I had my first reader question come in last week and I am so excited to share on the topic of wood floors.
Here is the question from Sarah at Frugal Fun for Boys:
We are looking into new flooring. We’re thinking tile for the kitchen, since it gets wet the most often. We’ve been hearing mixed reviews on wood vs. laminate. Personally, I have not seen any laminate that I really like (you can often tell it’s not real wood). Some people say their wood floors are all scratched up by their pets and kids, and others say their wood floors are great for pets and kids. What is the best flooring for high-traffic areas with four boys and a dog, and if it’s wood – how do you pick a good wood floor?
I discussed this with my husband and I will let you in on our conversation.
First let us lay some basics out regarding wood flooring in general. We will be discussing laminate, engineered hardwood, and wood flooring. All of these options are rather durable and can be well maintained over a period of time. If you drop sharp things on any of them, they will show some sort of damage.
One thing you need to consider when choosing your flooring is the thickness of the floor as compared to your other flooring choices in your house. If you have a laminate, it will likely be thinner and will not require much more than a connecting piece in the threshold where your different flooring materials meet. But if you have engineered hardwood or hardwood, you may have to consider making some modifications or you will have a step down or up when transitioning from the wood floor to the other flooring (carpet or tile).
Benefits and Drawbacks
The benefits of laminate flooring can often be the price and the ease of installation. You can get a quality laminate floor that will be durable. We had laminate floors at our first home and we were very pleased with them. The installation is very easy – click and stick. If the floors get scratched requiring replacement, replacing the individual sections/pieces is not too difficult. The drawbacks for laminate include touch-up not looking “real” enough – the laminate shows through. Also you cannot re-finish the laminate, so if you get tired of it after a while, you are stuck with it until you want to make a major change again.
The benefits of an engineered hardwood floors are again ease of installation and a moderate price. There are multiple installation methods, without the necessity of a sub-floor. It is tongue-in-groove, so installation can run smoothly, once you get the hang of it. Engineered hardwood floors are quite durable and certain ones can be stripped and re-finished later on, should you want a different look or due to wear. Also, engineered hardwood expands less than regular hardwood. Thus, if you live in a place with high humidity or large seasonal shifts in weather, engineered hardwood could be the right choice. The drawback of engineered hardwood is there is not a lot of room for sanding and refinishing. You could likely only do this one time over the life of the floor and would have to be very careful to not strip away too much. That said, my husband says this is the ideal flooring choice because of cost, looks, and durability.
The benefits of solid hardwood floors are variety of style choices and durability. The price can range based on your taste and preferences, so it can get pretty expensive. You can go from a simple varnished hardwood all the way to a reclaimed or unfinished hardwood floor. You can choose the type of wood you like best and pick the durability option you feel most comfortable with. Some people desire the very distressed, worn look and some people want a very clean look; solid hardwood offers these options. You also get the chance to re-finish the floors (strip, sand, and stain) a couple of times over the life of the floor. You can also touch-up any nicks relatively easy with a “nick stick.” A drawback of choosing solid hardwood is preparation for installation, often requiring the installation of a sub-floor before laying the wood down with nails or glue. The price can also be prohibitive.
Choosing the right floor
Laminate choices are varied and can accommodate your style preferences. You can also get some with backing already attached to the pieces, thus cutting out the need for underlayment. Choosing the right laminate is just as simple as finding one you like from a trusted brand (my husband mentioned Pergo and Armstrong).
Engineered hardwood options are again based on personal preferences. You can choose to get hand-scraped or distressed, if that is the look you are going for (that is our preference). You can also choose a smooth finished floor.
Hardwood floors give you the most room to choose the type of wood you want. You can purchase it unfinished and have it finished or purchase it ready to install. You can also choose the width of the planks. You will want to choose something that fits your desires. If you are concerned about dogs and kids marking up the floors and causing pitting, you will not want to pick pine or another softer wood.
Something to keep in mind: You will need to acclimate your engineered hardwood and solid hardwood floors to the climate in your house before installation. This helps with expansion issues.
A website we have found helpful for answering questions and exploring flooring choices is iFloor. You can find lots of options and get some samples sent to you.
I hope this helps answer your question. I can’t wait to hear what you choose! Please let us know.
If you have a question for the Builder’s Wife, please click here and leave it in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you!