Crucial Things To Consider When Buying New Floors, According To HGTV's Hilary Farr

When HGTV host Hilary Farr undertook a renovation of the shared spaces in Nichole and Andy's home, it seemed like she had her work cut out for her. Season 2, Episode 7, "A Renovation Refresh," from her series "Tough Love with Hilary Farr," sees Farr visit a nice home that, while not shockingly awful or poorly furnished, just sorely lacked a design vision. Her main task in this episode (even more than usual) was overcoming the inertia of the homeowners.

One piece of that inertia was the homeowners' vague preference for hardwood floors, a common sort of reflexive reaction to the ingrained notion that hardwood is better than other options. Don't get us wrong — hardwood is better for some uses in a home, but so is bare concrete. In Nichole and Andy's case, though, Farr had a different flooring in mind: luxury vinyl. "I look at the floors in this house, and they really do need replacing," Farr said in the "Tough Love" episode. "The thing is, they really shouldn't be hardwood again. With their dogs and their lifestyle, hardwood is not the best solution, which works out well for me because I have an LVT that's going to look great and cost half as much." And looks and cost weren't the only considerations.

Luxury vinyl flooring (LVF) — available as LVT (tile) and LVP (plank) — is expected to grow about twice as fast as the construction industry average in coming years as buyers re-think their fixation on hardwood flooring and focus more on considerations like price and performance. Being a wise consumer means taking all of these factors into account, regardless of the answers. Those answers come more easily for a pro like Farr, who is trying to help new owners with several dogs plan for the future.

Luxury vinyl wins for some major considerations

When wear is a major concern, like when a couple of dogs or young children are present, or in high-traffic areas, luxury vinyl plank is often the smarter choice than standard hardwood flooring. It's spill- and scratch-resistant, with an average lifespan of 25 to 30 years. You can even use vinyl flooring in demanding areas like your garage. Of course, that's only half of the real-world durability formula; you also have to think of it in terms of cost. With a median price range of $2 to $5 per square foot, luxury vinyl can be a fourth or less of the cost of hardwood flooring at $8 to $25 per square foot.

Of course, homeowners looking to replace their flooring usually have goals in mind besides price and durability. One might reject cheap roll vinyl because of its appearance. When it comes to looks, wood is preferred for most rooms in most homes, and this is another area where modern luxury vinyl excels. The look of wood flooring is timeless, so manufacturers have put a lot of resources into making luxury vinyl flooring very realistic. Higher-end luxury vinyl products can be extremely true to their wood grain, with patterns that repeat less often and grain that runs deeper in thicker planks. Even with higher-end LVF, you can achieve the look of hardwood floors for half the cost of real wood.

Other pros and cons to consider

Homeowners looking to invest in new floors often have a few other things on their minds, too. They might consider the effect of flooring on sound in their homes: Vinyl is quiet, absorbing both airborne and impact sounds (like footsteps and dropped objects), and it tends to be warmer and more cushioned than other flooring options. If your family is in the habit of dropping things on the floors (and aren't they all?), maintenance can be an important factor. LVF is easy to clean and doesn't require polishing or waxing. "You get all the beauty of it being natural wood, you get all of the durability of it not being natural wood," Hilary Farr said in the "Tough Love" episode. "You can drop something on this and it's not going to make a dent. You can spill things on it, you can wipe it up."

But LVF isn't perfect. Homeowners also take into account issues like installation (generally easy with vinyl planks, but they can be sensitive to subfloor imperfections); ease of repair (LVF usually requires that you replace rather than repair damaged planks); and issues with water (it won't hurt LVF, but water trapped underneath can promote mold and subfloor deterioration). And quality varies with price and manufacturer, so issues like discoloration, curling, and crumbling edges can come up with less expensive flooring. All of these considerations are worth thinking through when you're determining if vinyl plank flooring is right for your space.