What Flooring Type is Best For Your Home Needs and Your Budget
The down-low on flooring options and the questions you need to answer before making a decision.
Ah, the million-dollar question --- “What IS the best flooring type for your home?”
If you are considering a renovation or a new build, a burning question at the top of your mind revolves around the flooring. Not only because flooring takes up such a large visual surface area, but it is also one of the hard finishes in our home that tends to take to the most beating.
Vinyl? Laminate? Hardwood? Engineered Hardwood?
The options are endless. But which flooring type is really the best option?
We explore the differences between these options, cleaning and maintenance directions, most trustworthy brands, and factors to consider when making a selection with the help of Okanagan Hardwood Flooring in Kelowna in a 45 mins live Q&A session.
You can watch the full video interview with Okanagan Hardwoods, to catch all the goodies:
Or skim through the Coles notes here:
Laminate vs. Vinyl
When it comes to laminate and vinyl, the differences are minimal.
Both products are synthetic products. Laminate has a composite center with a printed laminate surface whereas vinyl is a sandwich of rubber-style products like PVC. They both perform relatively the same and are graded for light commercial use.
They are both suitable for living areas, main areas of the house- kitchens, powder rooms, living rooms, bedrooms, stairs etc.
Laminate and vinyl are harder-wearing products and are great for active families with a lot going on in their household as they can withstand higher traffic wear and tear, kids with toys, animals, and sporting footwear.
There are three main differences between laminate and vinyl:
Laminate has a harder impact film for the surface layer whereas vinyl is a softer product and is more prone to surface-level impressions.
Laminate is not waterproof and is NOT suitable for areas that encounter puddles of water – full bathrooms, mudrooms, laundry rooms, and service rooms. Vinyl is waterproof and is suitable for all areas, including wet zones.
Laminate is only available in click-together products (tongue and groove), whereas vinyl is available in both click-together products and direct glue down options.
Click together products can go over any surface – plywood subfloor, concrete, or float over an acoustic underlay.
With vinyl products, it is important to consider the subfloor. As vinyl is a softer product the type and finish of the subfloor can start to wear through the vinyl from the underside over time.
With poorly finished concrete floors with pits and grooves or rough-textured plywood, these defects will press into the vinyl as the surface is walked over and create a relief or impression on the product.
Vinyl is not a catch-all solution, so if there is a poor subfloor, vinyl may not be the best option as the defects will eventually show through the product.
Great for homes with a more carefree lifestyle
The price point is less than hardwood- most of the time
Suitable for all main areas of your house – vinyl can go in wet zones
More colours and grain options as the digital nature of these products allow for a greater variety in manufacturing options
Plank size can be wider and longer than that available in hardwood products
More of an active/ family floor
Can throw more at it and not worry too much about the wear factor, and if properly maintained should look similar to the day installed.
Subfloor conditions play a large part to the type of product installed
If necessary, subfloor may need to be refinished or repaired for best results prior to installation
There is a large swing in product types offered which creates a large breadth in quality to price points
Both products will feel and sound noisier when walked on – there is a resonance from the impact that wood products do not carry
Vinyl is prone to surface level impressions
Hardwood vs. Engineered Hardwood
A common misconception about engineered hardwood is that it is a magical product that somehow performs differently than its hardwood counterpart. This is simply not true. At the end of the day, engineered hardwood is still a wood product, the main difference being its construction.
Hardwood floors are wood floors. They are available in the different types of wood species, with the type of wood species playing a large part in the relative hardness and softness of the characteristics of the floor and how it will perform.
The thickness of these products are typically ¾” and they are solid wood all the way through
Board length and width are dependent on the wood species
Because it is a solid piece of wood, hardwoods have a thicker wear layer (3/4” product) that can be sanded down and refinished numerous times to bring the floor new life.
Can only be installed on or above grade (main floor to 2nd level of the house) and should not be installed in basements due to moisture and dampness
Hardwoods are actually less expensive than engineered products as the engineered version has a larger manufacturing process and greater internal core components
Engineered hardwoods have all the same properties as hardwoods and also relate to the wood species of the product and the relative hardness and softness of that wood species affects how the floor will perform.
But, instead of being a solid piece of wood, an engineered hardwood is a composite core made up of timber and board mixed together to achieve the desired thickness with a 4mm top layer of the wood species applied to the core.
Overall, the product is the same thickness, but the top layer is much thinner than hardwoods.
Engineered hardwoods can go on any level of the house, including basements and concrete subfloors and can be applied as a floating floor over an underlay pad.
Can also be glued to plywood or concrete subfloors, or nailed into place on plywood subfloors.
Has a thinner wear layer on top which allows for greater versatility—can go wider and allows for longer board lengths.
The composite core allows for installation in a larger range of relative humidity and will still remain stable, unlike full wood products which are more susceptible to variances in moisture levels.
Top layer is typically only 4mm thick. And while marketed as being able to be refinished, once the refinishing process is complete, the wear layer has been mostly removed and the board is now unstable, so refinishing is not recommended.
Higher resale value on a home
The natural beauty of hardwood and the warmth factor
Countless options—wide planks, short planks
Is warm to touch when stepping on it
Prestige value to it
Hardwoods can be sanded and refinished, so can take a beating and brought back to life – can last for 70+ years
But may not be the best-suited option depending on your lifestyle of what that home will see as they do wear and will show scratches, dings, and marks
Wood is susceptible to moisture changes
Not suitable for wet zones
The type of wood species will play a large part in how the product performs -- ie. softer woods will wear more easily than harder woods
Limited in grain looks, and board lengths/ widths as wood is a natural product and the grain is determined by how the wood is cut
Colour options vary and can be adjusted with staining (hardwoods only) but colour options and grain choices are more limited than laminate or vinyl
Typically, more expensive than laminate or vinyl options
To ensure your floor, no matter which option you go with, continues to look the best be sure to follow these cleaning and maintenance directions:
always clean- sweep, vaccum, and mop your floors
when debris is left on the floors, small granular bodies scratch against the surface and can build up over time
mop your floors on a regular basis- the oils on our feet are left on the floors and can build up over time causing wear patches
warranties on all flooring products are void if the floor is not properly maintained
don't expect warranties to be a cover all solution if proper maintenance is not kept up
Bona products for hard surfaces are the best options as they do not leave a film, or streak, are pet and kid-friendly, and are soap-based products with no harsh chemicals.
They come in a variety of different types made specifically for the flooring type, so be sure to make the proper selection based on which type of floor you have.
Bona products can be purchased at your local Home Depot or hardware store locations.
Best Trustworthy Brands
Not all products are created equal, not just in how they are manufactured, but also in how and where they are sourced, to the manufacturing facilities.
These differences play a role in the large swing in product costs that are seen through visiting local hardware stores for product options vs. visiting a specialty flooring location.
The two main considerations should always be
quality within your budget parameters
Hardwood/ Engineered Hardwood:
Factors That Affect Your Decision
No one likes to be told to do homework, but when it comes to your floor, be sure to do your research and discover what type of product is going to perform the best based on your needs for your home.
Confused about where to start?
Consider these factors as your jumping-off point:
Find your fit for YOUR home. Question how you use your space, and your daily and common habits to uncover what makes the most sense for your home and space
Quality. When you buy quality it will last.
Qualify your space. Do you have kids or planning on having kids, do you have pets, are you on a lake, do you have a pool, or do you experience snowy conditions ---- these will narrow down your options for which product is best for your needs
If going with hardwood or engineered hardwood, consider the species of the wood because it will affect how the floor wears, suitability for location and how it performs
Your budget in consideration of quality. Don't expect to get the absolute best product for the lowest price. It is not possible. Instead, determine your budget and find the best product that hits that range.