One of the greatest joys of building your new home is starting fresh with new everything! Floor plan, appliances, countertops, wall colors, lighting, windows, and of course, flooring require deep consideration. The choice selections are endless and sometimes overwhelming, however, armoring yourself with knowledge on the upkeep of each selection can better prepare you to make the right choices leading you toward a stress-free life.
Back in 2010 my husband, two kids and three dogs moved to Upstate New York. After a long and exhausting search for a pre-existing home that fit our needs we decided to build. We fell in love with a subdivision that was in the making and quickly decided that this would be the place to call home. With a new-build comes new everything. For so long I had made selections for everyone else so you’d think I’d have this process down, right?
First of all, I am only going to highlight what I believe, in my very own opinion, based on aesthetics, cost, durability and maintenance is the best floor choice for active families with pets. I am in no way a flooring expert. Furthermore, I do not claim to have complete knowledge of all flooring choices that exist on this planet. What I can say is that I have spent an exhausting amount of hours researching this topic and guiding many families through this tedious selection process.
My First Flooring
I will start by saying that my original flooring in my new-built home is NOT the floor I now have. Admittedly, I made the expensive mistake of going for what looked pretty and avoiding what made sense. Originally we settled on a cost-effective and gorgeous dark espresso, hand scraped engineered hardwood floor. We have beautiful crisp white cabinets and the contrast was sharp and classic.
Understanding that maintenance would be a nightmare, I spent most of my career talking clients out of making this same selection. However, I believed that I had what it took to keep my hardwoods scratch free and beautiful. My clean-freak ‘flaws’ would come in handy and I would have no problem at all maintaining these gorgeous planks. I fought myself on the truth of maintenance and stress that would come with having young kids, an evolving flow of neighborly traffic, and a small zoo of animals. My voice of reason kept telling me to follow the advice I would give to anyone else. The decorator in me kept saying go with what looks amazing.
Important Factors to Consider
When Selecting Floors
Floors have always been one of the toughest decisions to make. You have to consider your current (and future) living conditions. I have helped many families walk their way through product after product. The most important things to consider is exactly what type of use your floors will see and how much maintenance you are willing to put in.
The 2 BIGGEST questions to ask yourself are:
1. Do you (or will you) have young children sharing your floor space?
If the answer is yes then you must consider things like small toys and extra curricular playtime activities that will most definitely affect your floors. I will never forget the time that I found my 9-year-old daughter sliding her friend in a laundry basket across our dark walnut hardwood floors. The scratches were wide and deep. The pattern of a small racetrack became a permanent feature that I had no choice but to embrace until I could come up with the money for a buff and polish.
2. Will you have any animals sharing your floor space?
Small dog or big dog? Potty trained? When we finally moved into our newly built home I had 3 dogs. We had a 14-year-old male Labrador and 9 and 2 month old Labradoodles. Our pups were calm and well-trained. However, they couldn’t help themselves from tearing through the house to greet whoever rang the door bell. It wasn’t too long before a well-paved traffic pattern of nail scratches began to appear.
The Floor Drama
After almost 6 years of wear and tear I decided to get my old floors stripped, buffed and polished. I hired a company that came recommend by a couple of neighbors. A crew of two came in with all the machinery needed to give these floors the proper revamp. Because I couldn’t walk on the floors for a total of 24 hours after completion, I moved my family down to the basement for a “slumber party”. I wasn’t allowed on the hardwood, so I couldn’t really get a great look at the floors. From what I could see I thought they looked pretty good. I even snapped a few shots of my new sparkly floors and sent them off to a couple of friends.
The next morning I couldn’t wait to run upstairs to see how my floors did throughout the night. To my surprise I saw a strange gray buildup on top of random planks. In addition I recognized various planks were beginning to show signs of water damage. I knew something was wrong and I immediately called the owner of the company for help. After a couple of failed attempts at fixing the floors we concluded that they all needed replacing. As a result I was devastated , but little did I know that this was a giant blessing in disguise.
What To Do?
As a result of the damage the floors had to come out! Here I was, left with one big question: Do I replace them with the same gorgeous hardwoods I started with and try my best to not let these new floors get destroyed, or do I follow that voice of reason and make a better choice my second time around. I spent an entire week and a half agonizing over what to do. Due to my strict search for a stress-free floor, anything that required grout clean up and care was not an option. Low maintenance and high durability were my two biggest priorities!
My Journey to Finding the Greatest Floor Selection
Option 1: My search for a replacement began with real hardwood, milled from a single piece of timber. While it was clear that was my most beautiful option, it was also my most expensive. I would still have to worry about nail scratches and wear and tear patterns, but I would be able to sand and refinish as many times as I would want, or should I say afford (both financially and mentally). The process of sanding and refinishing is expensive, a pain and really messy.
Option 2: I went back to looking at engineered hardwood. It’s less expensive than real hardwood and a little more water-resistant. Durability was still my biggest issue here and typically engineered hardwoods can only be sanded and refinished once. Currently my hardwoods sat water-logged with a gray film after my first failed attempt at refinishing them. Still, engineered hardwood seemed okay to me at this point. I was going to upgrade to a better quality brand and I wasn’t going to go with such a dark stain in hopes that the nail scratches and high-traffic patterns would be less noticeable.
Option 3: I was beginning to settle for the not-so-bad option of a very pretty engineered hardwood until I bumped into a large sample of a 6.5″ plank, washed oak, LAMINATE! Yep, I said laminate. My friends, long gone are those days when laminate looks fake or plastic. Each plank shared the same rough ridge textures as real hardwood. Furthermore, the sample I was looking at had a great wood grain look that closely resembled real washed oak. Then the sales associate handed me a hammer! Was he really asking me to bang away at this beauty? “Have at it”, he said. I took a couple of swings and guess what…no dents or scratches!
Why Laminate is the Perfect Floor For Us
Did I seriously just find the perfect floor for my family and our wild dogs? I came home with the sample board and my husband loved it! In addition, my kids loved the idea that they could rollerblade indoors without scratching the floors. Believe me, this will never happen. My dogs even gave it their sniff of approval. Finally, the old engineered hardwood floors were torn out and my new WB- Oak Etched Gray by Armstrong laminate floors were installed. I can’t even begin to express my delight. While my dogs have not slowed down at tearing through the house, while chasing the delivery trucks from window-to-window, I have slowed down at caring. Consequently, I just let them go. With my new gorgeous and indestructible laminate floors life is a little more stress-free. Take a look at the pictures for yourself and tell me what you think in the comment section below!