Laminate vs engineered vs solid: A laminate is a piece of plastic with a photographic image of wood grain, mounted on MDF. They cost as little as £5 a square metre and although scratch-resistant, once damaged are non-repairable. Engineered flooring has a veneer of real wood, usually 3-7mm thick, that can be sanded up to five times. It is particularly suitable for use over concrete floors and in kitchens. Solid wood is one piece of wood from top to bottom. As it needs to be nailed to a permanent floor, a concrete base is a problem. Some newer floors can be floated on underlay.
The extras: Foam underlay starts at around £1.50 per square metre rising to £3-4 if you need sound-proofing. A damp course membrane (about £20 per room) may be needed on concrete floors. The big sting is wood trim if you're not prepared to lift the skirting boards and run the floor under. It costs around £10 a metre, or about £120-£150 for the standard living room. Delivery costs are typically up to £50.
Fitting: Most laminates are sold as do-it-yourself click-together products. Laying engineered or solid wood requires a high level of DIY competence. But fitters are very pricey; the rule of thumb is to take the basic price per square metre and double it once fitting and accessories are included. At £30 per square metre, a wood floor in a 5m x 4m lounge would cost £600. Add fitting and it soars to £1,200.
The grades: Most real woods are sold under "grades" describing its look rather than durability. "Rustic" tends to be most popular. Select or prime grade has the fewest knots and defects and the highest price to boot.
The strips: Engineered real wood is sold as one-strip, two-strip or three-strip, and in differing lengths. The main difference is the width of the wood; three strip is the narrowest. Single strip (or plank) is the most expensive. Longer lengths also go for higher prices.
Fitting: Fitting and accessories can easily add £30-£40 per square metre to the bill. A pre finished board will take less time to fit than an unfinished board as its out the packet and laid. Unfinished will need 2-3 coats of oil to finish the job, thus more time. Worth considering when buying your oak floor. Also consider the subfloor of your space. Is it joists? is a concrete? take out the carpets and put a moisture reader on the floor to see if its damp? We will be doing a "how to plan your oak floor" Blog soon...
Unfinished or finished? Unfinished floors give you almost unlimited colour stain options. But they must be sanded and finished after installation, which typically puts the room out of service for several days. Pre-finished floors have a factory-applied finish, so the room can be used within hours of installation.
Lacquered or oiled? Lacquered floors have an acrylic varnish which gives them a sheen and makes them relatively easy to clean. Oiled floors are becoming more popular, looking more "authentic" but need to be oiled twice a year, depending on the wear they receive. They also cost about £2-£3 more per square metre.
Do you need an "expansion" gap? Yes. A 10mm gap around the perimeter of the room must be left to allow the boards to expand and contract. If you don't, it may buckle or leave gaps.
Bathroom floors: Most manufacturers caution about laying a real wood floor in a bathroom, particularly beech, which is more sensitive to moisture. If the room tends to get very wet and humid, solid wood is likely to be inappropriate. Laminate or lacquered engineered floors may be more suitable. Don't leave wet bath mats and towels on the floor.
Kitchen appliances: You should install flooring under kitchen appliances, but be careful when you slide the appliances over the floor.
Toilets: It is not advisable to fix any object through a floating wood floor.