What's the difference between laminated, engineered and multi-layered floors?

Laminated floors are a photographic reproduction of a wood or a tile floor bonded onto a high-density fibreboard (HDF) core with a resin overlay providing the durability. Engineered floors on the other hand are a layer of real wood bonded onto a softwood core, the real wood layer then being lacquered or oiled for protection and durability. Multi-layered floors are very much like engineered floors except that the real wood layer is bonded onto a number of softwood layers, thereby increasing the strength of the floor.

So which one's the best?

Well, in terms of price and toughness you can't beat a good quality laminate but if you're looking for a real wood floor, then an engineered or a multi-layered floor is the one to go for rather than a solid wood floor.

Why's that?

A solid wood floor is exactly what it says and oak, walnut, or whatever one you go for can be fairly pricey. More importantly, wood 'moves' depending on temperature and humidity so it must be properly conditioned before being installed to prevent any twisting or warping. The construction of an engineered or a multi-layered floor stops any twisting or warping by bonding the layers at right-angles to each other, the result being an amazingly stable product.

What about fitting?

All our floors are laid as floating floors so in other words they don't need fixing to your sub-floor - they just 'float' on top of it. Solid wood floors however are a specialist installation and they definitely do need fixing down so don't believe anyone who says otherwise. All our laminated and engineered floors just 'click' together so you don't even have to glue the joints to each other. Have a look under the 'Installation' tab on each of our floor pages for more detailed instructions. The result is a floor that looks as though it's been installed by a professional!

Why are some laminated floors cheaper than others?

It's like a lot of things in life - you get what you pay for. The problem is that one laminate looks very much like another and you can't see what's underneath the top surface that makes such a difference to the price. For instance, the high-density fibreboard core can vary in density so drop a heavy weight on a cheap laminate and you'll get a big dent. Take a quality laminate and you'll get much better resistance to that sort of thing. Abrasion resistance is another factor to take into account. A floor that's rated for light residential use will last nowhere near as long as one rated for heavy residential use. You'll be relieved to know that all our laminated floors are rated for heavy residential use, as well as for varying degrees of commercial use.

Why the difference in the price of engineered floors?

Ah, that all comes down to the quality and the size of the real wood layer on top. Take a look at the price of a 3-strip engineered floor like our Basix BF11 Matt Lacquered Oak floor and compare it to our Basix BF01 Matt Lacquered Oak floor. The thickness and the quality of the real wood layers are the same but it's much cheaper to produce lots of 69mm x 364mm strips for the top of the 3-strip Basix BF11 floor rather than just one 180mm x 1092mm strip for the top of the Basix BF01 floor. Have a look at one of our Holt or Staki floors where the width and length of the board are so much greater and you'll see that there's a lot more work involved.

So what's the point of multi-layered floors?

They're thicker and because of the multi-layer structure they're also much stronger, so much so that a 20mm thick floor can be used as a load-bearing floor - in other words it can be laid directly onto floor joists rather than having to be fully supported underneath. Multi-layered floors have tongue-and groove joints so they have to be glued together, but on the plus side they can be secret-nailed to the sub-floor in which case only the header joints have to be glued together.

Is an underlay really necessary?

Yes. Even the best laid sub-floors can have slight undulations and an underlay helps even them out. Some rooms may also need a degree of sound-proofing and underlays can help on that score as well, but the main reason for an underlay is that it gives a floor a bit of a spring to it when you walk on it which makes it feel just right.

What's so special about your vinyl floors?

Like our laminated and engineered floors, they're just so easy to lay. They don't necessarily need an underlay although our LiViT range has an underlay already attached. They're laid as a floating floor and the boards simply 'click' together so you get a perfect floor every time. So much easier than having to cope with a two metre wide roll of vinyl that has to be glued down to your sub-floor.

What about the maintenance of your floors?

Again, really simple. Just vacuum your floor or give it a wipe with a very slightly damp cloth and that's it. Have a look under the 'Maintenance' tab on each of our floor pages for more detailed instructions.