Wood-Look Flooring Alternatives
By: Danny Lipford
Few flooring materials are as visually appealing as wood, and while we install a lot of traditional solid wood flooring, many of our customers are opting for one of the less expensive alternatives to solid wood.
Vinyl Flooring ($2/sq. ft.)
The most inexpensive way to get a wood look is with sheet vinyl. It comes in patterns that mimic a wood-strip or parquet floor. Vinyl is a real bargain, and it can be a good choice in a sunroom or family room, but it is not nearly as durable as other options, and it doesn’t quite look like the real thing. I’ve seen some patterns that make you reach down and tap it to be sure, but for the most part this flooring has a plastic look.
Engineered Wood Floor ($7-$11/sq. ft.)
A second option is to install an engineered wood floor. This flooring comes in strips similiar to traditional wood, but it’s about half the thickness. It’s composed of real wood plies, similiar to plywood, with a top veneer layer of whatever wood species you want. We glue the flooring directly to a concrete slab or wood subfloor. It comes either finished or unfinished, which can be matched to an existing wood floor.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind if you decide to go with this flooring. For one, the surface veneer is relatively thin, so you have to be careful when sanding. It also can be a challenge to install this flooring because it is thinner than traditional wood flooring. On some jobs we’ve had to adjust the floor framing, add another layer of subflooring or even pour a slightly thicker slab so old and new floor levels would meet. You need to plan ahead.
Laminate Flooring ($8-$15/sq. ft.)
We’ve had very good luck with laminate flooring, which is made by companies like Formica, Pergo and Wilsonart. We’ve installed dozens of these floors, and my customers love their durability and the way they look. This flooring, roughly 3/8″ thick, has a very tough top layer that resists wear and is nearly impervious to stains.
Laminate flooring is typically installed over a thin foam pad, which helps to make the finished floor quieter while smoothing out minor imperfections in the subfloor. Unlike other types of flooring, laminate is not nailed or glued to anything but itself. The tongue-and-groove joints either glue or lock together, and the whole floor floats on top of the foam pad.
No, it’s not real wood, but it can be installed much more quickly, which saves time and money.