For many, hardwood flooring in their homes is the only option. For those of us not lucky enough to already have wood floors when we move in, or even better, find them when we rip up a tired old carpet, we’ll need to install them ourselves. When thinking about wood flooring, there are a lot of different things that need to be considered which may affect your decision.
In this guide, we’ll talk you through the pros and cons of wood flooring, and discuss some potential alternatives for your home.
Hardwood flooring is undoubtedly a great way of making a statement; it oozes character, luxury, opulence and elegance. What’s more, it feels great underfoot. It has a slight softness and give to it which adds comfort alongside style. Finally, wood floors work well with underfloor heating and with the addition of rugs and other soft furnishings, can still feel warm and homely.
Wood flooring is very versatile and works well with a huge range of decor. Rustic, dark wood or reclaimed wood floors look equally at home in a country cottage as they do in a traditional townhouse or even a modern, industrial-style city apartment. Light wood floors are great for creating a light and airy feel to your home and are especially suited to that Scandinavian style.
However, wood flooring does have some notable drawbacks which may affect your decision. Firstly, it’s often the most expensive flooring option available. Even though wood floors are very long-lasting when cared for properly, with a lifespan of at least 50-60 years (and in many cases much longer), it’s a sizable initial outlay and one that is not easily or cheaply changed further down the line. Although, it’s possible to sand and refinish wood floors multiple times if you want to change your style.
Wood flooring is also susceptible to changes in heat, humidity and moisture levels. It’s particularly badly suited for use in bathrooms, and to a lesser extent kitchens, as it generally needs to kept dry. It also needs to be refinished on a semi-regular basis to keep it looking great.
Choose real wood floors if:
However, if you want the look and feel of real wood floors without the drawbacks then the good news is that there are plenty of alternatives…
Engineered wood flooring is arguably the closest you’ll get to real wood floors but without many of the drawbacks. Engineered wood consists of several layers of plywood, with a real wood veneer on top. This means that it’s incredibly easy to fit, is available in a wide range of finishes, and still has the look and feel of real wood… because it is!
For more detail, read our Engineered Wood Flooring Buying Guide
Engineered wood flooring is not as long-lasting as real wood, but with proper care can still easily last for 30-40 years. Due to the veneer, it can be sanded and refinished a couple of times to change your look, and should serious damage occur, you can replace an individual plank without having to take up the whole floor. Unfortunately, engineered wood flooring is still susceptible to moisture and temperature, albeit less so, so it’s not suited for use in bathrooms.
Engineered wood flooring is available in a huge range of finishes, so it’s as flexible as real wood with regards to your home styling and decor. You can also find different styles such as light and dark oak, rustic or distressed, and flooring that looks like a reclaimed wood floor. Finally, engineered wood flooring can easily be installed by a competent DIYer.
Another alternative to real wood floors is to install wood-effect laminate flooring in your home. Laminate wood flooring has come on leaps-and-bounds since the unrealistic looking and plasticky-feeling laminate of old. Nowadays, we stock a huge range of laminate that is incredibly durable, looks and feels like real wood, is simple to install and is very cost-effective. What’s more, due to the way its constructed, it offers much better water resistance compared to the previous examples which make it usable in bathrooms, kitchens and utility rooms… perfect if you want a single style of flooring throughout your home. It also works very well with all underfloor heating systems.
It differs from wood or engineered wood floors in that the ‘wood’ is a photographic layer that’s sandwiched in between layers of laminate. In some cases, a textured finish is applied to the top to further mimic the look and feel of real wood. It’s available in a huge range of styles and popular light and dark woods such as maple, birch, ash, chestnut, walnut and more. Our ranges of oak laminate flooring and grey laminate flooring are particularly popular.
Laminate flooring has few drawbacks but compared to engineered and real wood floors, there are some. Despite looking and feeling very realistic, if you’ve got your heart set on the real thing then nothing will compare. Laminate also has a shorter expected lifespan, with 15-20 years being the norm. Unlike real wood, laminate can’t be sanded and refinished if your style changes. However, due to it’s lower cost, it can be changed without losing so much investment. Like engineered wood, it’s also quite simple for DIYers to install themselves.
Choose laminate flooring if:
Our final alternative to real wood floors in your home is vinyl or LVT. They’re very similar, although have slight differences which we’ll come to later. Modern vinyl flooring is nothing like the tired old lino you used to find in your nan’s kitchen, modern printing and construction technology has resulted in flooring that looks great and lasts for decades. Our embossed vinyl wood flooring even adds textures that mimic the real thing.
While vinyl flooring is manufactured on a roll and is installed as a single piece, LVT (luxury vinyl tiles) fit together more like laminate flooring or engineered wood. Both types offer excellent durability, non-slip finishes and fantastic water resistance making them the ideal choice for bathrooms, utility rooms, kitchens and porches. They’re easy to clean and they also don’t react to changes in temperature and humidity. Both options are also very cost-effective compared to wood and engineered wood, providing excellent value for money. Finally, they’re also very soft and warm underfoot and provide an extra level of soundproofing.
Like laminate, vinyl flooring may not satisfy those for who only real wood will cut the mustard, and it’s recommended that it’s fitted by a professional. But, it’s undoubtedly a great alternative to wooden floors for some people.
Choose LVT or vinyl wood flooring if: