Hardwood flooring is perennial. Where other types of flooring tend to go in and out of style, the classic sophistication and coziness of hardwood is unbeatable. However, hardwood flooring isn’t always the cheapest or easiest to install. Fortunately, today there are many high quality hardwood alternatives, all with their own benefits and drawbacks. Today we’re going to run through some of the best hardwood floor alternatives.

1. Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring needs no introduction – it’s a perennial favourite due to its durability, low cost, and realistic look. Laminate floors, as their name suggests, are built from several layers of material, including a durable, clear topcoat, a decorative patterned layer, and a fibreboard core. These layers are laminated together into a thin, flexible, and highly durable plank. It’s extremely cost effective due to the low cost of its materials – it is able to retain a slight ‘spring’ for comfortable walking and standing from its fibreboard core, while the plasticized top coating and bottom lining makes it highly moisture resistant. Additionally, laminate flooring is very easy to work with. Most laminate planks are designed to inter-lock together for easy assembly. Combine its durability and ease of installation with its amazing variety of colours, textures and styles, and you’ve got a clear reason why laminate floors continue to grow in popularity.
However, nothing is perfect. While laminate floors have made great strides in terms of quality and appearance, many styles have repeating patterns that can become noticeable when used across large areas. Additionally, while laminate is indeed extremely durable, it’s also impossible to resurface if it becomes damaged or worn. In that situation, the only solution is to replace the floor entirely. Fortunately, laminate has a long lifespan.

Laminate flooring benefits:

  • Cost-effective and durable
  • Easy to install
  • Available in many colours and styles

Laminate flooring drawbacks:

  • Wood patterns tend to repeat, which can become quite noticeable in large rooms.
  • Cannot be resurfaced if damaged or worn out

2. Vinyl Plank Flooring

Vinyl plank flooring is a more recent innovation in the flooring industry. While vinyl flooring has been around for a long time, it has an unsophisticated reputation as a cheap kitchen or bathroom flooring option. It’s time to get rid of that misconception! Today, vinyl flooring comes in all manner of colours, patterns, and textures, and rivals laminate flooring in terms of look and feel. Where vinyl floors once only came in rolls, often simulating tile, a new style has emerged: vinyl plank flooring. Similar to laminate, vinyl plank is affordable and relatively durable, though somewhat more prone to scratches and scuff marks. It is, however, completely water resistant, and can be installed in areas where hardwood can’t, like kitchens, bathrooms, and basements, where dampness may be an issue. It is also soft under the foot, and usually not slippery, which can be a problem with other materials. It can be installed directly over your existing floors.
One important drawback of all vinyl flooring is its environmental impact. Vinyl flooring is not biodegradable, can release toxic fumes when burning, and may out-gas volatile organic compounds (VOCs) shortly after installation, which have been linked to respiratory problems such as asthma and eye irritation in some people.

Vinyl Plank Flooring Benefits:

  • Very affordable option
  • Water resistant and suitable for basements, bathrooms, and kitchens
  • Easy to clean and care for
  • Warm and soft to walk on
  • Can be installed directly overtop of existing floors
  • Easy ‘peel and stick’ installation

Vinyl Plank Flooring Drawbacks:

  • More easily scuffed and scratched than laminate
  • Less environmentally friendly
  • May out-gas VOCs, which can cause health problems in some people

3. Bamboo/Cork Flooring

While not necessarily a budget option compared to traditional hardwood floors, cork and bamboo flooring have become popular alternatives to hardwood. Perhaps their biggest draw is their sustainability – both cork and bamboo are quick-growing, renewable resources. Additionally, while both offer a different look and feel compared to hardwood, they are attractive and striking flooring options. Their greatest downside is probably their durability. Neither is particularly flimsy or easy to damage, but they are prone to wear and tear. Hardwood floors, with proper upkeep, can last a century. Bamboo floors are often said to last 20-25 years in standard conditions. Cork is typically long-lasting – often up to 40 years – but can become warped or dented from heavy furniture.

Bamboo/Cork Flooring Benefits:

  • Renewable and sustainable alternatives to hardwood flooring
  • Unique look and feel adds interest to your home
  • Comfortable to walk and stand on

Bamboo/Cork Flooring Drawbacks:

  • Less durable and long-lasting than hardwood floors
  • Minimal cost savings compared to hardwood

4. Ceramic Hardwood

Ceramic tile is a great flooring choice for many reasons. Recently, flooring manufacturers have developed ceramic tile that very closely simulates hardwood in appearance and texture. As with vinyl flooring, ceramic is appropriate to use in damp areas of your home, is cost-effective, and relatively durable. It does have its drawbacks, though. Ceramic installation is far more involved and time-consuming than other flooring options. In addition, grouted floors require more upkeep than vinyl or laminate options. It’s also worth considering purchasing extra tiles in the pattern of your choice, as ceramic tiles can crack, and may prove difficult to replace years down the road.

Ceramic Hardwood Benefits:

  • Affordable and relatively tough
  • Extremely realistic texture and appearance

Ceramic Hardwood Drawbacks:

  • Can be cold and hard on the feet
  • Cracked tiles may be hard to replace
  • Requires more thorough and careful cleaning and upkeep

As you can see, there are a lot of creative options for hardwood flooring alternatives, all with their own drawbacks and benefits. If you’re looking to make a flooring change in your home, come speak with a Small’s Flooring representative today. We can help you narrow down your choices and pick the best flooring option for you and your budget.