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Which Floor Type Is Best: Wood, Laminate, or Vinyl?

Does the choice for flooring have to be confusing? With so many options to choose from how does anyone decide which floor type is best?

Everyone loves the look of real hardwood, but may want an easier to maintain option.

Recent advances in flooring multiplied easy-care options. New waterproof, scratch, and dent resistant flooring can be installed in new applications.

Keep reading to find out the pros and cons of hardwood, luxury vinyl, and laminate – and which is right for you.

Real wood flooring

Floor Type 1: Real Wood Flooring 

This is the real thing – the quality original that every other flooring type tries to mimic.  With natural grain patterns, warmth and character, hardwoods give a timeless vintage look. They’re most commonly produced in ¾” thick boards ranging in width from 1.5” to 5” and wider.

Sustainable and Timeless

Engineered wood floors have grown in popularity, capturing more market share than solid.

This process of using slices from solid boards produces up to five times more flooring. These top layers are glued to multi-layer softwood plywood base to make 3/8” to 3/4” flooring.

Environmentally sustainable practices, like this, produce more stable flooring for use in a wide range of applications on and below grade.

Another sustainable benefit, hardwood floors (both solid and some engineered) can be sanded and refinished. Choosing wood allows you to change the color or refresh the look without buying a new floor. With other flooring options, if the floor is out of style or severely damaged, it requires a complete replacement. Wood floors allow you to repair damage much easier and efffectively.

Three reasons to buy real wood floors

Long Term Return on Investment

One great advantage of hardwoods: customizations. From accent borders, pattern floors, to centerpiece medallions, these accents are unique to wood floors. It’s hard to reproduce the same looks with other flooring types.
 
Expect a higher labor cost though for a skilled professional to craft these looks. The added material cost for customizations is an investment that leaves you with a truly one-of-a-kind floor.
 
Additionally, many studies report that homes with hardwoods sell faster and at a higher price than those with another floor type (Realtor.com.)

Healthy Choice

Those who suffer from allergies will find wood as an ideal floor type. Carpet traps dirt, pet dander, and pollen allergens which can exasperate symptoms. Since it’s easy to clean, hardwood flooring is not a hospitable surface for dust mites.

The AAFA (Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America) recommends hardwood flooring for those with asthma or allergies. For more details about allergy-friendly floors read this.

Potential Drawbacks

For some homeowners, they’re concerned about messy installations, lack of versatility, and little waterresistance.

Messy Installations: For unfinished floor installations, sawdust and fumes can be a concern for the allergy-sensitive customers. But, modern dust-control and low VOC products have improved installation conditions.

Lack of Versatility: Not all wood floors can be installed in every area of a home. Solid floors cannot be installed below grade, but engineered flooring can be. This gives you the consistency of hardwood on all levels of the home.

Another limitation with engineered real wood floors is that not all can be re-sanded. The wear layer is not as thick as a solid board and cannot be sanded as many times, if at all.

Additionally, engineered floors are often textured with wire brushing, saw-marks, or hand-scraping. While these give a unique look, the textured wear layer may not be thick enough for re-sanding.

Little Waterresistance: The most common complaint – real wood is not waterproof. While true, there is one question every homeowner should ask, “Do I really need a waterproof floor?

Consider these questions to decide:

  1. Is my floor constantly wet for extended periods of time?
  2. Do I have a beachfront property?
  3. Does my home flood often? (Or certain rooms, like a bathroom, kitchen, or basement)
  4. Do I live in a house with leaky pipes or leaky roof?

As a rule of thumb, flooring designed as water-safe is a great option for a home’s “wet areas” – bathrooms, utility, wash rooms, and kitchens. For other areas, you can choose wood with the peace of mind that it will serve your home well.

Rigid Core, SPC, Luxury Vinyl Flooring

Floor Type 2: Luxury Vinyl Flooring

Including Rigid Core SPC

 

Vinyl floors have made a significant resurgence in the last few years. But, they’re not the cheap sheet vinyl floors you saw in grandma’s kitchen.

Today’s technology uses virgin (non-recycled) vinyl with state-of-the-art imaging to produce a near-exact natural wood look, right down to the grain texture. Combining crushed stone and plastic resins produces core rigidity for durability as well as comfort under foot.

Advanced durable finish coatings elevate rigid core flooring to new levels of application, like in bars and dance floors that endure harsh wear and tear.

SPC is a budget-friendly option when looking for a water-safe floor.  It can be installed on or below grade where moisture might be a problem.

Compared to traditional wood flooring, the ease and speed of installation makes it approachable for any do-it-yourself homeowner or flooring pro.

Rigid core luxury vinyl is an excellent floor type for those wanting a wood look with added water and scuff resistance.

Laminate flooring

Floor Type 3: Laminate Flooring

Today’s laminate is not like its inferior predecessor from 15 years ago.  The one constant is in the laminate name, but as technology has improved, so has this flooring category.

If you are looking for an affordable alternative to wood but are not persuaded by vinyl, consider “new generation laminate”.

Developed with moisture-resistant fibercore from 90% recycled wood product, this dense core gives better water resistance. The core also allows for a better click lock system with a watertight seal. This prevents water from seaping to the subfloor floow.

New generation laminate is a durable option offering a quality wood aesthetic to any home. You get the natural wood floor look combined with water and scuff resistance.

Compare Your Options

Which floor type is right for you? Use the table below to compare your options.

Wood Laminate Luxury Vinyl (SPC)
Natural wood appearance Actual wood Realistic photo of wood Realistic photo of wood
Environmental Sustainable 100% Renewable 100% Recyclable 100% Recyclable
Material contents Natural wood 90% wood product PVC (poly vinyl chloride), crushed stone, IXPE pad
Install options Glue, nail, float Float only Float or glue
Pet friendly Good Very good Very good
Scuff-scratch resistant finish Yes, Finish-dependent Very good Very good
Waterproof Water resistant only Very water resistant Waterproof
Can be sanded/ refinished Yes No No
Value- ROI Net plus Net neutral Net neutral
Sound -noise abatement Yes, based on installation Yes, with underlayment Yes, with foam pad
Ease of Installation Skilled Professional installation required DIY Friendly DIY Friendly
Water-tight groove-locking system No Yes Yes
Radiant heating Yes, per recommendation Yes Yes
Warranty 5-50 years Up to lifetime Up to lifetime

Decided on the right floor type?

Now that you know which floor type is best for your project, you can move on with the decision process.

For wood floors, check out our buying guide for everything you need to know when picking out your floor.

If choosing a waterproof floor, download our free guide to waterproof floors. We give you the 5 things to look for when

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