Wood flooring is a classic choice for homes. It almost always adds to the resale value of a home. But over the last 25 years, a lot has changed about wood flooring. If you are a veteran of the industry, it may be time to update your skills and knowledge with some of the newest trends. If you are newer to the contracting business and flooring in particular, now would be a good time to get as much knowledge as you can about the exciting world of modern wood flooring. Needo is here to support our contractors. With that mind, we want to make sure you are up to date with what contractors need to know about wood flooring. Here’s a quick primer or refresher for any construction contractor.
Wood flooring has been around as long as people have been building homes without dirt floors. Wood is, of course, one of the oldest building materials. So it is no surprise that it is one of the oldest flooring materials. Historically, wood flooring was often structural. Carpenters nailed hardwood planks into place perpendicular to the floor joists, holding the joists in place and increasing the rigidity of the structure.
With the introduction of concrete subfloors, the necessity of structural wood flooring decreased. However, the popularity of hardwood flooring remains for other reasons. Many homeowners like the classic look of hardwood. Hardwood is also very durable because the typically thick planks can be sanded and refinished many times over. In fact, many historic homes that were built with hardwood floors maintain the same floors even today.
Solid planks of hardwood are still hugely popular. They can be expensive compared to some other flooring options, but the look is a classic and any home that advertises “hardwood flooring” is sure to get a bump in resale value. Any contractor needs to be familiar with the installation of hardwood flooring.
Engineered Wood Flooring
In the past few decades, engineered wood flooring has become increasingly popular. It solves several problems that occur with hardwood flooring. Engineered wood can be made the precise specifications needed for a particular application. Engineered wood is made by gluing together multiple layers of thin veneer to form a single plank. For wood floors, engineered wood typically has a top layer, called the “wear layer” of a higher quality wood than the lower layers. This is what give engineered wood its final look.
The price of engineered wood is comparable to hardwood, but installation is easier and cheaper since most comes prefinished. Engineered wood comes in many grades. The most significant quality factor in any wood floor is how many times it can be sanded and refinished, giving it a longer life. Hardwood floors can be sanded and refinished many times because they are solid wood all the way through. In contrast, the “wear layer” of engineered wood ranges from 3/8 of an inch to 1/4 inch on high-quality planks. This allows for fewer cycles of sanding and refinishing than hardwood.
However, engineered wood also comes with some advantages over hardwood. Engineered wood is made up of layers, each one with the grain running at a 90º angle to the layer below. This layering of alternate grain directions reduced swelling and shrinking with moisture and humidity, a common issue with traditional hardwood. This has allowed contractors and homeowners to install wood floors in areas where hardwood flooring would be unusual. Engineered wood can be installed in bathrooms, kitchens, and other areas where the floors have to repel spills, moisture, and significant wear and tear.
Laminate is not technically wood at all, but it was one of the first “wood-look” materials to really catch on. It is much less expensive than hardwood. Also, unlike hardwood or even engineered wood, laminate can be installed very easily. Laminate can be installed by many homeowners as a do-it-yourself project. Contractors can also install laminate floors quickly and easily, saving their customers money both on the product and the labor.
Laminate flooring typically comes as sets of tongue and groove planks that can easily snap together. The planks are “floated” over a foam or film layer placed directly on the subfloor, which helps reduce noise and block moisture. Some lower quality laminate flooring can separate over time, opening small gaps where the planks meet. This can easily be remedied by “tapping” the planks down. Newer laminate flooring is often clicked together in such a way that the planks are under constant tension and therefore rarely separate.
Laminate is resistant to spills, but water should not be left sitting on the laminate, as that can cause boards to warp. Laminate is also susceptible to scratching. Heavy furniture and chairs are often fitted will small pieces of felt on their bases to avoid scratching the floor.
The low cost and easy installation of laminate flooring led to a boom in wood-look flooring throughout the home. Many homeowners were able to install wood-look floors on their own, even directly over an existing hard floor. The current trend of hardwood and wood-look floors in kitchens is due in part to the boom in laminate flooring.
Newer laminates are being made to look even more like real wood, including specialties like hand-scraped wood and other unique textures. Waterproof laminate is also available, solving one of the drawbacks of the original water-resistant laminate.
The Future of Wood Flooring
Only a few decades ago, most wood flooring was made of solid oak planks in a single, uniform size. The floors were nailed in place and finished on-site, making installation a slow and expensive process. Today, sixty percent of all wood flooring is engineered wood, which comes prefinished and installs much more quickly.
In addition to the shift to engineered wood, modern wood flooring has become much more diverse. The number of species being used for wood flooring has ballooned. Today, almost 50 different species from around the world are used for wood flooring. In addition to these options, many homeowners are now looking for more environmentally friendly wood flooring. Some wood is now available from sustainable forests, where wood is grown under controlled conditions to ensure that the forest is not depleted.
Another option that is even more environmentally friendly is the trend toward reclaimed wood. Reclaimed wood comes from old buildings, railroad ties, and river beds, or anywhere else you can find used wood planks. These reclaimed planks are valued not just for their green appeal, but also for the unique character of old wood since each piece has aged differently and has unique patterns. Some reclaimed wood is also of a quality that is just not available today, such as certain species of old-growth trees that are no longer harvested.
Needo Can Help
When it comes to installing new flooring, it is essential to keep track of all of your costs, including products and labor. If you routinely lay floors as part of your construction business, you will need to know exactly what each type of floor costs to install and how long it takes. While it’s easy to keep track of one or two jobs, a contractor who does lots of floors will need a better system. When you use Needo software, you can easily track all of your materials and labor costs, including floors. That makes it easy to confidently work floors into your next bid. To learn more about how Needo software can help your business, just contact us. We’ll be happy to answer all of your questions.