Please keep in mind that I'm not an expert at all and the below is simply based on my research and my preferences.
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1. Engineered flooring, solid hardwood or laminate
I personally am not a big fan of laminate flooring as it simply is a multilayer synthetic product with a photographic appliqué layer. So it's not real wood and I personally want the real thing.
Solid hardwood is made from one single plank of wood and while it is certainly the most durable option it is more more prone to warp, cup, swell or split apart under humidity and heat. It is therefore not advisable to be used in kitchens for example and I would want a wooden floor throughout (except the bathroom).
Engineered flooring seems to have it all (at least for me). Engineered flooring comprises several layers of wood stuck together under high pressure and therefore overcomes any heat and moisture related problems. The top layer is made of solid wood and therefore looks and feels like a real solid hardwood floor. The core, area made of plywood or softwood, keeps your flooring in shape, counteracting twisting and keeping the floor flat and intact. The supporting layer gives the board its strength and stability.
My first choice is therefore engineered flooring, but it comes in so many varieties, shapes and quality levels so what do you choose?
2. One strip, two strip or three strip
When buying engineered wooden flooring you have the choice of one strip, two strip and three strip. One strip means the whole flooring board is cut from one piece of wood. I find it the most attractive option but is is also the most expensive. Two and three strip means that you have two or three small segments in a line in each plank
3. Prime grade or rustic
Engineered wooden flooring comes in two different grades: Prime and Rustic. Prime means that the wood has as little knots as possible. This is the more pricey option but I find that it looks more modern. Rustic means that you can see the natural knots of the wood. It's simply a question of taste.
4. Lacquered or oiled
In contrast to solid hardwood, engineered wooden flooring is pre-finished, which means it's already sanded and sealed.
You can choose between different finishes such as lacquered and oiled. Lacquered finishes are available in matt and satin and they are very low maintenance and are easy too clean. Oiled floors are popular for their natural and rustic look but do need more attention as they need to be re-oiled twice a year.
The thickness of engineered wooden flooring differs quite a bit depending on what you are
willing to spend. As a general rule, the thicker the top layer, the more often you can sand down the floor to get rid of any marks of wear and tear and the longer your floor will last. Sanding down should be done professionally and can be done up to 5 times depending on the thickness of the wood.
6. How to prepare your subfloor
The preparation of your subfloor depends on what kind of subfloor you have, wooden or concrete. In our case, we have a concrete subfloor.
Concrete subfloors need to be thoroughly cleaned before the planks are laid. It is also recommended that you measure the moisture level of your concrete subfloor. This sounds more complicated than it is. All you need is some polyfilm and duct tape. Place several small pieces of polyfilm on your subfloor, seal the edges with the duct tape. If after one to two days you can see condensation, the moisture level of your floor is too high and you have to seek further advice.
7. Allow for wastage
When measuring your floor it is important that a) it is done correctly and you are not missing out any odd corners, b) allow for natural wastage. Do this by adding 10% to your sqm. This is important as you will sometimes find that you don't want to use some of the boards as they differ in colour or you find that some need to be cut shorter to fit into your odd corners which then doesn't leave you with enough complete boards.
Adding 10% prevents you from running out of floorboards before you are finished and buying more floorboards when your floor is almost done is often not easy as your stockist might have to order them in first.
The trick to having a faultless and even wooden floor is acclimatisation. Wood reacts to differences in temperature and moisture. It contracts and expends like a living organism. This is very normal and engineered flooring is designed to overcome these problems. Nevertheless, to prepare you wooden floor as best as possible it is advised that you leave the planks in the house for two weeks prior to installation. Keep the temperature at normal level so the wood can acclimatise to its surroundings. This way it won't expand or contract due to any differences in temperature once it has been laid.
9. Laying an underlay
Again, laying an underlay is only necessary when you have a concrete subfloor. You are best off using an underlay with in-built Damp Proof Membrane (DPM). This will prevent any moisture damage to your floor.
There are several different ways to install an engineered wooden floor depending on your subfloor and your preferences.
Option1: Glue down installation
The wooden boards are being applied with an adhesive directly onto the subfloor. If you are inexperienced this can be messy so be warned.
Option2: Floating Installation
This is the preferred method for concrete floors. It is the easiest and fastest method and does not require any prior experience in installing floors. There are hundreds of articles and videos on the web to guide you through the process.
Option 3: Nail down installations
This is the traditional method for installing hardwood floors and is not really recommended for engineered flooring.
To make your new wooden floor last as long as possible, make sure you follow a few guidelines: clean spills as soon as they occur, move rugs from time to time to prevent discolouration caused by sunlight, vacuum once a week with a soft brush vacuum cleaner, sweep regularly and mop with a damp mop and a small amount of cleaner from time to time. Make sure the mop is not soaking wet.
I hope you found this useful.
Best of luck