The Hard Truth About Solid Surface Flooring – Part 2

Working Through the Questions to Get to the Right Answers


Last week we went through questions to ask when looking for the right solid surface flooring. I pointed out the importance of starting with the why. Then I went through an overview of the other questions – product choices, appearance, durability, cleaning and maintenance, price, installation options, location and the ability to be repaired.

This week we will go into the attributes of the different solid surface products that are currently available:

  • Solid wood – is lumber cut from trees. It normally ranges in thickness from ½” to ¾”. It typically has a tongue and groove on the sides and ends. It usually is nailed down through the tongue which hides the fastener. It can also be glued down. Because it’s the same material all the way through it can be sanded down and refinished in the future.


  • Engineered wood – is similar to solid wood in that wood is the primary material. The difference is that it is manufactured in layers with the grain alternating direction and glued together. Engineered wood might be as thin as 3/8” up to ¾”. Like the solid wood it usually has a tongue and groove and can be installed either by nailing or by gluing. Some engineered wood has a thick enough top layer to allow for refinishing, but often the top finished layer is too thin for refinishing to be done.


  • Bamboo – is manufactured flooring made from the bamboo plant. It is typically made by slicing mature bamboo poles into strips. Then these strips are cut into the desired lengths and widths, the outer skin and nodes are removed, and the strips are boiled in a solution of boric acid or lime to remove the sugar and starch. After it has been dried and planed the strips are laminated together, milled, sanded and finished creating the planks with either vertical or horizontal grain. Bamboo can be installed either with an interlocking joint system, nailed or glued. This product can be refinished however staining bamboo can be a challenge.


  • Laminated – is a multi-layered synthetic flooring product. It is usually composed of melamine resin and a fiberboard inner core material with a photographic visible layer and covered with a clear protective layer similar to plastic laminate counter tops. It can have many different patterns resembling wood or ceramic tile. It ranges from ¼” to ½” thick and is often made using recycled materials. It is fastened together with a tongue and groove or snap together process. This flooring then floats over an underlayment and essentially becomes one continuous piece covering the entire room. Due to the type of finished surface it cannot be refinished.


  • Ceramic tile – Is made from clay that has been shaped and then is fired in a kiln. Then it is glazed and fired a second time. It is offered in a variety of shapes, sizes and finishes. It is currently even available in a wood grained finish. It has the most durable finish but is brittle and can break or chip especially if not supported well. Installation of this product is done by adhering it to either a concrete slab or concrete board subfloor with a troweled on thinset mortar. After the adhesive has cured the joints are filled with a complementary colored grout.


  • Luxury Vinyl – should not be confused with either sheet vinyl or the self-adhesive tile squares that used to be installed in homes. This product is made of resilient polyvinyl chloride (PVC) with a top layer of urethane. It comes in planks (to look like traditional wood floors), tiles (that can look like ceramic, stone, granite, marble, etc.) and is even available in patterns that resemble carpet squares. Luxury vinyl will range from 2mm to 5mm thick. It can be installed either in a snap together floating system or glued down.


  • Sheet vinyl – is made from PVC the same as the luxury vinyl. It comes in rolls normally wide enough to do complete rooms without seams. This product is available in a variety of stamped patterns, some even resemble wood grain. The thickness of sheet vinyl is 10-30 mils (mils are a thousandth of an inch). This product is installed with either a full glue or perimeter glue process. Due to the thinness of this product it requires a smooth underlayment underneath.


I hope this explanation of these products helps you to better understand them and their differences. Next week we will dig deeper into comparable questions and what the pros and cons are.

The Hard Truth About Solid Surface Flooring – Part 1

You Need to Ask the Right Questions If You Want to Get the Right Answers


Over the last several years floorcovering has gone from a few simple choices to so many that it can make your head spin. It used to be that carpet, sheet vinyl and wood were your main options. Now the number of various products, styles and finishes are overwhelming. Currently the trend is moving more and more to the solid surface products.

When working with customers, I point out these differences and help them work through the process of choosing the right flooring product for their specific situation. Many times, they thought they knew what they wanted until I start asking them questions.

As always, the best place to start is why. Why are you going to install new flooring? Is it necessary, i.e. no flooring or because what’s there now is worn out. Is it because you want a new fresh look? Whatever the reason you want/need new floorcovering, you need to begin with a clear why.


Once you have determined your why, then the real head spinning can begin.


When determining which solid surface product to use, these questions should be answered:

  • Product choices. Here is a list of the main solid surface products on the market today –

    • Solid wood
    • Engineered wood
    • Bamboo
    • Plastic laminated
    • Ceramic tile
    • Luxury vinyl
    • Sheet vinyl

  • Appearance

    • How it looks. Does it appear real or artificial?
    • How it feels to the touch?
    • How it feels when walking on it?
    • How it sounds when walking on it?


  • Durability

    • What is the wear surface?
    • What is the life expectancy?
    • Does furniture cause indentions?


  • Cleaning and maintenance

    • Does it require any special product for cleaning?
    • Will it need to be mopped?
    • Does it have beveled edges or grout joints?
    • How smooth is the surface?


  • Price

    • Initial product cost?
    • Installation cost?
    • Longevity costs?
    • Misc. related costs, special trims, transitions etc.?


  • Installation methods and requirements

    • Nail down?
    • Glue down?
    • Floating?
    • Underlayment?


  • Location to be installed

    • Wood subfloor or concrete?
    • Room (kitchen, bathroom or living space)?
    • Below grade (basement)?
    • Traffic (foot or rolling furniture)?
    • Interior or exterior?


  • Ability to be repaired –

    • Can a single piece be removed and replaced?
    • Can it be refinished?


Just going through this list is a lot to digest. To keep your head from spinning too far today, we’ll stop here for now. Next week we will go into the specifics of the different products and how they can either solve your flooring problem or become the problem.

Here are some links to various solid surface products.

Designer’s Expo




If you have any specific questions about the products or topics listed here or would like to discuss some other product(s) contact us in the comment section below.