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Will the cost of wooden floors leave me floored?

I'm planning on revamping my house with new flooring. What kinds of wooden flooring options do I have for my house?

Floor type: In Ireland we have three main flooring options – solid flooring, semi-solid flooring and laminate – ordered here in terms of decreasing cost.

Solid flooring is what it says it is – solid planks of your chosen wood type.

Many contend that solid flooring provides a superior finish and gives property owners greater maintenance options in terms of being able to renew the top surface through sanding it back over time.

This contention is open to debate, as semi-solid can be close to it in both aspects, but what is clear is that solid flooring has greater propensity to absorb moisture and hence expand/warp (for this reason it is not recommended for installation over underfloor heating and questionable for bathrooms).

You must also take traffic considerations into account when installing a solid floor – some wood types will not take kindly to high heels or high footfall so consider this when you are choosing the correct surface for each room and get the retailer's advice where possible.

Semi-solid flooring typically consists of a three layer plywood base covered in a real wood top surface – providing a natural look and feel when installed.

The benefits of this floor type are that it is typically cheaper to buy and install than solid flooring as well as being more moisture stable.

The drawbacks are that it may not provide the same finish quality and cannot be sanded back as many times as solid flooring – although the more expensive semi-solid comes extremely close in both aspects.

Again consider traffic volumes, semi-solid is typically protected by a urethane layer but can still be susceptible to scratches and stiletto marks.

It is worth pointing out that both semi-solid and solid wood floors contain natural wood grains, knots and blemishes. Often the beauty of these floor types is in its irregularities as no one plank is going to be the same.

Be prepared for slightly different shading over a large floor area. It is also important to consider the source of all natural wood floors.

A worrying amount of flooring continues to be sourced from unmanaged or illegal forests globally – you are well within your rights to insist on verifying the source of your flooring to ensure that it comes from sustainable, managed forests which carries the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) mark.

Bamboo flooring is currently considered to be the most ecological friendly wooden flooring on the market and can provide a beautiful alternative to the hardwood variety.

The last main floor type to consider is laminate. A synthetic material, laminate flooring is relatively cheap to buy and install but is the most hardy of the three floor types listed. There is a balance to be struck in choosing laminate – it will not replicate the effect of real wood (although again some of the higher end laminates are close) but provides durability and an acceptable finish at a lower cost.

At this point all we have discussed are the practicalities in choosing the correct surface for your project.

You will also need to consider whether you are planning to install the flooring yourself or whether to get a professional to do it for you.

It is worthwhile considering the latter as, in general, a qualified floorer will fit an average sized apartment in two or three days for less than you might think with the added assurance of it being done correctly.

They may also be able to source the flooring itself for you at a better price.

I recommend that you login to www.onlinetradesmen.ie and put in your requirements in the flooring section to get an idea of pricing and project duration.

If you do decide to undertake the project yourself then there are a large number of aspects to consider.

Irish Independent