Wide-Plank Flooring: Reclaimed Plank and Alternatives

Reclaimed Plank Wood Flooring
Reclaimed Plank Wood Flooring. Jeremy Levine/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

When you see authentic wood plank flooring, you realize how truly rough-hewn real plank flooring is. You could lose a small child in the gaps between those planks.  

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.

Original Wood Plank

Authentic plank--from warehouses and barns--often comes saddled with industrial-type problems:  embedded with oil, splintered beyond belief, too rough for the home.

Plank flooring was originally sawn into shape at a sawmill, then further hand-scraped or hand-planed to smooth out the roughness.

This gives the flooring an attractive, rough-hewn texture that is missing from much of today's wood flooring. Today, mills are capable of turning out perfectly smooth plank flooring.  After it is planed smooth, it is distressed by hand to give it that antique look.

Where to Get Real Plank

Before purchasing 2,000 square feet of 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.

Orders for wide plank flooring require a long lead time (2 months average) and it is very expensive.  Consider $15-$20 per square foot to be a bare minimum entry-level price, with prices rising steeply from there.

Retailers of wide plank and reclaimed wood flooring:

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

In the end, authentic wide plank floors are a real showstopper, and well worth the investment if you are doing serious remodeling.

Real Plank Alternatives

Even if you started out with authentic 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.
  • Luxury 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.
  • Ceramic 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.