The Most Durable Floors You Can Install

Dog Scratching Wooden Floor
Dog Scratching Wooden Floor. Getty / Takamitsu GALALA Kato PREMIUM A

You need durable flooring because you have children or dogs. Or maybe you just want a floor that will not scratch, gouge, and dent, requiring replacement every five years. Rated from best to worst, these floors are the most durable you can buy.

Bamboo

Summary: This grass, incredibly difficult to remove from your yard, looks surprisingly attractive when turned into flooring.

If you have ever tried to hack bamboo out of your yard, you know how tough this grass can be.

The secret to bamboo flooring's sky-high Janka durability ratings lies in three factors: stalk placement, added materials, and quality of bamboo.

  • Stalks/Construction: Most off-the-shelf bamboo flooring is made by laying the bamboo grass stalks cross-direction. Strand bamboo flooring is often called woven strand bamboo flooring for a good reason: strands of the bamboo stalks are pulled apart and more tightly integrated with the adhesives.
  • Adhesives: But the thing that truly makes a bamboo floor hard is the adhesive. Bamboo flooring is stuck together by man-made adhesives. More adhesives mean a tougher bamboo floor.
  • Bamboo Type: Unfortunately, this factor is difficult, if not impossible, to determine when shopping for bamboo floors. Better-quality, later-harvested bamboo is more durable than younger bamboo that is rushed to harvest.

Look at Janka scale durability ratings for traditional vs. strand-woven bamboo floors:

  • Traditional Construction Bamboo: 900-1300. This is in the domestic red oak (wood) range.
  • Strand-Woven Bamboo: 2000-3200. This definitely peaks the Janka scale, with some bamboo floors rating as hard as Brazilian cherry and teak.

The Janka scale for hardness of wood effectively maxes when you get to around 3600.

But one outfit, Cali Bamboo out of San Diego, CA, advertises a bamboo floor called Fossilized HD ColorGrain™ with an extremely high Janka hardness rating of around 5000.

Natural Stone

Summary: If stone weathered well in the mountains for thousands of years, it can weather your kitchen or bathroom.

Travertine and other natural stones are neck-and-neck with concrete for durability, though some stones like marble can wear down faster than you might expect.

Resilient Flooring

Summary: Resilient flooring may be a term invented by flooring companies to market their product. But the term describes the product well.

Also known as vinyl flooring this classic product is like Tupperware for your floors: 100% moisture resistant and laboratory-engineered to last for a very long time.

Sheet vinyl is your best bet if pure resilience is your priority. In small rooms, you can skate by with just one seam or, if the room is small enough, no seams at all. Because seams are one factor that contributes to flooring deterioration, reduction of seams becomes an important point.

Plank resilient and tile resilient run a close second because of the seams.

Ceramic and Porcelain

Summary: Durable in some ways--but categorically not in other ways--tile wins out over other types of flooring because of its appearance.

Tile is durable against scratches and spills; tile lives for those kinds of emergencies. But drop a jar of pickles and it will undoubtedly crack.

Balanced with tile's sheer good looks and the creative "blank slate" that it offers, most homeowners are happy to take the chance of the occasional dropped jar or small appliance.

Also, good installation helps. An improper sub-floor or voids remaining below tiles contribute to cracking. Poorly grouted tile, too, will introduce moisture below the tiles, swelling sub-floor systems and creating a kind of "frost heave" that cracks the tile.

Laminate Flooring

Summary: Surprisingly scratch-resistant, laminate flooring's Achille's heel--moisture--makes this a less durable floor covering than other types.

Laminate is getting more durable as manufacturers improve laminate's wear layer and base.

In fact, that top layer--the transparent wear layer--can be amazingly resistant to scratches from dog claws and chairs being pushed in and out.

AC, or Abrasion Class, ratings tell you how durable a laminate floor will be. Ranging from AC1 (moderate) to AC5 (heavy), these numbers, usually found in the Specs section of a product description, let you know how well the laminate will hold up against traffic.

Despite laminate's abrasion resistance, the moment the dishwasher leaks, a large portion of your kitchen floor is dead and gone. For high-moisture environments, it is possible to buy waterproof laminate flooring such as Aqua-Step. However, because waterproof laminate dispenses with all wood content, it obliterates the line between laminate flooring and resilient flooring.

If durability is your priority and you are debating whether to purchase vinyl or laminate, go with vinyl.

Solid Hardwood Flooring

Summary: Hardwood's saving grace is that it can be restored to perfect condition.

Hardwood, even the hardest, will scratch. Shocked? Advocates say that scratches are all part of hardwood's "natural beauty."

But it can accept multiple deep sandings from even that beast of all sanders, the drum sander.

Engineered Wood Flooring

Summary: Engineered wood flooring lasts as long as its thin veneer top lasts.

Engineered wood's thin veneer will scratch just as much as solid hardwood, but it cannot be sanded as frequently.

Best advice here: use plenty of throw rugs, area rugs, and runners and reconsider using this flooring if you have or plan to have pets.

Concrete

Summary: There is a reason why concrete floors are a trendy staple of restaurants and gastropubs: durability. But it is doubtful that you want concrete in your house.

In reality, few homeowners really want concrete floors. But we would be remiss in not mentioning how concrete is the absolute most durable floor you can have in your home.

Concrete floors are typically stained to order and can look quite lovely. Performance-wise, they leave something to be desired.

Unless radiant heating is installed, concrete is cold. Unless mats and area rugs are introduced, concrete will always be hard under foot. Unless those soft floor coverings encompass a significant portion of the room, sound will reverberate.

Leave concrete floors out of your home.