Friday, April 6, 2018

Top 5 Low Cost Alternatives to Hardwood Flooring

Top 5 Low Cost Alternatives to Hardwood Flooring

Low Cost Alternatives to Hardwood Flooring
There are many reasons that hardwood may not work for you.  It could simply be that you need a less expensive alternative, or a product that you can install yourself so you can save money on installation.  Or, you may need a product that is waterproof or resistant to moisture.  Or, you may be installing in a location where solid hardwood isn’t approved for (e.g. below grade), or there may not be enough height for solid hardwood.  Or, you may have a concrete sub-floor and just want a product that can go directly on top of the concrete.
So, below are 5 alternative flooring options you can use.  And, best of all, almost all of them can look like hardwood, and most are less expensive.
1.  Luxury vinyl plank flooring (or engineered vinyl planks)
This is one of the most innovative products this decade, and I absolutely love it as it’s looks so good and is so versatile.  Luxury vinyl planks (sometimes called Engineered vinyl planks or luxury vinyl) are planks that look and feel like real hardwood, but they are WATERPROOF!  Yes, waterproof!  So, they are great for areas that may get moisture or a bit wet (e.g. kitchens, basements, powder rooms).
US Floors invented the category and revolutionized flooring forever with their break-though product called Coretec PlusIIt’s an amazing product that looks like real wood and clicks together like a laminate, so it’s easy to install (and easy for do-it-yourselfers).  Unlike laminate (which absorbs moisture like a sponge), Coretec Plus holds up to water and moisture.
Coretec Plus has an attached cork underlayment, so it adds a bit of cushioning and insulation.  It can be installed directly on top of concrete, or even tile flooring.
2.  Wood look tiles
These have been around for a while and are a great option if you want a wood look, but also want soemthing waterproof.  They’ve become super popular, so they are now around in a variety of shades, textures and styles.  Some even look distressed or handscraped.
They are a favorite for many in kitchens, entryways, mudrooms, bathrooms and basements.  They are especially popular in warm climates as they keep your space cooler in the hotter months.  In cooler climates, they can be cold on your feet, so these tiles are usually installed in smaller areas or over radiant heat.
 If you’re looking for grays or white washes, these tiles provide great options as they start with a white base, so they can get a real clean white or gray look (compared to hardwood floors which are more challenging to refinish gray given the yellow and pinkish tones in real hardwood).  Check out this article to see my top picks for wood look tiles and where you can buy them online.
If you have a concrete sub-floor that’s even, tiles are relatively easy to install as they can go directly on top of concrete.  And, if you’re interested in installing radiant heat, tiles are the best flooring surface for this as they conduct the heat best (and therefore are most efficient).
3.  Laminate flooring
Laminate floors are less expensive than hardwood, so if you’re really going for “cheap,” this is the way to go.  Laminate flooring is clickable (so it’s a floating floor) and can be installed easily on top of tile or concrete flooring (as long as you add an underlayment).
Please note that laminates are NOT waterproof.  In fact, they rapidly absorb moisture – like a sponge or cardboard.  Laminates range in quality and prices.  The more expensive ones look better and are more durable, but they do cost more…and at that point, you are probably better upgrade to a product like Coretec Plus which is waterproof…or real hardwood flooring.
But, most laminate that you’ll see, especially in Big Box stores, are on the lower end, and they do not hold up so well (they often delaminate), and they look and sound more fake.  But, as I said, if you’re looking for the cheapest option, this is the way to goIf you’re looking for the best value option and can spend a bit more, I’d encourage you to consider some of the other options.
4.  Bamboo flooring
Bamboo flooring is an alternative to hardwood flooring.  It’s often misclassified as hardwood, but it’s important to know that it’s actually a grass.  It’s certainly less expensive than solid hardwood, and it’s engineered and glued together.  Because of this, it acts like an engineered wood and can be glued directly to concrete floors, making it very versatile.
Bamboo is substantially less durable than hardwood floors, and there is a LOT of misleading information about this product online (and in stores).  It’s softer than oak flooring (even though some claim it’s harder…the tests are very misleading and so are the marketing claims…soon I will need to write a whole post about this).
 It scratches more easily than oak and it shows the scratches more.  And, it does not hold up well to water.  (and, yes, we’ve had to replace/repair many of these floors from minor water damage from everyday use (e.g. water spilled from dog bowls, water seepage at doorways or windows).  And, it’s more challenging to sand and refinish bamboo floors, and they do not absorb the polyurethane very well.
This would not be my first choice for a hardwood alternative, but it can work in some apartments, especially if you don’t have pets and you don’t wear shoes in the house.  There are different types of bamboo, so I’m over simplifying a bit, but still, it would not be my first choice.  The lighter/natural ones hold up better; the darker ones (i.e. light brown) are made that way by carmelizing the wood, and that weakens the sugars and wood through the heating process.  Also, the strand woven ones hold up much better (but they are more expensive).
5.  Cork flooring
Cork flooring is another great option.  It feels amazing on your feet and it has a bit of shock absorption, so it’s easier to stand longer (an important feature for kitchens).  And, cork has some insulation as well as sound absorption properties.
Cork is also environmentally friendly, and many love this aspect.  The downside to cork is that it doesn’t come in as many color options, and some people love the look, but others don’t.
So those are my top 5 alternative flooring options if hardwood floors aren’t right for you.  As you can see, no flooring is perfect.  They all have trade-offs (even hardwood does).  The key is to find the flooring that’s best for you, your space, your needs and your budget.
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