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Whether building new or remodeling, choosing the right flooring to suit the space is an important step in the process of transforming a house into a home. Hardwood floors and vinyl plank are two popular options. Real estate agents and homeowners may argue that one type of flooring holds more value than another type when looking at resale value. The reality is many buyers are looking for floors that won't require a lot of repair or maintenance.
Hardwood Floors...the good, some bad...not so ugly...
The natural beauty of real hardwood flooring can't be denied. The knots in wood along with those slight variations in shade add warmth and texture to a room. Hardwood flooring comes in a variety of species, most commonly oak, maple, or hickory all replete with their own charm. They can be stained any color found on the store shelf, making it easy to find a shade that homeowners will love. Then, with a few coats of polyurethane, these floors should last for years!
In terms of being an option for those looking to be “green”, hardwood matched with low VOC polyurethane can add an environmentally friendly aspect to these floors. Hardwood floors can be sanded, stained, and sealed over and over again. They can also be ripped up and repurposed. Some businesses even sell reclaimed wood flooring. If a homeowner wants to feel even more in tune with nature, all the recommendations to add shiny layers of polyurethane can be tossed out the window! A solid sanding to a smooth finish and no protective layer will allow a natural patina to develop over time. That's not everyone's cup of tea though!
Now, resurfacing hardwood floors isn't an easy task for most homeowners to undertake. It involves carefully removing trim and molding, there's no way around that. Without proper equipment and prep, the dust from sanding will be in every crevice of the home. Depending on where the wood floor is going, there might not be a way to get around several coats of polyurethane, which will render the area or home unusable for a few days to weeks. This definitely is not a weekend project! Installing a new hardwood floor isn't very easy for the average DIYer either. Sorry folks, initial install and resurfacing might be projects best left to professionals. So yes, hardwood floors may turn out to be a bit of a pricey initial investment by the time product cost and labor are determined.
A hardwood floor's luxurious luster is endangered by anything from toys to street salt. Scratches are inevitable. Sorry to break the news but if you have kids, pets, or guests, the floors are going to experience digs, scratches, and gouges. Sadly, they're not waterproof either, so applications in bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchens are not usually recommended unless you have the time to seal them exceptionally well with a heavy-duty polyurethane. Over time, water and suds will wear down the finish allowing dampness to seep into gaps eventually warping those pricey floors. Good polyurethane, caulking, and drying spills as soon as possible can limit the damage but it's likely the shine will dull in high traffic or damp and wet areas no matter what. While we're talking about water damage, cleaning hardwood floors is wrought with controversy! Some are on team vinegar, others say just water. One thing e know for sure is getting them soaked is not a good idea. It's probably best to ask your installer what they recommend based on the kind of finish used.
Vinyl Plank or LVP or LVF...the good, not so good and what to know...
A durable alternative to hardwood floors is a vinyl plank, commonly called luxury vinyl plank (LVP) or luxury vinyl flooring (LVF). Vinyl plank is pretty much a picture of wood (or stone) glued on top of a foam or corkboard. Topping that high-resolution pic is a wear layer and in some cases an additional protective layer. All the different layers add to the floor's stability, attractiveness, and protect the floor from daily use and abuse doled out by pet claws, toys, shoes, gravel, and sand. A high-quality vinyl floor can last for years and keep looking good despite moderate to heavy use.
A good vinyl floor will appear similar to real hardwood floors with natural-looking variations in each plank. Plank width and colors vary by manufacturer. As does texture, resolution, and overall quality. With so many products and manufacturers available, homeowners will be able to find something that suits their space, budget, and style. Many being water-resistant or waterproof makes them a better choice than hardwood in rooms with frequent foot traffic or water exposure like entryways, laundry rooms, bathrooms and kitchens. Vinyl floors are a good option in basements as well. A few brands have added texture to the plank that prevents slipping on wet surfaces. Also, some brands offer insulation or cushioning making standing for long periods of time while meal prepping or folding laundry more comfortable.
Their click and go design combined with the ease of cutting pieces makes vinyl plank a not too challenging a project for a handy DIYer to install in a few days. Even a mid-grade product installed well and maintained will last for many years.
Now, vinyl plank won't look exactly like hardwood floors, though many products come pretty close. The quality of all those layers, really LVP in general, varies with each manufacturer. Poorly made versions are easy to spot with their flimsy baseboard or lower resolution pictures. Cheap versions look like a picture of wood on plastic. Those super low priced versions might not wear well in high traffic or wet areas. Adding a coat of sealer can void warranties or ruin the product, so be sure to check before you go full-on poly with that floor.
For those concerned with the greenness of their building products, a vinyl plank is an option when considering a long time of high-quality products however as of now, it's not recyclable. If the planks are in good shape and removed with care, it might be given a new purpose in a different space like a smaller room or a wall. But, as previously mentioned, right now in the US there's no way to recycle vinyl making pieces that can't be repurposed destined for the landfill.
Each type of flooring serves a purpose. If installed well and taken care of, both hardwood floors and vinyl plank have the potential to last years. Homeowners should consider their goals, style, budget, and environmental impact when determining between these two flooring options.