Types of wooden flooring

Types of wooden flooring

Wooden floors are a timeless choice, with a versatile aesthetic that suits most interior design styles. For this reason, many people opt for wood or wood-effect flooring in their homes and commercial properties.

The main contenders for achieving a natural wood look and feel are hardwood, engineered wood, vinyl, and laminate. Let’s compare these four different flooring types.

Natural wood flooring

Hardwood and engineered wood floors are going to give the most realistic wooden aesthetic, as they’re both composed of natural hardwood.

Hardwood flooring has the longest average lifespan out of all of the contenders at around 30 – 100 years. The planks are strong and durable, and any scratches, scuffs, or dents can be fixed by sanding and refinishing the boards. This can be completed multiple times throughout the lifetime of the floor to restore its original appearance. Despite its strong durability credentials, hardwood flooring is very susceptible to moisture, and prolonged exposure to liquids can cause the boards to expand, contract, or warp.

The sound reduction of hardwood flooring is fair, but not particularly outstanding. Additional soundproofing underlay can be installed, but due to the required installation method of hardwood, it must be fitted beneath the subfloor, which can be costly. Hardwood floors are simple to clean, but regular waxing and polishing are recommended to maintain the original shine and luster of the boards. Ranging from around $6 – $24 per square foot, hardwood is a larger initial investment compared to the other flooring types we’ll be discussing, but due to its durability and long lifespan, the cost over time is justified.

Engineered wood has the most comparable composition to hardwood floors, as the uppermost layer is composed of hardwood, bonded to a plywood base. As less natural hardwood is required per plank, the price of engineered wood is lower, at around $3 – $11 per square foot. The average lifespan of engineered wood flooring is 20 – 40 years, and the planks are very durable and can be refinished to restore their appearance. However, as the top layer is relatively thin, the boards cannot be refinished as many times throughout their lifetime as hardwood can.

Water damage is a risk for engineered wood, as the planks may deform from prolonged exposure to liquid. The boards also have relatively poor sound reduction qualities, and the cleaning and maintenance requirements are very similar to hardwood.

Natural-looking wood floors

Laminate flooring products are composed of compressed wooden material, with colors, designs, and finishes that mimic natural wooden planks. Although 100% synthetic, modern vinyl products can also offer a fairly realistic wood look and feel. It’s worth noting that both laminate and vinyl are usually distinguishable from the real deal, but this may be worth overlooking if the properties of these flooring types better suit your wants and needs.

Made up of layers, laminate flooring has an uppermost wear layer, which protects the design of the boards from scratches, scuffs, and dents. Despite this, they are not immune from damage, and as you cannot refinish the planks, the affected area will require replacing instead. Laminate flooring lasts roughly 15 – 25 years and costs between $1 – $3.50 per square foot, the lowest-priced option in this comparison.

Laminate boards are fairly water-resistant, but prolonged exposure can cause the boards to swell, warp, or crack. If sound reduction is a priority, laminate flooring may not be for you, but certain acoustic underlays can easily be installed to enhance this if desired. Regular vacuuming and mopping are enough to keep laminate boards clean and no further maintenance is needed, but avoid cleaning the floors with a steam mop or excessive amounts of water.

Similar to laminate, vinyl flooring has a top wear layer to protect the boards from damage. It has the best water-resistance of any of these contenders, with some vinyl products being completely waterproof. Its soundproofing abilities are also the best on this list, with many products specifically engineered with acoustic properties that reduce sound. Cleaning and maintenance recommendations are the same as laminate flooring.

The average lifespan of vinyl flooring is around 10-20 years, but luxury vinyl plank (LVP) and tile (LVT) can last around 15 – 20 years. Prices can start as low as $1 per square foot, rising to around $10 as you reach more luxurious vinyl products.

Which wooden flooring is best?

Every situation is different, and deciding which wooden flooring is best for your needs will depend on a range of factors. Is the flooring for a home or a commercial property? Which room is this flooring for? What features are most important to you? What is your budget?

In this comparison, the flooring type that comes out on top for each key aspect is:

Longest average lifespan: Hardwood
Best durability: Hardwood
Best water-resistance: Vinyl
Best sound reduction: Vinyl
Simplest cleaning and maintenance: Vinyl and laminate
Lowest initial cost per square foot: Laminate

Can’t decide on the best wood or wood-effect flooring for your circumstances? Check out our handy comparison guides for a more in-depth look into each material:

Whichever type of flooring you choose, always have it installed by a professional to ensure maximum safety and increase the longevity of your floors.