The modern world of interior design and DIY is complicated and often confusing. With so many wood and other flooring options available, it can be tricky to know what the best wood flooring is for your home or project; or even whether you should be considering a non-wood option.
The three most common options that our clients have to choose from are laminate, engineered wood and solid wood flooring. We discuss each in turn below, with their pros and cons:
Laminate flooring is a synthetic creation made from numerous layers of material that are fused together and coated in a plastic layer. The core of the flooring is usually fibreboard, which has been topped with a layer designed to attempt to emulate the colours and textures
of real wood, or other materials such as tile.
Although they can be attractive and practical, the effect created is often not very realistic, as the surface of the floor is nothing more than a printed pattern. The ‘look’ achieved is therefore not usually associated with ‘high-end’, expensive or luxurious surroundings. Nothing compares to the timeless beauty, charm, elegance and texture of real hardwood.
When it comes to analysing the best wood flooring options, the main points in favour of laminate flooring are:
- Budget option.
- Relatively easy to lay
- It’s easy to clean.
- Laminate provides greater resistance to waterlogging than solid or engineered wood, and is cheaper to replace.
That being said, one of the great benefits of a timber floor is that it can be sanded and retreated. In this way, real wood floors (solid or engineered) last for decades and can be said to look more beautiful and characterful the older they get. In contrast, if a laminate floor is damaged, then it must be replaced - which is expensive and disruptive. Real wooden floors (solid or engineered) also add value to your property. Whereas laminate does not tend to have this affect.
Engineered Wood Flooring
High quality engineered oak floors are crafted from natural hardwoods that are used to create a very stable ‘core’ of multi-layered plywood. This is topped with a layer of real hardwood (oak or walnut), giving the distinctive finish of a solid wood floor, with the underlying benefits of a stable and reliable plywood base.
In the argument over the best wood flooring options, there are many great benefits to engineered wood flooring, discussed in greater detail on our recent article here. But the key ones for this decision are:
- An aesthetically identical finish to that achieved by solid wood, but with the benefits of an engineered core.
- Greater stability than solid wood floors, engineered wood is far less prone to warping and moving. It’s therefore perfect for fitting above under-floor heating systems and in areas where moisture content may be too high for solid oak.
- Often cheaper or similarly priced than the solid wood alternative, despite the additional benefits. With the cost of European oak currently increasing substantially and the value of American black walnut being high, an engineered hardwood floor is becoming both a more practical and affordable option as less valuable hardwood is used to make up the floorboard
- A more environmentally friendly floor – The beautiful hardwoods such as European oak and walnut are slow growing timbers and therefore it can be said that anything beneath the wear layer is a waste of valuable hardwood. The timbers that make up a plywood are much faster growing and therefore better for the environment.
- Longer & wider boards available – As a well-made engineered board is so much more stable, it’s just as practical to go for a long and wide board without worrying about it having a negative effect on the stability of the floor. Whereas with a solid hardwood floor this would not be the case and therefore there are very few long and wide solid board on the market.
- Larger variety of boards & finishes available – Nowadays the demand for engineered oak flooring is far greater than solid and this does have an effect on the amount of choice on the market. Supplier, such as ourselves, are much more likely to offer new colours / ranges in an engineered product over solid due to the many benefits of an engineered floorboard.
Solid Wood Flooring
Unlike the engineered alternative that couples a solid wood layer with an engineered ‘core’, solid is just what it says on the tin - solid hardwood throughout. It’s for this reason that a solid wooden floor can be sanded back numerous times.
However, it’s a misconception that this will always be better than an engineered equivalent. To put it in perspective, typically an 18mm solid wood floorboard has a depth of 6mm from the top of the board and the tongue and groove. You can’t wear the flooring down any further than the tongue and groove for obvious reasons, meaning that because our 21mm Supreme Range of engineered flooring has a 6mm thick layer of oak on the top surface, it will last just as long as solid wood!
A solid option is also less stable and more susceptible to swelling and shrinking, so when it comes to deciding on a best wood flooring option - these are considerable detractions.
In terms of maintenance, much comes down to your choice of finish, so an engineered product with a thick wear layer and a good quality finish (like Treatex or Woca) can last just as long as a solid product - and certainly for decades with the proper cleaning.
So, Which Is Best?
Ultimately, the best wood flooring (or other type) option depends on your budget and your personal preference.
If you have a very limited budget, or perhaps if the flooring project is a short term solution until you move on to your next home, then a laminate floor may be the most practical and cost efficient option for you.
If you have a slightly larger budget and looking for real quality, it is well worth investing in solid wood or engineered wood flooring. When you’re looking for a beautifully natural look, then both engineered and solid wood options will achieve that - with remarkable versatility in
their finishes, colours, conditions and grains.
Can we pick one overall winner?
For us, there’s a reason we stock mostly engineered products. We’ve been in the timber flooring industry as a family business, one way or another, for over a hundred years. We’ve seen everything the market has to offer and, ultimately, we’ve found nothing better than good quality engineered oak flooring.
So what's the best wood flooring option out there? Engineered.
Who are you to decide?
A good question! Check out the quick video below to see who we are and what we do. With over 100 years in the timber industry, we know a thing about good flooring...
About the author
Tom Fanthorpe. Director, JFJ Wood Flooring Ltd
Tom is one half of the father & son team behind JFJ Wood Flooring. An experienced wood flooring specialist with over 7 years in the industry, Tom is following in his father John's footsteps as a true expert in his chosen field. Having absorbed much of John's 35+ years of experience in the joinery and timber trade, Tom now leads the wood flooring department and holds ultimate responsibility for everything from customer service to sales, logistics to quality control.