To say that flooring was the hardest decision that went into our build would be an understatement. Narrowing down a style we liked and then finding an option that fit into our budget was both stressful and frustrating.
If you’re doing a fully custom home, this may be a little easier because you will not be limited to the builder options. With a semi-custom builder however, you get whatever options are available at their design studio; and in our case, this was not an exhaustive selection.
If you’re new to building, or it has been awhile since your last build, you should start this process by familiarizing yourself with the various flooring materials before you start committing to anything.
Below is an abbreviated list of the common options you will see out there. Within each of these categories there is also a depth of variations and quality levels to choose from as well:
- Engineered or Manufactured Wood This is the most common product used by builders. It’s less expensive than solid hardwood by thousands, but gives you the real wood look for a fraction of the cost. The top layer is a thin piece of hardwood adhered to a plywood, medium-density fiberboard (MDF) or lumber core. This is a very stable flooring option, which means you can install it on any level of the home. We have this in our current home and it has held up fairly well but at the 5 year mark it is starting to delaminate and creak in heavy traffic areas.
- EVP stands for Enhanced Vinyl Plank. With the ability to identically mirror real wood and stone, it often surpasses these materials in terms of benefits because of good engineering. EVP is waterproof (read: can put it in bathrooms), comfortable to walk on, environmentally friendly, easy to install and extremely durable. What sets EVP apart from LVP is its rigid stone-based core that keeps the planks extremely stable for years to come. Many choose EVP over LVP due to two main reasons: durability and stability.
- LVP stands for Luxury Vinyl Plank. It has similar benefits to EVP, but is comprised of less layers and the core is typically not as rigid as EVP. It can be prone to fading but is still an excellent option due to its waterproofing, realistic look and ease of installation. It’s also slightly more affordable than EVP.
- Sheet Vinyl This is essentially a roll of vinyl with a print embossed into it and a thin wear layer. You’ll find sheet vinyl in low traffic spaces like laundry areas and secondary bathrooms. It is very affordable and waterproof as well.
- Solid Hardwood As the name implies this is flooring made of solid wood. The price tag is the highest of all floor types and variable depending on what species you select for the wood. Common choices include red oak, white oak, maple, hickory, black walnut, cherry, beech and ash. Those species tend to wear best vs. something like a pine which is considered a softwood. Solid hardwood floors can be refinished multiple times, can be custom stained and add a huge value to your home. They do come with risk however; they are not waterproof and in the case of a flood or major spills, could easily be ruined.
- Concrete has become a popular flooring material in the past decade in residential homes. It is very affordable and durable, which is why it is the flooring of choice in many manufacturing and industrial buildings. Concrete can be stained and it withstands water extremely well. Most semi-custom or spec home builders will not use this material in homes though. If not installed properly, it can be prone to chipping and cracking.
- Tile is usually made of a ceramic material, but also comes in other mediums like glass, porcelain, marble, granite and limestone to name a few. The material type will negate the cost and some tiles are as expensive as $50 per tile or more! Tile can be installed almost anywhere you have a smooth level surface in your home and it holds up well to water which is why you find it in bathrooms en masse. Wood-Look Tile is tile that looks like wood planks. Before LVP and EVP became a viable option for faux wood floors, wood-look tile was an option for people who wanted the look of wood in a bathroom.
- Carpet this is an elusive category because there are so many types and variations of carpet on the market. Carpet comes in a variety of pile types, such as berber, woven, cut pile, saxony, plus, cut and loop… the list goes on! The higher quality carpet, the higher the price tag. You’ll typically find that most builders will offer a very low cost – low grade carpet as the base option for the home. Buyer beware: this will not hold up over time. Also, if you’re on a budget but want a higher quality feel, save some money by upgrading the carpet pad. This will provide a more lush feel underfoot without the added price tag of a thicker pile carpet.
With our current builder the flooring process started with an online portal to virtually review options and ended at the design studio where we saw everything in person and made a decision. It’s the part in the middle where I found myself struggling the most.
For starters, online imagery is so unreliable. Even with the best intentions, what you see online, is not what you are going to experience in person. This reality happened to me immediately. I thought I had narrowed my choices down to a engineered hardwood and carpet I loved. But when I got to the design studio, I had to start back at square one because my two choices just didn’t resonate with me in person.
You can see in the two images below how different a photo online vs. the material in person can look.
So how can you overcome this?
Start by becoming familiar with the different flooring types listed above, then begin asking yourself some questions:
- What is your current life status and what is your life status going to be over the next 10 years?
Our life is vastly different than it was 5 years ago. When we built our current house, were newly married with a pair of old dogs and engineered floors made sense for us. Fast forward 5 years: we have a 4 year old son, both dogs have passed on and we know for sure there will be a puppy in our future. For the next 10 years our floors are going to take a beating. Spills, scratches, sliding, jumping, drops and falls… it’s all going to go down and to be frank, we need a floor that is virtually indestructible which is why we chose EVP over engineered this time around.
- Where is your flooring going?
Depending on the room in the house, you may want to use different materials. For example; you absolutely cannot put wood (engineered or solid) in a bathroom or laundry room where it is susceptible to water damage. Most people use tile or sheet vinyl in these spaces. But did you know that you can also put LVP and EVP here? Now you do!
- Consider all your options, something might surprise you, if not it will at least validate your direction.
I thought for sure that because I put engineered hardwood in my current home, that I would need to do it again. Guess what? I didn’t. I had no idea how far vinyl plank flooring had come in just 5 years time. I assumed it was an easy (read: cheap) way to fake it. Imagine my shock and surprise when I began to research the difference between traditional vinyl plank flooring and it’s sexier and more muscular cousins “enhanced” and “luxury”. Ooh la la! At the design studio they had all our options displayed along a huge wall and from the naked eye, I couldn’t decipher which options were manufactured vs vinyl – they were THAT good!
Once you have an idea of what will best suit your needs, you’ll want to begin sourcing samples. I am known as the “sample queen”. I have a huge box full of samples that I use both for my clients and my own home. Samples are immensely helpful in pairing together the different elements of a home. When you’re able to lay out paint chips, flooring, fabrics and other elements, you can more easily build a cohesive look. This saves both time and money trying to figure it out with full scale applications.
Below are a couple of examples of the sample boards I created at the design studio to better visualize how everything ties together. If you need help with selecting flooring or building a cohesive look for your home, head over to my Consultant Request form. I would love to work with you and help you put together the home of your dreams!
That wraps up Flooring 101. Feel free to message me with any questions you have!
Up next in my 101 series is Building 101 – Counter Tops.
Stay well friends!