FAQs: Laminate & Luxury Vinyl Tile

Obviously, we’re big fans of hardwood flooring here at Dan Higgins Wood Flooring–we’ve been in the hardwood flooring business since 1985. However, we want every customer to have the best flooring solution for their home and budget, so we offer laminate and luxury vinyl tile flooring as alternatives to hardwood flooring. Laminate and luxury vinyl tile flooring are both gaining popularity in the floor covering industry. Here’s what you need to know:

What is laminate flooring?

Laminate flooring is a flooring product constructed by layering synthetic products and laminating them together. Laminate flooring contains a moisture-resistant backing layer, a fiberboard inner core, an image design layer, and a top wear layer.

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We installed this Armstrong Architectural Remnants Woodland Reclaim laminate flooring in “Old Original.”

What is luxury vinyl tile?

Luxury vinyl tile (LVT) is a flooring product made out a layer of vinyl backing, an image design layer, and a top wear layer. Luxury vinyl tile comes in varieties to imitate hardwood, stone, slate, and ceramic tile.

What is hybrid laminate flooring?

Hybrid laminate is made in layers and is installed the same way as laminate floor, but has the waterproof base of LVT. Hybrid laminates are new to the industry but are gaining popularity, with brands like COREtec (which we now carry) catching consumers’ attention.

Are laminate and LVT the same as engineered wood flooring?

No. Engineered wood flooring is real hardwood, made of layers of hardwood and plywood. Many laminate and LVT flooring products are made to look like wood, but they are made of synthetic materials.

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LVT is often used in industrial spaces because of its resistance to wear-and-tear. We installed this Berry Alloc DreamClick Pro LVT in “River Oak Natural” at the United Methodist Church in Medford, NJ.

Why would I get laminate or LVT instead of real wood floors?

Laminate and LVT flooring can be a good option for rooms with high or variable moisture. All flooring can be damaged by moisture, but hardwood expands and contracts with moisture more than laminate or LVT. Laminate flooring’s fiberboard core can be damaged by high moisture, like standing water in the bathroom, but LVT can withstand very high moisture and many LVT products are 100% waterproof.

Laminate and LVT are also generally low-maintenance and resistant to wear and tear. Customers with pets in the home sometimes prefer laminate and LVT flooring because they are more scratch-resistant than hardwood floors. Laminate and LVT flooring are also popular in office and industrial spaces.

Because laminate and LVT flooring have a printed design layer, they are produced in a variety of colors and designs. Sometimes it is more affordable to achieve a desired look–exotic wood, stone, etc.–with laminate or LVT than the real thing.

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Laminate flooring comes in a variety of designs and colors. Laminates and LVTs can sometimes achieve the “look” of more expensive products at a lower cost.

Do they look like real wood?

The image layer and the wear layer both impact how well the flooring is able to “pass” as wood. Technological innovations in printing and production have helped laminate and LVT flooring look more “real” than ever. High-end laminates and LVTs have very high quality photos on the image layer and are “embossed-in-register” so that the look and feel of the wear layer matches the “grain” of the image layer. However, some laminates and LVTs have designs and colors that are hard to achieve with hardwood, making it virtually impossible to match the look with real wood, even with custom staining.

To the extent you can measure how a floor “feels”, laminate feels more like walking on real wood than LVT since laminate flooring has the fiberboard core. However, they both feel artificial compared to walking on real wood, especially if installed by floating the floor instead of gluing it down.

At the end of the day, laminate and LVT flooring are synthetic and do not look or feel exactly like real hardwood.

Are they safe?

Laminate flooring got a bad reputation in March 2015 when a 60 Minutes investigation found that Lumber Liquidators-brand laminate flooring failed to meet the California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulations for formaldehyde levels and was fraudulently labeled. However, laminate and LVT flooring from trusted brands that are independently certified to follow the CARB standards are safe for the home. Just make sure you’re not looking for the cheapest floor, but for brands that have a good reputation and follow government regulations.

Which costs more?

Laminate and LVT gained popularity as the cheaper alternatives to hardwood and ceramic flooring. However, like all flooring products, they vary in price and quality. Some higher-end laminate and LVT flooring products cost more than mid-range hardwood flooring. While laminate and LVT flooring provide more options for the price-conscious consumer, you don’t need to limit your search to laminate and LVT to find affordable options.

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Laminate flooring is made with tongue and groove planks that click together for installation.

How are they installed? Can I do it myself?

If you’re an experienced home improvement DIYer, laminate and LVT installations are both relatively easy DIY projects. Laminate flooring is produced as tongue and groove planks that can be clicked together and is installed as a floating floor. LVT often comes with adhesive already on the product. If the product requires you to supply and apply adhesive separately, the installation gets trickier. When installing flooring, it’s imperative to follow the manufacturer’s instructions so that the flooring will be covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. If you don’t have much experience with DIY home improvements, it’s better to get an expert installation.

Which flooring is the best for my home?

The best floor for your home depends on so many factors, it’s best to consult an expert to help you evaluate your project and find the best product.

Contact the experts at Dan Higgins Wood Flooring

Before & After: Custom Stained Treads

Our job supervisor Anthony installed these beautiful custom oak stair treads stained to match Armstrong Prime Harvest hardwood flooring in “Forest Brown.” We custom stain the stair treads in our warehouse to make every set of stairs look beautiful.

Here’s the finished product:

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Contact us to schedule your free estimate for customer stair tread staining and installation.

FAQs: Solid vs Engineered Wood

So you know you want wood floors. But how are you going to narrow down the best product when faced with hundreds of samples in the showroom? The first step is to determine whether you need a solid or engineered hardwood product. Here’s some common questions our customers ask about solid and engineered hardwood floors.

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A sample of solid oak wood flooring vs. a sample of engineered oak wood flooring. The solid wood is one piece while the engineered wood is made of layers.

What is a solid hardwood and engineered hardwood?

Solid wood is milled from a single piece of 3/4″ hardwood. Engineered wood is made with layers of hardwood or plywood as the core, with a hardwood veneer on top. The veneer is made of the preferred species of wood, such as oak or maple.

Is engineered real wood? Isn’t it the same as laminate flooring?

Engineered wood is real wood, made in layers instead of as one solid piece. Laminate flooring is a different product altogether; it is a picture that simulates the look of wood, stone, or tile on top of a fiber board, but is not made of wood.

What is “below grade” and why does it matter?

Rooms in your home can be at grade, above grade, or below grade. At grade means the room is at ground level, usually the first floor of a house. Above grade means the room is above ground level, such as an upstairs bedroom. Below grade is below ground level, like a basement.

Traditional solid wood does not perform well in room that are below grade. Below grade rooms tend to have higher levels of moisture. Solid hardwood expands and contracts with changing moisture levels. Engineered hardwood has more structural stability so it is more resistant to moisture. Engineered hardwood can be installed at any grade, while solid hardwood can be installed at or above grade.

Hardwood Flooring in NJ Beach House
Engineered wood floors are ideal for areas with variable moisture, like basements, kitchens, and down the shore.

What’s the difference between how solid and engineered wood flooring is installed?

Solid hardwood flooring can be nailed or stapled to a wood subfloor. Engineered flooring can also be glued, nailed, or stapled, but can also be floated. Floating installation is a technique where the engineered boards are attached to each other and stay over the subfloor without adhesion. Solid wood flooring cannot be installed directly to a concrete subfloor; concrete subfloors usually have high moisture levels and solid hardwood does not react well to moisture variability.

Solid wood contracts and expands more than engineered wood, so installers should leave more space between the boards to allow the wood to expand and contract.

Can solid and engineered hardwood flooring be sanded and refinished?

In most cases, solid wood flooring can be sanded and refinished many times throughout the life of the floor. Many engineered woods can be sanded and refinished, but it depends on the the thickness of the hardwood veneer. Engineered wood flooring with thick veneers can be sanded and refinished up to three times, while engineered wood flooring with thinner veneers may only be sanded and refinished once or, in some cases, not at all.

Which costs more?

It depends. Solid and engineered hardwood flooring vary in price–and quality. The type of installation also affects the overall cost of your project. Solid hardwood and engineered hardwood have comparable costs, so you shouldn’t rule out either option when considering price.

Which is better for my home: solid or engineered?

The best floor for your home depends on so many factors, it’s best to consult an expert to help you evaluate your project and find the best product.

Contact the experts at Dan Higgins Wood Flooring

On the Road Again

As the school year starts and the Trekker bicycling club gets going again, delays sometimes happen. Here the group gets an unexpected delay due to a biker getting not one, but two flat tires at once. After the break we pedaled to the pizzeria for some hard earned nutrition. Okay, that last part may be debatable–pizza is not the healthiest, but it is fun to eat! The Higginses are looking forward to another great year of after school pedaling as we lose a few graduates, but gain some really great freshmen! See you on the streets! – Dan

SALE ALERT: Mirage Hardwood Flooring Rebate

Starting October 3rd, Mirage Floors is offering  a $0.50 per sq. ft. rebate on hardwood flooring purchases. The sale includes all species, colors, and widths of Mirage Classic, Mirage Engineered, and Mirage Lock products.

Dan Higgins Wood Flooring is a Mirage Floors Elite Maestro Dealer. As Elite Dealers, we provide the full range of Mirage products and services.

The rebate sale runs through November 26th, but our installation calendar is already filling up with customers who want to improve their homes before the holiday season.

See our selection of Mirage Products in our showroom.

For more information, contact us.
For complete rules and information, visit Mirage’s Website.

FAQs: Prefinished vs. Unfinished Floors

Our customers often ask whether a prefinished or unfinished floor is the best option for them. We want every customer to be educated to make the best decision for their home. Here are some questions our customer ask about prefinished and unfinished floors.

What is a finish?

A finish is a protective coating that seals your wood floors. It helps protect against wear and tear, stains, and moisture.

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We installed an unfinished maple floor at the Pemberton Borough Gym. Here you can see the floors during the staining and finishing process.

What is unfinished flooring?

Unfinished flooring is also known as site-finished flooring. The flooring arrives at the installation site without any finish and must be sanded, stained, and finished after installation. The flooring usually receives two to three coats of polyurethane and is air-dried at the installation site.

What is prefinished flooring?

Prefinished flooring is also known as factory-finished flooring. All staining and finishing is done in climate-controlled factories, before the wood arrives at the installation site. The wood receives up to several coats of polyurethane dried by UV lighting.

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We installed a prefinished Mirage Floors 4 1/4″ maple flooring in “Umbria”.

Which is easier to install?

Prefinished floors can be installed in as few as one day and are ready to go after installation. On-site finishing involves many steps: installation, sanding, sealing, staining, and more. You have to wait for the finish to dry before placing furniture or area rugs on the floors. Depending on the type of finish, you may need to wait several days before walking on the floors in shoes. Many homeowners prefer to get back to living in their house as quickly as possible, making prefinished floors a better option. Some builders and contractors prefer to finish the floors during the last step of building or renovating, limiting the risk of damage to the finish during construction.

Which costs more?

Up front, prefinished floors usually cost more than unfinished floors. However, once the cost of sanding and finishing is taken into account, prefinished floors cost less as a finished product.

Which performs better?

Prefinished floors are finished with several coats of high performance aluminum oxide urethane and cured with UV lighting. A site-finished floor will usually get two to three coats of finish which is air-dried. The finish on prefinished floors usually performs better over time. Many prefinished wood flooring manufacturers provide a warranty on their floors to protect against defects in the finish. Warranty coverage on unfinished floors vary based on the sand and finishing professional.

Which is safer?

When drying, hardwood flooring finishes let off volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are carcinogenic.  When installing prefinished floors, all curing takes place in a factory instead of your home, so you are not exposed to the VOCs. On-site finishing means that the VOCs will be the air while the finish dries. Here in New Jersey and many other states, flooring finishes are required to be low in VOCs according to state standards, which limits safety concerns with on-site finishing.

Which is better for colors?

When staining unfinished hardwood, you have more flexibility to stain with custom colors or try match existing flooring color–though it’s impossible to perfectly match to an existing floor. Prefinished floors now come in so many colors, it’s easy to find a color that will complement your current floors.

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Prefinished hand-scraped floors often have deeper micro-bevels that add to the character of the wood and compensate for discrepancies between boards.

Which looks better?

Prefinished floors have micro-bevels, small cuts on the edge of the boards which keep the floors from being perfectly smooth. The micro-bevels vary in size; beveling can be so shallow it’s hardly noticeable, or so deep it becomes part of the character of the floor. Unfinished floors get rid of any beveling during the sand and finishing process. Some homeowners prefer the dimension and shadows created by micro-beveling. Others prefer the smooth surface of a freshly-sanded floor. It’s a matter of preference.

Can I refinish the floors?

Both prefinished and site-finished floors can be sanded and finished, as long as they are solid wood or thicker engineered wood. Hand-scraped floors can be difficult to sand and finish because they have to be sanded to a smooth finish.

So which is better for my home?

There are many factors to be considered when selecting prefinished or unfinished hardwood floors. We recommend talking to a hardwood flooring expert to help you select the best option for your home.

Talk to the experts at Dan Higgins Wood Flooring.

Home Inspiration: Ocean City Natural

Last week, our job supervisor Jimmy and his crew took a trip to Ocean City, NJ, to install Mercier Pro Series 3/8″ x 3 1/4″ engineered maple flooring in “natural.” We often recommend engineered wood flooring for beach homes, since it’s adaptable to beach climates.

We also love installing at the Jersey shore, since we get to enjoy the beautiful scenery and even make some new friends.

Before you wrap up your summer at the shore, contact us about your beach flooring needs.

Related articles:
Floors for Down the Shore
Inspiration: Avalon Beach House
Home Inspiration: Sea Isle City