A Shopper’s Guide to Wood Flooring

When you stop into your local Lowe’s or Home Depot you may be surprised to see 3 different types of wood flooring: hardwood, laminate, and vinyl. So where do you begin? In this article you will find some general facts to help you decide between your many options. Some things you should take into consideration are cost, home value, and the environmental impact these products will have for years after your installation.


Hardwood Floor

Having hardwood floors installed will increase the value of your home and is a great selling feature.  Hardwood can be very durable but may also dent easily. The good news is that it can be sanded and refinished several times after many years of wear and tear, as opposed to needing new floors down the line. Consumer Reports writes that prefinished wood flooring, although it may be up to 40% more expensive, will save time and money in installation costs. It also holds up better than unfinished wood that must be sanded and sealed from moisture on-site. Remember that wood naturally swells, so you would not want to install it in basements or other damp spaces.

All of these great features, unfortunately, do not come for free. Solid hardwood flooring is the most expensive of its kind. It also involves cutting down the most trees of any of the listed wood flooring products. Engineered wood is another option which involves a thin veneer of real wood over structural plywood. It is still real wood, but is manufactured using fewer trees.  However, it does not wear as well as solid wood or laminate flooring.

Laminate Flooring

wood laminate construction
Laminate flooring is made to look like hardwood flooring.  This is done by inserting a photograph of wood between a clear plastic laminate top layer and a bottom layer of fiberboard. Underneath is a foam sheet for resilience and cushioning, which is also used on solid hardwood flooring.

Other benefits of laminate flooring are the lower cost in comparison to hardwood and the environmental aspect of saving trees.

Some laminate flooring can resist dents, scratches, and discoloration quite well.  However, you cannot sand and refinish a laminate floor like you can hardwood. Therefore, if you plan to save money and trees by buying laminate then make sure you get a solid, trustworthy brand. Some cheaper laminates do not hold up as easily and if the top layer is worn through you will need new flooring.

laminate wood floor

Vinyl Wood Flooring

Vinyl flooring can be made to look like wood and is the cheapest option. It is very durable and holds up well against dents, scratching, stains, and discoloration. The biggest complaint consumers have regarding vinyl is that, despite the plethora of color and pattern options, it still looks like vinyl.  If you plan on walking barefoot on this floor you will notice the cold, rubbery feel as opposed to the warm, hardwood feel of laminates and solid wood flooring. Another concern is VOC’s- Volatile Organic Compounds. You may have seen “Low VOC” paint advertisements and the like. This means that vinyl releases gases during and after installation that may be toxic to humans. VOC’s also occur in nature and the flooring installed in your home would not produce enough toxins to cause health concerns, but you will probably be able to smell it for some time after installation. Low VOC vinyl flooring is available, as well.

vinyl wood floor

All in all, these three types of “wood” flooring each have their plusses and minuses. The type of flooring you choose is up to you. It depends on your budget, whether or not you want to increase the value of your home, and your environmental concerns.

This post was written by Leanne. 

Related Links:
Carpet or Wood Flooring?
Healthy Rooms for Children
Restoring Historic Wood Windows


  1. Brilliant post and useful information…I think this is what I read somewhere…but I don’t know with your experience…

  2. The leftover of a nail can tear up sandpaper, harm a sanding cushion, and do genuine harm to the palm of your hand, so check painstakingly to verify all remainders of tacks and nails are gone Hardwood floor refinishing before you start sanding. Fill all nail gaps with a quality wood filler, matching the color as nearly as possible, and let it dry. At that point you're prepared to start sanding the floor with 220-coarseness sandpaper, whether by hand or with a sander.

  3. The floors look awesome. I have seen Reclaimed Oak Floorboards and will be installing soon. Thanks for sharing. Keep exploring.