The warm aesthetic and durability of hardwood flooring has lasted the test of time. No matter which room in the house it’s placed in, it’s bound to be a wonderful complement to any design style. However, the gorgeous look of hardwood can come at a steep cost, and if you’re on a budget, you may be concerned that you won’t be able to achieve the look you’re going for. This may very well be the case, but all is not lost. Contemporary interior design has created a market filled with alternative materials that very closely mimic the look of hardwood without the hefty price tag. If you’re worried about breaking your budget, you may be interested in these five budget-friendly alternatives to hardwood.
Forget the artificial-looking plastic-like laminate flooring of the old days. Today’s laminates have been so craftily engineered to look and feel like true hardwood that it’s almost impossible to tell the difference. Thanks to upgrades in imaging technology, laminate floor tiles can be made with just about any look that you can imagine. Photographs, covered with a scratch-resistant sealant and supported by a fiber-core board, create the illusion of real hardwood. Many manufacturers also carry textured versions to duplicate not only the look but also the feel of the real thing. There’s also no need to worry about durability, as today’s laminates are built to last, with most manufacturers offering substantial warranties. They’re also a great option for at-home DIY enthusiasts, as laminate flooring is also easy to install.
Another easy-to-install material from the past that’s gotten a contemporary makeover is vinyl. It is made of four composite layers: a urethane top coat for protection, another protective clear vinyl layer, a layer with a printed design, and a backing made of felt or fiberglass. Like laminate, today’s high-quality, premium vinyl can be printed in an almost endless number of patterns that very closely mimic the familiar look of solid hardwood flooring. It is also available in textured options, is very easy to maintain, and won’t come with the shocking price tag of the real deal. Unlike the vinyl options you may remember, today’s vinyl flooring boasts a durability that makes it a viable option for just about any room in the home.
For the homeowner concerned about budget and eco-friendliness, bamboo is the perfect hardwood alternative. Due to its natural wood look, supreme durability and sustainability, bamboo has become more and more popular in home design. Because bamboo is actually a denser material than many wood species, it might actually be the more durable option than hardwood. Bamboo also naturally possesses a grain design that very closely matches the look of hardwood. Bamboo flooring in particular is made by compressing many layers of shredded bamboo fibers under high heat, creating a solid, durable foundation with a natural look to rival just about any hardwood option. If you’re looking to get a little more creative, bamboo can also be stained and manipulated to give a number of design options.
Not to be outdone by bamboo, cork is another sustainable flooring option that you may want to consider. Harvested from the bark of the cork oak tree, there’s no worry of deforestation as no trees are actually cut down to create cork. The material itself is soft yet durable, making it the perfect option for spaces that require a lot of standing or foot traffic. The give of the material also makes it a safer option for kids to play on than traditional hardwood. It is also a great insulator, meaning that it won’t absorb heat, making it a comfortable option for barefoot walking. While cork can also be printed, colored, and textured like the materials mentioned above, the printed varieties often show scratches and wear a lot easier than non-printed, natural cork. Also, unlike hardwood, cork cannot be sanded down to repair any damages, so avoiding high heels and sharp objects is a must. If mimicking the exact look of hardwood is not necessarily a priority, embracing the natural look and benefits of cork flooring may just be the way to go.
If none of the above options are appealing to you because you simply can’t give up on the idea of having real, actual wood flooring, then plywood is your best bet. Unlike solid hardwood, which is produced in slabs, plywood flooring is made by gluing together thin sheets of solid wood. The thin sheets are arranged on top of each other with each sheet placed 90 degrees relative to the sheet beneath it, creating a more durable end product. Plywood can be made using many different kinds of wood, creating a wide variety of grades, each differing in durability and aesthetics. Compared to solid hardwood, engineered plywood is actually able to withstand moisture and humidity better, making it a more attractive option for kitchens and bathrooms. If real wood is the only option for you, then engineered plywood is the cheaper, smarter option.