If you have decided to re-do your flooring and are torn between a vinyl plank and hardwood, you are not alone. Both flooring options add a touch of class and elegance to any living space, but the question that most homeowners ask is which one is superior.
While both look the same, each flooring option has its benefits as well as drawbacks. Whether you have small kids or pets, at the end of the day you want flooring that will last you for long.
If you are on a tight budget you need a flooring option that is cost-efficient. If you are going for a hardwood look, hardwood flooring isn’t the only option today.
Other materials like vinyl and laminate have been designed to mimic hardwood without spending too much. However, there are always those inherent properties of real wood that even vinyl plank cannot mimic.
What Is Vinyl Plank Flooring
Vinyl plank is a manufactured kind of flooring. The flooring option is designed to have not only the look but feel of hardwood in that the distinct markings, as well as colors, replicate those of hardwood design.
Today, it is hard for an inexperienced user to distinguish between hardwood and vinyl plank thanks to the advancement in technology. This is because the printing technology has made it possible for vinyl to be simulated to resemble different varieties of hardwood species.
Benefits of Vinyl Plank Flooring
If you are looking for a new floor for your home, it is normal to feel overwhelmed with so many options available in the market.
So, how do you choose the best one? Vinyl plank flooring has grown in popularity over the years and has become a favorite for many homeowners because of the following benefits that it offers:
One of the reasons why many homeowners prefer vinyl plank over any other option is because it is waterproof. This means that the flooring can be installed anywhere in the house from bathrooms, kitchens to basements without ever having to worry about water damage.
Perhaps the biggest appeal of a vinyl plank is that it can take on many different appearances. Colors, patterns and textures that are used in the making of vinyl planks are usually authentic giving your floor the look of not only hardwood flooring but other flooring options like tile.
Easy to Clean and Maintain
Just like with any other type of flooring, vinyl requires occasional cleaning especially if it has been installed in high traffic areas like corridors.
You could also use a lightweight and effective stick vacuum to remove surface dust and debris. For deeper cleaning, a damp mop and a mild cleaner will get the job done.
In terms of maintenance, vinyl plank doesn’t require waxing, unlike hardwood flooring. Vinyl plank has a protective wear layer that helps it maintain its luster for many years to come.
This flooring is made to last for years. The floor is scratch-resistant, indent and doesn’t stain easily. These qualities allow it to be installed anywhere in the house including high moisture areas like bathrooms, basements and kitchens.
If you decide to go with this solution, your options are limitless; from wood to marble, decorative tile, stone, concrete, shiplap and parquet.
As such, you will have no hard time finding a floor that will work for your home. The only problem you may encounter is deciding on the best one due to the many available options.
What Is a Solid Hardwood Flooring
Solid hardwood flooring is 100% natural with every plank carefully crafted from solid timber that is air or kiln-dried before sawing.
The moisture content is controlled during manufacture to ensure that the hardwood flooring doesn’t warp upon installation.
A majority of homeowners prefer this flooring due to its authenticity, timelessness and durability. It is, however, expensive compared to vinyl plank or laminate flooring and therefore may not be within the budget of most people.
If you are looking for a floor that will last you for years and doesn’t require to be replaced every couple of years, hardwood flooring is worth every dime you are going to spend.
What Is Engineered Hardwood Flooring
Engineered hardwood, on the other hand, unlike solid hardwood, comprises a variety of layers. The upper and bottom layer is made of 100% natural wood while the middle layer is built from different core layers of plywood that are crisscrossed in different directions.
This produces a very stable flooring that doesn’t expand easily, shift or contract when exposed to temperature changes, humidity and moisture.
Benefits of Hardwood Flooring
If you are looking for authentic flooring for your home, then hardwood is the perfect choice based on several reasons.
Even when other options resemble hardwood like a vinyl plank, certain characteristics are hard to replicate making wood the superior option.
Easy to Clean
Compared to carpet flooring, hardwood is easy to clean. Carpet tends to stain if there are any spills. Crumbs and debris also accumulate in the carpet fibers and become hard to get rid of.
In such a case you need an array of cleaning products like a premium carpet stain remover. You may also have to spend a lot of time on your knee spraying and scrubbing the fibers to lift the stain.
Hardwood flooring, on the other hand, is very easy to maintain. A quick sweep or mop will get the job done. A hardwood floor vacuum that can remove pet hair can also be used once a week to pick hairs and debris on the floor.
A good quality hardwood floor will last you for decades. If you have kids and pets, the last thing you want is a flooring option that you will need to replace after a few years.
A linoleum or tile floor, for instance, tends to crack and peel easily in homes that have kids but hardwood holds up pretty nicely.
While hardwood can get scratched or dinged, that’s easy to fix in the end. The only thing you need is to ensure to put a layer of polyurethane first if any scratches have occurred on the floor.
Increases Home Value
If a time comes and you need to sell your home, you want to get the best price for it and the flooring you have installed plays an important role in that.
Due to its high quality and authenticity, homes with hardwood are always on high demand compared to those that have vinyl plank flooring. As such, buyers are likely to pay more for such a home.
Improves Indoor Air Quality
If you have ever had carpet floors, then you know that they trap hair, mites and can host several other contaminants in the fibers.
This is usually a problem for those who suffer from allergies and asthma when these contaminants get stirred up during cleaning or when someone walks on the floor.
The same goes for tile floors where the grout lines and embossing can trap dust and grime which can end up back in the air.
Hardwood flooring never has such problems. With proper maintenance hardwood floors ensure that indoor air remains clean and are ideal for homes that have people who suffer from asthma and allergic reactions.
Linoleum floors are made of vinyl which is usually synthetic and therefore non-biodegradable. A majority of carpet floors also use synthetic fibers.
The manufacture increases your carbon footprint just like the eventual disposal. Hardwood flooring is all-natural and is 100% wood which is the most environmentally friendly flooring option available.
Hardwood flooring adds a touch of class to any home. The flooring is not only elegant but inviting as well and can make a room appear bigger. The flooring option also goes with any decorative style.
Choosing Between Vinyl Plank vs Hardwood Flooring
If you are installing a new floor or replacing the old one, there are so many options available in the market.
You can either go with a vinyl plank which is cheaper, durable and waterproof or hardwood flooring which is highly durable, authentic and increases the value of your home.
Here are a few factors to consider when choosing between a vinyl plank and hardwood flooring:
Durability and Stability
Most parents with kids and pets, while they may love the look and feel of hardwood flooring, have to rethink installation due to rough play, heavy traffic and long pet claws.
At the end of the day, nobody wants to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on flooring that will get damaged in a few months.
As such, durability is one of the most important factors that you need to consider when choosing between hardwood and vinyl plank.
With vinyl plank flooring chips, scratches and dings are never a concern. Vinyl plank also doesn’t require refinishing like hardwood which is a big advantage for those on a budget.
Vinyl plank, however, is not completely immune to damage. Since it is made from soft vinyl, the flooring can tear. Although it is not common, dropping something sharp or hard on the floor can lead to rips on the floor.
Since vinyl is a soft flooring, it is also susceptible to denting especially in areas with heavy furniture.
Hardwood flooring, as mentioned, is susceptible to scratching from pets, furniture as well as other activities. If you drop something heavy on the floor, it can also chip, though not easily.
The durability of hardwood floors, however, depends on the species of wood that was used. For instance, hardwood flooring like maple, oak and cherry are popular among homeowners because such floors are highly durable.
While exotic wood is unique and beautiful, it isn’t as hard and is therefore prone to damage. You can repair, replace or refinish hardwood floors but all those options are expensive.
With proper care, however, hardwood can last for decades. Another option to consider is engineered hardwood that consists of real wood over another wood like plywood.
This flooring option is more durable than solid hardwood. The only downside is that you can refinish it once or twice before you are forced to replace your entire floor.
Even though it is susceptible to scratches, hardwood is the most durable. However, if you have kids or pets, you don’t have to spend so much on the hardwood when vinyl plank will work better for you.
Installing new flooring, whether vinyl plank or hardwood, is a big task that comes at an expense. As such, it makes sense that you would want to go with flooring that will last.
On average, vinyl flooring can last for up to 20 years or longer with proper maintenance. If you go with a thinner vinyl, you can expect to replace the floor in 5 to 10 years depending on the traffic.
Engineered hardwood, on the other hand, is built to last for decades. With proper cleaning and maintenance, the flooring can last for a minimum of 20 years.
In some cases, solid hardwood can last for 100 years or longer. Of course, the amount of wear through the flooring life and how well you maintain it will affect its lifespan.
When comparing which one has the longest lifespan, engineered hardwood wins. The floor can retain its beauty for decades from one generation to another.
One of the best things about vinyl plank is that it can get wet without you worrying about moisture damage. This is because the flooring is 100% waterproof, making it ideal for application in any room in the house.
The floor can be installed anywhere including high moisture areas like the kitchen, bathroom and basement. The flooring won’t be damaged with spills or wet mopping. Unlike other hard floorings, vinyl plank doesn’t buckle or warp due to water damage.
Hardwood flooring, on the other hand, is susceptible to water damage. Ensure that you don’t wet mop it and wipe spills immediately they occur. Hardwood mops need less water to clean and are ideal for cleaning hardwood.
Because of that hardwood flooring should not be installed in high moisture areas. Exposure to water ends up ruining these floors forcing you to replace them.
In terms of water resistance, vinyl plank wins and if you are looking for a floor that you can install in basements, kitchens and bathrooms, you cannot go wrong with vinyl plank.
Cleaning and Maintenance
When it comes to cleaning and maintenance, vinyl plank is low maintenance. For daily cleaning, all you need is a sweeper or a dust mop or a vacuum cleaner to remove surface dust and debris.
For deep cleaning, since vinyl is not damaged by water, you can use a wet mop. In terms of maintenance, you can bring back the shine on vinyl flooring with vinyl floor specific polishes.
The only thing you need to ensure is that you use a non-wax cleaner. Vinyl flooring doesn’t require wax as this can result in the buildup.
Hardwood flooring, on the other hand, requires a lot of maintenance. Since it is susceptible to water damage, you should ensure that spills are wiped immediately they occur.
You should also never use a wet mop to clean hardwood floors. You can perform daily cleaning using a broom or a dust mop. If you are to use a vacuum cleaner, choose one that is designed for hardwood floors that don’t have a beater bar which can end up scratching and damaging your floor.
For heavy cleaning, use products that are designed for hardwood floors only. Over time, hardwood loses its shine and luster and may require to be waxed.
As such, when it comes to cleaning and maintenance, the vinyl floor is the easiest to deal with. However, hardwood goes the distance and with proper care and maintenance, the flooring option can last you for many decades.
Vinyl hardwood flooring is a printed representation of what the actual material looks like. Due to this, the appearance of any species of wood can be achieved.
While market demand sets the process to a certain extent, there will always be a gap between the prices of common as well as rare exotic wood species.
Vinyl offers you the ability to install padding underneath the floor. This gives your floor the beauty and looks of hardwood, with the soft comfort of a yielding floor.
All wood is not the same and different factors can determine what your floor will look like. Such factors include the species of the wood, grade, color, cut and finish treatment.
Vinyl plank is resistant to scratches and ideal for homes with pets. Even with long claws, you won’t have to worry about scratching.
Hardwood flooring, while it is expensive and highly durable, is susceptible to scratching and not pet-friendly.
The last thing you want is to install flooring that you will need to replace in a few months and knowing how expensive hardwood is, you don’t want this.
As such, you should avoid installing it if you have pets. If you must install it, then ensure that your pets’ claws are always trimmed to avoid scratching your floor.
Style and Color Selection
One of the main reasons why vinyl plank is popular among homeowners is because it has different styles that mimic hardwood.
From cherry to exotic cedars, vinyl manufacturers are finding ways of introducing realistic vinyl flooring. Hardwood flooring also comes in different varieties. Different species include maple, walnut, ash, hickory, pine and birch.
You can purchase hardwood in different colors as well as finish. There are also a variety of textures and glosses that are available. If you want a custom color, then you might want to consider going with unfinished hardwood floors.
When it comes to styles and colors, hardwood has an edge over vinyl. With so many wood species available, a variety of sizes and the ability to custom stain the floor, hardwood flooring is more versatile when compared to vinyl plank.
Ease of Installation (And DIY Installation)
There are two types of vinyl plank flooring. Both types are easy to install if you have the right tools and time on your hands.
The first type is installed as a floating floor. The tongue and groove design mean that the planks are snapped together without nails or glue.
The other type of vinyl flooring is peel and stick planks that are easy to install even for beginners. The only thing you need to do is peel the paper backing and stick the plank onto the subfloor.
Hardwood flooring is not easy to install and usually requires an expert to do the installation. You need more tools and installation can take you days or even weeks, unlike vinyl plank that can be installed within a few hours.
Prone to Fading
Vinyl flooring fades over time especially when exposed to sunlight. You must make use of rags in areas where the sun hits directly.
You could also use blinds and shades during hot weather. If vinyl flooring is fading, there is usually no way of restoring it other than removing and replacing the planks.
Hardwood flooring also fades naturally with time. While hardwood can retain its beauty for long, scratches, heavy traffic and age wear will begin to show. When this occurs, a professional refinishing is required.
Vinyl planks come in different sizes. The typical width is about 6 inches to 9 inches while the length varies from 36 inches to 60 inches. Thickness varies from 2 mm to 4 mm.
Based on the comparison of vinyl plank and laminate, vinyl planks are usually rectangular but some manufacturers make square planks.
Hardwood flooring is available in different widths from 2 inches to 10 inches. Traditionally, the most popular widths are 5 inches to 8 inches. The lengths vary from 1 foot to 7 feet.
Most hardwood floor planks are ¾-inches thick but today there is thin profile glue-down flooring that is about 5/16-inch in thickness.
Hardwood flooring can be used in commercial settings but requires constant maintenance due to the heavy traffic that is common in retail, corporate as well as office settings.
In terms of healthcare and hospitality, wood flooring is not the most hygienic or durable solution that you can settle on. While hardwood is ideal for residential and sports use, its high cost is enough to turn away any potential buyer.
Luxury vinyl tile floors are the best solution for any project. They are resistant to moisture making it perfect for supermarket produce areas, bathrooms and kitchens. Its stability and durability also make it ideal for commercial use, hospitality, retail, healthcare, fitness, residential and educational settings.
Hardwood is environmentally friendly because it is a naturally occurring resource. It is renewable and recyclable. Vinyl plank, on the other hand, is not biodegradable when it is disposed of. It also emits small amounts of volatile organic chemicals after installation.
Bargain basement vinyl is available from as low as $1 per square foot but the material is not as attractive or durable as high-end products.
Generally, sheet vinyl is cheaper than the tile but is expensive to install. The texture, specialty prints and some designs raise the cost of the product.
Hardwood floors cost $8 to $25, depending on the wood species. In some cases, softwood materials like plywood sheets and pine are cheaper. They are, however, less durable and are not the most desirable options. Rare and exotic hardwood costs even more.
How to Install Solid Hardwood Flooring
Step 1 – Choosing the boards
Choose the hardwood species and board widths that you like. Measure the length and width of the room and multiply for the square footage.
Step 2 – Roll out the vapor barrier
Roll out vapor barrier strips, allowing at least 4 inches’ overlap and stable the barrier to the subfloor.
Step 3 – Start the installation
Start installation at the longest unobstructed wall. Remove the shoe molding and snap the chalk line 3/8 inches from the board.
Step 4 – Place the boards
Begin by a longboard for the first row. Align the edge with the chalk line and drill pilot holes through the plank into the subfloor and joists. Face nail every board at the point of every joist and set the nail with a nail set.
Step 5 – Hand nail the rolls
After the first rows have been installed, drill pilot holes down into the tongue of every board and hand nail the rolls until there is enough clearance for the pneumatic gun.
Step 6 – Fill the gaps
Be always careful about how the ends fit together. One end of the plank has a tongue and the other one has a groove.
Always cut the wall end of the wood, such that you don’t cut off the groove that fits the tongue otherwise this will result in a big gap. When this happens, find a piece and lay along the hole and then flip it over.
How to Install Engineered Hardwood Flooring
Step 1 – Choosing the right wood
The first thing you need to do is choose the right wood by putting into consideration your lifestyle. Hardwood species like cherry are softwoods and while they are still durable they are susceptible to dents.
Acacia, on the other hand, is hard and can tolerate roughness. Ensure that you consider the traffic in your home to decide what kind of hardwood to install.
Step 2 – Prep work
Begin by letting your flooring acclimate in open boxes in the room that you are planning on installing the flooring for about two to three days. Also, determine the supplies that you may need and then ensure that the concrete slab is clean and flat.
Step 3 – Installation
The first thing that you need to do is to undercut door jambs casings so that your flooring will slip underneath easily. Next, roll out the builders felt or tar paper. These products form a moisture barrier that prevents moisture from penetrating through the floor and rotting the underside of the wood.
After that, you can start laying the planks, starting in the corner along the longer wall. Place ½ inch in spacers against the wall to create an expansion gap to prevent buckling.
Using a flooring stapler or a nail gun, staple down or nail the planks every 6 to 8 inches and within an inch of the wall. Continue running the rows, varying lengths as you create staggering seams while checking the tongue alignment as you go.
Lastly, remove all the spaces and reinstall the baseboards and then vacuum and fill all nail holes with wood putty.
How to Install Vinyl Plank Flooring
Step 1 – Floor preparation
Start by gathering the materials and preparing the floor by sweeping and vacuuming. Any affordable vacuum can work on all floor types and can be used to remove dust before installation.
Determine if the floor is mostly even and if not apply leveling compound to uneven spots while following the instructions of the directions.
Step 2 – Choose the planks
Determine the layout of the flooring and pick a starting line that is along the longest wall. Install the doorway transition strip next.
Step 3 – Installation
Start by laying the first row of planks arranging them such that none is shorter than 6 inches. As you install the planks, click the locking mechanism together applying pressure to join the two planks.
For the second row, begin by cutting the planks to a desirable length and then inserting the long side of the tongue to the groove of the first-row plank and continue until the last straw.
When you are done, install a strip around the perimeter of the room against the baseboards and add plank transition strips at the doorways.
How to Clean Solid Hardwood Flooring
Step 1 – Vacuum
Start by vacuuming to remove pet hair dust and debris that could scratch the floor. Avoid using a vacuum cleaner than has a beater bar attachment as this can damage the floor.
Step 2 – Deep cleaning
Dust mopping will not remove all dirt and grime that has buildup over time. As such for deep cleaning, use a commercial wood cleaning product like Bona or Murphy’s Oil Soap.
Whatever cleaner you choose, saturate the rag or sponge mop in the cleaning solution and then wring out excess water.
Mop the floor ensuring that you don’t leave too much liquid on the floor. Rinse the mop with clean water. Wrong out the excess and damp mop the floor to get rid of the cleaner.
How to Clean Engineered Hardwood Flooring
Step 1 – Sweeping
Before you start cleaning, uses a soft bristle brush to remove surface dust and debris that may have accumulated on the floor.
Step 2 – Vacuuming
The broom may not get rid of all dirt and debris which is why you need to consider using a vacuum cleaner.
Step 3 – Mop to remove all dirt
Pass a mop over the floor to remove the dirt that the broom and vacuum may have left behind. When mopping, use a microfiber mop since it is less abrasive. You also don’t need to use water at this point as dry mop will work just fine.
Step 4 – Wet mopping
With a microfiber mop, damp mop the floor ensuring that you wring out excess water. You can use a mop bucket with efficient wringing.
While engineered water can withstand humidity, too much moisture can damage the floor if it seeps through the joints.
How to Clean Vinyl Plank Flooring
Step 1 – Vacuuming
Start by vacuuming your floor to remove surface dust using a broom.
Step 2 – Wet mopping
The best cleaner for vinyl plank flooring is vinegar since the acidity works to remove grime as well as dirt without leaving behind a soap residue.
Step 3 – Removing scuffs
Use WD-DO lubricant or jojoba oil on a towel to remove scuffs and then use water and vinegar to remove any lubricant traces.
Step 4 – Removing stains
For food stains like ketchup, tomato sauce, grape juice and mustard, mix baking soda in water to make a paste that you will rub on the stain until it is gone and then use water to rinse off the baking soda residues.
Vinyl Plank vs Engineered Hardwood
Vinyl plank flooring is made using a printing process that mimics the look as well as the feel of real hardwood flooring. Vinyl planks mimic the look of different species of hardwood like oak, cherry and pine.
Engineered hardwood, on the other hand, is made of layers of real wood on the outside and plywood on the inside. As such, engineered hardwood is available in a variety of shades just like traditional hardwood.
Do’s and Don’ts With Vinyl Plank Flooring
- Don’t use high abrasive scrubbers when cleaning vinyl plank flooring as this can damage the floor.
- Don’t use detergents abrasive cleaners or mop and shine products since these leave a dull film on vinyl flooring.
- Do rinse the floor with clean water to remove soap and vinegar residues.
- Do vacuum the floor regularly to remove surface dust and debris before cleaning.
Do’s and Don’ts With Hardwood Flooring
- Do use a soft bristle brush to clean hardwood flooring.
- Do wax the floor every couple of years to maintain the shine.
- Do wipe spills immediately they occur to avoid damaging the floor.
- Don’t wet mop your hardwood flooring as this can cause warping after some time.
- Don’t use a vacuum cleaner that has a beater bar as this can cause damage to the floor.
What is the best brand for luxury vinyl planks?
Based on online reviews, the best brand of luxury vinyl flooring is Shaw based on the fact that it is high quality and affordable.
Is it better to go with the thicker or thinner vinyl?
This depends on the traffic in the house. For homes with heavy traffic, a thicker vinyl makes sense since it ensures that the flooring lasts you for long.
When it comes to flooring, there are so many options that are available in the market. You might feel overwhelmed trying to decide on the most superior. Vinyl plank flooring mimics hardwood and continues to grow in popularity as an affordable flooring option. While this is true, certain characteristics cannot be duplicated which makes hardwood flooring more superior.
Photos from: rades / depositphotos.com, studiodin / depositphotos.com, zephyr18 / depositphotos.com, stockasso / depositphotos.com and Patryk_Kosmider / depositphotos.com.