So you walk into a space and you’re imagining what it could be and your heart lands on wood flooring. Of course wanting the look of wood for that flooring comes with a whole host of questions, ranging from the regularity of grain patterns, whether you want the floor to go horizontally or vertically (let’s not forget more unique patterns like herringbone or chevron!), or the color, species of wood, and so on. But before you get into all of those questions, you first must ask what type of wood look flooring you want. Because wood may not actually be the best material for your wood flooring (Ironic I know).
There are several wood look flooring options. In this article we are going to outline the pro and cons of what we believe are the top 4.
The top 4 wood look flooring options are:
Don’t feel overwhelmed! Deciding on the type of wood look flooring boils down to what is most important to you. As we go through each of the options and their pros and cons, some aspects might not matter as much to you or maybe they aren’t relevant to your particular space. Figure out what your priorities are (and more specifically what your deal breakers are) and it isn’t difficult to land on an appropriate type of wood look flooring.
Let’s start with the traditional type, hardwood. Hardwood is made of actual wood in which the wood is milled into planks with tongue and grooves on the edges so the pieces fit together like a puzzle.
You may have come into this as a material purist. If you are going to get wood look floor, you want it to be actual wood. If that’s the case, more power to you! You’ll just have to understand that although hardwood has many advantages that you’ll get to enjoy, there are some disadvantages that you should be prepared for.
First off, what are the pros to using hardwood floors?
The biggest advantage that I see for hardwood is that it can be sanded down and re-stained. After years of living in a space, your flooring, no matter what it is, will start to show some wear. In the case of hardwood, if it gets scratched or bleached by the sun, you don’t have to worry about saving for the cost of installing entirely new flooring, you just spend some time (or a little bit of money which would still be less than the cost of new floors) refinishing your floors. Or! If the color of that floor just doesn’t quite fit the space like you wanted it to, grab a sander and go to town and you get a whole new look for your floors!
Furthermore, real wood flooring has a plethora of species and stain choices to get to choose from, whereas for something like laminate or luxury vinyl you are limited to what designs companies offer.
Contrary to what the name suggests, hardwood has a medium comfort level underfoot. Other flooring options, like tile can be hard on your joints as you walk or stand on them but wood is not (especially depending on the species you use). Wood as a material is a natural insulator, meaning that it retains some warmth so your feet don’t turn into popsicles walking on it.
For me, the environmental impact of a material is an important consideration, and if it is for you too, then hardwood is an excellent choice. It’s easy to find environmentally friendly options for hardwood because you can use reclaimed or recycled wood for the material and there are eco friendly installation options (like nail down install).
Unfortunately these perks of having solid wood floors comes at a price. Hardwood is one of the most expensive options for wood look flooring because the cost of materials can be high. Luckily, installation is not generally expensive, but it can be tedious if you are planning to install it yourself.
That being said, the durability is the most inconvenient aspect of hardwood flooring because it is susceptible to many different types of damage. First and foremost, hardwood scratches easily. It is not uncommon to see evidence of pets running around or chairs being moved.
The sun’s UV rays can also bleach the flooring, affecting the coloring (sometimes unevenly) over time. This shouldn’t stop you from letting the light shine in because again you can always refinish the floor if you need to!
Furthermore, hardwood is incredibly sensitive to water. Wood naturally soaks up water making it expand or contract depending on its moisture content. This of course means if you were planning on installing hardwood into a wet room (like a bathroom or laundry room), you might want to consider one of the other types of wood look flooring. Wood soaks up spilled or pooled water on the floor as well as moisture from the air (like the condensation that fills the room after a shower). This makes the planks of wood expand which can result in the center of the plank is raised compared to the edges (cupping) or visa versa (crowning). Although you may not mind a slight bow in the wood, it will end up showing wear on the edges of the planks. Eventually this can lead to creaky floors too (and nobody wants to live with haunted house floors!).
Some species, like bamboo, can be more resistant to moisture damage though.
Hardwood can require more maintenance than the other types of wood look flooring. Some hardwood floors require periodic polishing to maintain their color and quality. Also, depending on the needs of your hardwood’s species, you need to take some extra consideration not to use soaking wet mops or harsh chemical cleaners. I don’t know about you but mopping is one of my least favorite chores and I certainly do not want to add extra work to the docket.
Laminate is a multi-layered material that is fiber-based with a design layer on top of the core and a top protective coating. This is placed on top of other flooring like wallpaper for your floor.
Laminate is the least expensive option for wood look flooring, because the material for flooring is inexpensive. Laminate is easily installed over many different surfaces meaning that the preparation before installing the floor is minimal. Rule of thumb: the easier the install is, the cheaper it will be.
Laminate’s layered property gives it some spring when you’re walking on it, landing it at the top of the list for most comfortable underfoot, tied with luxury vinyl that is. Some laminate companies also offer foam underlayment to make it even more comfy for your joints.
Laminate flooring, as you may expect by its price point, is the least durable option. It suffers from all the same sensitivities that hardwood does in that it can scratch, groove, and suffer from UV discoloration. Although, some types of laminate do offer fade resistance to protect from sun damage.
However, laminate is most sensitive to water damage. Similar to hardwood, laminate should not be installed into wet rooms as the air moisture and possible pooling water makes laminate lift and peel up.
Ultimately, the lifespan of laminate is going to be the shortest of any wood look flooring type.
On top of that, it is hard to find eco-friendly laminate options as the material and adhesive for installation tend to be harsh more harsh on the environment. There are some available but they tend to be more expensive and sometimes harder to find.
Lastly, laminate makes a distinct, “cheap” sounding noise when you’re walking on it that many people find unpleasant.
Luxury Vinyl is very similar to laminate, as it is a layered material, but it is comprised of vinyl (as the name suggests) instead of fiber like laminate. For a while it seems like luxury vinyl got a bad reputation but it has many positive aspects that you may have overlooked!
Okay but what is the best aspects of Luxury vinyl? Well for most of us, cost is an important factor and for this wood look flooring option, cost is a major advantage. Luxury vinyl is more expensive than laminate, but it is less expensive than both hardwood and tile.
Plus, luxury vinyl has more bang for its buck than laminate because it is very durable as well as being inexpensive. Vinyl is scratch and stain resistant. However what makes vinyl a more viable option for some cases because most are water proof, meaning that it is protected from moisture damage from pooling water as well as air humidity. That said, if you want wood look flooring in a bathroom, laundry room, or mud room, luxury vinyl is one of the best options for you.
Much like laminate, luxury vinyl is very easy to install (meaning the cost of install is usually inexpensive too). It can be placed over many surfaces, so the preparations needed before install is minimal.
It is also very comfortable underfoot. The material allows for more cushion as you walk, making it gentler on your joints.
It also has more eco friendly material options than laminate, as well as having some eco friendly install options. While the glue for glue down install is still not environmentally responsible, clip down or float installation can be eco-friendly.
The glue for glue down installation of luxury vinyl is one of its major disadvantages. As previously mentioned, there are no eco-friendly glue options currently. Additionally, the glue hardens to the floor underneath, so if you want to remove your vinyl it can be very difficult to get it up.
There are also limited options when it comes to flooring transitions or stair options.
Wood look tile can be made of porcelain or ceramic tiles with the image of wood printed on the surface.
Tile is very durable. They are scratch, stain, and water resistant making them okay for just about any room. They are also cleaned easily. Fear not about scratching and let that robot vacuum do the work for you!
If one does become damaged and in need of replacement, you can remove and replace that one tile without having to remove the entire section like you would with the other options.
Tile also has creative installation possibilities that the others would be difficult or impossible to achieve. For example, if you want a herringbone floor design, tile can easily conform to this design where as hardwood has to lock together in specific ways.
It does have eco-friendly options as well as the opportunity to support local businesses by buying handmade tile.
All in all, each type of wood look flooring is worth looking into. The only way to determine which is the best is dependent on your individual priorities and needs.
If you are looking for a quick and inexpensive revamp for your floors, laminate may be your best choice. However, if you like a new look every once in a while, hardwood which you can refinish might be your go-to. The first step to determining which flooring you want, you must first decide what is more important to you.