Can You Make Existing Hardwood Flooring Waterproof
The short answer: no.
Remember: to be impervious to standing water, floors have to be waterproof from all directionsabove, below, and between planks. So even if you had the technology to make your floors waterproof at home , you would only be able to seal the topnot the bottom or sides.
Translation: by definition, all waterproof hardwood flooring has to be prefinished hardwood flooring. Unless you rip up your floors and seal them on all sides, theres no guarantee that the sealants you apply will make your floors anything more than water-resistant.
And even then, you wouldnt be able to properly cure those sealants without factory equipment.
Hardwood Species And Janka Scores
The biggest determining factor of the durability of any hardwood floor whether solid hardwood or engineered is the floors Janka score. The Janka score refers to the hardness of the wood the floor is made of.
There are many different species of wood used in flooring, and they have a wide range of different scores and durability factors. When choosing a hardwood floor, its important to look not just at color, grain pattern, style, and manufacturing type, but also at how durable the wood species is that youre considering.
Engineered wood floors come in a wide range of different wood species, just like solid wood floors. Some of these woods may be more durable long term than others. For example, Hickory is one of the strongest domestic hardwoods available, with a Janka score of 1820. Compare this to California Redwood, which has a score of 420. Obviously, an engineered, Hickory wood floor is going to be more durable than a solid California Redwood floor.
Most people will find, however, that a hardwood floor with a score of 1290 to 1450 will be sufficient for the normal foot traffic and wear and tear in an office or retail space. There are many domestic and exotic hardwoods with higher scores, however, which are available as engineered hardwood floors if youre installing a very high traffic floor or the area has specific needs, using an engineered hardwood floor with a high Janka score will give you the performance youre looking for.
Hardwood Is Generally More Eco
So, we mentioned earlier that waterproof hardwood flooring isnt the most eco-friendly flooring around. Thats truebut in general, its way greener than LVP, which is 100% synthetic.
Most LVP cant be recycled. Once you remove the finish applied to waterproof hardwood, the wood can still degrade naturallywhich is at least a little better.
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Best For Durability And Maintenance: Solid Hardwood
Solid hardwood flooring holds the edge here since it can be sanded and refinished several times over the course of its lifespan. Pre-finished forms of both floors are the most durable since they have a hard, factory-applied finish that holds up very well. All wood floors can benefit from a renewal of the surface varnish coat every few years.
How To Care For Mass Timber Floors
Hardwood flooring requires a bit more care than carpet, laminate or vinyl. Because you are dealing with real wood, it can dry, crack, dent and scratch fairly easily.
You will need to sweep and mop it to keep it clean, of course. However, you also need to pay attention to the manufacturers care instructions. Some engineered wood will need to be waxed, polished or treated.
Some only require the wet mop with a cleanser designed specifically for wood surfaces. Since each one is different, I wont bother covering them all here.
However, for basic cleaning and maintenance, the following guidelines work for all wood floors.
- Sweep the floor regularly.
- Mop at least weekly to maintain cleanliness.
- Clean up spills and footprints/mud immediately. Wood floors can stain.
- Use only cleaning products for wood.
- A vacuum is good to use to get in cracks and crevices without causing damage.
- If wax or sealant is needed, ensure you use the type made for your specific wood
- Avoid sliding furniture or heavy items, choosing to pick them up and place them, instead.
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Engineered Wood Vs Laminate Flooring
One of the biggest competitors for engineered wood, solid wood flooring aside, is laminate. Its a flooring material we covered at length in our laminate flooring guide, and it does have several things in common with engineered wood.
Both styles come in plank form and can closely resemble real wood. They are also easier to install than other forms of flooring and have a protective layer, but only one is actually made from real wood engineered flooring. Laminate has a realistic image that looks like wood on top, followed by a core and backing layer on the bottom.
As theres no wood in laminate flooring, it can handle water better than engineered flooring, but thats about the only major advantage aside from cost.
Engineered flooring is more durable, brings more value to your home, and feels more like real wood. High-quality laminate flooring can be textured, but you wont mistake the two as its glossier. Its not as eco-friendly and wont last nearly as long as the best engineered flooring either.
Benefits Of Waterproof Hardwood Flooring
Because of its unique construction, engineered hardwood flooring is stronger and more stable than solid wood. It does not need gentle care and treatment and is largely more resistant to pets and children in an active home.
Engineered hardwood can also be constructed in longer and wider planks because of its inherent strength. As homeowners decorate with wider wood planks, the need for dimensional stability is even more important to eliminate gaps in the winter caused by heating in the home.
Unlike solid hardwood, waterproof hardwood floors are moisture-resistant so they dont swell or gap. They are resistant to water, moisture, and humidity. That means you can install these floors in high-traffic areas, including kitchens, powder rooms, mudrooms, basements, and entryways. Youll have peace of mind, knowing that your floor wont be ruined by water spilled on the top surface.
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The Best Engineered Hardwood
There are dozens of brands that manufacture engineered hardwood. These are the best.
- Boen. Among the highest quality and longest lasting on the market.
- Shaw. Always a top brand for all flooring, including engineered hardwood.
- Armstrong. Affordable, multiple option flooring solutions.
- Lumber Liquidators. Budget-friendly planks with a lot of options.
- Mohawk. Sister company of Shaw, the quality is high while lowering costs.
- Somerset. Shorter boards made with strict standards all made in the USA.
Aquaguard By Floor & Decor
AquaGuard is Floor & Decors in-house collection of waterproof engineered hardwood, laminate, and bamboo flooring.
First and foremost: Floor & Decor is a box store, and their in-house luxury vinyl plank brand, NuCore flooring, isnt fantastic . So how do their waterproof hardwood and laminate options stack up?
Well, as we mentioned, AquaGuard comes in 3 variants: a waterproof hardwood hybrid, a waterproof laminate, and a waterproof bamboo hybrid.
Like Hydrotek, AquaGuards waterproof hardwood offering is an engineered hybridi.e. a real wood veneer with an SPC core. And according to Floor & Decor, it can resist water for up to 24 hours .
Interestingly, AquaGuard doesnt claim to offer waterproof hardwood flooringthey call it water-resistant wood flooring .
Reviews are disabled on Floor & Decors website but both products are backed by a limited lifetime residential warranty and a 15-year commercial warranty.
One more interesting note: AquaGuard prices range between $3 and $4 per square foot for hardwood, but $2.50 to $4 per square foot for laminate. Why is this interesting? Laminate is usually significantly cheaper than hardwood. Perhaps that hints at the quality of the two products?
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Trident By Avalon Flooring
Trident is yet another product that mixes a stone-plastic composite core with a hardwood veneer. However, Avalon seems to skip the foam backing that makes the floor more comfortable.
These floors start at $7 per square foot and offer a decent range of style options to choose from. However, even a quick search on Google reveals mediocre reviews.
What Is Solid Hardwood Flooring
As the name suggests, solid hardwood flooring is made of planks of solid wood.
Solid hardwood is typically 3/4-inch thick and varies in width from 2 1/2-inches to 5 inches. Beyond that width, you’ll want an engineered hardwood .
Whereas solid hardwood flooring used to be primarily site-finished where the wood is delivered unfinished to the site, then installed, sanded, and finished at the site, it is now increasingly pre-finished at the manufacturing facility, making for an easier and less messy installation in the home. Note that you have more options with a site-finished floor .
You’ll never find solid hardwood installed as a floating floor. Rather, the planks are nailed or stapled down. Any solid hardwood 5″ or more will need to be glued and nailed, which increases labor costs.
Water is the enemy of solid hardwood. For that reason, you’ll never find it installed below ground in basements or anywhere where you can expect moisture. Rather, you’ll find it in rooms and hallways above ground, in living spaces and bedrooms.
What differentiates solid hardwood most from engineered hardwood floors is that solid hardwood can be sanded and refinished multiple times throughout its lifetime.
Illustration showing multiple layers of Engineered hardwood
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Solid And Engineered Hardwood Construction
Youre probably familiar with how a solid hardwood floor is made. Each plank is a solid piece of wood with the grain extending from the top to the bottom. The benefit of this is that the wood can be sanded and refinished multiple times, ensuring a long-lasting floor. This type of floor does have several drawbacks, however. Because the wood is a solid piece, it cant be installed below grade or anywhere with higher humidity or moisture levels. This is because the wood will expand with moisture, potentially causing the wood to warp or hump, and requiring replacement of the affected planks.
Engineered hardwood planks are built differently. Theyre still made of wood, but instead of a single plank, theyre made up of many different layers. Each layer is positioned in a different direction than those surrounding it. This means that when the wood is exposed to moisture, its much more stable and doesnt warp or hump the way that a solid hardwood floor might. For this reason, an engineered hardwood floor will last much longer in damp areas, and can be installed below grade and in places where solid hardwood cannot. So, if you have a building with a basement level, and you still want a hardwood floor to enhance the appearance of the area, an engineered hardwood floor will be a much more durable choice than a solid hardwood or a laminate.
Why Floor And Decor Is The Category Killer In Specialty Flooring Retail
Floor & Decor North Richland Hills, Texas store
Floor & Decor press release
The floor coverings industry represented a $26.9 billion market in 2018, according to Statista in manufacturer dollars. Its a stable market that managed to eke out a mere 5.1% growth from 2010. Growing less than 1% year-over-year for the last eight years, the flooring market is not predicted to grow more than .5% year-over-year through 2023.
Translating manufacturer sales into retail dollars is complicated by the labor component, which makes an important contribution to many retailer revenues. Jonathan Trivers, contributor toFloor Covering Weekly, puts the total retail market size at $66.2 billion in 2017 including labor. Retail sales by his estimation grew 5.1% year-over-year in 2017.
To the outsider, the flooring industry looks boring and predictable, but to those in the industry, it is anything but.
Creating a dynamic retail market for flooring are changing consumer tastes from soft floor coverings to hard surfaces and their willingness to invest more money on premium flooring. To that demand the industry is responding with innovative and style-forward options, including luxury vinyl tile, which is the industrys fastest-growing category according to Catalina Research.
The manufacturer flooring market may not be growing overall, but consumer spending is shifting, with carpet and rugs share dropping from about 53% of total manufacturers revenues in 2012 to about 45% today.
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Solid Wood Flooring Vs Engineered Wood Flooring
Solid wood flooring comes in long planks, usually made of hardwood species. It is milled with tongues and grooves on opposite edges so that the boards interlock when installed. It is always nailed down to the subfloor, a process that requires some skill. Because it is solid wood, this flooring can be sanded down and refinished several times over its life.
Engineered wood flooring looks very much like solid hardwood, but its construction features a relatively thin layer of hardwood bonded over a premium-quality plywood layer that gives the flooring very good stability. A good-quality engineered wood floor typically lasts 25 to 30 years, and it is both less expensive and easier for DIYers to install.
|$8 to $15 per square foot||$3 to $14 per square foot|
|Sanding, Refinishing||2 or 3 times over life of floor||Once or twice|
|May warp in humid, damp conditions||Good resistance to warping|
|2 1/4 to 4 inches||2 1/4 to 7 inches|
|Nail down, floating, or glue-down|
Does Engineered Hardwood Scratch Easily
Engineered hardwood typically lasts between 20 and 30 years.
Because they do have a top layer of hardwood, like solid hardwood, they are susceptible to scratches.
If scratch resistance is important to you, look for engineered hardwood floors with a scratch-resistant top coat. Small scratches on engineered hardwood can be repaired a wax repair kit or a cotton cloth and some rubbing alcohol.
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Don’t Underestimate The Importance Of Subfloor Preparation
Although not directly related to the evaluation of solid hardwood vs. engineered hardwood, I do want to bring up subfloors and the importance of properly preparing them before installing either type of hardwood.
Subfloors are the surfaces beneath your final flooring. It can be concrete, plywood, or another flooring surface.
Regardless, it’s critical to ensure the subfloor is smooth and level and has no moisture issues so no flaws or other unexpected surprises affect your hardwood floors. This is something we will discuss with you.
What’s Similar About Solid And Engineering Wood Flooring
The best place to start is by understanding what is similar between the two categories. Mainly, that both solid and engineered wood floors are made of real hardwood.
Both look beautiful installed, come in a range of different styles, and will last a lifetime if made of quality hardwood and cared for with love. Both are equally easy to maintain and will wear well.
Both solid hardwood and engineered hardwood are available unfinished so you can truly customize your floors.
So, what’s different between the two? Let’s start with solid hardwood.
Illustration showing a single piece of Solid hardwood with a top wear layer.
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Sanding And Refinishing Your Hardwood Floors
If you’re looking for a floor that you can have sanded and refinished many times , you’ll want to select a solid hardwood floor or an engineered floor with a thick wear layer rather than a thinner one that you can only sand down and refinish one to two times before needing to replace it.
Also, see our Hardwood Floor Refinishing Guide.
And Its Always Engineered Hardwood
True waterproof hardwood floors are made with engineered hardwood. What is engineered hardwood, you ask? Its a type of wood flooring that mixes a solid wood veneer with a high-performance plywood base.
Dont worry, engineered hardwood is still 100% real wood, just not in the traditional sense of one-big-block-of-solid-woodand engineered wood disadvantages are relatively few and far between.
Why are waterproof wood floors made exclusively with engineered wood? Its way more dimensionally stable than solid wood. Translation: less risk of warping.
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Engineered Wood Flooring Pros
Have you ever dreamed of having exotic hardwood floors throughout your home? Well, Brazilian Cherry hardwood flooring isnt exactly cheap, but the price drops considerably when there is only a sliver on top, not a completely solid piece of wood. Needless to say, if you want something tropical, engineered flooring is cheaper.
You also get a wide variety of options with engineered flooring and more accessibility. Sourcing hard to find building materials can be a real headache, but it wont be if you go with engineered products. This type of flooring is also easier to maintain over time and deal with humidity better than solid hardwood flooring.
Are you looking for a type of flooring thats easy to install? Thats another huge advantage of engineered wood considering you can snap some floors while others only require a bare minimum of glue. We feel a floating click-lock style floor is the easiest to install by yourself, glue-based systems are far from difficult just a little messy at times.
Engineered hardwood throughout your home can increase its resale value as well, although it wont have the same impact as solid wood. It does give consumers the ability to change their flooring out with relative ease, however, and thicker planks can even be refinished, which increases their lifespan. You can also install these planks in below grade rooms and with radiant heat systems more often than not.
Engineered Hardwood Vs Laminate
Laminate and engineered hardwood are similar in a lot of ways. Each type consists of planks made up of different layers. The primary difference here is the core and wear layers.
Laminate cores are made of MDF boards, which makes them susceptible to swelling and damage when exposed to moisture .
While most laminate planks are coated to help protect against moisture, this isnt a lifelong protection.
Laminate also has a photographic layer that has an image to resemble wood grains covered by a clear top coat.
When installed the appearance is similar to a hardwood floor, but it doesnt have the feel or weight behind it to be convincing.
Engineered hardwood has a core layer that is made from real wood. Most of these are compressed wood and each layer is pressed in a different direction.
This helps the stability of the plank.
The top layer, though, is actual hardwood. Complete with the texture, feeling and strength of an actual hardwood floor.
Laminate is cheaper when bought in bulk, though, which is a consideration factor. However, the end result is less than impressive when compared to a real wood floor.