Updated for 2020
We all want the floors in our home to look great, but sometimes there are other factors which are just as important. If you have a busy home with pets, kids and plenty of entertaining then you need a hard-wearing floor that can stand up to the onslaught.
If you are preparing a property for rental you want a tough floor that you can install and forget about. And if you are on a budget you’ll want to know that your investment is long lasting.
In all these examples, we want to know how durable the floor is; that is how it will withstand wear, pressure, or damage. To this end we should check the following criteria:
- How tough is this flooring – does it dent or scratch easily?
- How stable is this flooring – will it warp in wet or humid conditions?
- How resistant is this flooring’s finish – will it stain easily, will sunlight damage it, will the floor need regular refinishing?
- How easy is this floor to maintain – are any particular cleaning methods that will affect the performance of this floor?
Now let’s look at different types of flooring how to apply these criteria for durability.
Tile/ Stone/ Brick Flooring
Ceramic tile, natural stone and brick flooring are rightly considered the gold standard in terms of ultimate flooring durability. There is a reason that ancient Greek and Roman mosaic tiles that are thousands of years old are still unearthed in near pristine condition at archaeological sites today! However, there are still certain things to consider to ensure you pick a really durable tile.
- Porosity – The porosity of a tile is what will affect whether or not it will absorb water or stains. Unsealed terracotta tiles, for example, are very porous and will stain easily if oily liquids spill onto them. Ceramic tiles are more porous than porcelain tiles, so be sure to check what type of tile you’re going for and if it needs any extra sealant for maximum stain resistance.
- Cracking – If a tiled floor cracks, then the chances are its because its been badly installed. Unfortunately, badly constructed properties, and those that are located in environments that have very drastic temperature and humidity changes through the year, can experience expansion and retraction issues. So, being sure to have a correctly primed subfloor and a quality flexible adhesive will mitigate against this affecting your tiled flooring.
- Natural stone concerns – As with ceramic and porcelain tiles, you need to ensure that natural stone flooring is sealed correctly; today it is possible to source composite stone flooring that is made using natural stone dust and polymer resins designed to resist just about anything! Again, correct installation will prevent natural stone flooring from cracking.
Solid hardwood flooring is certainly a durable flooring option and high quality, well maintained hardwood floor will outlast us all! Nevertheless, there is plenty to consider if we want the most durable hardwood floor available.
Here are three factors to consider.
- Wood hardness – All hardwood is rated on the Janka scale for hardness. Solid hardwood floors with a higher Janka rating like Brazilian redwood will be tougher than a soft wood like pine, which will dent and ding fairly easily.
- Stability – Solid hardwood is less stable than engineered hardwood in very humid conditions, such as bathrooms; so you should choose the right type of hardwood for your project.
- Resistant finishes – There are several different types of finish that are now available for hardwood flooring, and many pre-finished hardwoods already incorporate UV protection, microbial protection and aluminum oxide compounds or similar for superior scratch resistance. Note that wax finished hardwood floors are not as scratch resistant as others. Also, hardwood flooring, of any type, is more susceptible to fading or yellowing in sunlight.
- Re-finishing – Note that solid hardwood floors can be re-sanded and re-finished every 3-7 years, which is why solid hardwood can last you a lifetime!
- Care and maintenance – Like all flooring, treating your hardwood floors with care will improve their performance. You should avoid leaving pools of water on hardwood flooring; make use of area rugs for high traffic areas and be careful how much direct sunlight falls directly on to your floors to avoid fading.
Bamboo flooring, with its good looks, price and sustainable eco-friendly label has made it an incredibly popular choice in the last few years.
However, increased overseas production and attempts to create more competitively priced flooring has led to lower quality products entering the market, so you need to be careful to check what you’re buying.
- Scratch Resistance – Higher quality bamboo flooring with 7-8 coats of a tough aluminum oxide finish from trusted manufacturers will be very durable, but cheaper flooring made from younger bamboo with only three to four coats of finish can wear pretty quickly. Don’t skimp, decent bamboo will set you back $6-$8 per square foot, and stick with trusted manufacturers – Companies like Teragren and Cali Bamboo with a solid track record are your best bet.
- Quality Control – Look closely at the quality of the boards. Low quality milling or finishes are a bad sign. Wider planks require higher standards of manufacturing and therefore suggest a higher quality product.
- Finger nail test – With your finger nail, or another sharp object, scratch a sample. If you can easily scratch through to the surface of the wood, then that’s not a good sign.
Like Bamboo, cork flooring is popular for its green credentials, but also because it is warm and quiet under foot, thanks to its softer nature compared to hardwood. Corks soft, flexible nature is both its strength and its weakness where durability is concerned.
As with most home flooring options, you get what you pay for so lean towards a trusted quality product. Cork flooring from Torlys and USFloors both have a strong reputation. For more top cork flooring brands read our reviews here.
- Dent Resistance – With its springy quality cork flooring rebounds well from minor dinks and high traffic, but being softer than wood you really must treat it with respect; sharp objects, high heels and dragging heavy tables etc across cork floors are a recipe for disaster.
- Careful maintenance – Cork flooring offers great durability and a long lifespan if treated with care and attention. Clean regularly to remove dirt and debris that can scar the flooring over time. Furniture can leave dents over time and so protective coasters or felt pads are also a good idea for the long term care of your floor.
- Refinishing – High quality cork flooring with a strong factory finish will give you added protection. Even so, be prepared to re-seal the floor fairly regularly with a wax finish or with protective coats of polyurethane every few years.
- Installation concerns – Cork contains a waxy substance called suberin which gives it great moisture resistance qualities, making it a great choice for kitchen and dining rooms. Homeowners can and do install cork in their bathrooms too. Its a good idea to get feedback from a home flooring pro as to the suitability and correct installation of cork in your particular bathroom space.
In terms of pure flooring durability, we’ve saved one of the best for last. Laminate flooring is a great alternative to bamboo and cork flooring and a perfect high traffic flooring option for busy households.
With a high density fiberboard core and a transparent resin top wear layer, a good quality laminate floor is as close as you’re going to get to indestructible. Plus, modern manufacturing techniques mean that the aesthetics of laminates have improved vastly, making them often indistinguishable from real hardwood flooring.
- Quality Counts – durable laminate flooring is a budget friendly option but please, please don’t go too cheap. Anything below $2 a square foot could be a seriously false economy. $3 to $5 per square foot should see you right. Stick to respected brands like Pergo or Mohawk, look for a product with the NALFA (North American Laminate Flooring Association) Certification Seal; or go with a company that will offer you a minimum 25 year guarantee against wear and tear.
- General resistance and stability – laminate flooring is pretty resistant to sunlight fading and moisture. Laminate still contains wood and should therefore still be acclimatized and you should consult a qualified installer when considering installation in a basement or bathroom.
Luxury Vinyl Tile
Also often referred to as resilient flooring (for good reason), luxury vinyl tile and plank is a relative new-comer in the flooring market, but has quickly proved to be very popular due to its durability and versatility. It can be installed in any room of the house, including high traffic areas, basements and bathrooms.
Available both in work look or stone look formats, luxury Vinyl is constructed with different layers to ensure core stability and excellent resistance to wear and tear. Here’s what to check to ensure you get a truly durable result:
- Wear layer – This is what will keep your luxury vinyl tiles scratch proof and UV resistant. Check the brand that you’re choosing has those built-in protections in the wear layer, and that it is sufficiently deep. A standard LVT product will have a wear layer of about 4mil, but a superior LVT will have on that is 12mil deep.
- Core layer – This is what determines the rigidity and waterproof nature of a luxury vinyl plank, and different brands have different ways of making this layer; good brands such as TrafficMASTER, LifeProof and COREtec all have core layers that perform well.
- Acclimation – Some brands of luxury vinyl require that the product is acclimatized to the local environment before installation to minimize the risk of warping. Getting your LVT flooring installed properly will be key to its durability.
So there you are, the best durable flooring options for your home. Please share with us your experience with any of the flooring options discussed, good or bad. Is there a brand you particularly like or one you would never touch again? Let us know in the comment section below.
For pet friendly floors please read our article on the best flooring for dogs and cats.
To Get Started
Durable Floors in Action
Check out these other sites to see how durable wood floors are being put to use.
- Design Connection – Let interior designer Arlene Ladegaard guide you through all things bamboo in this great article from her design blog.
- Modern 24 Seven – This article from Elizabeth Sullivan’s design blog caught my eye…take a look at what some people are doing with their laminate floors.
- Modenus – In this guest post from Françoise Murat & Associates you can see a cork floor installation project with great results.