If you’re in the market for flooring that rivals the look of hardwood or ceramic, but doesn’t cost as much, then consider laminate for your home or office. With quick and efficient installation and extremely durable wear-surfaces, laminate flooring has become one of the industry’s largest categories in recent years.
For starters, let's take a look at a traditional favorite: hardwood. Thanks to hardwood's durability and warm, natural feel, it continues to be the flooring of choice for many homeowners. Of the hardwoods, oak remains the most popular choice, but other woods like cherry and imported exotic woods such as Brazilian cherry or Tasmanian oak are definitely worth considering. Hardwood floors come in a variety of styles such as plank, parquet and prefinished boards that you can install yourself.
Laminate flooring is one of the most popular flooring choices around. It's easier to install than solid-wood hardwood floors and is much less expensive. Laminate floors get their name because they're composed of different wood-based materials that are layered, or laminated, together then topped with a wood grain photographic imprint on the face of each board. A variation on true laminate floors are engineered wood floors. Engineered wood consists of a real hardwood veneer attached to a number of plywood layers. This is a little more expensive than laminate because the top layer is real wood rather than a photographic imprint. This top layer of wood gives engineered wood floors a much more convincing sound, feel and look than laminate.
Unlike hardwood floors, the material used to create bamboo floors is not a tree, but actually a lightweight woody grass. This fast-growing, regenerating plant has the tensile strength of steel, which makes for a highly durable floor that resists swelling and contraction with changes in humidity. Bamboo flooring is pre-finished and engineered with tongue-and-groove joints, just like standard solid wood flooring. Bamboo is grown in controlled forests and takes just three to five years to reach maturity, as compared to old-growth hardwoods that can take 120 years to grow to full size.
Like bamboo, cork is a green flooring alternative. Another bonus of cork is that the wood's honeycomblike cellular structure gives the flooring a cushiony feel underfoot. This distinctive structural characteristic also causes cork floors to absorb vibrations and sound, and they bounce back if dented. Cork flooring is available in pre-finished tiles in a range of finishes. The tiles have a natural, nonslip surface that makes cork ideal for wet areas like kitchens or bathrooms.