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Q:
What's the newest trends and developments in wood flooring?

A: During the last few years alone there's been more development and new features and products than in the past couple of decades. This is largely due to the general growth of hard-surface floorings, which as a whole is expected to be a top-20 growth product or category among non-electronic consumer goods over the next decade or so. That says something about how Americans are beginning to percieve their largely carpeted homes. (Some 60% of all floors are still wall-to-wall carpet, compare to less than 30% in Europe and other parts of the world.) Here are some of the more recent distinct trends:

Antique and recycled look: A distinct trend over the last couple of years is the old rustic look, even on factory-new products. Quite a few manufacturers produce new wood flooring, and laminate flooring as well, with checks, marks, stains, knots and cracks to make them look either rustic, worn or antique. Most are coated with a durable finish, taking out the percived rough and uneven surface.
There is also an increasing number of businesses devoted entirely to resquing and recycling old barn beams, siding, logs etc. and turn them into flooring and other end products. These woods have a story, most are 100-200 years old and makes for a truly unique custom product.

Factory finishes : Moisture cured urethane is one of the hardest finishes available, but It is also extremely difficult to apply and it has a very unpleasant (toxic) odor. A respirator is a must when applying. Moisture cured urethane dries by pulling moisture from the air, while most other finishes dry through evaporation of the solvents leaving the resins on the floor.

Q: What's the costs of a wood floor vs. a laminate floor?
A: Factory pre-finished wood floors have grown tremendously. Today's pre-finished flooring comes with very durable finishes such as oil-modified urethanes and water-based finishes (see above), using several coats of ultraviolet (UV) cured urethane for added protection.

UV cured urethanes can only be properly cured in the presence of UV light, which would be extremely difficult to duplicate on a job site finish, not to mention how many days it would take. These UV cured urethanes create a tough, scratch resistant wear layer and help prevent moisture from penetrating the wood's surface. This means that these floors won't watermark like the old waxed hardwood floors, and the UV cure urethanes do make it easier to maintain the like new appearance than, for example, the old waxed wood floors.

Choosing pre-finished largely boils down to installation, durability and maintenance issues. Instead of taking several days to install and finish a wood floor, a pre-finished wood floor is generally done in one day, hence resulting in substantial time and cost savings. Most do-it-yourselfers can install a pre-finished floor. Because of a high quality and consistent factory application, a pre-finished floor often has a more durable wear layer and lower maintenance than a site finished floor.