Choosing the right flooring for your home


This post is a paid collaboration with Lowe’s Home Improvement. All opinions are my own.

Those of you who have been following this story for the past few weeks on Instagram know just how much of a milestone this project has been for us! After over a month of planning, prepping and overseeing the install of our new floors, I’ve put together a guide for those who are just starting their flooring journey:

Choosing flooring is one of the biggest decisions and house projects to tackle, so I’ve partnered once again with Lowe’s to walk you through the entire process, and help you make the right choice for your own home. Come shopping with me as I pick out our new floors!

We moved into our current house (the Riverside Retreat) back in July, and immediately started considering our flooring options. The existing floors were a disaster—each room with a different type of tile, cracked and missing grout, uneven transitions and slippery surfaces (hello lawsuit). It all had to go.

We plan to live in this house until our new build is ready to move into next year, and will be renovating it to use as a vacation rental once we move out. Replacing the flooring is a big job and it’s not ideal to do while you’re living in the house, but we didn’t have a choice with our timeline so we just wanted to get it out of the way as soon as possible.

As real estate investors, our priorities for flooring were very specific: durable, low maintenance, and budget-friendly. And as a designer, it goes without saying that it has to look great too.

There’s endless flooring options out there suited for every type of need and preference, so it’s no wonder I get this question on repeat: What type of flooring should I choose?

The right answer is as varied as there are options to choose from, so I’m going to break down the different types, including pros and cons along with my personal experience & thoughts on each.

Solid Wood

All things considered, I don’t think you can beat the look of real hardwood. It’s so classic and inviting, can warm up any space and it’ll go with any decorating style. It’ll last forever and can be refinished over and over again. In a perfect world with an unlimited budget and no maintenance to worry about, I’d choose hardwood all day.

But in the real world, there are some negatives. First off, it’s not ideal for wet areas like kitchens, baths and laundry rooms, and you shouldn’t even use them at all here in central Florida. The wood buckles and warps in the humidity, and if you talk to most local homeowners who decided to install them anyway, they regret it within months.

If you live in a cooler/dry climate it can make sense, but you do have to consider the maintenance (wood gets scratched & damaged!) and cost of upkeep. And the price for a good quality solid wood can be steep. If you love the look and feel of real wood, consider the next option…

Engineered Wood

Engineered wood is simply a layer of real wood on top of a composite. It’s the best of both worlds! I used this in my first 3 houses and would generally choose it over solid wood.

There’s plenty of species, styles and price points to choose from and they can be installed different ways—floating, glue down or nail down. Cost varies but they’re generally more affordable than solid wood, and you can find some really nice options in the $5-$8/sf range (or less).

The average person won’t be able to tell that it’s not solid wood (nor care, really). Since the top layer is real wood, you can usually refinish it at least once or twice so they’ll last a long time. I’ll continue to use engineered wood in homes where looks & quality matter most.

Tile

When it comes to design, tile certainly offers the most variety of choices. You’ll never run out of new materials, patterns, shapes and sizes to discover and it gives you the most creative freedom. Tile can steal the show and it’s the best choice if you want to make your flooring a focal point.

Here in Florida and in other warm/humid climates, tile flooring throughout the home is very common as it’s impervious to water and weather, durable and relatively low maintenance. But there’s also some drawbacks.

Installation is more involved than other flooring types after you factor in all the extra materials needed (cement board, thinset, grout, saw & tools) and labor costs add up fast if you hire out—suddenly that affordable tile you found isn’t so affordable after all. There are some scenarios where it can look beautiful, warm and classic (like brick pavers and rustic French limestone) but often it will make a room look and feel cold, especially bedrooms & living spaces.

And removing tile? The worst. Trust me, we just lived through a whole-house tile removal and it was not a fun experience. I’ll be second guessing any thoughts to use tile in large areas after this.

With that said, tile will always be my favorite choice for bathrooms, laundry rooms and other utility or indoor/outdoor areas. You just can’t beat it as a design feature!

Luxury vinyl tile/planks

LVT or LVP is a buzzword in circles of real estate investors & house flippers these days. These are thin strips of flexible vinyl with a printed photograph layer that glue or stick down. You can find it for as low as $1/sf, and to the untrained eye (or in photographs) it can look like real wood.

Peel and stick vinyl has been around a long time, but the recent addition of this new “luxury” variety has changed the game and provided a range of options for those needing a cheap bang for your buck solution. It’s a DIY friendly installation, too.

There’s plenty of styles and levels of quality with vinyl and I wouldn’t be opposed to using it in the right scenario (like inside a tiny house or trailer), but I’m not sure I’d use it in my own home, considering there are higher end options at a comparable price point. If you’re considering this for an investment property, you should always keep in mind the comparable homes in the neighborhood and what’s expected for resale.

Carpet

Most of us have lived with and have our own opinions about carpet, but for me, the cons far outweigh the pros.

It’s one of the most affordable initial investments—but it’s also not a permanent solution. So much maintenance and upkeep and constant worrying about stains and damage. You’ll spend a lot more to regularly deep clean and/or replace it every several years than paying slightly more for a permanent floor.

It’s soft and comfortable underfoot… but that’s what rugs are for, right? And from a design perspective, I don’t think it will ever look good as a solid surface. I just can’t get past these drawbacks, so I’m fairly confident in saying that you won’t see me installing carpet anytime soon (unless it’s a temporary solution that I’m forced into due to budget constraints).

Laminate

Laminate is the happy medium between engineered wood and luxury vinyl. Like engineered wood, the base is made of a composite wood (think MDF), and like vinyl, the top layer is a printed photograph of wood under a protective layer of plastic.

Not all laminate is created equal, but there are a handful of higher end options that give engineered wood a run for its’ money, like the Pergo TimberCraft line. Looking at these next to the displays of engineered wood in the store, I was much more drawn to the look of the laminate.

There were more color options, it had a nicer texture (matte finish with an embossed grain) and I love that it’s a wide plank (those tend to be pricey with real wood). But there are major benefits beyond just looks—price point, for one, at just $2.99/sf. Durability and maintenance are probably the biggest differentiator. I can’t speak for other types of laminate, but the Pergo Timbercraft line is waterproof, scratch resistant and pretty much indestructible. I used them in the Cottage Flip and was so pleased with the results (this color was discontinued, but they have a wider selection now):

The Pergo laminate was also the only flooring type that met all four of my requirements: durable, low maintenance, budget-friendly and beautiful, so it was a pretty clear winner for this house. It’ll withstand the heavy foot traffic of a vacation rental, and we won’t have to stress about any potential issues later thanks to Pergo’s limited lifetime warranty.

Note that with a decision as major and permanent as this, I’d always recommend seeing samples of the flooring in person, as you can’t accurately assess the product based on photos alone. It rarely looks exactly the same in your space as it does in other houses online!

Lowe’s carries small samples of wood you can buy in the store, and I also ordered a larger sample of the Brier Creek Oak from Pergo’s website to try out at home. At the time we were deciding on a paint color for the trim, so seeing them side by side helped solidify my choice:

Pro tip: you should always take your flooring into account when choosing a paint color! The undertones matter and you want something that complements each other (please think twice about using gray floors with gray walls, it’s so hard to get right).

Once we felt confident about our choices, we talked to a Lowe’s associate in the flooring department and he got us on the schedule right away. A few days later, someone dropped by to take measurements of the house and they determined the amount of flooring, underlayment, baseboard and transition pieces needed.

A week later, our floors were delivered and we received a call from the installers to schedule demolition of our old tile (Lowe’s handles that part too, whew!) If you ever plan to move out of your house one day, please think of the poor future buyers before you cover every inch in cheap tile.

I wish I could say that once the tile was gone it was all smooth sailing, but sadly, it was just the start of The Great Dustpression of 2018. If you followed my Instagram stories through those dark times, you may remember the horrors.

It took us over two weeks of living like this to finally repair the joists & subfloors so our Lowe’s crew could come back and do the install, but that just made install day feel like Christmas morning…

I was overjoyed, practically in tears watching each board go in. They did have to add leveler in some areas, which is expected with an old house that settles over time.

The floors are floating, which means they simply lock into place, no glue or nails required. The planks were laid on top of the Pergo gold underlayment, which acts as a moisture and sound/thermal barrier (you can use this underlayment with other types of laminate, too).

Even with the extra prep work, the crew worked fast and they were able to finish 2/3rd of the house in one day! Hallelujah.

We decided to take advantage of the waterproof nature of the floors and continue them into the kitchen. Since this house doesn’t have an open layout and we aren’t changing any walls, we wanted to make the rooms flow together as much as possible.

The kitchen needs a complete remodel, but these floors are a great start!

As mentioned earlier, it’s tough to get an accurate assessment of flooring online since photos can vary so much between different lighting, cameras and monitors, but this shot is probably the best representation of how they appear in real life (under incandescent lighting):

Here’s a closer look showing the wood grain texture (you can feel it too). I love that the edges of the wood are beveled to define each plank so they don’t all blend together (which, according to Pergo, also helps make it waterproof):

I almost went with the Wheaton Oak, but I’m glad I opted for the Brier Creek Oak instead. I love the warmer natural tone and minimal color variation. It feels very earthy, which is just the look we want for the tropical-jungle-chic vibe we’re going for.

The floors were installed in only two days, and the baseboard install took another day. We still have to paint the new baseboards (in HGTV Home by Sherwin Williams ‘Loggia’) but it already feels like we’re living in a different house!

Lowe’s has been great to work with throughout this process (and patient with us through all the unexpected subfloor issues) so we couldn’t recommend using their install services enough. With big projects like these, it’s always nice to let someone else handle all the ordering/coordinating and get it done as quickly as possible so you can return to normal life. Even if our normal life looks like this right now…

The house feels so much more warm and inviting, and I can’t wait to start layering in furniture and accessories next (spoiler alert: we just got a new sofa & dining table!) and show you all the other projects we have in store. Think we can finish this whole house before our new house is built? 😉

Thanks again to Lowe’s for sponsoring this project and the install crew for staying on top of our deadline—I’d say it was a major MISSION ACCOMPLISHED 👊

With one week to go before our wedding, having these floors finished is such a weight lifted off our shoulders. But in the midst of the flooring install we’ve been working hard on the laundry room (and preparing for several other projects) so I should have some updates to share soon! I’ll try my best to squeeze one more post in before the wedding, but in the meantime you can follow all the latest happenings over on Instagram and Facebook.

Happy (almost) fall y’all,



24 thoughts on “Choosing the right flooring for your home

  1. Looks awesome! Nice choice on the wide plank and really informative and fun video. Hey just wondering why you reinstalled the base boards before painting them?

    Sidenote: I just spent this morning sanding my half bath drywall, again, before work. It was my workout for the day! 3 coats of compound on and the orange peel texture has finally disappeared. The sander that attaches to the vacuum was awesome though and I’m super excited to demo the vanity tonight. I found SUCH a great vanity on Craigslist that I’m pinching myself. 🙂

    1. Thanks Kristen! We had the Lowe’s installers add the baseboards after install so there was no time to paint. It shouldn’t take too long though with my good brush!

      And great news on your bathroom updates! I bet you’re super stoked to finally have smooth walls, and YAY for awesome Craigslist scores — those are the best!

    2. Great personal choice for you. However, I think the least expensive flooring is concrete staining with epoxying using a chalk line and personal designs according to homeowners choice. It is definitely less expensive than tiles giving a bag of concrete is a litte less than $5.00 and cover 50 sq feet . No need for tiles ,thinset,grout etc. Home decor is a personal choice and mine definitely would be DIY concrete staining.

      1. Thanks for bringing that up Cindy — it’s a great option too! It’s my understanding that not all floors are able to accept poured concrete (I’m working with a client now who isn’t able to use them) but they can work great in many situations.

  2. I found this blog SUPER helpful! I’m planning to use Pergo Timbercraft as well in my home because of the waterproof and scratch resistance features. I’ve been struggling between the Brier Creek Oak and Wheaton Oak for weeks now lol. I love the Wheaton Oak in lots of natural sunlight, but not as much in less light, whereas the color and tone of Brier Creek Oak appears to be more consistent in all lighting. I don’t know if you’ve planned this yet, but do you know what color your kitchen cabinets will be against the Brier Creek floors?

    1. Thanks Vanessa, so glad to hear it was helpful to you! I do prefer a more consistent wood plank color which is another reason we went for the Brier Creek. The Wheaton also has more of a gray tone, which I didn’t want. We haven’t decided on a color yet for our cabinets, but they will be painted and not wood, so I’m not too worried about anything clashing with the floors. They’re neutral enough to go with most shades!

  3. Most of the time the color and the texture of the floor they are basing it on the walls and the ceiling…but it’s okay to have a style on your own as long as it doesn’t look too old or too weird..

  4. Your floor looks beautiful! My husband and I want to go with the Pergo Timber craft throughout our entire house, but Lowes will not install unless they place t-moldings at every doorway and between large rooms due to warranty issues. I think thresholds between the same flooring is esthetically not pleasing. I notice they did not place these thresholds in your house, were there concerns/questions about not placing the t-moldings?

    1. Hi Cynthia, they did place thresholds in the doorways! They aren’t very noticeable, and certainly (IMO) not worth eliminating the floor just for that reason. Thresholds serve a purpose and I think it’s a small price to pay for all the benefits these floors offer.

  5. Worked with Lowe’s install before and they were great. Would use again.
    Love your video. Some the of it really made me chuckle and Suzy always steals the show.
    Keep up the great work and don’t forget to breathe this week!

  6. Do you notice a hollow sound when you walk on the pergo flooring? I have been considering this flooring but I am not the biggest fan of how floating flooring sounds when you walk on it.

    1. If you did a side by side comparison I’m sure you’d hear a difference, but it’s not something I’m listening for or even notice when I’m walking on it. The sound doesn’t affect the durability/quality/aesthetic at all, and I’d take a quiet floor over creaking wood floors 🙂

  7. Great article on flooring choices.
    I’m happy that your Lowe’s team worked out well. Since each Lowe’s team is hired locally, the time frame and quality may be affected in each area due to the local business climate.

    I looked at your kitchen and thought “A complete rebuild???” I’m sure I don’t see everything in the photo that’s in real life but I know many people who’d give their right arm for a kitchen like yours ‘as is’. Too many people look at what they deem “old and outdated” and then gut it and don’t even try to salvage anything for those less fortunate. I think that’s not very good stewardship. But, well, that’s my opinion. 😉

    Your home looks like it’s going to gorgeous!

    1. Hi Annie, the photos may show a prettier picture but the cabinets are the cheapest fiberboard material and they’re falling apart. Not only that but we don’t have a dishwasher so we need to rework the layout. It’s absolutely livable and large enough for our needs, but I prefer to have beautiful + functional spaces 🙂

  8. Great Blog. A timber or hardwood floor throughout your home is a choice that will stand the test of time – both from a looks and a durability point of view. There is a huge variety of hardwood to choose from, with choices including the type of wood you use, the thickness of board, colour and the texture.

  9. I appreciated your flooring summary. I live on a raised foundation. It was recommended to me to consider vinyl plank flooring that is on a waterproof base (will be in kitchen and bathrooms) The vinyl you mentioned did not appear to have a waterproof base. Am I missing something? Some feel that vinyl is more durable than laminate. I would probably want to float the floor, rather than glue it down.

    1. Hi Naomi, I’ve never used vinyl personally so I’m not really sure about which ones require a waterproof base or not! I know there is a wide range in quality no matter which type of flooring you choose. The Pergo laminate is thicker than any of the vinyl I’ve seen and the hard surface feels more durable than most wood, so I would look into that instead of vinyl!

  10. That flooring video was super helpful! I consider myself to be pretty knowledgable about flooring and home improvement in general, as my husband and I have been fixing up a real beast of a fixer-upper for the past four years. (Ugh! Will it ever be done!?) Your video was so helpful and really pointed out a lot of great features of Pergo as an alternative to hardwood, which I didn’t know can’t be used in humid FL! (I live in the northeast). Thanks for taking the time to put together such an informative and professional video! And congrats on your pending nuptials! So excited for you two!

    1. So glad it was helpful to you, Jill! Flooring options are changing and improving so much these days — it seems like every time I step into Lowe’s I find something new. And thank you for the congratulations! <3

  11. Do you know the name of the tile you show in your video that has a similar pattern as the tile you used in your bathroom? I have been searching Lowe’s website and haven’t been able to find it.

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