Subscribe For My Weekly Two Cents
If you want to get every new article straight to your inbox, sign up for my Weekly Wisdom emails. 

Answering all those burning questions you didn’t know you had about home ownership.

Hard Flooring Options for an Updated Home

Picture of Jessica Dabkowski

Jessica Dabkowski

Helping you with all things homeownership!

So that old carpet, linoleum or dated floor tile needs to go, you say? The Mathematician and I installed some flooring recently, so I’ve got flooring on the brain. In metro-Detroit, hard flooring is a great option to withstand the cold, wet weather as people come in and out of your home. Let’s review some of the great hard flooring options available today.

I (okay, WE) have owned and installed a variety flooring in my time as a homeowner, so I thought today we could take a look at modern “hard” flooring options along with some of their pros and cons.

1. Hardwood

Hardwood is the classic flooring choice. I am pretty sure it was one of the first options after humans decided the dirt floor of the hut was no longer working out so well. (Although, I bet that dirt floor really camouflaged the dirty footprints!)

Hardwood is one of those timeless looks that holds up over time. Why? Because you can refinish hardwood floors to any color you want. Take your floors from dark to light or vice versa to meet changing tastes. Refinishing hardwood floors is often comparable or less expensive than installing a new floor. You can refinish solid hardwood up to 10 times before the floors need to be replaced.

Not my house, but one of our readers may recognize it! Hardwood adds a soft luxury to a home and offers flexibility in design colors over time.

Most buyers recognize the lasting value of hardwood for resale value and also for the benefit of easy clean up and maintenance.

One of the biggest cons of hardwood flooring is its price. It is expensive for both the materials and the installation labor. Depending how exotic your tastes are, the price of the flooring itself can add up very quickly.

Whether you hire someone to install it or you decide to DIY, installing hardwood flooring is rough on the body. I recently installed a small run of oak in a walk-in closet, and, folks, I hurt for days afterwards! I would recommend self-install only for experienced DIYers (I did okay, but I still messed up the doorway!)

The other con for hardwood is it is prone to scratches, dents and our old friend, water damage. My current home has a pre-finished planked oak. I have found it is prone to small chips (easily covered with the appropriate colored stain pen!) and dents from dropped items, but it is not especially vulnerable to scratches.

2. Engineered Hardwood

Like everything else in this world, we’ve found a cheaper way to “do” hardwood. Engineered hardwood is basically plywood with a veneer of real wood over the top.

Like hardwood, the price varies based on your choice of wood and the thickness of the flooring. If you love the look of a certain type of wood, the engineered hardwood may bring the cost down into your budget range.

Engineered hardwood can often be found as a “floating” floor option, which means the boards click together with a tongue and groove set up. Once assembled the floor floats on the surface of your subfloor or existing flooring because it is not nailed down.

Some engineered wood can be refinished, depending on the thickness of the wood veneer. Engineered hardwood is supposedly more resistible to damage than regular hardwood as the strong plywood underneath is shoring up the wood veneer.

Engineered hardwood is one the only types of floor that I have not owned so I can’t comment from personal experience on this one.

3. Bamboo

Bamboo flooring has been around for a few decades at this point, but it has become increasingly common over the last five years or so. The bamboo plant is a fast growing plant that only takes 5-6 year to mature for harvest. It’s harder than oak flooring which ups the durability factor.

There are a couple different types of bamboo floors based on the grain, so there’s a lot style considerations with the design you want. Like hardwood, it is easy to clean.

Bamboo flooring in red-brown color
Bamboo flooring installed in our previous home gave the house a polished, updated look. Looking back, I question the mint green walls!

One thing to watch out for with bamboo is the resin (i.e. the glue) they use to hold it together. You want to check with your supplier and avoid anything that contains formaldehyde. Additionally, they don’t do well with humidity so you want to avoid bathrooms and probably kitchens due to the water factor.

The Mathematician and I installed floating bamboo floors in our last house (and, again, I messed up those tricky doorways!). They were a dark red-brown and they really gleamed when they were clean. Our biggest complaint about them was they were prone to scratching, and the scratches could not be covered with a stain pen. So when someone came into our house with a rock stuck in the treads of their shoe, they left a trail of destruction and heartache through our front hallway.

4. Laminate

Laminate has been the budget-friendly choice for awhile. It looks similar to wood or sometimes other materials, but since it is mostly plywood or other types of compressed wood, the cost is much lower.

Overall, it is pretty durable and holds up to pets, kids and visitors. That being said, with the cost of engineered wood dropping down, many will choose to go with engineered wood over laminate floors. Laminate also feels “less than” hardwood under your feet. It just doesn’t feel as solid.

5. Luxury Planked Vinyl

Luxury planked vinyl (LVP) has become incredibly widespread in the last five years or so. I don’t really know the science of vinyl but from what I can tell, it’s basically a durable plastic over a core board. There are a few reasons for this wave of popularity.

It’s basically indestructible. When The Mathematician and I were picking a floor for our rental house, I grabbed a sample of a lighter color LVP from a big box store. I solemnly handed the sample to him with the words, “stress test this.”

What followed was a torture session involving black fountain pen ink left to sit overnight (no stain), red food coloring left to sit for two hours (a faint stain – maybe? – but could be my eyes playing tricks), two drops of a full 20 oz steel water bottle (no dent) and two drops of a metal hammer (one tiny crescent shaped dent). It’s also close to waterproof. I was sold.

Man tapping in luxury plank vinyl floor
The Mathematician taps in a piece of LVP floating floor.

These floors are also easy to install, similar to other floating click and lock floors. Because they have some additional flex to them over bamboo or engineered wood, they are more tolerant of floors that slope, dip or bump up a bit.

One con is they are noticeably not hardwood, so buyers may have a mixed response to them upon resale. However, I am seeing LVP used in higher end new construction homes simply for the durability factor, and they do offer a really nice uniform look.

6. Cork

In our last house, we remodeled our kitchen and were at a loss as to what flooring to put it. We couldn’t match the bamboo floors in the halls and bedrooms. The living room had carpet. I thought it would be weird to have anything that resembled wood butting up against the dark bamboo. So we went with cork.

Excuse the mess! I had no post-remodel pictures that gave a good look at the cork floors.

I am actually a big fan of cork floors. They are gentle on your feet when you stand at the sink and they don’t get cold like some of the other options. Because cork comes from the bark of the tree, it can be harvested without taking down the entire tree.

They are not as durable as the other options discussed above. They will scratch and dent; however, if you go with the natural cork color it won’t be noticeable. Unfortunately, we used a gray corks so dents showed the natural color through and I was back to my coloring but this time with a gray sharpie.

They do requiring sealing periodically and shouldn’t be used in the bathroom where the humidity can warp them.

Well, folks, that wraps up today’s article on modern types of hard flooring that are available to further those home remodel dreams! I hope you found this insightful and enjoyed the picture montage down my memory lane.

As always, I’m here to help with all your home ownership questions, concerns, dreams and goals! Reach out if I can help you with flooring questions or anything else home related!

Photo by Xeniya Kovaleva from Pexels

Leave a Reply

More Wisdom from Dabs