Ten years ago, we received a constant stream of calls of customers asking for new hardwood. The dominant popularity of carpet was being challenged as homeowners were becoming more affluent and others wanted a floor with a smooth surface.
Alas! Hardwood is no longer growing. In fact, hardwood is fading in market share. The following are two article titles from the current issue of Wood Floor Business magazine:
- "Shaw Solid Hardwood Flooring Plant to Close in Virginia" (11/01/17): "Shaw Industries Inc. ... will close its solid hardwood flooring manufacturing plant in Stuart...."
- "Armstrong Flooring’s Wood Flooring Business Loses $38.6 Million in Q3" (11/06/17): "Armstrong Flooring ... reported a loss of $38.6 million within its wood flooring business segment.... The loss was due in part to the company closing two wood flooring manufacturing plants...."
The use of hardwood floors dates back through the annals of history until the records of history slip into silence. Yet, hardwood, for all of its benefits, has deficiencies. Hardwood is very vulnerable to four major problems:
- Color Change: aging, sunlight fading, etc.
- Scratches: grinding sand, furnishings and equipment drug across the flooring, etc.
- Dents: stiletto heels, fallen objects, etc.
- Moisture: spills, pet accidents, plants which seep moisture, ground moisture, etc.
Hardwood would have remained the preferred product if the alternatives remained at past performance levels. Hardwood flooring has suffered major declines as luxury vinyl and wood-visual porcelains have advanced in quality. (The small feature image [in the upper left corner] of this blog article is a photograph of real hardwood set beside luxury vinyl plank.) Luxury vinyl flooring (LVF), a resilient flooring product, is not equivalent to the linoleum nor the sheet vinyl of the past. Likewise, the ceramic tile of ten years ago is a pale comparison to the superiority of today's porcelain. Luxury vinyl planks (LVP) and large format porcelains have achieved a form of hyper-realism both in color and texture. Both faux-wood LVP and faux-wood porcelain is now made in larger sizes. Many of the LVPs are now wood plastic composite products with a waterproof characteristic. Porcelain tile has always been invulnerable to moisture, which means that we give little attention to the moisture vapor emission rate or relative humidity of the concrete. Waterproof products can be installed below grade and, in some cases, do not need time to acclimate to the new environment because of superior dimensional stability. No acclimation time means that the installation avoids an approximate 3-day delay. Both luxury vinyl and porcelain have better abrasion resistance when compared to natural hardwood. The price of LVF is less than hardwood. The installation is easier, faster, and cheaper. The price of high-quality porcelain has dropped and the installation difficulty, speed, and price are still a little higher than hardwood.In the above image, can you tell which product is natural hardwood?
- A: Hand-scraped Natural Hardwood
- B: Luxury Vinyl Plank
- C: Luxury Vinyl Plank
- D: Porcelain with a Wood Visual.
Imperfections of LVF and Porcelain
Both luxury vinyl and porcelain tile have weaknesses. Luxury vinyl can be cut or gouged. The top veneer can be damaged and, unlike real hardwood, cannot be sanded and refinished. So, once the wear layer is marred, the damaged pieces of LVF must be replaced. Porcelain can chip if struck with a hard object. Porcelain can also suffer a tile reflective crack, especially if installed without an anti-fracture membrane. (Due to vulnerabilities, purchase attic stock of your LVF or porcelain for possible mishaps.) Porcelain still has grout lines, albeit the grout lines can be made very narrow. Neither LVF nor porcelain have the perfectly unique variations of natural hardwood.