Grainy Pictures

Not all substitutes for solid wood floors are made from plywood. A cheaper alternative, laminate flooring, gets its appearance from a photographic image of wood. Glued to a fiberboard core, the picture is protected on top by a clear finish. The resulting sandwich comes in grooved panels. They're installed with glue, much like engineered wood. Floor expert Jeff Hosking says laminate is more scratch-resistant than any wood floor — but once it does scratch, the damage is permanent. Laminate can't be sanded. "I expect plastic laminate floors to last 8 to 15 years," he says. "By then the homeowner gets tired of looking at the scratches and replaces the floor." Hosking says laminate, which costs $2.50 to $5 per square foot (plus $2 or $3 per square foot for installation) can be a good choice in laundry rooms or bathrooms because it is highly water-resistant — if the glue is properly applied. The adhesive is what make the joints watertight. "If it isn't done right, water can get down in the pressed board, and the floor will cup and curl," he says. Flooring Options

1 Its five plys offer dimensional stability, but this flooring has only a 1/16-inch surface veneer, which can't be sanded and refinished when it's scuffed. 2 Solid oak flooring , by comparison, has a 5/16-inch surface veneer (the wood above the tongue) and can be sanded up to seven times. 3 Some engineered flooring comes assembled in a panel for fast installation, but still offers the appearance of narrow floorboards. 4 Planks that are 3/8-inch thick must be nailed in place... 5 ...while planks with a 9/16-inch total thickness can be floated. 6 These six-ply boards have a hefty 3/8-inch birch top layer; note the beveled edges where the boards meet.

Contribute to This Story Below

    More in Flooring