Wide Plank Flooring: New and Reclaimed Wood and Other Materials

Reclaimed Plank Wood Flooring
Reclaimed wide plank wood flooring lends a rustic feeling to any home. Jeremy Levine/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Wide plank wood flooring lends a traditional, classic air to most homes. Couple the flooring with contemporary elements in a living room or family room and the result is a delightful mix of rustic and refined. You may decide to install that rarest of all items, authentic reclaimed wide plank flooring. Or you may choose new wide plank wood flooring. You can even get the wide plank look in more easily available and less expensive laminate, tile, and luxury vinyl versions.

What Is Wide Plank Wood Flooring?

True wide plank wood flooring was originally sawn to size at a sawmill, then further scraped or planed by hand to smooth out the roughness. This gives the flooring an attractive, rough-hewn texture that is missing from much of today's wood flooring. Authentic wide plank from warehouses and barns often comes saddled with industrial-type problems: embedded with oil, splintered beyond belief, too rough for the home.

Less rare and more affordable is a different product: reclaimed wide plank flooring. Often, this is wood that began as something else, then was repurposed and cut down into plank size. Finally, a number of flooring manufacturers produce new, perfectly smooth plank flooring that may stay smooth or is machine-distressed or manually distressed to give it an antique, weathered, and beaten look.

Reclaimed Wide Plank Wood Flooring

Wide plank flooring does have imperfections that come with the territory such as gaps and the texture, and you will need to see that as part of your everyday life.

 In the end, authentic wide plank flooring that began as flooring is a real showstopper and is a conversation piece beyond compare. It is well worth the investment if you are engaging in ultra-premium, architect-driven home remodeling or new-construction work.

But most reclaimed wood flooring is something different.

Homeowners shopping for reclaimed wide plank wood flooring often assume that they will be purchasing flooring planks that have been removed from an old building. While the reclaimed product will almost certainly be old, it may or may not have initially been flooring. Sometimes, other sections of buildings have been removed and cut down to size in order to resemble flooring planks.

Barn siding is one popular material that is transformed to resemble old, wide plank flooring. If the outside of the wood is too weathered for interior use, the siding is flipped over and the former barn inside may be used. The wood is then milled to plank length and width. Tongues and grooves are added during the milling process, as well.

New Wide Plank Wood Flooring

Before purchasing old-growth wide plank flooring, consider a few realities of buying and installing real plank. Authentic wide plank flooring is a specialty item. You will not find it on the shelves of your local Home Depot or at Lumber Liquidators. It is even a difficult special-order item from many local flooring retailers.

When you see authentic wood wide plank flooring, you realize how truly rough-hewn real plank flooring is. But a different type of residence-ready plank flooring has become popular in recent years.

It is smooth plank or plank that has been mechanically distressed (or hand-scraped) to give the impression of an old floor, with none of the old floor problems.

Orders for custom plank flooring that is very long (over 10 feet) may require a long lead time, two months average, and it is quite costly. Entry-level pricing is steep, with prices sharply rising from there. But shorter planks between 4 feet and 8 feet long will have a faster turnaround time with suppliers.

Wide Plank Alternatives with Other Materials

Even if you started out with authentic wood plank in mind, you may be surprised to discover a few alternatives that may take care of your plank fix.

  • Laminate: Thicker 12 mm laminate flooring will have the embossing and texture that is most similar to hand-scraped, distressed plank flooring. Best of all, laminate flooring is a do it yourself installation, saving you money on installation charges.
  • Vinyl: Because it is thinner than laminate and far thinner than real wood plank, luxury vinyl flooring may have the width of plank but not the hand-scraped depth and texture. While luxury vinyl is a quick and easy install, it may not satisfy your longing for rich wood plank.
  • Tile: Ceramic and porcelain plank tile looks uncannily like wood plank from a distance, though it is a more difficult self-install than laminate and luxury vinyl.

Where to Buy

Retailers of new wide plank and reclaimed wood flooring include: