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Wood-Look Flooring Vs Natural Wood: What's The Difference?

Fifty-four percent of homebuyers are willing to spend more for a home with hardwood floors.

If you're thinking about replacing the floors in your house, this statistic is sure to catch your eye. The return on your investment is one consideration when making remodeling decisions. Still, it's not the only consideration.

Other factors to consider include durability, cleaning and maintenance, safety, and environmental concerns.

When choosing a new floor, it's is important to consider all options. Read on to learn about the tradeoffs involved as you consider each type of flooring.

You Want Wood or At Least the Wood Look

If you know you want flooring that looks like wood, you have four main options. These include:

  • Hardwood, or natural wood, flooring
  • Wood-look vinyl flooring
  • Wood-look laminate flooring
  • Wood-look tile flooring

Factors to Consider

Choosing among these options requires weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each. Relevant factors include cost, durability, cleaning and maintenance, safety, and environmental concerns.


In terms of upfront cost, hardwood flooring is usually the more expensive option, while wood-look vinyl flooring and wood-look laminate flooring are generally the most budget-friendly. A middle-of-the-road option in terms of cost is tile flooring that looks like wood.

When evaluating cost, however, the return on investment (ROI) is a factor to consider. Here, hardwood retains its advantage.

In 2019, the National Association of Realtors calculated the ROI of various home improvement projects. It found that installing hardwood floors offered the greatest ROI. In fact, homeowners who installed new hardwood floors enjoyed a 106% return.


For durability, hardwood floors again have the edge. With proper maintenance, hardwood floors can last a long time.

Although hardwood floors offer great longevity, durable wood-look flooring alternatives also offer a nice life-span for flooring. Wood-look tile floors can last over twenty years with proper care. They are also much less vulnerable to water damage than natural wood floors. The greatest threats to tile floors are chips and breakage.

Wood-look laminate floors offer a similar lifespan to tile flooring. They are also more resistant than hardwood to water damage and scratches. That being said, its material does include wood fibers, so it is not completely invulnerable.

Wood-look vinyl floors last an average of 10-20 years. Their lifespan again depends on proper maintenance.

However, the type of vinyl floor also matters. Printed vinyl flooring includes a protective layer to ward off scratches. Solid vinyl flooring lacks this protection. Thus, like natural wood floors, it is vulnerable to scratches.

A final point to consider about durability is that hardwood floors can be refinished. Alternative wood-look flooring options, however, need to be replaced over time.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Regular cleaning is the most important component of any floor maintenance routine.

Natural wood floors need to be cleaned regularly. This removes grit and other debris that can scratch its surface.

With hardwood, cleaning procedures also need to protect the floor from moisture. Cleaning with a dry mop or specially formulated wood cleaner is best. When you must use water, it's essential to dry the floor quickly and completely. Regular sealing also protects hardwood floors from moisture.

As with hardwood, removing grit and debris from wood-look tile floors is essential. Water and standard commercial and homemade floor cleaners are safe to use on a most tiles.

Wet cleaning methods are likewise safe for wood-look vinyl flooring. Commercial floor cleaners are available. However, soap and water and other household materials are equally effective.

Like hardwood, laminate flooring should be protected from excessive contact with water. Specially formulated laminate floor cleaners and highly absorbent laminate floor mops are the safest options.

For all types of floors but especially the easily scratched hardwood floors, protective covers on the legs of chairs and other furniture also help maintain appearance and longevity.

Health, Safety, and Comfort

Smooth flooring materials are generally easier to clean and better for allergy sufferers than carpeting. However, smooth flooring materials of any variety can be a slip hazard. If you or someone in your house is elderly, this concern is especially pressing.

Securing loose rugs and conducting regular cleanings can ensure your safety and prevent slips.

Beyond that, some wood and wood-look flooring materials offer greater traction than others. In general, wood-look laminate and wood-look tile are the most slippery. Hardwood floors are also generally slip-resistant. However, the coating of wood-look vinyl offers the best traction.

Another consideration in terms of comfort is noise and cushion. Tile and wood floors are the hardest and, therefore, noisiest options. Wood-look laminate flooring is also relatively rigid and can be noisy.

Vinyl flooring provides the softest surface. Plus, it includes the option to install padding. As a result, vinyl flooring may absorb noise and impact better than other options. However, its softer surface does make it less suited for heavier weight loads.

Natural Wood or Wood-Look Flooring: Which Option Makes the Cut?

Deciding between natural wood and wood-look flooring requires educating yourself on the options. With the necessary information, you can then weigh the advantages and disadvantages.

As you do, the experts at National Floors Direct can help. Talk to one of our professionals or contact us for an estimate today.