Thickness – How do I know which to buy?

Q: I searched your entire site but cannot find the answer to this question…Why the different thicknesses of the products and how do I know what thickness of (say, a laminate or bamboo) to buy?
By the way – this is really a good, helpful website. And, very well laid out.

A: Products are made in various thicknesses for different reasons. It is heavily dependent on the product itself. For bamboo and laminate, the rule of thumb tends to be that thinner products are of lower quality. Many 7mm laminates are great economical choices, but they don’t stand the test of time of something over 10mm. In the case of bamboo, solid bamboo is normally 5/8” thick and anything thinner is normally cheaply made product, so beware.
Hardwood is where things get a bit more technical. For solid hardwood the standard is 3/4”. Another important thickness is 5/16” and although it is much thinner than 3/4” it is more stable and able to be glued down to a concrete subfloor unlike 3/4” solids.
For Engineered floors, thicker floors tend to have more plies and a thicker species layer. Some manufacturers will use less plies, but use higher quality substrate with each ply being thicker than less expensive floors with more plies. In the end, the rule here is the more plies the better and a thicker species layer will be your best bet.
So to sum it up, thinner laminate and bamboo tends to be a bit more economical and lesser quality. For solid hardwood a thinner solid has more stability and can be installed in areas a normal 3/4” solid can’t. For engineered floors, try to find a floor with more plies and a thicker species layer.


Where is the iFLOOR brand?

For those that wonder where exactly does the iFLOOR brand reach you may be surprised by the answer. Everywhere.

Here is the world view of the brand:


Here is the US map of the brand coverage:


Without going into great detail about this for competitive reasons, suffice it to say that if there is a city, with people that have computers – we are there and serving everyday through education, information and ideally through the delivery of products and services in our target markets!

Bellefloor Engineered Wood Question

Q: I recently requested and received multiple samples of engineered hardwood flooring from iFloor.
I am in the process of constructing a retirement home which will be on a concrete slab and want
to install floating (unless you have other suggestions) engineered hardwood flooring in the family room, kitchen and hallways. I am impressed with the Bellefloor samples of iron wood, rosewood, and teak. I know very little about Bellefloor and it is not one of the brands rated by Steve. How would you rate Bellefloor as a brand? Do you feel that floating is the installation of choice on a concrete slab? The only floors that will be heated are in the bathrooms, forced air will be the primary heat source.

A: Bellefloor makes great engineered floors with a good variety of exotic species (I’m a big fan of the Rosewood and Asian Mahogany). I love the products they make and have heard great reviews from a vast majority of our customer who have purchased it in the past. One of the big advantages with the Bellefloor product is the thickness of the species layer. Its thicker than many of the engineered products out there and has 7 plies, which gives it more durability against expansion and contraction.
Floating is one of the best methods for installing over concrete, but keep in mind a few things for this project, as it will most likely see some decent foot traffic. Since Bellefloor is a tongue and groove style floor, you will need to use a tongue and groove glue to anchor the floor together. I would choose a very good underlayment for this, preferably 6mm cork as this will stand up to the traffic a bit better and will still feel good under everyone’s feet.
The big plus to floating is that should damage occur it is easier to replace boards than glue down (even when you need to use T&G glue). Also, this installation tends to be easier and is far less messy. Also, the potential for error with glue down installs is very high if not done by an experienced installer.
To sum up – Bellefloor makes quality engineered floors with several plies and a great species layer and selection. For your case, I would suggest a floating install with 3mm cork underlayment at a very minimum (6mm preferred).


Cupping Issues with a Glue Down Engineered Floor

Q: I have been to ifloor and you guys carry a great line of products to choose from. I have had a 3/8” hardwood cherry floor put down on my lower level of my house. The person laid i glued it down onto the subfloor(concrete) no vapor barrier was used there is some moisture present when the weather gets hot and humid. Presently the floor is cupped really bad due to the moisture what can I do to fix this problem or what type of product would you recommend from your line to solve this with no future cupping.
A: There are a couple reasons why a floor will begin cupping, and most of the time this is a moisture related issue. The first thing I would do is have a certified inspector come in to check the floor and ensure this moisture is not coming from your subfloor. Occasionally if the glue is not done right, this can cause a problem where the moisture seal the glue creates will not hold. If this is the case, it would be an installer error, but only an inspector would be able to determine this.
If the cupping is due to relative humidity in the air, then you will want to get a dehumidifier ASAP to remove this excess moisture. After time, the boards will begin retuning to their normal state and if caught early enough they will return fully to their state as of the day of installation. It would be good practice to get a dehumidifier going early then get the inspector in there to check the floor out.
Wood floors perform best when in the same “comfortable” climate as humans. This is normally around 65 degrees Fahrenheit and with 50% relative humidity. Any climate which deviates away from this can cause various problems, such as cupping, in your floor.


Engineered Floors and VOCs

Q: Because of respiratory problems, I too am looking for an engineered wood flooring that contains no VOCs, formaldehyde, etc. I think this is a more general problem than just bamboo since the installation instructions for Armstrong engineered wood floors contain warnings required by certain states about formaldehyde emissions. I would like to know if there are companies that address this problem by stating that the adhesives or other ingredients in their engineered products do not contain VOCs.
A: To my knowledge there are no companies which have a direct claim of no VOCs (volatile organic chemicals) for products which contain an adhesive. One thing I will mention is you can use a cork to evade larger amounts of VOCs as it is naturally hypoallergenic. The newer Westhollow Cork has a low emission rating compared to much of the cork made in China.
I spoke with Ryan W.,’s product specialist, and he mentioned he did not know of any E0 engineered products, but that E1 products are well below US standards for emissions producing very very low amounts of emissions.
Follow-up: I have had a few conversations about emission standards and what products to look into. Many of the quality manufacturers make E1 – so it is important to find several floors you like and look into the emission ratings of each one.
Most bamboo contains some formaldehyde; however, quality bamboo products such as Ming Dynasty, Panda, Springwood and Westhollow all make products with much lower emissions than other bamboo products.
Cork is one of the best choices in this category as it is naturally hypoallergenic. Ensure to get the cork products made in Portugal when possible as these are much higher quality than those made in China, as Steve mentioned in his blog.
My best advice is to contact the manufacturer about any products you are interested in to get the emission ratings from them directly on any of their products, along with a spec sheet to show you the testing that has been done.


Flooring a Remodeled Kitchen and Dining Room

Q: I hope you can help me…..I’m thinking of knocking down the wall between my dining room and kitchen and making it all one large room – there’s currently a vinyl one piece flooring in my kitchen and carpet in my DR so obviously I want to replace the entire floor covering…..what do you suggest I use since it’s now one large room?
I’ve had so many ‘opinions’ that I don’t know who to believe…..laminate – hard wood – cork – marble….what’s the best choice? Pergo is bad because spills seeping between the slats, hardwood is bad because it needs to be stripped & treated every couple of years, cork is bad because it’s porous, marble is cold and would look bad in the DR part of this new room…….making it .half Pergo and half ‘kitchen friendly’ would look stupid….what’s a person to do?????
We also have two 80# Labrador Retrievers if that matters……so ANY guidance would be greatly appreciated!

A: Flooring any area in a more kitchen friendly sense, but still flowing into additional areas can be tricky, so let’s examine a few bits of information. First and foremost, the “best” choice is the one you like the most. Every type of flooring has its own benefits and downfalls, but in the end the best floor is the one that makes you happy and proud of your decision.
We’ll start with laminate, since Pergo is just a name brand of laminate. The big benefit here is laminate’s durability, the downfall as you mentioned is the potential for water to seep into seems. As long as water is not left standing on the laminate you should you not run into issues with this, but the same can be said for nearly any hard surface flooring.
Hardwood tends to be the big no no when it comes to any area where water is more likely to meet wood. We’ll want to go the old motto of “Wood and water do NOT mix.” I have seen plenty of kitchens done in both engineered and solid hardwoods that looked amazing, but if your worried about spills you may want to avoid wood.
Cork is becoming very popular in appearance and is the most comfortable hard surface flooring under foot. Although cork is porous due to its cellular nature, it is also naturally water resistant, hence why we use it for wine bottle stoppers. The secret to making cork one of the best choices when it comes to a kitchen is a good install and then a site finish. The site finish will add a bit of protection along with sealing your seams so you won’t have to worry as much about water (although you should always clean up standing water ASAP).
Marble (and other stones for that matter) are great when it comes to durability and moisture resistant, but they are, as you mentioned, cold and hard. However, stone can allow for some interesting design work.
For your two dogs, my first bit of advice is simply to ensure proper grooming is done. Keeping nails trimmed and ensuring longer hair does not cover the pads on their paws will significantly reduce the chance of them marking up your floor. Dogs tend to only use their nails for traction heavily when they aren’t getting enough from the pads of their paws.
With that buffer, let’s look into some options. To floor both your kitchen and dining room I would first suggest looking into cork. After a good install and taking the time to site finish the floor beyond what finish it may have, these floors are amazing. The other key thing to keep in mind is cork’s memory feature. When your dogs get a bit riled up, any dents that may occur will be removed over time by the cork.
Another option would be to do marble in the kitchen and a nice hardwood in the dining room, but add a few insets of the same marble in the kitchen to tie it all together and get a truly unique look that no one else will have.
One more option to look into would be bamboo flooring. Although you are limited on color choices, natural bamboo is tougher than white oak and has made several contemporary kitchens awe inspiring.
In the end here, I would look into options and find 2 – 3 floors that you really like, then decide which one will fit your project the best.


As Promised: The Floor Daily Interview

The Floor Radio (aka Floor Daily) interview part 1 is posted at:

To hear the MP3 you can go here: MP 3 Part 1

To hear the Real Player Version you can go here: REAL PLAYER PART 1

To hear the MP3 you can go here: MP3 Part 2

To hear the Real Player Version you can go here: REAL PLAYER PART 2

To hear the MP3 you can go here: MP3 Part 3

To hear the Real Player Version you can go here: Real Player Part 3


To hear the MP3 you can go here: MP3 Part 4

To hear the Real Player Version you can go here: Real Player Part 4