Now that we had decided on carpeting, it was time to match it up with laminate flooring. Laminate flooring is available in a variety of styles, colors and price ranges- and we considered just about everything!
Laminate or hardwood floor?
If you're installing your flooring below grade, you'll be limited to laminate flooring rather than hardwood flooring. The reason is that there aren't any hardwood floors approved for use below grade- at least not that we found. If you have a walkout basement and your flooring will not be below grade, you may have the option to use hardwood.
Manufactured hardwood flooring
A third type of flooring that you don't hear about much is called 'manufactured hardwood'. This has a thing layer of veneer over a base similar to the bottom half of a hardwood floor. Some varieties of this type of flooring give you the flexibility to install it in your basement because they're approved for use below grade. Check to be sure. We couldn't find any of this variety that we liked, so we went with a laminate instead.
Varieties of hardwood and laminate flooring
One way to discern between types of laminate and hardwood flooring is how they're installed. Here's a look at some of the differences in installing flooring:
Nailed hardwood floors
In the 'old' days nailing individual boards was the only way to install hardwood flooring. Some floors are still installed this way today, but other methods are much easier.
Glued hardwood or laminate floors
Many floors today are still glued into place. They may be tongue and groove (see below) but they still need to be glued. This can be an arduous process and very messy too- if you don't know what you're doing!
Tongue and groove laminate or hardwood floors
This is the most common variety of installation today. It's a floating floor meaning that it just sits on a thin layer of padding which provides a vapor barrier and also dampens the sound. This will help a laminate floor 'sound' more like hardwood when you walk on it. You lay each board out and tap it into place using a hammer and a special tool that fits into the groove in each board. This prevents the board from being damaged as you tap it into place.
Selecting a laminate floor
We looked at a wide variety of laminate floors at Lowe's, Independent Carpet One (where we purchased our carpeting), and a couple of other stores. We checked for laminate flooring online as well. We were looking for a darker wood look in either an oak or cherry finish, from laminate flooring manufacturers such as Armstrong, Pergo, and Mirror Lake. In the end, we picked Armstrong "Grand Illusions" in a cherry bronze finish. This was (of course!) among the most expensive laminate flooring available! The cherry finish was exactly what we were looking for in that it was not too dark, has a nice beveled edge, and looks almost like real wood. It's very difficult to tell the difference!
Armstrong "Grand Illusions" cherry bronze laminate floor [Click to enlarge]