My flooring dilemma, what would you do?

Joe_LinkAugust 11, 2014

Rather than focusing on everything I have to do between now and the point where I'm actually ready for flooring, I've been distracted by which flooring I'm going to choose. I'd like to get it finalized, once and for all, so I can move on with the other aspects of this condo renovation!

The condo, my first home, is 2bd/1ba, 714 square feet, on the second floor of a two story complex. The living room, hall, and bedrooms were carpeted, which I've removed and disposed of to get a jump on minimizing the cigarette odor. The kitchen has hardwoods, which will be replaced. The current sub-floor is particleboard. I don't plan on every selling the place, though it'll likely be a rental in 5-6 years.

I want to have the same wood or wood-look flooring throughout, minus the bathroom. The look I'm going for is a smooth Brazilian Cherry (or Brazilian Cherry look) I must have looked at, decided on, then circled back on each type of flooring there is! I believe I've finally narrowed it down to two options, laminate or real hardwood. I don't like the look or feel of LVT. Engineered hardwood and bamboo seem to cost very close to the real thing, can't be refinished the same (a couple times or not at all), and don't have the upscale prestige of the solid wood. If I'm going to make the investment, I want to do it right, otherwise there's no reason for spending the extra money.

My main hang-up, of course, is the kitchen and potential damage. I've lived in three homes with hardwoods in the kitchen, and three relatives have had laminate in their kitchens for a few years now. None of them have had an issue, nor have I seen any issues in houses or rentals I've visited. I believe the majority were real hardwoods, it seems kitchen installs are fairly common in the Northwest. Again, just my experiences, this is why I'm asking you guys :)

My dilemma, in a sentence:

I'd like to go with real, solid hardwood floors, but I'm not sure if it would be worth the cost, since I've heard they're just as susceptible to water damage as laminate.

The pro's of hardwoods are numerous: I really like the warmth, look, and feel of a solid hardwood floor. Hardwood floors can be refinished many times (you don't see other 100 year old residential floors still in use today). Hardwood floors increase value and add upscale finish. The only negative is the cost, and that's what has me thinking about laminate. If it's true that they're just as susceptible to water damage, I think laminate is the way to go. Most people buy a few extra boxes, in the event they need to replaced damaged pieces. If I did go with laminate I could install it myself, and float it over the existing particle board. If I go with hardwood I'll have to lay a new subfloor (materials, I can do this myself), and hire a company for the actual flooring install. An upside is that it would likely have a warranty, right? Likely not against water damage, but other things?

I know you can't seal laminate, and I've read all kinds of mixed things about hardwoods. Some say you can seal them and it'll make them more resistant to water and UV fading. Some say you can't seal them, because they wouldn't be able to expand and contract. Which is it?

I believe I could install a decent laminate myself for around $3.50/sq ft, on the high end. This would total $2450.

I haven't shopped around for hardwoods, but earlier I called a reputable flooring company for a very rough, sight unseen, sq foot quote, to see if I could possibly afford it. I don't have a bunch of money, but I plan on living here for a long time, and I believe hardwood floors would be an investment. They quoted me $2.25 for the nail down installation (providing I lay and prep the plywood or OSB subfloor), and around $5.99 sq ft for the Brazilian Cherry flooring. This would total $5768, not including the materials for the new subfloor.

One last question about subfloors, do they all require two 'layers'? I'm guessing the answer will be yes, but if I have 3/4"-1" plywood under the particleboard (attached to the joists), do I still need to lay another sheet of subfloor, or can the hardwood be laid directly on that?

I'd really appreciate any and all input you guys could provide me.

Examples of the look I'd like:

http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/6e/c9/88/6ec988a9fcddd6645059d7aa637c73da.jpg

http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/736x/e8/38/47/e8384793e8d3a0c97d80e1cd5748886b.jpg

http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/82/26/8c/82268c69979efbf8ab3c58f80b514970.jpg

Photos of my condo:

http://imgur.com/a/uLfhO

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Flint2013

We've had hardwood in a kitchen with no problems, but we were committed to cleaning up every splatter & spill immediately. We had engineered hardwood in a city loft a few yrs ago. It was one big open room on the first floor. It was very hard to keep clean, scratched & dented easily. We have laminate in a condo where a family member is living. It is a commercial quality and easy to care for, but you can't let liquid sit on it.

Not too encouraging, am I? You got me when you said it's going to be a rental eventually. There's just no way of knowing how a rental is going to be treated. Has nothing to do with rent paid or income level. We once rented to a professional athlete & wife and they drilled holes in our beautiful hardwood floors.

Having said all this, I'd choose hardwood first, laminate second, and engineered third. I would also have something specific in a lease agreement about care & damages on floors.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 10:34PM
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Joe_Link

I appreciate the reply, thanks. Is it possible that particular engineered floor was a softer variety than the hardwood floor? I'll be going with Brazilian Jatoba, which is one of the hardest.

Today I verified, I have 1/2" particle board on 3/4" plywood on joists sitting 24" apart. Sorry about the long-winded post!

I've been thinking about it over and over again, and I'm now thinking engineered hardwood might be my best bet, then solid hardwood, then laminate. Honestly though, I think I'm going to opt for one of the two real woods.

As I mentioned, water damage is my biggest concern, since this will be installed in the kitchen. From what I've read, it seems that engineered hardwood is much more water resistant than solid hardwood. Is this correct? If so, I guess that's my best option...

For the flooring prep and installation, I'm a believer in the old adage "Your final result is only as good as your prep work". I want to make sure my subfloor is ready to quietly support a long relationship with my finish flooring. I'll be doing all the subfloor work myself. I'm not sure if I'll install the hardwood floor or if I'll have it installed, but I'm leaning toward the latter for warranty purposes. As I mentioned above, I have 1/2" particle board, on 3/4" plywood, on joists sitting 24" apart. I've read that, with the wide joist spacing, for solid hardwood floors, it's recommended I lay another sheet of plywood or OSB to bring the total subfloor thickness to 1"+, correct?

When it comes to the installation, what are the big differences in nail down, glue down, and floating, when it comes to potential issues longevity, and performance of the flooring? Only the engineered hardwood can/should be floated, right? How can I quantify whether it'd be worth the substantial expense of pulling the particle board and laying down another sheet of subflooring for a nail down installation? I don't hear of glue down installations much, is that something I should be considering for my installation, or should I choose between nail down and floating?

It appears the cost for engineered or solid is about the same. If floating an engineered floor is anything like installing laminate, I'm pretty sure I could do it myself. Cost for a nail down installation is around $2.25/sq ft, or $1575, plus the cost of laying 700 sq ft of additional subfloor.

Another question! My bottom cabinets are sitting on the current hardwood in the kitchen, so I assume I have to remove them for the install? Any chance of not cracking my tile countertops?

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 9:28PM
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gosalsk

Engineered wood is more resistant to MOISTURE, meaning small amounts of moisture that are present in the air or the slab or the crawlspace. Those can indeed ruin solid hardwood under certain circumstances.

Engineered is most definitely not resistant to water spills, which can cause permanent damage in minutes. Unlike solid wood it can't be sealed between the boards. It can't be sanded and refinished. It can't have boards replaced and seamlessly integrated by refinishing the whole floor. Etc.

If you really are going to rent the place out later, get "luxury" vinyl floor that looks like wood. Laminate has no redeeming qualities to speak of except that damaged boards are easy to replace.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 12:53AM
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PatrickWells

I don't have any idea about hardwood floors. I thought of doing it but it seems to be very expensive and then I selected decorative concrete floors. I really liked its appearance and how it changed my room’s interior. It looks more spacious and clean now. It is from my friend I came to know about Floortex, Toronto and visited their office accompanying her. Good service and the products are also of high quality and variances.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 7:29AM
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PatrickWells

I don't have any idea about hardwood floors. I thought of doing it but it seems to be very expensive and then I selected decorative concrete floors. I really liked its appearance and how it changed my room’s interior. It looks more spacious and clean now. It is from my friend I came to know about Floortex, Toronto and visited their office accompanying her. Good service and the products are also of high quality and variances.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 7:46AM
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