Hardwood flooring is a natural, durable but expensive flooring option for homes. Vinyl flooring is cheaper, but a less durable, synthetic alternative. Hardwood floors are usually favored for their durability, better aesthetic and resale value. However, because of the significant difference in costs, extremely easy installation, and resistance to moisture, vinyl floors are gaining increasing popularity. Another popular alternative to both vinyl and hardwood is laminate floors.

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Hardwood Floor

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Vinyl Floor

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Durability Depends on a number of factors, such as whether the floor is finished, type of wood used, what room it is in, and how well it is maintained. Cannot be installed in basements. Properly finished and well-maintained hardwood floors can last for decades. Durable, but can be scratched or dented
Cost Generally, the harder the hardwood, the more expensive it is, but also the more durable it is. Including labor expenses for installation, most hardwood floors cost between $8 and $15 per square foot. $2 to $7 per square foot, installed.
Installation Used to be very difficult to install; mistakes could be frustrating and expensive. Today, most wood flooring is pre-cut into easy-to-install tongue and groove planks. Glue-down; peel-and-stick over wood, cement, or previously installed flooring
Composition Comes in a variety of differently sized cuts and is made from real solid woods, giving it natural grains and tones, from light browns, to neutral grays and rich reddish bronzes. Oak and maple are the most common hardwoods used. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) resin with dies, textures, rubberizing plastics, stabilizers; single textured/stylized layer
Resale value Excellent Fair to poor
Material Wood; timber from harvested trees, mostly angiosperms A synthetic material manufactured from petroleum.
Repair Can be repaired by sanding and refinishing A single tear or cut can be replaced by a patch of the same design, but replacement is a better option for wear and tear.
Source Natural Synthetic
Upkeep Keep clean and free of moisture, avoid causing damage, use pads on the feet of furniture. Do not let water sit. Particularly important to use the right kinds of cleaners. Protect heavy traffic areas with mats or rugs; sweep, mop, vacuum with beater up/off; use manufacturer-recommended cleaners. Cannot be refinished.
Moisture resistance Prone to moisture penetration, discoloration, or warping. Engineered hardwood slightly more water resistant alternative. Impervious
Environmental Considerations Hardwood flooring can be very environmentally friendly, provided it is bought from a responsible supplier. look for hardwoods certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). May release chlorine gas and phthalate-related toxins and may contain asbestos (prior to ~80s). Recyclable if it does not contain PVC or asbestos.
Restoration Can be easily restored to like-new condition. Not easily restorable; must be replaced once protective coating has worn away.
Prone to damage Prone to scratching and to moisture damage Prone to cuts and tears
Thickness 0.75 inch to 6 inches 1.5 mm to 5 mm

edit Composition

Hardwood flooring is made of natural hardwood from the lumber harvested in the forest areas. The price depends on the tree. For example, the most expensive hardwood comes from mahogany, wenge, and teak. Hardwood tends to have a thicker 3/4th to 6-inch wear surface as compared to the 0.5 mm to 5 mm vinyl.

Vinyl flooring is made from sheets of vinyl, a synthetic product derived from petroleum and other chemicals, and can be manufactured in a wide variety of finishes, including those which resemble natural wood. Sheet vinyl comes in large rolls, but vinyl is available in squares and planks to resemble tiles or hardwood.

Hardwood floor
Hardwood floor
Vinyl sheets cut in tile-like squares
Vinyl sheets cut in tile-like squares

edit Advantages

Hardwood flooring can last for generations if well maintained. Dependent upon the wood and treatment, the flooring can be extremely damage resistant, and can be repaired or refinished, often at a lesser cost than the replacement of an identical coverage of vinyl flooring. Hardwood flooring is also sought after by home buyers and can increase the resale value of the home it furnishes.

The following video discusses advantages of choosing a real wood floor:

Vinyl flooring is less expensive than hardwood, easier to clean and more resistant to staining, warping, and discoloration. Because it is a synthetic product, it is available in a wider variety of finishes and styles. Vinyl also allows for the installation of padding underneath the flooring, making it more yielding and pliant, which helps insulate the room.

The following video by Home Depot outlines the benefits of vinyl flooring:

edit Disadvantages

The longevity of vinyl flooring is largely dependent on its protective coating. Once worn through, there is little recourse but to replace the worn flooring. As a synthetic material, vinyl consumes more energy to produce and results in toxic byproducts, and also emits small amounts of volatile organic chemicals initially after installation.

Hardwood flooring is comparatively more expensive than vinyl. As a natural material, hardwood is prone to staining, warping, and discoloration from sun and water exposure, as well as substantial changes in temperature and humidity levels. This renders hardwood ill-suited to installation in bathrooms and some kitchens.

edit Availability

Both vinyl and hardwood flooring are widely available and can be purchased from large-chain home improvement stores. A wider variety of styles, finishes, or wood types may be available from flooring wholesalers or specialists.

edit Installation

Hardwood and vinyl flooring are must easier to install than stone flooring like granite or marble. However, while either can be installed as a do-it-yourself project, both are best performed by professional contractors unless undertaken by an experienced DIYer. Hardwood flooring requires steps including placing, drilling, nailing, stapling, cutting the baseboard, and filling holes with wood putty.

A DIY hardwood floor project
A DIY hardwood floor project
Hardwood floor installation by professionals
Hardwood floor installation by professionals

Vinyl flooring will involve steps including cutting, laying, and spreading adhesive if it's in sheet form. But vinyl is now available pre-cut in squares to resemble tiles, or as strips to resemble wood floors. They also come with self-adhesive, which makes for easy installation.

edit Replacement and Maintenance

Hardwood floor maintenance is relatively easy and includes keeping grit off of the surface by sweeping and wiping with a damp cloth. Most worn and damaged hardwood flooring can be repaired or refinished rather than replaced, but where damage is severe enough to require replacement, the damaged boards can be pulled up and replaced with matching material.

Vinyl on erosion
Vinyl on erosion

While the surface coating on vinyl flooring is usually wear resistant, vinyl flooring will erode over time and eventually require replacement. With vinyl, tile-type flooring replacement is a simple as replacing damaged or worn out tiles, which is only a challenge if the tile in question is out of production or if no spare tiles are on hand. With sheet-type vinyl, the damage can be repaired by fusing the surface with liquid seam sealer or patching the material via double cutting.

edit Environmental Considerations

Hardwood is extremely environment friendly since it's a natural resource. It's recyclable and renewable and is best purchased from environmentally responsible manufacturers to avoid over-harvesting.

Vinyl production involves considerable consumption of energy and creates toxic byproducts. It is also known to emit small amounts of volatile organic chemicals after first installation. Older vinyl flooring installed prior to the late 1980s may contain asbestos and require a specialized process for safe removal. However, flooring manufacturers are now producing vinyl flooring that achieves a LEED credit IEQ4.3 for Low-Emitting Material.

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"Hardwood Floor vs Vinyl Floor." Diffen.com. Diffen LLC, n.d. Web. 19 Nov 2015. < >