Laminates lead the way in terms of cost efficiency. Not too challenging for the average DIY person, they usually sit on a foam underlay and click together. Orientated correctly, trimmed neatly at the walls, and finished with a narrow beading if necessary – the job is straightforward.
If tiling, then doing so on a concrete or screed floor is the simplest option, and therefore the cheapest form of tile installation. If the floor needs some preparatory work, such as levelling out, this work will be needed for both ceramic and wooden floors. However, one would expect a tiler to be significantly quicker than a carpenter thereafter. The wooden planks need to be glued down, and to each other, as well as being cut to shape. Laying a natural wood floor is usually more expensive than floor tiles.
When tiling over joists or old floor boards, it is recommended that a backing board is installed first. This is because if tiling over sheets of ply or the floor boards themselves, the initial shrinkage of the sheets plus regular expansion and contraction with fluctuations in heat will cause movement. Floor tiles will be secured to these surfaces, and are not designed to tolerate such movement.
When installing timber over existing floorboards, the installer must ensure that they are solid, and that the new floor lines up perpendicularly to the old floor. If this is not possible, then the installer must sheet the floor out first. Alternatively, batons must be fixed to the floor first, and then sheeted.
Another consideration which must to be taken into account is the climate. Floor tiles can be laid the day they arrive. With timber, there are recommended moisture parameters for both the substrate and the new planks themselves, which must be adhered to. It is highly recommended that new wood be stored in the room in which it is to be installed for one week prior to fitting, so that it can acclimatise to the ambient temperature of its surroundings.
After all preparation work is carried out, the bill at that point is roughly the same for timber or wood effect tiles. However, the final installation cost will be cheaper if floor tiles are chosen.
Wear, Tear, and Maintenance
Natural wood is often finished with a lacquer or oil on the surface. This will wear over time through everyday use. The higher the level of traffic, the quicker this happens. Unfortunately, it only occurs on the part of the floor where walking occurs, which makes the deterioration all the more obvious.
Moving furniture, dragged toys, the toenails of large dogs, high heels etc. will all dent or scrape the surface of wood. It can fade too, more so in the areas that are subject to the most sunlight, something that will not happen with tiles.
Engineered and solid woods can be refinished at this point, but if left too long, they will need to be sanded down first, and that is a large, complex job.
Laminate floors cannot be sanded. Although they can be tougher than their natural counterparts, once they have worn through, that is the end of them, and they will need to be replaced.
Wood effect floor tiles, once fitted, require no maintenance other than a quick mop. Unless there has been a catastrophic spillage of something significant, such as tar or oil, even grout is not likely to tarnish. And even if it does, there are many cheap, easy to apply, restorative cleaners available on the market, which will bring grout up as good as new.
With wood, a lot of damage can be caused by a small flood from a domestic appliance, or even incorrect mopping and cleaning. As a natural product, moisture can be absorbed from the atmosphere or from standing water. This will cause planks to expand and buckle under the ensuing pressure, or warp out of shape. Splitting, discolouration, and rot can result.
To clean a wooden floor, it is not recommended to dump a bucket of water out into the centre, and then spread it around to get the job done. The water will seep between the joints, and the timbers can sustain irreparable damage.
Some laminates are mounted on water-resistant boards, which are ideal for bathroom or shower areas instead of natural wood.
All wall and floor tiles, by comparison, are manufactured to handle water.