Choosing timber floors is a key decision for your new home and certainly an area where a little advance homework and knowledge goes a very long way. First of all; what types of floors are available, when are they best used and which offer best value?
There are three principal types of timber floor available on the market. Solid, Semi-solid/engineered and laminate.
All timber floors were originally solid as the technology wasn’t available to create anything else. Then semi-solid arrived on the market as a cheaper alternative. The differences essentially are that solid is the same timber throughout (eg oak, ash, walnut etc) whereas semisolid boards have a base of ply-wood with a top layer of finished timber (oak/ash/walnut etc) as this is the piece you will see. Whereas the original drive was to cut cost the semi-solid/engineered board actually developed a reputation for being much more stable (not warping, expanding) in different moistures and temperatures. As this reputation developed companies began refining the semi-solid board and it has become the product of choice for most situations and budgets.
Next came the laminate board which arrived as a cheaper alternative to the semi-solid for use in low grade and commercial areas. Again technology has improved this product to rival the semi solid board in certain instances. (A good laminate is often better than a poor semi-solid board)
Which Timber Floor?
So what to use and when? Semi solids are generally used in high profile areas and certain varieties (only) are compatible with underfloor heating. Uses include hallways, sitting rooms, dining/lounge etc. Laminates are used more in home office and bedrooms but this is changing with the perception that laminates are so good and durable now and it’s only a matter of time before they gain more high profile usage. Solids are used less and less as their competitors take hold.
Semi solids will need to be sanded and varnished/oiled every few years and the ticker the wearing (solid timber layer) the better as it will allow more sanding) Oiled floors are duller in appearance than lacquered (varnished) floors and generally better at hiding wear & tear marks. Laminate floors cannot be sanded and varnished but they are designed to last longer in any event and come with substantial warranties as they were primarily designed for commercial use (gyms etc)