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When it comes to replacing the floors in your home, there are many different options: hardwood, laminate, tile, carpet, vinyl and more. For now, I am going to focus on hardwood floors. It might seem like a pretty easy choice based on your personal style, but with so many choices, colors and grades of flooring why would one choice potentially be better than another?

Flooring is truly a personal preference, but different choices will hold up better for different lifestyles. For instance, installing a hardwood floor and owning one or more large dogs or perhaps a small dog with an even smaller bladder might not be the best choice. Traditional wood flooring, though referred to as hardwood, can actually be soft enough for an animal’s nails to leave scratch marks all over the wood. A dog with a small bladder who you can’t bring yourself to cage during the day when you are working might have an accident which could bubble or completely discolor your wood floors.

Recently, an investment property I own had a roof leak open up and subsequently the laminate floors that the previous owner installed got wet and were ruined. Water is not a friend of those with wood floors so if you have a roof leak, a bathroom flood or pipe burst you will not just be dealing with the water issue but your hardwood floors risk being ruined. It can be impossible to just replace the section that was affected and maintain the original continuity of your floors, so it might require an entire floor replacement, which can be costly and stressful.

Therefore, wood floors might not be the best choice for animal lovers, or those with a big family. However, there are alternatives that will give you the same look or effect as hardwood without the durability pitfalls of scratching or discoloring.

 

Hardwood Floors Scratched Up:

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Hardwood Floors Discolored by Urine:

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Some alternatives to hardwood floors are laminate, tile, and vinyl, more specifically the tile & vinyl made to look like wood. Although more expensive to buy and install, the durability and long term outlook make this flooring choice very attractive, so attractive in fact that I just installed the wood-tile in one of my own investment properties and I did so for the following reasons:

1. Durability

2. Looks

3. Long-term style outlook

Here is a picture of a wood tile that we had installed on a rental property we manage:

Wood Tile Floors:

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Vinyl looking-Wood:

There are a couple ways you can purchase vinyl and one is in a roll similar to carpet and the other is vinyl planking. Vinyl will give you the wood look that you want in addition to the durability while substantially reducing the installation costs. However, vinyl floors are soft and can be damaged easier than tile. In addition, unlike tile, vinyl can fade over time and can be damaged by extreme temperatures. The advantage is that if you opt to use vinyl planking as opposed to a roll you can cut the damaged floor out and replace the plank fairly easily and that repair is not so easy with a damaged tile.

Wood Looking Vinyl Rolls:

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Wood Looking Vinyl Planks:

 

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As I have explained, laminate floors might also give you the same look as real hardwood while being able to handle the family pet. Depending on the choice of laminate, most are fairly durable and can handle the pet claws and even urine (if not left for hours and hours on end). However, as I stated earlier water was able to get into my laminate floors in an investment property and eventually the floors absorbed the water and the planks swelled, completely ruining the floors. In addition, cheaper laminate floors can have their edges peel.

 

Laminate Floors:

 

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Peeling Edges on Laminate floors:

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So for me, even though the initial cost may be more to install the wood-tile the durability and peace of mind is well worth the cost. When I install these floors I have a 20-30 year outlook for the three important elements durability, looks and long term style outlook.

Lastly, no matter what floor you choose, be picky about the installation. I would implore all of my clients to have the baseboards removed prior to floor installation and re-installed on top of the new floors rather than using a quarter round to cover the wood. Quarter round cheapens a floor in my opinion. Baseboards are used to cover the point where the floor meets the wall because it is nearly impossible to have perfect flooring cuts consistently. Many times I show homes where the floors were installed and the homeowner tried to cut the wood to the baseboard instead of to the wall and finishing with baseboards, this practice basically renders the baseboards useless. This leaves a poor finish on the floors and cheapens your brand new floors.

Floors with baseboards installed over the floor:
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Floors installed with quarter round (notice too that nail holes were not properly filled in, I see this way to often):

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Floors installed up to the baseboard with no quarter round installed (note how dirty the grout is and it’s impossible to clean):

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I am not going to get into different grades of wood, laminate vinyl or wood tile for this post. But know that there is a difference in quality and durability and it is usually correlates with the price point.

Obviously, your budget plays a big role in your choice of flooring but if you think long term you might find that spending just a little more money can save you money over time. Having a properly installed upgraded floor will increase the value of your house for many years (equity yay). Installing a cheap floor with gaps against the wall and with scratches and/or bubbling flooring because of your pets or water damage will decrease the value of your home. A new buyer calculates the cost of replacing poor flooring. If you use cheap floors and your lucky you will get 5-7 good years out of that flooring. My suggestions of a wood tile, if done right, should yield you 15-25 years of useful life depending on the grade of the flooring used. If you have to replace your floors two or three times in 25 years you would have been much better off spending the extra money and doing it right the first time 🙂