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What do I need to know about buying and installing new hardwood flooring?
Traditional ¾-inch thick solid hardwood flooring is still available if you want the real thing. It can be sanded and refinished as often as necessary and makes for a beautiful floor. Engineered wood flooring offers some definite advantages, however.
Engineered flooring consists of a prefinished hardwood veneer applied to a plywood or composite wood base. Because the pieces are half as thick as traditional hardwood, engineered wood flooring makes it easier to transition to other surfaces the wood flooring abuts. The floor is finished in the factory, so you avoid a messy, smelly three days or so devoted to finishing the floor in your home. (Should you ever have to sand and refinish engineered flooring in your home, however, care must be taken not to go through the veneer.) Engineered wood flooring is less expensive than solid wood flooring because it takes less time to install and comes with the finish already applied.
The newest variant on engineered wood is the floating floor. This is constructed like engineered wood flooring but doesn’t require nails or glue to install. The pre-finished pieces click or snap together. Another option is laminate, a wood lookalike. The surface of a laminate floor is actually a photograph applied to a composite wood backing. Laminate floors are extremely durable. Contributing editor Danny Lipford offers more information in his video and slide show.