After 30-40 years of people covering up perfectly good hardwood floors with wall-wall carpeting, hardwood floors have once again become one of the somewhat stereotypical marks of the fabled "expensive home".
This is a little unfortunate, because it causes many new and existing homeowners to dismiss hardwood as an alternative to other types of flooring on the basis of its suggestively steep price. In actuality, hardwood isn't dreadfully expensive, but, like any other material, it does have its strengths and weaknesses. Here's a rundown of how hardwood stacks up:
Hardwood lasts longer, cleans easier and accumulates less dust than carpet. It is a far better choice for allergy sufferers. On the flipside, it's also cooler on the feet, so you may need rugs.
The big knock against tile is that it's brittle and cracks easily. Dishes and glassware dropped onto tile stand almost no chance of surviving. Hardwood, on the other hand, rarely cracks. Dishes and glassware sometimes survive. Replacing defective wood panels is also easier than replacing tile.
This is a tough call, and much depends on personal preference and price range. Linoleum is generally cheaper, but hardwood has a more classy appearance. In terms of wear, both are good, sturdy flooring materials that will last.
Cost vs. Value
Buying a hardwood floor costs anywhere from $2 to $9 USD per square foot - which means it's a lot more expensive than cheap carpeting. However, it's important to keep in mind that while you will have to care for a good-quality hardwood floor, you won't have to replace it. In other words, hardwood will wear down - at which point you'll refinish to build it back up - but will never wear out. Carpets will. Therefore, hardwood costs a lot when you first install it, but that cost dissipates over time. In the long run, its value is worth the cost.
Although you won't have to vacuum it, hardwood still needs to be cleaned - usually with a mop. The process is painless and simple, but it takes time nonetheless. You will also need to keep an eye on the finish - the protective layer - on the wood. As it disappears, you will need to refinish your floors. Pets can cause havoc! Finally, if you're a stickler for shininess, then you'll also find yourself reaching for the wax and buffer to get the hardwood glistening like new again.
Pergo vs. Regular
Pergo refers to a specific brand of laminate flooring that looks and feels - to an extent - like regular hardwood. It's cheaper than regular hardwood, but slightly colder, and not as long-lasting. Laminate flooring is also susceptible to moisture, so don't put it down in the bathroom or kitchen! However, it's an excellent alternative if you want something that looks like regular hardwood but costs less - perhaps for the less important rooms. Some homes mix the two types, to good effect. Laminate flooring can be a great DIY project for a person with moderate skills and a few tools while traditional tongue and groove hardwood is a job for the pro.
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