There are two classifications in the timber trade – hardwoods and softwoods. Most flooring planks are made from hardwood, simply because they are hard and wear better than softwoods, although it is true that some softwoods, such as pine, may be used for flooring, especially when it is in plentiful supply. Hardwood flooring is traditionally laid down unfinished, and only sanded and polished once it has been installed. More recently hardwood flooring is sanded and finished in the factory, often being given a coat of polyurethane containing aluminium oxide. The latter gives the hardwood flooring a hard surface that is more resistant to scratching and wear. Hardwood floor planks are usually nailed down to wooden joists, which in turn may be attached to wall plates. Hardwood flooring should never be directly above a concrete slab because the planks expand and contract with temperature and moisture changes.
Much care needs to be taken in the maintenance of hardwood floors, and it’s necessary to sweep, vacuum and damp mop them frequently in order to eliminate any dirt or grit that can otherwise be trodden into the surface. A wet mop should never be used for fear of water penetrating into the hardwood floor, which could cause swelling and warping. This is less likely to occur when hardwood flooring has been properly finished. When well looked-after hardwood floors can last for several lifetimes – much longer than laminate floors. They have the advantage that, when starting to lose their appearance, they can be sanded down and re-surfaced so as to look just like the original flooring. Most solid wood flooring is manufactured with tongues and grooves so that it is easy to assemble.
Engineered wood flooring has become more and more popular of late. These are essentially wood laminates, or plywood, in which the top layer is the wood of choice for the flooring, and the other layers providing stability to the whole. Laminate flooring has a number of advantages over hardwood or engineered flooring. It is very hard wearing and can maintain its looks for many years. It can be installed over just about any other sub-floor.