Just about every major remodeling project we complete includes replacing the existing flooring, either in the remodeled area or throughout the entire home. Flooring selection is a big decision that can influence the overall cost, installation time, and lifespan of the remodel as a whole. A common question we receive from our clients is which is a better choice – classic hardwoods or luxury vinyl plank? The two are very comparable and make excellent options for hard surface flooring depending on what the individual homeowners prefer.
In order to best compare the two, we suggest taking into account 4 major qualities of hard surfacing flooring:
• Aesthetic Appeal
Hardwood flooring is a natural material made from trees with beautiful natural wood grain in each piece. Different species and stains provide a countless number of options. Vinyl plank flooring, on the other hand, is a man-made material manufactured from petroleum. While you’d think there would be a significant difference in a natural wood and a synthetic one, printing technology now allows vinyl products to mimic the look of a variety of wood species while also offering a number of beneficial characteristics that the natural material simply cannot offer. This is great news for homeowners, as it makes the luxury look of natural hardwoods attainable at a much more affordable price with less maintenance requirements.
Durability refers to the hardness of the flooring. When considering the durability of hardwood flooring, it’s important to be aware that there are actually two types of hardwoods: solid plank hardwood and laminated (also called engineered) hardwood. Solid plank hardwood is authentic wood which tends to be great quality and will last for years if taken care of. Laminated or engineered hardwood flooring is usually of lower quality and doesn’t last as long, although it is available in various grades.
You might think that hardwood flooring is very durable and hard (hints the name), but almost the opposite is true. In reality, a well-kept hardwood floor requires a lot of care and maintenance to prevent scratches and damage. This is true for both solid plank hardwood and engineered hardwood, and should be a red flag for homeowners that have pets or young children. Another common threat to wood flooring is water damage. Because wood is a naturally porous material, it is susceptible to liquid, making it a poor choice for bathrooms or kitchens where spills and moisture are common. Applying a polyurethane coating will help protect natural wood floors, but the coating needs regular removal and reapplication to maintain, which is an extra expense and a hassle, especially if used throughout the whole house. However, if maintained well, natural hardwood floors can be beautiful and last for generations.
As a synthetic material, luxury vinyl floors are much more resistant to moisture and hold up well in humid climates like bathrooms or kitchens. The material is also more scratch and stain resistant than hardwood, often making it a more family-friendly choice. In fact, it’s so durable that many warranties last up to 20 years!
Both types of flooring can be installed by the homeowner without assistance from a professional, so long as the necessary tools and equipment are available. However, vinyl planks are typically easier to DIY than hardwoods. Because natural wood can bend over time, it needs to be laid over a level subfloor or cement foundation for the best results. Hardwoods also require a small gap to be left around the perimeter of the room to allow the floors to expand and contract as the temperature and moisture levels change. It’s important to be aware of this if you’re trying to install hardwoods on your own.
Although vinyl flooring doesn’t require a perfectly level surface, it does require a perfectly clean one. It can be laid over wood, concrete, or existing flooring and often has a peel and stick backing for convenience. Glue can also be used, but can make the planks fairly difficult to remove if future remodeling is desired. Vinyl also offers you the ability to install padding underneath the floor, providing the look and beauty of hardwood, with the soft comfort of a more yielding floor. This can also help to insulate the room and make it more energy efficient.
When it comes to cost, we have found that quality vinyl plank is comparable with quality hardwoods and quality wood-look tile. They all typically run about $12/ SQFT to install.
It’s also important to remember that maintenance fees will likely be required for hardwood floors: things like sealing, treatments and refinishing will continue to cost time and money throughout the years if you intend to maintain the beautiful look of your floors. When you consider these additional fees, even the cheapest hardwood is almost always going to be more expensive than top-of-the-line luxury vinyl tile.
When it comes to choosing between natural hardwood and luxury vinyl plank flooring, you should consider the 4 major qualities of aesthetic appeal, durability, installation, and cost. More often than not, vinyl plank flooring is going to be the better option. However, natural hardwood flooring is still one of the most popular, traditional options that can add appeal and value to your home.
If you are considering installing one of these flooring types in your home and would like to further discuss them, we suggest visiting our flooring supplier: Hilton’s Flooring & Tile Showroom. They have a wide variety of samples available and can provide you with the best options based on your home, budget and preferences. With their expertise and wide selection of flooring options, you’re sure to find the perfect match for your home!
The Medford Design-Build Team