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Bermudagrass, 3.75 acres, Arkansas
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I once read that everyone's idea of the "perfect" floor is whatever they don't have now - i.e. they all have their drawbacks.

We have a mix of engineered hardwood, tile and carpet in our house now. We're leaning toward engineered hardwood in the main areas of our new home, but haven't ruled out wood look tile for the overall durability.

I see a lot of vinyl plank in new homes around here, and some of it looks really good. It has a lot of desirable characteristics, but I think it's hard to get past the stigma of it being a vinyl product - despite some of it costing just as much as other options.

I know there are a lot of variables and regional trends, but what flooring type(s) do you prefer and why?
 

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Flooring is highly personal preference. Personally, I lean heavily toward natural materials. For wood flooring, I would choose natural hardwood over engineered. There is infinite variability in natural products. Engineered flooring is now very close to the look of natural hardwood, but just not quite there yet. The engineered flooring has cost and durability going for it. Though not that case in Arkansas, in some locations like Miami, natural hardwood would generally not be a great choice.

Natural hardwood will also age and weather with time, but engineered does not. Some poeple like that. Depending on budget and overal aesthetic, repurposed hardwood flooring can be very interesting if you like the look. You will also find older hardward is often 100% quarter sawn rather than mixed quarter/rift sawn. That is a rabbit hole of research if you want to go down it. Lastly, you can customize your flooring a lot more with natural hardwood. Between choosing wood (white vs red oak, cherry, hardwoods, etc), staining, and finishing you you can have a floor that is unique.

One other thing to consider. Natural Hardwood has some maintenance required. It should get new polyurethane every ~10 years or so depending on traffic. The engineered requires almost no maintenance other than washing.

Here is the 100 year old white oak floor in my current house. It is almost entirely quarter sawn. It was restained and finished 10 years ago:



And an area that was laid 6 years ago when we remodeled. It is a mix of plain and quarter sawn. You can see the difference in the grain:

 

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5.6ksqft Bewitched KBG in Fishers, IN
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On concrete slab, a quality vinyl plank is really my choice. It is stronger and more durable to scratches. It is easier to install/replace a damaged one and it is waterproof.

Above grade, then real hardwood is a solid option. But I still prefer vinyl when we had our 90lb lab and his powerful nails.
 

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g-man makes a good point about flooring on a slab. Natural hardwood won't do well there. For basements, I like stained concrete with Polyurethane. Cermaic or natural stone tile are also good choices for a slab.

Harwood isn't perfect. My brother in law has big dogs. He had a new looking cherry floor for about a week. After 6 months they looked fine, but with character. Definitely pick a harder wood if you have big dogs and want them to stay new looking longer. I have a 60 lb goldendoodle and the white oak doesn't have any blemishes from them. I have some areas where chairs have marred the surface. I'll get some pictures later. If you have office chairs on the floor, you will want hardwood safe casters. It bothered me at first, but now I just figure it is added character (though I did upgrade to rubber casters on my chair to stop any marring).
 

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Bermudagrass, 3.75 acres, Arkansas
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Agree. I would say that's why seeing solid hardwood is so rare around here - almost all new homes are on a slab. I think you can do it, but there is a lot of added work/expense. I think one method is installing a 3/4" treated plywood underlayment on top of a plastic barrier. With today's lumber prices, that is a lot of unnecessary expense - not to mention some of the issues you would run into having an inch and half of flooring on top of the slab (e.g. trimming doors).
 

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Don't rule out Engineered Hardwood on concrete. All of the homes we build utilize engineered hardwood glued directly to the concrete. With the advances in the glues and the stability of quality engineered hardwood it works great. Just make sure to have the floor leveled with a slurry mix to eliminate any waviness in the concrete. About the only disadvantage is there is no cushion to the floor that you would get with plywood underlayment. I'm amazed with the durability of the Walnut engineered floor we installed 6 years ago on our main floor. Even with our 75 lb Basset Hound ripping thru the house playing scratches are non existent and Walnut is a relatively soft hardwood. It's made by Kentwwod.
Although we rarely see them, vinyl plank is extremely durable, lasts a long time. I'm not a fan of Tile on concrete unless their is radiant heat underneath. It's cold.
 

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Porcelain wood-look large format tiles.

They're tough as nails, work well for slab on grade homes, look great, etc.

We have kids and dogs- I don't think I could ever have a good looking hardwood or LVP floor with the amount of damage this family can produce...
 

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I have used the ceramic wood look tiles in some rentals. They are incredibly durable. Appearance and hardness (eveything breaks if dropped on ceramic and stone) are really the only places they fall short of natural hardwood. I have not used the engineered hardwood flooring. If you are on a slab, natural hardwood may not be the best option.

As an aside, if I ever build a house I am putting radiant floor heating wherever possible and spray foam insulating all the walls and attic.
 

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Ware said:
Agree. I would say that's why seeing solid hardwood is so rare around here - almost all new homes are on a slab. I think you can do it, but there is a lot of added work/expense. I think one method is installing a 3/4" treated plywood underlayment on top of a plastic barrier. With today's lumber prices, that is a lot of unnecessary expense - not to mention some of the issues you would run into having an inch and half of flooring on top of the slab (e.g. trimming doors).
It's very possible to do solid hardwood on slab but it takes a little bit of planning, for sure. Set your exterior doors on 3/4" plywood strips, embedded in a generous amount of Liquid Nails. This will match your interior 3/4" subfloor height, which only requires a vapor barrier (felt or plastic) after which the subfloor can be anchored or power nailed into the slab. Once this is down throw another layer of felt paper on top and the flooring can be installed.

On my personal home I framed with double bottom-plates on the main level, which allowed me to fur up the floor 1.5". My original intent was to install a hot-water radiant floor system on sleepers, backfilled with a heat-transfer medium such as shotcrete or even sand (craziness, I know). After spending some time learning about the details of such a system and realizing we only have 2-3 months of winter here in Atlanta and the cost/expense of implementing my craziness would have a 20yr break-even timeframe i came back to reality. I ended up using 3/4" Rigid Foam boards on top of my slab to act as a thermal barrier, and anchored 3/4" subflooring on top of that (I don't want to remember how many drill bits I used that weekend!). Some 4" wide plank white oak was nailed on top without a hiccup (at least that's how I choose to remember it LOL).

Here's some relevant feedback for you though:

- modern engineered flooring has really evolved in leaps and bounds! The finish (on the good stuff) is impossible to achieve on site-finished floors. Not only is the color perfect but they bake on that acrylic so that nothing can scratch it, seemingly! I go with water-based urethane on my site finished jobs to try to mimic this result (the oil-based poly is soft and thick!) but it still doesn't compare. Oh, and if you're going for a scraped or aged look, site-finished isn't even an option. We tried doing that once using hammers and nails and chains and whatever we had at our disposal to try to create a distressed look and it was the funniest thing ever! I had to walk away, couldn't bear seeing them do that.

- the down side to engineered is that you commit to them as you can't refinish, if needed. You can get 2-3 resands out of the solid hardwoods. Again, not as relevant anymore as the finishes on the engineered stuff is that good, but worth mentioning. Even if it's a resand for colors sake, it's an option on site finished.

- i don't know anything about vinyl since it's taboo just to think about it LOL. I'm sure things have evolved in their arena as well, but nothing i deal with.

- I would only consider tile on main slab floors if I was in Florida (or similar warm areas). Or embed radiant hot-water heating in a 2" mudbed on top of your slab! Yeah. Not going to happen, i know. Just saying. Use it as an accent or in heavy traffic areas but wall-to-wall tile will require you to walk in shoes/slippers all winter long! If little kiddos are in your household then this is even more of an issue.
 

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I put engineered flooring in my living and dining area when we built and we hate it. It's glued on a slab but is a pain in the *** to keep clean. My BIL went vinyl and it looks good and is super easy to clean. I put ceramic wood looking tile in my bathrooms and it looks great. We'll probably replace engineered for ceramic in future.
 

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I've used solid oak finished on site and several different types of "engineered" prefinished plank flooring in different homes over the years. The engineered is obviously a lot easier and a lot less mess to deal with. A couple things to think about besides just floor type and wood species: Width of plank. Depending on the room dimensions or if in a hallway, etc., wider planks are a whole different look from narrow. Everyone has their own preference. For the engineered stuff, the machining of the edges. There is always a tiny (or not so tiny) bevel at the edges and different manufacturers have different bevels. The smaller the bevel and the tighter tolerances on dimensions of the plank, the more it will resemble a solid, site finished floor.

My wife recently insisted on an engineered bamboo floor in one room of our present house. We went to every flooring store for miles around looking at many different types and ended up with Cali Bamboo "fossilized" (whatever that means) from Lowes of all places. It went down like a dream, is extremely hard and dense (and heavy) and with the right underlay (we used Pergo gold) is a blond one shy of 3/4" thick if you need to match the flooring height in other rooms (we did). Yes it's floating but it's thick and heavy enough that it pretty much has the solid feel of nailed down. It's not cheap but not crazy expensive either. Looks like traditional hardwood, at least from standing height.

We both really like the look of the tiles that look very much like wood planks but I'm hesitant to use it because I'm worried it's a fad type thing and will end up being dated down the road. Natural materials tend to be timeless. If an area is appropriate for impermeable, bite the bullet and use some type of stone tiles.
 

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My 2cents. Coming from a carpet cleaning / restoration background. I would guess I have seen, touched, installed, and removed more flooring than 99.9% of people on the planet.

1. Real wood flooring. Preferably a hardwood. Tough to beat real hardwood. Only downfalls are cost and it's a pain to dry if it gets wet. If it does it usually takes specialized equipment to get it dry, most likely will have cupping for up to 6 months while floor re normalizes it's moisture content. And then will most likely need to be refinished.

2. Lvp. Fake plastic wood floor lookalike. This stuff is actually pretty amazing. I was very against this when it first came out. Feels cold and plasticy. Now they are adding texture to the flooring and coming out with more "natural" patterns. Fairly bullet proof floor, if it gets wet you can jam a crowbar under the floor to get air movement under it until subfloor is dry and then just pull out crowbar. Cost is 1/8th compared to real wood. And can be installed by homeowner relatively easy.

3. Engineered hardwood. Can look decent. Maybe my least liked flooring. Damages very easy, if it gets wet it's gone the way of old yellar. Could be a good option for older couples without kids or animals. If you are hard on your floors skip on this.

4. Carpet. Easy for me to clean and keep looking good. Harder for most people. Soft and warm, best for bedrooms and low traffic areas. Buy good carpet if you are going to put it in your house. Gen 3-4 nylon. Skip everything else. This is very much a product where you get what you pay for. Use rebond pad, no pet barrier. If it gets wet it is the easiest to dry. Takes 2-3 days and can be tucked back in, cleaned and you are back to normal in less than a half week.
 
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