Wood Floor Alternatives

Laminate wood flooring

Laminate is a popular alternative to traditional hardwood flooring, since it replicates the look of real wood very well. Other products can replicate the look of ceramic or stone flooring.

In most applications, if you looked at a cross section of a laminate floor, you would see four layers: the backing, the inner core, the image design (or veneer) and the wear layer. The process of connecting or fusing those layers together is called lamination. The two interior layers are composed of fiber board and melamine resin. To achieve the look of wood, ceramic or stone, a photographic applique is applied to the surface. Some laminate wood flooring products may use an actual super-thin slice of wood known as a veneer. The final layer is a clear substance applied on the top to provide protection.

On average, laminate wood planks are about four inches wide.  Ceramic or stone laminate tile is around 12 to 15 inches in diameter. Laminate comes in any color and can be finished with a high gloss for a shiny effect or a low gloss for a matte effect. It is very durable and easily handles heavy traffic, kids and pets.

Water or spilled liquids should not sit on the surface; otherwise the planks will warp or swell. Overall, laminate requires very little maintenance, just basic sweeping, cleaning and moping.

Laminate has a range of performance levels, which will affect the price, as will the thickness, durability, quality of the design and embossing. On average, laminate costs about $1 to $7 per square foot. Laminate planks are placed on an underlayment made from foam or film that sits on the subfloor. The underlayment helps reduce noise and moisture, while creating a solid foundation. The underlayment may add $1.00 to $2.00 onto the price.

Laminate floors come as tongue and groove planks that simply click together. Often, there is a glue or sticky underside that is designed to adhere to the floor. However, there are types of laminate flooring that use joining mechanisms and other styles that lock together without nails or glue. This makes installing a laminate floor a job that most homeowners can tackle themselves.

Bamboo flooring

Bamboo flooring resembles traditional plank wood flooring. It may be a natural beech color, carbonized to replicate oak or stained in any shade of light or dark brown. In fact, most people find it hard to differentiate between bamboo and traditional wood flooring.

Bamboo comes in planks with either vertical or flat graining. The vertical option gives a more even grain, while the flat style has a more pronounced pattern. Most homeowners can install bamboo on their own. The planks simply lock together or there are interlocking joints that click into place.

Bamboo flooring resembles traditional plank wood flooring. It may be a natural beech color, carbonized to replicate oak or stained in any shade of light or dark brown. In fact, most people find it hard to differentiate between bamboo and traditional wood flooring.

Bamboo comes in planks with either vertical or flat graining. The vertical option gives a more even grain, while the flat style has a more pronounced pattern. Most homeowners can install bamboo on their own. The planks simply lock together or there are interlocking joints that click into place.

Bamboo flooring is created by splitting, flattening, drying and laminating the bamboo, which is actually grass. In general, bamboo is harder and more durable than maple or oak. However, the durability of the bamboo depends upon the length of time it was allowed to mature and the actual processing technique.

Bamboo is easier to clean than traditional wood, is less expensive at $2 to $8 per square foot, expands and contracts less, naturally repels termites and does not rot. The negative aspects of bamboo are that there is more risk of scratching from furniture, shoes and pet claws. It may seem noisier because it does not absorb sound, and it may fade or bleach if directly exposed to harsh sunlight.

Cork flooring

Cork has a distinct swirling grain pattern and is derived from wood bark obtained from certain types of oak trees. It comes in tiles that can be glued down or planks that can be floated. Like bamboo, it can be stained any color or left in a natural state. Unlike bamboo, cork is very quiet and reduces noise. It is soft underfoot and tends to cushion and insulate. Since it is fairly springy, cork resists dents. However, it is vulnerable to scrapes and scratches, so it should be varnished for protection. Additionally, spills can stain the cork if not cleaned quickly and sunlight can cause fading. The average price range is $3 to $9 per square foot.

Leather flooring

Recycled-leather flooring is made from cowhides that are byproducts of clothing, furniture, automobile upholstery and food production.

Besides being resilient, recycled leather is also easy to maintain and doesn't require harsh chemicals to keep clean - just mild soap and water are all that's needed to wipe away dirt or other debris.

The manufacturers of recycled-leather flooring use water-based materials and natural dyes, making the product low-VOC. It can be easily installed anywhere hardwood or cork flooring would be used.

Depending on the manufacturer, the products come in different sized tiles or planks. The planks click together much like hardwood flooring, and the tiles can be arranged on floors, or even walls, using a water-based glue.

Customers can expect to spend between $15 and $50 per square foot, depending on the manufacturer, color and pattern.

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