suitable for light moisture areas, such as kitchens and bathrooms, where solid wood flooring would warp, crack, or distort.

The downside to using the floating floor technique is that it is thinner and has a lower resale value than nail-down hardwood flooring or tile that is mortared down.

ADVANTAGES of LAMINATE

To find out the advantages and disadvantages of laminate flooring as well as maintenance and cleaning, please continue reading here.


BAMBOO FLOORING

The subject of bamboo flooring is a fascinating one and  is perhaps one of the least understood of alternative wood flooring options.

IS BAMBOO AS DURABLE AS WOOD?

Bamboo flooring is not wood flooring. When used as an alternative to hardwood flooring, the question would be whether or not it is as durable as wood. Solid hardwood flooring is unquestionably durable. Sealing the wood only increases its hardness and durability.

But bamboo is a plant, made of stalks and is a member of the grass family. How can it be as durable as wood?

AND THE ANSWER IS...

The answer lies in the quality of the bamboo, the placement of the stalks, and the adhesives used to hold the stalks together.

Quality of the Bamboo

Though it can be hard or even impossible to always determine the quality of the bamboo being purchased, it has been shown that bamboo that is harvested late is more durable than younger bamboo harvested early. The younger bamboo can become cupped or warped over time. This is why it is important to buy from a reputable dealer and look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Seal.

Construction and Placement of the Stalks.There are 2 types of construction:

  • Solid bamboo flooring manufacturing begins by slicing the stalks into thin strips of a certain length. The outer skin is removed and the strips are boiled in boric acid to remove any starches and then are laid out to dry. They are then coated in an adhesive resin and pressed together either horizontally or vertically. The material goes through heat binders, is then planed and sanded and a light UV lacquer is applied. The planks are sanded smooth and can be finished as desired. The plank strips are then nailed to wooden beams or larger bamboo pieces.
  • There is also strand bamboo flooring or woven strand bamboo flooring. With this type of bamboo construction, the stalks are sliced into thin strips and treated for insects or vermin. The strips will often be boiled and may be dipped in borax. The stalks are then pulled apart and shredded and then tightly integrated with adhesives. The fibers are formed into boards under high pressure and then treated with a preservative. Because this type uses not just the stalks, but also the smaller strands and is combined with adhesives, it makes a stronger product. (Strand woven bamboo is high on the Janka Hardness Scale at 2000-3200, right up there with Brazilian cherry and teak. One type of bamboo is advertised at 5000 on the Janka scale!

Adhesives. Ultimately, it is the man-made adhesives that hold the stalks together that make bamboo flooring hard and durable. It is unfortunate, however, that the urea-formaldehyde adhesives used can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the interior space (sometimes more than that found in manufactured wall-to-wall carpeting).

The toxicity of the adhesive will depend on the manufacturer and that is why it is important to find a reputable dealer so you can be sure your bamboo flooring has been produced with the highest environmental standards.

BAMBOO COMPARED TO WOOD FLOORING

Continue reading here to find out more about bamboo flooring, how it is installed, a discussion of its 'green' status, advantages and disadvantages, and cleaning and maintenance.


OTHER FLOORING OPTIONS

Other flooring options besides hardwoodengineered woodlaminate, and bamboo are currently available. 

Eucalyptus, Cork, and Reclaimed Wood are some examples and are mentioned below.

Of course, other flooring options include non-wood like floor choices such as Stone, Porcelain and Ceramic Tile, and Vinyl and Natural Linoleum (which can be purchased with wood-look appearance).

Luxury Vinyl Tile is another alternative which is relatively new. It can simulate the look of a natural material such as wood or stone through very realistic images and textures.

EUCALYPTUS FLOORING

Eucalyptus is very similar to bamboo in that it is renewable and durable. It has the appearance of tropical mahogany but it is very fast growing and matures in 14 years.

It is an extremely tough material with dent resistance. It is also more affordable than wood flooring.

Like engineered wood flooring, eucalyptus flooring is available in an engineered form, especially for varying high humidity or moisture-laden environments.

As with bamboo flooring, the strand-woven type of Eucalyptus flooring is the more durable option.

CORK FLOORING

Advantages of Cork Flooring

  • Cork flooring is moderately priced.
  • It has excellent thermal and acoustic insulation (though relatively low R-value) properties. Cork flooring would be an excellent alternative flooring choice in certain areas where noise level must be reduced because of its acoustic insulation properties. 
  • It is a natural and renewable product and is very eco-friendly. The bark of the cork tree is stripped every ten years and does no harm to the tree.
  • Cork is naturally water resistant, has antimicrobial properties and is fire-retardant). 
  • It doesn't mold and it is biodegradable at the end of its lifetime.

Disadvantages of Cork Flooring

  • Cork flooring minimizes heat loss in the winter but gains heat during the summer. This might be counter-productive for some heating and cooling strategies.
  • Unfortunately, it's low density (millions of air-filled cells) and weight makes it less resilient than most other materials and it is prone to scratching and denting.
  • It is also susceptible to wear and possible water problems, even though it is generally water-resistant.
  • Because the flooring is not very thick, under floor insulation will still be needed.

Installation of Cork Flooring

To find out more about cork flooring as well as Reclaimed Wood flooring, please continue reading here.



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