HOW TO CHOOSE FLOORING
Flooring can make or break the look of a home. In our first home, we chose dark wood-look tiles, carpet, and kept all the hardwood floors that we found. We liked it, a lot! But knew with our next home we’d switch things up a bit. Today I’m sharing how to choose flooring for your home.
Table of Contents
- Our First Home’s Flooring (and reasons why we did or did not like them)
- Choosing Floors For Our New Home
- Our Decision!
- Comparing Floors: Hardwood, Tile, Laminate Plank, Vinyl Plank (LVP), Stone Polymer Composite (SPC)
- Looking at Real Samples to Choose Flooring
Above you can see the hardwood floors in my previous home office (Bedroom 2). We ripped out the carpet, sanded, and stained the floors with an Ebony finish. In Kevin’s office (Bedroom 3), we did the same. He didn’t have a rug and, unfortunately, the floors didn’t wear so well with our two, over 50lb, dogs. We realized that hardwoods weren’t the best option for us when we were looking to choose flooring for our new home.
Here is the carpet in the living room. We replaced it immediately after moving in in 2014. To see everything we renovated in this home, click here. Although it was nice for a while, the traffic from guests and our dogs really wore it down fast. There were darkened spots that just didn’t get clean – even a professional cleaner didn’t refresh it to our liking.
Our favorite flooring in our previous home was the wood-look tile (found here). This was in our foyer, living room, kitchen, and hallway. It held up so well, we didn’t worry about damaging it, and the look was beautiful! There were only a few “problems” with it.
In our opinion, we didn’t like how…
- It seemed like it was trying really hard to mimic wood floors but we could clearly see the grout and the smaller tile planks (24″), which obviously made you realize it was indeed tile. Even though guests swore it was real wood, we knew differently and explained how it wasn’t.
- With two dogs that have creamy white hair, their little fur tumbleweeds were always showing on this dark floor. When they came inside after running around on a snowy or rainy day, their paws tracked in light mud marks which looked terrible on these dark floors.
- Tile is hard on your feet and can be really, really cold. I always felt the need to wear sandals or slippers so my feet wouldn’t tire out too quickly. I can only imagine how tile floors can affect your legs/body as you age.
- It took forever to install and was super messy. We needed new subfloors, backer board, quickset, tiles, grout, sealant, etc. Then we had to go through the entire area and clean off the white baseboards and the tile from the excess grout.
But with all that being said, when we purchased our new house, we imagined we might do tile again. We even thought we had the perfect tile picked out and didn’t need to choose flooring for our home anymore! Here’s a look at it:
It was called Brentwood from Daltile and it was beautiful and looked amazing with the colors we wanted in our home. But two problems: it was even DARKER than the previous tile AND it was still only 24″ long per plank. And a third potential problem was that it threw off a greenish/grey hue in some lighting. We weren’t sold.
Enter another tile this time from Lumber Liquidators called Golden Lake Oak. We truly thought this was the one. It was a much longer plank (36″), it was a slightly lighter color, less red-toned than our previous tile, and was a great price point! Everything we thought we wanted to tweak with our previous tile, this style had! But after purchasing a box of tile versus a small sample, we realized there were many pieces that had copper/orange coloring in it. Not at all what we wanted. Back to the drawing board. We visited all the tile suppliers in our area and couldn’t find the right style.
Then we sat down and discussed what our other options were. We were familiar with hardwood and thought if we could prepare for the fact that they will be scratched up from our dog’s nails within days of it being installed, maybe that would work for us. We looked nearly everywhere, again, and didn’t like any of the pre-finished styles. We even had a local installer come to give us a quote.
That quote literally appalled us. It was about 4x the amount we wanted to spend on our flooring. And it wasn’t even for the real hardwood that we really wanted, light French Oak / European Oak, instead it was for 5″ Oak and Hickory. Another option was for us to purchase unfinished wood ourselves and get a family member to install them. My uncle’s quote was also about 2x more than what we wanted to spend on our floors.
So, for the highest price, a so-so look (we didn’t like all the knots and lines), and lack of durability, hardwood floors were definitely out. We didn’t even want to consider engineered hardwood since once they are scratched you can only refinish up to 3 times (most of the installers told us it’s more likely that you can refinish only once). We were also told that many engineered wood floors have dangerous stain/sealants applied. With all that being said, hardwood was NOT worth it to us. Here’s an example of what ours would have looked like:
Then we looked into the confusing web of “Luxury Vinyl Plank” and “Laminate Floors” and “Stone Polymer Composite” Planks. There were so many different types that we were bogged down with research. We knew we wanted non-toxic floors. Something that doesn’t give off VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) which are dangerous. We also wanted the floors to be free of formaldehyde and phthalates.
Let’s just say this took us 3 months (not kidding) to finally land on SPC flooring. And even then, it took about 2 more months to find the correct color and texture we liked.
We went to a local green building supply company and he steered us to Cali Bamboo’s vinyl planks. At first sight, they seemed pretty awesome! Limestone on the inside (i.e. strong like tile on the inside), no VOCs, longboards that look like wood, thick planks, etc. But after purchasing a box each of a few colors, we just couldn’t pull the trigger. Neither style looked right in our home nor did the texture seem right.
When the sun shined on the flooring, it looked SO fake. Like the texture was so off you could tell this was totally man-made. Not only that, but they had only 6 different patterns. So if you are putting this in a large area, there will be noticeable repeating patterns. See the Cali Bamboo Longboards in the photo below (Note: the brown wood will all be painted white in our home). The left side is “Point Break Pine” and the right is “Seaboard Oak.”
Both of these had way too many knots for me. The “Point Break Pine” threw a lot of green-brown in certain lighting and the “Seaboard Oak” was too “farmhouse” for me which is not the look we’re going for.
We almost settled on the “Offshore Oak” (the darkest option they have) or “Point Break Pine” until I took some blog photos with my dogs on it and it looked so terrible. I’m so thankful we took those photos! The colors were so off. Super greenish-brown. Not to mention the texture. My goodness. These floors are very different. Keep reading for a close-up. (Quick Note: Their salespeople are super pushy with calls and emails EVERY day after you are sent a sample. I had to email them to take me off of their list to finally have it stop.)
FINALLY, we happened upon SUPERCore Xtreme from WeShipFloors.com. These are SPC floors (Stone Polymer Composite) and have no VOCs, phthalates, or formaldehyde. Yay for healthier floors!
We tried some of their medium-brown colors and nothing was working quite right for our home. But we loved the texture (looked like REAL wood), the durability, no staining after testing multiple everyday items, and the fact that they had no smell to them (no off-gassing) so we kept at it. I found one of their newer colors: “French Oak” and was thrilled! It looked so gorgeous the second I took it out of the box. But, unfortunately, the undertones clashed with our carpeting on the stairs and we don’t plan on changing that out anytime soon.
I almost gave up hope, until I started realizing that the floor color that we currently have is light – light cream carpet, light tan tile. We loved the airy look it gave our home and really didn’t want to darken it anyhow. So, why not go even lighter?!? I searched the WeShipFloors.com site and their HOUZZ comment thread and found SUPERCore Xtreme in “Ivory Tower”. I quickly ordered free samples. The second I opened the package, I knew it was the one. I think I even said “This is it!” rather loudly to Kevin. lol.
This style and color coordinates with our carpeting on the stairs, it coordinates with all our current furniture, AND it pretty much “cleans up” the look of our tan floors and made it a light vanilla creme color that I adore. LIGHT and AIRY, here we come! Not to mention, I worked directly with Zoe from WeShipFloors.com and she was amazing. She responded quickly, kindly, and never pestered me. Our floors were delivered from Kentucky to Wisconsin within 3 business days! Below is a picture of the samples next to our stairs and a rug to block out the existing tile.
Our tile floors are currently being demolished, and we can’t wait to install these new beauties! In the end, it looks like I’ll be getting my original wish of a light french oak floor look! I’m beyond thrilled!
- DURABILITY: Great! Waterproof and scratch-proof.
- STYLE: Can look beautiful, but wood-look tiles might be dated in a few years.
- PRICE: Varies. You can get great looking wood-look tiles for under $2 sq ft. Installation is where the cost climbs.
- HEALTH: These floors don’t off-gas any VOCs and are considered very safe.
- DURABILITY: For people who are rough with their floors or who have dogs, hardwood isn’t recommended. You are able to refinish hardwood floors multiple times, but the cost and time to do so might not be worthwhile. Also, not waterproof.
- STYLE: A classic look. If you choose a standard wood like 3″ or 4″ red oak, there’s a chance no one will know what year they were installed. However, trends vary with the widths of plank size.
- PRICE: High. The most expensive option. Unless you have “a guy for that.”
- HEALTH: If you nail down (don’t glue down) and use a health-friendly sealer, this type of flooring is extremely safe. Hardwood plank widths larger than 5″ need to be glued down. In that case, I do not recommend going with anything larger than 5″ width.
- DURABILITY: Similar to hardwood, however, you are not able to refinish as many times. Not recommended for dogs. Hardwood would be recommended over engineered wood. Not waterproof, but better than hardwood.
- STYLE: These floors are super trendy. Many times you’ll find trendy colors and textures. Be careful if you are going for a classic look.
- PRICE: High. However, it is usually more reasonable than solid hardwood.
- HEALTH: Be careful. Many engineered wood floors are NOT safe. Many have toxic topcoats and finishes that off-gas VOCs. Also, if they are over 5″ in width, the glue that is used to install them most likely will have toxic properties.
- DURABILITY: Not ideal for areas of high moisture and humidity, or where spills can occur. Not waterproof. Scratches easily.
- STYLE: Can replicate the look and style of natural materials
- PRICE: Very inexpensive.
- HEALTH: Laminate is typically made from HDF or high-density fiberboard (made up of recycled hardwood). It is the least safe option that I’m sharing here. You don’t know where the recycled hardwood came from and HDF or MDF is usually riddled with toxins (VOCs and potentially formaldehyde).
- DURABILITY: More water-resistant than laminate and is better suited for high-moisture areas. More scratch-resistant than laminate.
- STYLE: Can replicate the look and style of natural materials.
- PRICE: Low. A bit more expensive than laminate.
- HEALTH: Vinyl can pose a health risk. It contains many plastics that off-gas VOCs and some even off-gas formaldehyde, just like laminate floors.
STONE POLYMER COMPOSITE (SPC FLOORING)
- DURABILITY: Very durable! Waterproof, scratch-resistant, and solid core (typically limestone). Great for high-moisture areas.
- STYLE: Newer to the market, so colors and styles are slightly limited. You can still find trendy and classic styles, however.
- PRICE: Moderate. Competes with the higher end vinyl plank styles.
- HEALTH: Most are non-toxic! Make sure to look at test results to ensure no VOCs are off-gassed and that they don’t contain phthalates or formaldehyde. The stone layer is really helpful in eliminating the possibility of VOCs.
- (1) Tile from our previous home
- (2) SPC – SUPERCore Xtreme “Ivory Tower” (what we chose for our new home!) (6.0mm, 30 mil wear layer)
- (3) SPC – SUPERCore Xtreme “French Oak” (6.0mm, 30 mil wear layer)
- (4) SPC – SUPERCore Xtreme “French Oak” more samples with less knots
- (5) SPC – Cali Bamboo Whitewater Oak (8mm, 20 mil wear layer)
- (6) SPC – Cali Bamboo – Cali Vinyl Pro – “Castaway Oak” (6.5mm, 20mil wear layer)
- (7) SPC – Cali Bamboo – Longboards – “Seaboard Oak” ((8mm, 20 mil wear layer)
- (8) LVP – Lowe’s Huntington Oak – SmartCore Ultra
- (9) LVP – Karndean Looselay Longboard – Weathered American Pine (4.5mm, wear layer: 20 mil wear layer)
- (10) LVP – Karndean Looselay Longboard – Neutral Oak (4.5mm, wear layer: 20 mil wear layer)
- (11) LVP – Karndean Korlok Reserve – Natural Oiled Oak (6.5mm, 20 mil wear layer)
- (12) SPC – Cali Bamboo – Cali Vinyl Pro – “Aged Hickory” (5.5mm, 20 mil wear layer)
By looking at these numbers you may think that Cali Bamboo Longboards are the best choice because they are 8mm thick when the rest are thinner. Well, here’s the thing. Cali Bamboo has a THICK underlayment/padding attached. So, in reality, they are not as great of a choice as SUPERCore which has a 30 mil wear layer (10 mm MORE than Cali Bamboo)! This means you have 10 more millimeters deep if a scratch should occur. See photo:
PHOTO ABOVE: Top is SUPERCore Xtreme and bottom is Cali Bamboo. See how the wear layer is larger on SUPERCore? The only thing making the Cali one “bigger” is a slightly thicker pad which isn’t necessary. The wear layer is more important!
PHOTO ABOVE: Top to Bottom – Lowe’s sample, Karndean Looselay, Karndean Korlok Reserve. All of these have MDF or HDF as their core. I don’t recommend these.
Below you’ll see the details of texture on both the SUPERCore and Cali planks. In my opinion, SUPERCore takes the cake when it comes to a true wood-look texture!
PHOTO ABOVE: Close up of the SUPERCore Xtreme in Ivory Tower. Look at how realistic it looks! SO beautiful!
PHOTO ABOVE: Cali Bamboo Longboard in “Seaboard”. Look at that odd texture in the grooves. It looks very “fake” to me. Besides the texture and the smaller wear layer, I do think they are a good runner up to SUPERCore. You can get Cali at Lowe’s which is a nice option.
So… what do I recommend for you? Well, it depends on your preference. I love the durability and non-toxic choice of SPC and tile. And I’ll always love a classic hardwood. But ultimately it’s up to you, your needs, style, and budget!
Hope this helps you make a decision a bit faster than Kevin and I did! Let me know if I can answer any questions for you!
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A huge thank you goes out to WeShipFloors.com for working with me and helping me choose the perfect flooring for our home! As always, I only recommend products that I love and feel that you would, too!
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