Here's a report that could floor you.
If you want your floor to keep a showroom-new look for as long as possible, buy the phony stuff.
Some brands of plastic laminates, vinyl and linoleum last twice as long as real, solid hardwood before they begin to show wear.
Of course, you can't sand or refinish most simulated wood products, and vinyl and linoleum with wood grain patterns still sound so 1970's kitschy, but some of those laminates can really give you more bang for your buck.
Not only do they last longer, they also cost less.
Speeding up the effects of foot traffic, pebble scratching, plate dropping, juice splattering and solar searing to test the endurance of more than 30 varieties of flooring, trusted independent tester and grader of consumer goods and services, Consumer Reports top-rated a plastic laminate flooring product.
Plastic laminates ($4 to $8 per square foot, installed) are the fastest-growing alternatives to wood, because the wood image beneath a clear protective layer, over dense fiberboard just sounds chintzy. Among other wood floor products, it most looks like the real thing, it's easier to install than real wood and it requires the same general level of care.
On the other hand, because it's designed in planks that simulate a group of boards, replacing worn or damaged sections isn't as easy as with real wood. What's more, the laminate's image of wood grain is striking, but the repetitive pattern is a dead giveaway it's not the real thing.
Consumer Reports also found:
- Solid wood ($7 to $12 per square foot, installed) shines with its natural warmth. It can be sanded and refinished again and again. On the down side, it can discolor and wear quickly and dent (especially softer woods), it's harder to install and you typically must only install real wood floors in dry areas.
- Another variety of faux wood flooring didn't fare as well. At $5 to $10 per square foot installed, engineered-wood flooring -- wood veneer over plywood -- showed wear, especially abrasive wear, far sooner than solid wood. Some brands can be sanded once, but that's it.
- Those looking for "green" floors -- "green," as in renewable materials -- often choose bamboo, but if its installed where there's lots of natural light expect it to darken quickly.
- Durability varied widely with linoleum ($4 to $9 per square foot, installed) products, a concoction of linseed oil and wood. Two tested brands warded off dents and sunlight well, but scratches easily marred one and wear wore down the other.
- Another product from the natural category, tile ($8 to $15 per square foot, installed) tends to resist wear, moisture, scratches, dents, and stains. But dropped cups and dishes frequently don't survive the hard, cold surface. Installation is relatively more difficult for a professional look.
- Vinyl (at $3 to $7 per square foot, installed), is a plastic product that can be designed to simulate stone, tile and grout, and oak. Some come with a cushy-to-the-step feel. The best resists wear and scratches better than standard quality vinyl, but even two high-priced models easily suffered scratches and stains.
Along with recommendations and information on proper installation, which are available online and off only to subscribers and those who purchase the magazine's August edition, the report also offers more details on flooring types, which anyone can peruse.