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Four good floors: How to pick the right one for your home

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By Sarah Jackson
Herald Writer
  • Engineered wood flooring.

    Michael O'Leary / The Herald

    Engineered wood flooring.

  • Laminate flooring.

    Michael O'Leary / The Herald

    Laminate flooring.

  • Luxury vinyl flooring.

    Michael O'Leary / The Herald

    Luxury vinyl flooring.

  • Real wood flooring.

    Michael O'Leary / The Herald

    Real wood flooring.

It's time to get new floors.
You like the natural look of wood, but you're not sure what material is right for your space and your budget.
Here's the good news: Flooring options have expanded dramatically in recent years, giving homeowners plenty of cool choices, including new protective finishes on traditional hardwood floors and some extremely convincing imitation wood flooring, too.
Here's a look at the four of the most popular wood floor options being sold in Snohomish County and beyond.
Prices below include materials only. Installation costs extra per square foot.
What: Laminate flooring is a high-resolution photograph of real hardwood flooring adhered to planks of high-density fiberboard.
Ever since Pergo introduced its laminate in the United States in 1994, numerous companies have been making their own versions.
Today, many laminates are nearly indistinguishable from real wood, thanks to imitation beveled board edges, texturing and heavy-duty construction.
Where: If you're replacing floors in a high-traffic, heavy-wear area of your home, laminate might be your best choice.
How much: $1 to $6 per square foot
Pluses: Laminate floors are typically more durable and scratch-resistant than even the hardest species of solid hardwood, said Terri Missler, co-owner of Completely Floored of Everett.
Laminate flooring, which comes in 4-foot-long planks that click together, can be easily installed by homeowners because the planks don't usually need to be attached to the subfloor.
Minuses: Quality varies widely by price.
Lower-end laminate flooring can sound hollow or cheap under foot, especially if you're wearing hard-soled shoes, said Steve Hatloe, co-owner of Hatloes Carpet One Floor & Home of Everett.
Choosing a higher-end, thicker laminate flooring can reduce noise significantly. Laminate floors are typically installed over thin foam pads. Thicker pads can help reduce noise, too, Hatloe said.
Luxury vinyl
What: We know what you're thinking: Vinyl? Ewwww.
But this stuff is worth considering. Unlike sheet vinyl, luxury vinyl is sold in individual strips that are typically glued down.
Like laminate, it gets its wood look from high-resolution photos attached to the top of the product.
"It's come a long way and it's a lot tougher," Hatloe said of vinyl.
Where: If you're looking for a wood flooring look in a high-humidity area such as a bathroom, this might be a good choice. While laminate floors also are a good choice for bathrooms, luxury vinyl is even better, Missler said.
How much: $2 to $6 per square foot
Pluses: Urethane sealants protect against scratches and scuffs.
Because it is flexible, luxury vinyl can be installed on slightly uneven floor surfaces. Because it is glued directly to the floor, it won't have a hollow sound.
Minuses: It isn't as easy to install as click-together laminate flooring, Hatloe said.
It also isn't a particularly green product. Vinyl or PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is unpopular with environmentalists because of chemicals created during its manufacture.
What: Hardwood floors are made of -inch-thick boards. They will add the most value to your home and, because they can be refinished, they can last for 100 years or more.
Where: Hardwood, which is typically nailed down, is not recommended for installation over concrete slabs.
How much: $3 to $15 per square foot
Pluses: Real wood grain patterns will never repeat, like they do in laminate flooring.
"It is all unique," Hatloe said.
Minuses: There is a limit to the number of times hardwood floors can be refinished, Hatloe said.
Though most boards are inch thick, tongue-and-groove joinery isn't far below the surface.
Some hardwood floor planks come prefinished, but most require finishing and drying time and therefore more labor during installation.
Because hardwood flooring needs to be nailed to a subfloor, installation can require more demolition work and therefore run up installation costs.
Engineered wood
What: Engineered wood floors are made of real wood, typically a 1/8-inch-thick veneer, attached to a sturdy core of plywood.
How much: $4 to $15 per square foot
Where: Unlike solid hardwood, it can be installed over concrete slabs and some types of existing flooring.
Pluses: If you're interested in an exotic wood such as Brazilian cherry, you might be able to save money going with an engineered version of the product.
Unlike most hardwood, engineered wood floors almost always come prefinished, so after they're installed, they're ready to use.
Engineered wood flooring, because of its plywood core, is less susceptible to variations in humidity and temperature than hardwood floors.
Minuses: Engineered wood floors can be refinished, but usually not more than few times, Hatloe said.
Sarah Jackson: 425-339-3037,

Hatloe's Carpet One Floor & Home, 3701 Rucker Ave., Everett; 425-259-5104,
Completely Floored, 3302 Smith Ave., Everett; 425-252-2775,
See them at the show: Hatloes, Completely Floored and other home flooring business will be vendors at the Everett Home & Garden Show, which opens Friday and runs through March 6 at Comcast Arena, 2000 Hewitt Ave., Everett. See for more information.
Floor facts: Go to for a guide to all types of floors.

Story tags » Real EstateHome ImprovementInterior decorating

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