A lot of people say they love wood floors and put them on their list of must-haves when looking for a home. They add such character, they say. Wood brings warmth and depth, they swoon. From the quaint longleaf pine of decades past to today’s engineered varieties, wood is positioned as the height of luxury.
But below the surface lies a few less-than desirable truths about this coveted covering. Here are four reasons I'll pass on hardwood floors every time.
They Can Make Your Home Noisier
They can be noisy, especially in older homes where the foundation has settled. Every footstep is amplified, whether it comes from people or pets. A dropped spoon in the kitchen can sound like a firecracker down the hall. A dog running to its food dish sounds more like a herd of cattle.
“I was entranced when we took up the old carpet and had the hardwood floors refinished,” said Austin homeowner Lisa Wyatt Roe. “They looked gorgeous! They were also extremely creaky. There is no sneaking up on anyone in that house. I would not install it now.”
You Have to Worry About Scratches, Dents and Even Sunlight
Don’t let the “hard” in hardwood fool you: Dings, dents and scratches will happen.
“I especially would not do bamboo,” said Roe. “My mom did that and the floors looked gorgeous, but they're kind of soft. She was always worried about people scratching them or dropping something that would dent them and lost her mind if someone forgot to take off their shoes before entering.”
Different types of wood have different degrees of durability, so something like oak will stand up better than a softer pine or the above-mentioned bamboo. No matter the type, furniture, dropped items and regular, daily life will wear your wood floors down. Even walking does its damage. “For the record, stilettos can dent hardwood floors, too. I'm here to tell you,” said Helen Anders of Fort Worth, who left her wood floors behind during her last move.
Does your house get a lot of natural light? Mother Nature is not kind to hardwood. “They do fade in sunny places. Once you commit to area rugs, subsequent owners will need to do the same,” she said.
Of course, you could just buff those scrapes right out of the wood and refinish for a fresh look, right? Not so fast.
Getting the Stain Right Can Be Daunting
Fixing up wood floors takes a lot of muscle, whether yours or those of a pro. Sanding out the “oopsies” and putting on a new stain is a lot of work. If your flooring flows throughout more than one contiguous room, you’ll have to refinish it all to keep a cohesive look. It’s smelly work, and even opening up the windows brings peril.
“The last contractor who did our floors left doors open to vent the smell. Now we have dust permanently embedded in the varnish,” said homeowner Heather Ly Blair.
And there are only so many times you can refinish the wood before you have to start replacing planks, not an easy task if you are trying to match older flooring. You can get close, but you are likely to have a more patchwork look if you have to replace a good number of planks.
Newer wood floors present their own set of problems.
“Dings and scratches can’t really be buffed or sanded, because they aren’t made like they used to make them,” said interior designer Audrey Konkel. “Finding a stain is near impossible, especially in new builds.
“The top layer of wood is real ‘hard wood,’ and then there’s filler plywood underneath.
When we get a scratch or nick out of the wood, to sand it and restain correctly would be near impossible for it to look “new” or like it was,” she said.
Liquid Can Ruin Wood Floors
Kids and pets mean something is going to be spilled, no matter what kind of flooring you have. Let’s be honest: Adults have been known to drop a glass of vino or tea here and there as well. If you can wipe it up quickly, disaster averted.
Bigger spills or a broken pipe or leaky appliance can bring major headaches. Wood expands when it gets wet, and enough water will buckle the planks. If water has been sitting on the floor for more than 24 hours, you could be looking at having to fully replace them. And wood floors aren’t cheap.
“Before we bought the house, a pipe burst, flooding the wood floors,” said Blair. “The boards weren’t dried all the way and over time, they shrank so we have large gaps between all the boards.”
Sure, wood can be pretty. But think about how you live and who lives with you before jumping on the wood bandwagon. Putting aesthetics ahead of practicality can lead to a room full of regret.