If you’re blessed enough to have a home full of children (whether the human or four-legged kind), you probably know that they can do a number on your floors (and furniture, and your food budget, and…). But even if you don’t have kids, cats, or dogs, you might simply be interested in buy-it-for-life flooring–or at least floors you won’t need to replace every seven years. Today we’re going to take a look at the most durable bare floors on the market. By the end of our guide, you’ll have a better idea of which floors to choose and which to avoid if you don’t want scratches, dings, dents, and costly repairs that eat your savings.
Solid hardwood flooring – traditional and restorable
If you want a traditional and time-tested hardy floor option, go with the standard recommendation of hardwood floors. While they aren’t scratch-proof (even the hardest natural woods can be dented, or we’d have many more forests around the globe), they can take sanding after sanding, allowing you to restore hardwood floors to like-new conditions over and over again. It’s no wonder that some antique homes contain hardwood floors installed hundreds of years ago; well-maintained wood is very durable.
Resilient vinyl floors – cheap and waterproof
Even if resilient flooring is just a name flooring companies came up with to stop you from associating vinyl with cheapness, we’ve got to admit that it’s a good description of what you’ll get while saving money. Vinyl is about as plastic as a flooring can get, and just like plastic food containers (think Rubbermaid, think Tupperware), it’s going to be waterproof, and it’s going to last for as long as you care to use it. If your priority is longevity, look for sheet vinyl. The fewer the seams the better; the more they are, the more openings there are for the vinyl to rip or tear. This is why plank and tile vinyl aren’t quite as long-lived as sheet vinyl.
Natural stone floors – made from mountains
Natural stones like slate and granite survived thousands of years of weathering from rain, wind, sand, sunlight, and mud; they’ll hold up for a few decades and then some in your home. They’ll also add a calming presence to your living space while connecting you to the world beyond your walls.
However, you’ll want to choose your stones carefully. While some stones, including travertine, are easily as durable as concrete, there are softer stones used as floorings, including marble, which can be very susceptible to scratches, dings, and overall wear.
Engineered wood floorings – stronger than hardwood, but less restorable
If you want a wood look and feel but don’t want to pay for hardwood and don’t find laminates realistic enough, you might want to consider engineered, or hybrid wood. A blend of traditional hardwood and plywood, the plywood base gives engineered wood greater strength and water resistance than solid wood. However, because the wood look you want is only a veener a few fractions of an inch thick, it can only be sanded a few times before you get to the plywood core, and it’ll scratch just as easily as solid wood.
Ceramic and porcelain tile floors – beautiful but crackable
Ceramic and porcelain tiles have few rivals when it comes to beauty and customizability; they can be jaw-droppingly attractive in their minimalism and mirror-like in their ability to match virtually any décor.
Ceramic and porcelain tiles are also exceptionally durable in terms of their abilities to resist spills and scratches, and are water resistant on the tiles, if not in the grout. But they’re vulnerable to cracking, and will likely do so if dense objects are dropped on them (e.g., a laptop, a toaster, or a glass bottle of olive oil). That said, you can reduce the risks of cracking by making sure you install them with sufficient sub-floors and proper grouting. Voids or moisture beneath tiles due to poor installations can lead to swelling, which can eventually lead to cracking.
Concrete flooring – durable but cold, hard, and noisy
If you’re looking for the hardest floors you can practically install in a home, look to concrete. It’s the same material used to pave driveways and the foundation your home rests on. It’s not unbreakable (as anyone who’s ever seen a sidewalk broken by tree trunks can attest), but it’s a floor you can abuse more than nearly any other, and easily offers the best ratio of strength to price on the market.
That said, you’re probably not going to want concrete floors in your home for several reasons. First of all, concrete is hard. Very hard. You won’t want to stand on it for extended periods of time unless you’ve got an area rug between your feet and the floor. Beyond this, concrete is cold, although you can technically get around this by installing radiant heating beneath it (before installing the concrete, of course). Beyond comfort, concrete also transmits sound well–too well. It’s best to choose a different floor if you want your home to retain a cozy feel.
Can vacuuming help maintain my bare floors longer?
While vacuuming by itself won’t necessarily add years to your floors, it will help them look better longer. Similarly, the habit of regular cleaning and maintenance will also make you more aware of how your floors are wearing with age, and will allow you to intervene sooner if you do discover problems (e.g., grout that needs replacement), potentially saving you thousands of dollars in the long term.
Our favorite vacuums for maintaining bare floors are those with Parquet heads; a Parquet floor brush is simply more efficient at collecting dust, grime, and pet hair than a powered brush head, which tend to blow dirt around on bare floors due to the dramatically lower friction compared to carpeting.
Ideally, such a vacuum will also include a powered head to tackle carpets and area rugs, as most homeowners with bare floors also have at least one carpeted or rug-covered living space to maintain as well. Two examples of vacuums that include both heads are the Miele Complete C3 Cat & Dog (reviewed here and here) and Miele Compact C2 Electro+ (reviewed here and here). Both are also buy-it-for-life vacuums that will stand the test of time.
If you find our research on PMC helpful, you can follow our efforts to keep maniacally reviewing home cleaning tools by shopping through our links above. We promise to keep fighting the good fight against every horror children, animals, and grown, yet messy humans can inflict upon a clean home.