As you search among new house plans for your dream home, you may want to consider how wood floors will fit into your floor plan. Wood floors are a natural choice for a Craftsman home, an Arts and Crafts house, or a Cabin, for example. If a room can accept it, wood is the go-to material for flooring to maximize looks, comfort, style, and return on investment. Any type of wood is an instant focal point, as no other material (carpet, tile, or even stone) can match the warmth, versatility, and charm of natural grains against diverse shades of both light and dark timber.
When we say any type of wood floor, we're not necessarily referring to oak over cherry or choosing a maple species instead of a dark mahogany. Instead, when it comes to wood flooring options, the “types” available consist of either laminate, engineered, or solid planks. Each of these manufactured wood flooring options has its pros and cons regardless of the species of wood selected – here’s how the three types break down.
Laminate Flooring Whether or not the room can accept wood is arguably the most important factor in choosing the type of flooring you are going to have installed. What this boils down to is the fact that solid hardwood or perhaps even some engineered wood planks aren't suitable to be installed in a home plan's basement or bathroom because moisture wrinkles, warps, and bows the boards.
When a homeowner wants the looks of wood in a room that is determined risky to install actual wood, the answer may be laminate flooring. This is a layered material that features a moisture-resistant backing, inner resin for further protection against humidity changes, and a top textured (or not) surface with a realistic image of wood. On top of the image there is a protective clear surface that provides protection against scratches, stains, etc. The floor lays easily, with the pieces snapping into each other over an underlayment of plastic foam sheeting for a floating installation that moves as one when there is expansion and contraction.
Laminate is installed not only because it has more durable characteristics than products containing actual wood, it is easily the most affordable of the three types of wood flooring. The image on the laminate flooring is high-resolution and the material provides worry-free living in a house with kids and pets.
Engineered Wood Flooring
When a homeowner contracts a renovation project or plans to build a new home from house plans, he or she should do so not only for the time being but also with an eye on resale value down the line. Laminate flooring does not fulfill this quota because it is not a major selling point for potential buyers. Engineered wood flooring, on the other hand, is. Whereas laminate flooring features a picture of wood, engineered pieces have a prefinished thin veneer of the actual species on the surface giving it the look, feel, and texture of a solid hardwood floor.
The reason a consumer would choose engineered wood over solid hardwood is because of the internal makeup of the engineered pieces. Just below the veneer surface are anywhere from 3-12 additional layers of plywood (or similar dimensionally stable materials) that are glued and pressed together to create a stable, often moisture-resistant product.
With proper underlayment (vapor barrier, protective coating) engineered wood floors can be installed in bathrooms and some basements while suffering minimal effects from moisture and humidity exposure. The floor is almost identical to a solid hardwood floor and and either be laid similarly to laminate as a floating floor or glued to a sturdy subfloor.
Engineered wood flooring with a tough factory-applied urethane finish – like this floor in a 2-story, 4-bedroom Craftsman home plan – is suitable for use in kitchens (Plan #153-1781).
Solid Hardwood Flooring
While an engineered wood floor may mimic the appearance of a solid hardwood layout, the veneer piece (wear layer) on the surface is generally 1/8 to 3/16 inch thick even on high end products. This means the product can be sanded and refinished once and at the very maximum twice, which would shorten the lifespan to at the most 40 years or so. Solid hardwood on the other hand is 3/4 inch thick, which means it can be sanded and stained a different color 4 to 5 times, making it a legitimate 100-year product. It comes prefinished with a tough urethane coating or unfinished – you’ll have to sand, stain, and coat it with varnish or polyurethane.
Homebuyers are most enamored with solid hardwood compared with laminate or even engineered pieces. Of course, solid hardwood isn't an option in some climates or some rooms because it will definitely bow and buckle as it reacts to humidity changes. Plus, solid hardwood is installed by nailing the planks to a subfloor, so it takes longer to put down than snapping together or gluing down a tongue-and-groove engineered wood.
Solid wood flooring like this is often distinguishable from engineered wood by its narrower, longer boards: engineered wood looks more piecemeal. This beautiful floor in the open floor plan layout of a 1-story, 5-bedroom Luxury home plan unifies the space and will stand up to decades of use (Plan #161-1042).
Determining which wood flooring type is right for your home depends on what type of room you are looking to install it in, whether you are laying the planks yourself, and as always your budget. If you want the floor to be the last one you ever install, solid hardwood is recommended. If you plan on selling your home within 10 to 15 years, it's hard to argue with engineered wood (especially in kitchens and bathrooms). If the floor is going to serve as a temporary holdover until the kids are older or for a major renovation down the line (or installed in a basement) laminate is the best bet.
Note: The lead photo is from a a 2-story Contemporary house plan with 5 bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms. For more information, click here.