Which is Better: LVT or Hardwood Floors

With every flooring you consider for your home or rental property, it is wise to look at the differences between one or another. Two of the most popular floors right now in 2021 are hardwood and LVT (luxury vinyl tile) floors. As you may already know, luxury vinyl tile floors look very similar to hardwood, and you might be asking yourself the question, is LVT better than hardwood or not?

In short, LVT floors have many more benefits than hardwood, but the answer entirely depends on what you are looking for in a home. LVT floors are excellent at being waterproof, easier to install on your own, and durable. However, hardwood is more environmentally-friendly, lasts much longer, and typically does not fade in the sun over time.

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So what exactly are the differences between each flooring, and why should you buy one over the other? I am confident that you will have gained enough knowledge to know which is better than the other by the end of this article. Now let’s get to the basics of each one.

Initial Cost Of Each

It is common knowledge that every floor is going to cost different, and these are no different. However, in this case, LVT wins for the initial cost. Down below are the prices and the best brands to look at. 

LVT Flooring Cost:

One of the best perks about choosing LVT floors is the simple fact that, unlike hardwood, they are much more affordable. Luxury vinyl tile’s price range is anywhere between $2 and $5 per square foot. It is much easier to make than hardwood. Not only this, but LVT does not even look cheap, which is a massive plus in my opinion!

Some of the best brands to look at for LVT floors:

  • COREtec
  • Shaw Flooring
  • Mohawk

Hardwood Flooring Cost:

The initial cost of hardwood is anywhere from $8 to $25 a square foot. One may be thinking it is ridiculous that companies who sell hardwood floors would even think to charge that much, which is entirely understandable! But you must know that the reason why they are so expensive is because of two main things.

The first reason is since they are made out of real wood, it is much harder to make than LVT, as it takes 40 to 60 years for trees that make hardwood to mature appropriately. Secondly, the wood manufacturers must go through multiple procedures to maintain the planks’ preservation while remaining biodegradable.

Some of the best brands for hardwood floors:

  • Bruce Hardwood
  • Carlisle Wide Plank Floors
  • Lumber Liquidators

Style & Look

Both luxury vinyl tile and hardwood floors have excellent styles and designs, so in terms of who is better, this would entirely depend on what you are looking for. Let’s go more in-depth by what I mean.

LVT Flooring Style & Look:

In terms of style for LVT flooring, many options are provided that hardwood does not. Although it is not made of a natural substance, which we will go over in a bit, they are still an excellent choice if you wish to find something different than maple, oak, or cherry floors (which is what the standard hardwood floors are made of.) 

LVT floors have come a long way with everything since the 1970s, and the way it looks is no exception. Many professionals have to take a second glance at both LVT and LVP (luxury vinyl plank) floors because, more often than not, they look very similar to hardwood, which makes it much less distinguishable. So if you wish to get something that LOOKS like something natural, but is not, then the luxury vinyl tile is the way to go in this instance. However, other factors come into play, which leads us to our next topic. 

Hardwood Flooring Style & Look:

Hardwood floors are undoubtedly gorgeous. They fit the criteria in terms of what everyone wants so much that they have been used since the 1600s. I mean, who would not want something this beautiful in their homes?  

Although it has excellent taste in style, they are still constrained to what they look like. On some floors, you will be lucky enough to find a unique texture in design, but there is only so much that we can do to make a tree look a certain way from the inside. If you want a specific color, you must stain it instead of the look already being there.

Difference In Environment

You may be surprised to see the difference between both hardwood and LVT floors in terms of being environmentally friendly or not. It is safe to say that hardwood floors beat luxury vinyl tile in this area of expertise, and we will be explaining why. 

LVT Flooring:

Unfortunately, LVT floors do not offer much on the environmental-friendly side of things. Luxury vinyl tile comes from a heavy-duty plastic called PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, which is extremely hard to eliminate and recycle. PVC is actually in many household products we use daily, such as pipes, appliances, and cable installations. 

Not only this, but when the LVT floors are laid down for the first time, it is said to not move any furniture on top of it for preferably 48 hours. This is due to allowing the floors to settle and emitting gasses into the air, called VOCs, or volatile organic compounds. You may think the word “organic” is excellent, but it is not suitable for your health, especially if you have asthma or respiratory issues.

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Although the gasses will eventually go away after the first initial few days, it does not change the fact that it can cause a problem for those first few months. I have LVT floors in my own home and can attest to this, as my family was sick for the first few months of living in a house with newly installed LVT floors.

Not to mention, LVT floors are tough to recycle, which may cause a problem shortly in terms of landfill. Some areas will take in LVT floors, but they are by in large hard to find. Make sure to check if your local recycling areas take in plastic #3 or PVC plastic.   

Hardwood Flooring:

Overall, hardwood will be better for the environment because of many reasons. First, homeowners can reuse them if they are good enough by sanding down any area, making it practically recyclable in your own home. Not only this, but hardwood floors can last well beyond 100 years if treated correctly. 

Although many trees are consumed with making hardwood floors, many people fail to understand that there are government regulations specifically for protecting this before it becomes an issue.

For every 1 cubic foot torn down to make hardwood floors, another 1.66 cubic feet of trees are planted to replace this. As mentioned above, it will take between 40 to 60 years for hardwood trees to mature.

Lastly, since trees produce oxygen, wood floors are also considered a carbon-neutral product. This means that they still can emit carbon into the air, even after being manufactured. In return, this provides a much better air quality within our homes. 

Durability & Stability

Both floors can be very stable and durable, but depending on if you do not care for scuff and marks or not, it is safe to say that LVT once again wins the bet on this particular subject.

LVT Flooring:

In terms of durability, LVT floors are among the most durable floors out there, especially in the vinyl flooring world. They are extremely scratch resistant, depending on what type of wear layer you get for your floors.

The wear layer protects the photogenic layer of the flooring itself, and it is essential to get a higher number of wear layers for a longer-lasting LVT floor. They typically come in 6 mil, 12 mil, and 20 mil for households.

Moving more along with what was said above, if you accidentally drop a heavy object on the floors or own animals with very sharp or long claws, you will notice that it does little to no damage on the floors.

However, for weighty objects, such as the couch or refrigerator, you may notice dents over time, which can easily be fixed by hovering a hairdryer on the area. Ensure the space on the floor is not too hot that it will burn your hand, then use a seam to roll the site over as gently as possible. If the dent cannot be fixed in this way, leave it or consider replacing the plank altogether. 

Hardwood Flooring:

Although hardwood can be durable in life, they are very prone to scratches, scuffs, and marks. However, to keep hardwood floors up to float, you will need to be providing protective coating around them constantly so that they may not get ruined. 

For high-traffic areas, such as in a commercial setting, hardwood floors are not the best as they would need to have a polyurethane coating put on them regularly. It protects the surface of the floors from weather and deterioration.

Not only this, but it can be a huge hassle to apply 2 to 3 coats each for better protection, making it much more time consuming if you had a heavy-traffic area for your business or home life.

How Long Does Each Floor Last?

This question is essential to know if you want to invest in something long-term or for a shorter period.

LVT Flooring Lifetime:

In general, luxury vinyl tile lasts anywhere between 10 to 20 years. Still, it has been known to be much longer, given the right care and maintenance, which realistically is not a lot of work, but we will go over that momentarily. Here are some pro tips to consider while having LVT floors:

  • Put “socks” on the bottom of your furniture legs.
  • Lift any furniture you have to move to avoid scratches or buckling.
  • Protect the floors with blinds, as the print tends to fade in the sun.
  • Keep traffic light, if you can. 
  • Avoid any sharp objects hitting the floor.

Hardwood Flooring Lifetime:

Realistically, hardwood floors will last over 100 years if you choose to invest in them. Hardwood is more expensive in the long run due to constant maintenance, but it will save you many hassles later on, especially if you want to make renovations to make your property’s value go up when you need to sell it later on.

Here are a few ways to help your hardwood last longer:

  • Immediately clean up any water you see.
  • Give your floors a weekly vacuum cleaning.
  • Provide area rugs and doormats in higher-traffic areas.
  • Get a moisture barrier underneath the grounds.
  • Do not buy any polish for your floors unless it is specifically designed for hardwood floors.

Maintenance For Both

In general, LVT planks are by far one of the most straightforward floors people have maintained. With hardwood, there are many precautions you must take to keep it afloat. In my opinion, I prefer LVT over hardwood in this specific aspect. But of course, all flooring has its quirks, and we must choose for ourselves which we like better. 

LVT Flooring Maintenance:

Being extremely easy to keep afloat, LVT floors do not require a lot of work. You do not have to add a specific spray or coating to them, as they have this from the wear layer we talked about earlier.

The best thing we can do for our floors is to make sure we do daily sweeping so that no food goes hard on the floor, causing potential scratches, and mopping with a safe vinyl solution two to four times a month. You can also make your mixture with simple dish soap, water, and apple cider vinegar if you choose to go down that route.

Other than that, not much else has to be done, except for regularly checking underneath furniture that hardly gets moved, like a large recliner or underneath the stove, to make sure nothing hard may have fallen from somewhere. This can quickly be done every 2 to 3 months. 

Hardwood Flooring Maintenance:

On the other hand, although hardwood floors do not require a lot of work upfront, it will take much dedicated time to maintain a more refined finish in the long run. This will ensure they last a lifetime, as mentioned above.  

These things include:

  • Daily sweeping or using the dry dust mop.
  • Vacuuming the floor on the bare setting.
  • Cleaning with the correct flooring cleaner, such as Bona hardwood floor cleaner.

If you prefer to go for a natural alternative, you can use simple water, vinegar, and plant-based dish soap to give your floors a subtle and clean finish. Make sure to keep it damp.

You will be maintaining a coat for a better finish every 3 to 5 years and sanding them every decade or so. 

Where You Can Place Each Flooring

There are specific areas that we need to remember each flooring can be placed. In short, because LVT is made of PVC, they have more places to go within your home. Let us go over each one.

LVT Flooring Placement:

One of LVT floors’ primary benefits is that it is water-resistant, meaning that these floors are excellent to place all over the house, as there are no limitations to where they should go. This includes areas such as the bathrooms, dens, and laundry rooms, and basements.

LVT contains a great feature because it includes an underlayment on the bottom of the planks, so it will be unnecessary to keep an underlay beneath. However, if you choose to go this route, make sure you get explicitly made for luxury vinyl tile floors. 

Hardwood Flooring Placement:

Many homeowners love hardwood so much that they want to install it in every single part of their homes. Hardwood can be placed in many parts of your home but should be avoided in some because they are not waterproof, as hardwood is wood and not plastic, like LVT.

You are more than welcome to install hardwood floors in your kitchen, living room, dining room, den, and, with an underlayment for moisture barrier purposes, may be installed in the basement as well. Avoid areas such as in the bathrooms, foyer, and laundry rooms, as these places contain the most moisture, dirt, sand, water, etc.   

Different Sizes

Both floors have different sizes available for each one, but only hardwood can be customized.

LVT Flooring Sizes:

Luxury vinyl tile flooring can go anywhere from a width of 6 to 9 inches and can have a length of up to 60 inches. Although you cannot necessarily customize the size, it is available if you wish to have a specific color. 

Hardwood Flooring Sizes:

Custom sizing is available, so in comparison. However, you cannot personalize the look except for staining. It is much easier to call the company and say, “I want this specific size for the flooring within my home.” Hardwood floors come in widths of 2 to 10 inches and lengths up to 7 feet long. 

Overview

LVT and hardwood both have their pros and cons in their own right, but overall, LVT can benefit greatly over hardwood. But again, hardwood has many other qualities that LVT does not. By the end of the day, it is up to you to decide which flooring will better suit your lifestyle and needs, so make sure you choose wisely, as they may be the last floors you wind up getting! 

HomeInspectionInsider.com is owned and operated by Hubert Miles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. HomeInspectionInsider.com also participates in affiliate programs with other affiliate sites. Hubert Miles is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.

Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.

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