Choosing Wood Flooring For Your Home

laminate vs engineered: tips to choosing wood flooring for your home

We just finished our living room makeover a couple weeks ago, and today, I'm going to share our process for choosing flooring, one of the biggest changes we made to the living room.

Let's rewind for a second.

When we moved into our home, the living room had dingy beige carpet that was at least 20 years old. It was old and gross. We lived with it for a couple years before we considered replacing it. It was always on our list of things to do, but we tackled other less costly projects first.

You can see the beige carpet (and sweet pup) below...

how we chose flooring for our home

When we started thinking about new flooring for the living room, I knew I wanted wood. It's beautiful, classic, and a great option for our new puppy because cleaning up dirty paw prints on carpet is no fun.

Our living room flows into the  kitchen and hallway, so I wanted to replace those floors with wood as well. The kitchen is an ugly vinyl and the hallway is the same carpet as the living room.

Our house is on the small side, so with the living room, kitchen, and hallway combined, we were looking at about 480 square feet.

Laminate vs. Engineered Wood

As we were looking at flooring options, we narrowed it down to either engineered wood or laminate.

Hardwood floors were out of the question because we just didn't have the budget and it felt silly to spend so much on floors when we likely won't be in the home forever and it probably wouldn't increase the home's value enough to make it worth it in the end.

Laminate is very affordable and has come so far with lots of options that look as good as hardwood. It's also incredibly durable which we need with a puppy who loves to run around and play.

On the other hand, engineered is a cost-effective alternative to hardwood while still getting real wood. Engineered wood means that it has a wood veneer on top, with a plywood core. So it still is hardwood on the top, it's just a much thinner layer than real hardwoods. This means you can refinish it if needed for minor repairs, but you couldn't sand and re-stain it completely like you could real hardwoods. Engineered wood also has more resistance to moisture than real hardwoods.

Before we decided on laminate or engineered, I wanted to get some samples and compare.

We shopped around for prices and looked at different finishes and species. I find it very difficult to shop for flooring in a store because I can't compare it to anything in our home, and you have to pay for most samples.

I started looking for flooring on BuildDirect.com and they had TONS of options plus free samples. The prices were good and there were several finishes I liked for both laminate and engineered I wanted to try, so I ordered a bunch of samples.

The samples literally arrived the next day! I was shocked they came so quick.

I ended up ordering a second round of samples just so I could see a range of many different finishes and species from light to dark, so in total I ordered 15 different samples of laminate and engineered. All for free!

Can you guess which one we picked?

how we chose flooring for our home

BuildDirect was super helpful in telling me more about the pros and cons of both laminate and engineered since I wasn't super familiar with either. Both products are super durable and will hold up to our daily use so it was just a matter of personal preference. The only downside to laminate I was worried about was warping. It does have a tendency to warp when exposed to moisture which made me a little nervous since it wold be in our kitchen, and Bria loves to make a mess of her water bowl.

Choosing A Finish

Choosing the finish was a little difficult for a couple reasons:

  1. Our trim is an orangey color I do not like, so I didn't want to choose a finish that would match the trim. There was the option to paint the trim white which ultimately I wanted, but, I wasn't sure if we would paint the trim the same time as installing the new floors. Which meant that the flooring would have to look ok with the orange trim, but not necessarily match it.
  2. We have original hardwood floors in the bedroom and office, which are right off the hallway on the same floor as the living room and kitchen (there weren't wood floors under the carpet in the living room). Again, the original hardwood floors have the orangey color to match the trim, but I didn't want to choose a finish I didn't like just for the sake of matching the original hardwoods. I questioned whether it would look weird if I chose a different finish than the original hardwoods and how that would look right next to it (the new hallway flooring will sit right next to the flooring in the office and bedroom).

I'm drawn to lighter warm woods with lots of variation between planks. I found that out when finding my decorating style (a MUST if you don't know your style). Every time I see those golden wood floors on Pinterest I get major heart eyes. Like this pin, for example! Just gorgeous.

After seeing all the samples in person, I knew the darker colors just wouldn't work. It was too far from the original hardwoods and the trim to look somewhat ok, so those were out of the question.

Then, I ruled out the super light woods because I just didn't think they worked with the space.

At this point, I still wasn't sold on laminate over engineered, and I was focusing mainly on finding a finish that I loved yet still complimented the orangey trim in our house.

I picked out my top 5 favorites and laid them out for a few days so I could look at them in several different lights. I'd lay it next to the trim for a while, then I'd lay it next to the original hardwoods in the bedroom to see how they looked together.

Jordon didn't have a big opinion and basically said he liked any of my top favorites. Some help ;)

Ultimately, I decided engineered was the way to go. The finishes were closer to what I wanted and they looked a little nicer next to the orangey trim. Engineered also made me less worried about warping if it got wet.

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We chose these Kährs Avanti white oak floors in a matte finish from builddirect.com. We got them for $3.89/sq ft.

The Installation Process

We installed the floors ourselves to save money. Since we had never done it before, Jordon did lots of research and reassured me he could do it :)

When the flooring arrived, we ripped out the old carpet and removed all the baseboard trim. We chose to install our floors with the floating technique, using underlayment underneath the floor and glue. Jordon worked on it on his days off while I was at work. It took just a few days from start to finish with lots of puppy playtime breaks. Overall, it went fairly smoothly!

how to choose hardwood flooring for your home

I LOVEEEE the new floors and couldn't be happier with our choice and how well they turned out! They are GORGEOUS and look even better in person. The finish goes perfectly with the room.

The variation from plank to plank is my favorite!

how to choose hardwood flooring for your home

Since we had to remove the baseboard trim to install the flooring, we decided to paint that trim white. We haven't painted the rest of the trim in the house yet, and the flooring still looks ok next to the original orangey trim.

I think the new flooring flows well with the original hardwood floors in the bedroom and office. I was worried how it would look, but it's even better than I expected.

I probably broke a few design "rules" doing this, but I'm ok with that. I'd rather have a flooring in our main living spaces that I actually loved.

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Swapping out the old carpet for wood floors completely updated the room. It now feels modern and so fresh. Seriously, flooring makes a huge difference!

We've had our new flooring for about a month now and we love it. It looks amazing, it's easy to clean, and it's durable. Bria runs across the floor when she plays and there isn't a single scratch. I'm hoping it stays that way after a couple years.

4 tips to decorate a living room you love + our living room reveal
how-to-choose-flooring

I hope this was helpful for you if you're considering wood flooring in your home. It's important to do your research and make sure you know your decorating style and what finish you like, but also consider durability and the room you're installing the flooring. Since our kitchen floors often get wet, we ultimately chose engineered since it's more resistant to moisture.

Do you need help finding your decorating style? My course will help you uncover it step by step.