What kind of wood flooring should we get?
December 16, 2010 5:35 PM   Subscribe

What kind of wood flooring should we get for our new house? Complications: two small kids, largish dog, budget.

We've been considering the click-lock engineered flooring for the main floor (3 bedrooms, hall, kitchen, dining, living room). We've been looking at both the Home Legend and Thomasville brands from Home Depot. This is significantly cheaper than traditional hardwoods and can be installed by us. Initially people had told us that the engineered flooring would hold up and would work well in higher humidity areas (and we live in Northern Virginia). Upon further review online though, I'm not finding a whole lot of good things people say about these floors holding up to wear and tear. The samples I've brought home are denting quite easily by my intentional dropping of silverware on them. We're concerned between the two small kids and a largish dog (60lb golden retriever) that we'd end up ruining the floor shortly after we install it. We are expecting/hoping to sell the house in 5-7 years and don't want to have to do this twice.

Does anyone have any experience with the click lock engineered flooring (or these particular brands)? If so, what do you think of them and how are they holding up? Is there something else (brand, style, etc) that we are missing that we need to be considering? Should we say screw these click lock floors and get traditional hardwoods installed? If so, what kind - any recommendations?
posted by ish__ to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Have you checked out bamboo flooring?
posted by mareli at 5:56 PM on December 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

I lived in a flat with pergo/laminate type flooring for a year in London. The flat had been remodeled so everything was new. The floors did not handle anything well at all. We always took off our shoes and I cleaned EVERY morning and it was an awful product that dented and got scratched way too easily. My husband and I were actually leaning towards pergo/laminate in our remodeling plans until we actually lived with it.

To be honest, hardwood flooring may not be out of your reach. My contracting firm went only at a 4% markup of what they were negotiating as a price from the floor firm. We got Brazilian cherry within a modest budget. The mills are willing to cut amazing deals right now.

The floors available well within the budget were oak, maple and birch. Maple and birch were equal in pricing while the quarter sawn oak was slightly more.

Another option is having the floor installed and go low VOC with something like Waterlox or go real old school with tung oil. Waterlox and tung oil can be done by you, the homeowner, pretty easily.

Hope this helps.
posted by jadepearl at 5:58 PM on December 16, 2010

every floor salesperson talked us out of real wood when they heard about our two dogs 65 & 45lbs saying they'd trash it.

the laminate fake-bamboo stuff we bought was so cheap ($1.25.sq ft), and so easy to install, i'd do it again in a heartbeat...and i'm not all worked up about it getting banged up.

We've had it for a bit over a year and it looks really good. all we do is dust mop, roomba, and wet-swiffer when it gets actually dirty.
posted by ChefJoAnna at 6:06 PM on December 16, 2010

If money is an issue, fake wood is cheaper. Not nearly as durable, but if you eventually decide to replace it, it is also really easy to un-install and replace, if the time comes.
posted by ovvl at 6:10 PM on December 16, 2010

A specific brand that worked well for us in South Texas (which certainly meets the 'humid' qualification) was Kronotex/Kronoswiss. I have two large dogs and it stood up well to them. I would caution you that it will not work well in a kitchen space or right near an exterior door, nor would it be good in a bathroom.

For the exterior door issue, what worked best was tiling in that specific area, because the water people tracked in swelled it right there. In the kitchen/bathroom your main problems are water spills and dropping metal items. If you puncture the top of the veneer (this is true for any of these engineered floors), any water that gets on the surface from spills, dog paws, or cleaning will then get into the fiberboard underneath and swell it.

Make sure you follow the manufacturer's guideline for an underlayment (The premium stuff sold at Home Depot worked great -- it looks like dippin'dots ice cream embedded in a red plasticy foam) and for the margin around the baseboard. You'll want to remove all of your baseboard first, then install the flooring, then install the baseboard making sure that the floor can slide underneath it.

If you have an area where you need to butt right up against something, like tile, make sure you fill the butted end with silicon caulk (as recommended in the manufacturer's directions) and then put the proper transition strip over it.

Since you have a dog, I would specifically avoid bamboo flooring, because most of it is not hard enough to resist dog claws. If your dog does the 'pounce with claws spread' thing like mine do after their squeaky toys or rawhides just ONCE, the floor has scratches/dents in it that will never come out.
posted by SpecialK at 6:11 PM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think you need to find out how the value of the house as a whole. Is your house upscale, mid-value, or budget? Where will it being in 5-7 years?

3/4"-5/8" professionally solid wood flooring is the going to be be more costly, but you can sand and refinish a few times with normal wear. It will be the highest value added to your home as far as wood flooring goes.

3/8"-5/8" engineered flooring which you can install yourself is basically plywood with the top layer being the 1/8" or so of finished wood. It cannot really be sanded and refinished more than once. Sometimes not at all since the top layer of wood is too thin. It offers moderate value to your home.

1/4"-3/8" Plastic Laminate click flooring is the cheapest and it is very wear resistant, but is going to offer the least value to your house.

I would go ahead and get 3/4" - 5/8" solid wood. Try to get something that matches the style and tone of your house. It's going to cost more, but having solid hardwood floors is a good selling point! And nothing on this list is going to feel and wear the same.

Now, don't get my wrong, it will cost some money to refinish them, but if you have them done before the sale, it will look like new.

Good luck.
posted by MiggySawdust at 6:14 PM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Have you taken a look at the vinyl options at Home Depot? I have a back hallway I'm about to do over with TrafficMaster Allure - it came highly recommended for high traffic areas. At 2 bucks a square foot, I figure it's worth a shot!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:14 PM on December 16, 2010

As an employee of an independently owned flooring store, I can tell you that flooring manufacturers frequently sell similar if not identical products under different names to different vendors. Big box retailers have a bottom line price they advertise for each product, but an independent vendor will negotiate prices with you, regardless of whether labor is involved.

Also, the laminate situation has changed drastically in the US over the last 10 years. Laminate was previously only popular in Europe, where the prevalence of rental properties made it a viable product that could be moved when the resident moved. In the US, the variety in climate makes laminate a riskier proposition in areas, and amazingly even some major, established manufacturers struggled for years at first with creating products that wouldn't delaminate, buckle, etc. Sorry for the history, but I wanted to explain a bit that even fairly recent accounts of laminate installations may not reflect the experience that you might have today.

Which is all my long-winded way of saying that there probably isn't an easy answer. I would urge you to consult with local flooring professionals, which frankly you are less likely to find at a big box store. Those companies haven't existed so long and haven't been involved with flooring very long at all. The store I work at looks humble, but it's been open since the 1950's and has very knowledgable salespeople. We still have to work hard to keep up with big box stores even though our customers sometimes come in describing how they fudged yardage to their benefit or botched installations. A good salesperson could help you find answers to all your questions and use their product knowledge to help you navigate the channel between what you want and what you can afford.

If there are no local stores you trust, I would recommend contacting a manufacturer of both hardwood and laminate, such as Shaw or Armstrong, and getting a product recommendation. Depending on the importance of price, you might find that a wood-look sheet vinyl is a superior choice, since it's easy to clean, affordable, and increasingly convincing-looking.
posted by heatvision at 8:04 PM on December 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

My house has Kährs "Woodloc" flooring in the living room, which is about 600 ft^2 (60 m^2). It is maple. We have a huge (65 lb) border collie who does the cartoon start when his toys are thrown. He has scratched it a bit but that has neither broken the finish coat - which is allegedly lacquer - nor done any other damage I can see.

The maple gets darker with exposure to sunlight. We have to move the furniture around to try to get a uniform darkening.

I find it very pretty. It was installed (2003) with a resilient barrier so it doesn't feel so clicky-clacky underfoot.
posted by jet_silver at 8:53 PM on December 16, 2010

I have old hardwood floors and some of the vinyl trafficmaster floors. The vinyl is great, dog proof and holds up to water. It's in my bathroom and hallway. The rest of the floors are real wood about 1" thick and have only been finished once, by me. Prior to that they had carpet over them. yes the dog scratches them up but they still look good and refinishing them isn't that huge a deal, you could do it right before you sold your place or throw in a few thousand to have it done as enticement to the buyer. Everyone oohs and aaahs over my hardwood floors, they are definitely the most attractive thing about the house.
posted by fshgrl at 8:54 PM on December 16, 2010

We have two cats with all their claws still in tact (one is bred from wildcats), so we went with this very nice, realistic looking laminate they sell at Costco. They run coupons for it and it came out to about $32 per box (of about 20 square feet) for us. We've had it installed for a year and it is beautiful and not one single scratch.
posted by getawaysticks at 5:54 AM on December 17, 2010

The trafficmaster allure mentioned above holds up extremely well and isn't bothered by liquids. It looks nice, but not as nice as real hardwood, so if your house is upscale, it may not be a good solution. I installed it throughout my old house after my 3 large dogs destroyed the soft hardwood, and had no problem selling it, but it was in an area with a lot of college students and rentals.
posted by thejanna at 8:43 AM on December 17, 2010

Check out what's offered at builddirect. We've put in hardwood floors from this company in three different buildings for much cheaper than what we found at Home Depot (and much higher quality).

In our house, we had solid oak installed (three floors!) and then did the sanding and polyurethaning ourselves. For another building, we used the prefinished option. Both are beautiful, though I like ours better.

Personally I think if you're going to the trouble of redoing floors, you should do it right and put down the stuff that will last for decades if not over a century! However, if you choose to go the engineered route, you still should check builddirect and see if you can get it cheaper there. Good luck!
posted by torticat at 2:08 PM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

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