Hardwood isn’t the only choice for the look of hardwood flooring in your home. Rather, there are a variety of manufactured materials, such as vinyl wood flooring, which are designed to simulate the look of hardwood, while also offering a number of beneficial characteristics that the natural material can not offer.
At the same time, there are inherent properties of real wood flooring that no manufacturing process can fully mimic.
Vinyl Wood Flooring Defined
Hardwood is a natural material that is produced when trees are harvested from forested areas. Vinyl is a man-made material, manufactured from petroleum. Vinyl wood flooring refers to vinyl that has been printed with the colors and markings found in natural hardwood. Recent advances in printing technology now allow vinyl products to simulate the look of a variety of wood species accurately.
- Vinyl Wood Flooring: $2 to $5 per square foot for decent quality materials. Bargain basement vinyl may be available for as low as $1 per square foot, but this material may not be as durable or attractive as higher-end products. In general, sheet vinyl will cost less than the tile but will be more expensive to install, balancing the price. Textures, specialty prints, and some designs will also raise the cost of the product.
- Hardwood Flooring: $8 to $25 per square foot, depending on the species of wood used. In some cases, softwood materials such as plywood sheets and pine can be purchased for far less. However, these are less durable and are generally less desirable options. Rare and uncommon hardwood materials may cost even more.
Durability and Life Cycle
- Vinyl Wood: There are two major types of vinyl: printed and solid. Printed materials have an invisible wear layer that protects the surface of the floor. The longevity of the material is therefore determined by the thickness of the protective coating on it. With solid vinyl, the colors are true through the depth of the material, but the surface can be scratched or marred over time. On average, manufacturer warranties will guarantee this material for a 10 to 20-year lifespan.
- Hardwood: If well maintained and cared for, hardwood flooring can last for generations. Depending on the type of wood, the material may be extremely hard and resistant to damage, and treatments can be used to reinforce the natural strength of hardwood. If the floor does get damaged, it can also often be repaired, or refinished, which will completely revitalize the material and make it look brand new.
- Vinyl Wood Floors: The surface of vinyl hardwood flooring is just a printed representation of what the actual material looks like. Because of this, the appearance of virtually any species of wood can be achieved. While market demand will set prices to some extent, there will not be an immense gap between prices between common and rare wood species. Vinyl also offers you the ability to install padding underneath the floor. This gives you the look and beauty of hardwood, with the soft comfort of a more pliant yielding floor. It can also help to insulate the room and make it more energy-efficient.
- Hardwood Floors: All wood is not alike, and there are a number of factors that will determine what your floor ends up looking like. This includes the species of wood, the grade, the cut, and any color or finish treatments that you choose to apply. The price difference between the different types of wood can be quite substantial.
Water Damage Concerns
- Vinyl Hardwood: This synthetic material is impervious to penetration or damage due to moisture or humidity. In some cases, low-quality adhesives may come loose in moist environments causing tile curling, but the material itself will not be damaged by water. Because of this, it can be successfully used in bathrooms as well as below-grade basement environments.
- Hardwood Floors: Wood is a naturally absorbent material, which will tend to soak up liquids when they come in contact with its surface. If the liquid has a color, this can result in a permanent stain in the wood. Even if it is just water, moisture penetration can cause the growth of mold, mildew, and other unsavory microorganisms. Sealing the floor regularly will help but can not make it proof against floods, common spills, or high levels of humidity. Because of this, hardwood is not considered suitable for below-grade installations, most bathrooms, and some kitchen environments.
- Vinyl Hardwood Flooring: This material is manufactured from petroleum, a non-renewable resource. The process of making vinyl hardwood also requires the consumption of a considerable amount of energy and produces several toxic byproducts. When first installed vinyl can also off-gas small amounts of volatile organic chemicals into the interior air of the room.
- Natural Hardwood: These materials come from living trees, harvested from various forests. While trees are naturally renewable, you do want to make sure that the hardwood you purchase comes from an environmentally responsible manufacturer. Hardwood can also be recycled and is biodegradable so that it will break down in the environment at the end of its life cycle.
Chemicals in Flooring. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.