Wood and water don’t mix – and the high price of genuine hardwood isn’t a good fit for every budget. Alternatives are available!
The best fake wood flooring options are laminate, sheet vinyl and LVP/LVT, wood-look tile and engineered hardwood, which some people call “real fake wood,” or is it “fake real wood?” Either way, it is on the list with a few more options for fake wood flooring.
In this article we provide you with all of the options, what they are, their appearance, where they can be used, the pros and cons of each material, estimates on how much they cost, and information about installation and maintenance.
Laminate flooring looks like the real thing because it includes an HD photo of genuine wood flooring! In all, it is constructed of four layers including a high density core and a design layer – the photo layer. The image is covered with a transparent plastic wear layer, which is embossed with a wood-grain texture to create a three-dimensional wood appearance.
Laminate flooring is given AC (Abrasion Class) ratings. Choose AC1 for rooms that are not used often, AC2 for general traffic rooms, like dining rooms, and AC3 for high traffic areas like entryways or kitchens.
A high-quality laminate is one of the best flooring products at mimicking the look and feel of real wood. Cheaper laminates may not look as genuine as the more expensive choices, so always see an actual sample of the flooring before you purchase it.
Where to Install Laminate
Laminate flooring can be used anywhere it won’t encounter consistent moisture. Laminate is perfect for dining, living, and bedrooms but not the best choice for kitchens, baths, or mudrooms. Laminate can be used below grade, as in basements, if a vapor barrier subfloor is installed.
Installing Laminate Flooring
Laminate flooring is milled into planks like wood with a tongue and groove edge allowing the floor to snap or lock together and install without nails, staples, or glue. A floor installed in this way is called a floating floor. Installation requires only a few tools, so for a homeowner with some DIY skills, it should be a moderately easy project.
- Less expensive than real wood
- Durable – Moisture, scratch, stain, and fade resistant
- Variety – You can find laminate that looks like just about any wood species and stain color including aged and distressed looks
- Easy to Install
- Easy to Clean – Use a broom, dry or slightly damp mop
- Inexpensive laminate can look artificial
- Laminate is not waterproof and can be damaged by excessive moisture
- If installed without a subfloor or pad, it can feel hard or noisy underfoot
Laminate Flooring Costs
Laminate costs about $2 to over $10 per square foot with most thicker, high-quality, choices in the $5 to $7 range for materials. Professional installation will cost an additional $3 to $6 per square foot.
Top Laminate Brands
Some of the top brands include Pergo, Mannington, Shaw, Tarkett, TrafficMaster, AquaGuard, Armstrong and Mohawk Rev Wood.
Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP)
Luxury vinyl tile, or LVT, is essentially the same, but the dimensions of the pieces are different. We’ll use LVP throughout this section, and that includes LVT.
LVP is made of a rigid vinyl base, a photographic image of wood, a clear durable film, and a top wear layer made of aluminum oxide. The surface is embossed to follow the wood-grain in the photo to create the look and feel of real wood.
Quality LVP can effectively mimic real wood. High-quality LVP offers both the visual appearance and feel of hardwood.
Where to Install Vinyl Plank Flooring
LVP is waterproof, so it can be installed anywhere in your home. If you plan to install it over a slab in a basement, first installing a vapor barrier is recommended.
While LVP can be installed on almost any level surface, adding a subfloor or an underlayment will give the flooring added durability and a more wood-like feel. LVP features a click and lock system making DIY fairly easy.
Luxury vinyl plank fake wood flooring can be installed as a floating floor in smaller areas, but for large or high-traffic areas, like a family room, gluing the flooring is recommended. Here is a useful video on LVP installation.
- Moisture proof
- Durable – Scratch, stain, and fade resistant
- Easy to Install
- Easy to Clean – Use a broom, a mop that is slightly dampened with mild soap and water
- Can fade or discolor in areas where it receives a lot of sunlight
- Can emit VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) – look for LVP with low VOCs, especially those with a FloorScore or GreenGuard label
LVP Thickness and Wear Layer
The wear layer of LVP is measured in mils (not the same as millimeters). The thicker the wear layer, the more durable the floor. If your home is very quiet, without children and pets,12 to16 mil should be fine. For an active home, use a 20 to 28 mil LVP. LVP at over 28 mil is usually used in commercial environments.
Look for a polyurethane wear layer rather than a vinyl-only wear layer which isn’t as durable as polyurethane.
Most of the quality LVP brands will attach an underlayment, such as foam or cork, to their flooring to increase comfort and durability.
LVP Flooring Costs
LVP prices range from $3.50 up to $12 or more per square foot with the majority of good quality options at $5 to $9 per square foot for materials. Professional installation will cost an additional $3 to $6 per square foot depending on the size and complexity of the floor.
Top LVP Brands
Top LVP brands include Shaw, Mohawk, Armstrong, and Coretec.
Sheet Vinyl Flooring
Sheet vinyl flooring is made of PVC or other types of plastic with various additives, such as coloring, and formed into large, continuous, flexible sheets. Sheet vinyl consists of a foam backing, a photograph of wood, and a wear-layer. Sheet vinyl comes in 12 foot wide rolls that are cut to fit the size of the room.
Sheet vinyl flooring has come a long way with new technology and materials able to create fairly realistic wood visuals and textures. It’s best to see an actual sample before purchasing.
Where to Install Sheet Vinyl
Because it’s waterproof, sheet vinyl can be installed in any room in our home, including the basement.
Installing Sheet Vinyl
Sheet Vinyl can be installed over concrete and other flooring if the existing floor is smooth and free of damage, if not, use an underlayment or install a subfloor.
The sheet vinyl is cut to size, laid over the floor, trimmed around the edges, and any seams are bonded with an adhesive tape. Some sheet vinyl can be installed without glue, and some, especially in large or high-traffic areas, will need to be glued down.
Installing sheet vinyl is not an easy DIY project, especially if it’s being used in a large area. Make a cutting blunder, and you might lose a big piece of vinyl.
- Large variety
- Easy to Clean
- Sheet vinyl does not replicate the appearance of real wood as well as laminate or luxury vinyl plank flooring because it is flat/two-dimensional.
- Difficult to install
- Difficult to repair
Look for a wear layer of 12 mil for a quiet household. For a home with children and pets choose a sheet vinyl with a 20 mil to a 28 mil wear layer.
Sheet Vinyl Flooring Costs
Sheet vinyl flooring costs between $1 and $6 per square foot with plenty of good choices in the $2 to $4 per square foot for materials. Installation will cost an additional $2 to $3 per square foot.
Top brands include Mannington, Armstrong, Congoleum and Stainmaster (now owned by Lowes).
If you haven’t taken a close look at wood look tile, check it out before you make your final decision.
Wood-look tile, or wood look tile, is made from either ceramic or porcelain and has a scanned, high-resolution image of wood printed onto the tiles. The surface of the tile is often textured to create a wood-grain following the printed image giving the tile the realistic appearance of wood. These tiles are available in plank shapes to further enhance wood-like appearance.
Due to the printing technology and wood-grain texture, quality porcelain tile can be very realistic in appearance, although the tile will feel “harder” and cooler to your step and touch.
The tile is available to resemble a wide variety of wood species in varying colors, plank widths, distressed, and reclaimed wood-looks. Tiles can be laid in various ways including chevron and herringbone patterns.
Where to Install Wood-Look Tile
Wood-look tile can be installed anywhere regular tile can be installed. It’s a good option for rooms where water may end up on the floor like bathrooms, mudrooms and kitchens.
Installing Wood-Look Tile
Wood-look tile is installed like any other tile flooring. You will first need a solid subfloor and a layer of backer-board. A homeowner with tiling experience will find this to be a moderate DIY project. If you do not have tiling experience, professional installation is recommended. Here’s a video on installation.
- Less expensive than hardwood flooring.
- Extremely durable
- Easy to Maintain
- Easy to Repair – If a tile is chipped or cracked, it can be removed and replaced with a new tile. Order a few extra tiles in case a replacement is later needed.
- Hard Cold Surface– Tile is hard and cold underfoot so area rugs or mats may be needed. If something fragile is dropped, it will likely break.
- Can be slippery when wet
- Requires Grout – To create a more realistic wood appearance, use a grout color that closely matches the color of the tile.
Wood-Look Tile Costs
Wood-look tiles can cost anywhere from $1 to $15 per square floor. Ceramic tile is less expensive with the average range from $2 to $8 and porcelain from $4 to $12 per square foot for materials only. Installation will cost an additional $5 to $7 per square foot.
Top brands include Daltile, American Olean, and Marazzi.
There are full details on this very interesting fake wood flooring in our Wood Look Tile Buying Guide.
Engineered Hardwood Flooring
Engineered hardwood is made with a core of plywood or high-density fiberboard glued together. The top layer is a veneer of real wood.
Engineered hardwood flooring looks and feels like real wood because it is real wood.
Where to Install Engineered Hardwood Flooring
Even though engineered hardwood is less susceptible to issues with moisture than solid hardwood, it can still be damaged by water. Engineered hardwood is excellent for living, dining, bedrooms, and even kitchens, but it’s not a good choice for bathrooms and mudrooms.
Engineered hardwood always needs to be installed on a proper subfloor.
If you wish to use it in the basement, a vapor barrier must be used to prevent moisture from absorbing into the wood. Make sure the manufacturer states it can be installed below grade.
Installing Engineered Hardwood
Engineered hardwood is milled in planks with a tongue and groove edge making it fit together tightly. A homeowner with experience and the tools will find installation to be a moderate to difficult DIY project.
- Less expensive than solid hardwood
- More resistant to water damage than solid hardwood
- Wide variety of woods, colors, and styles
- Can be refinished 1 to 2 times
- More expensive than other options like laminate and LVP
- Can be damaged by water
- Cannot be wet mopped, only a very slightly damp mop should be used
Construction and Wear Layer
Look for an engineered hardwood that’s at least 5/8” thick, with a 5-ply or more construction, and a 2 to 3mm + wear layer. Lesser quality flooring will not last as long or stand up to a busy household.
Engineered Hardwood Costs
Engineered flooring will be in the $3 to $10 per square foot range with premium quality flooring in the $12 to $15 per square foot price range for materials. Expect to pay between $4 and $7 per square foot for professional installation.
Top brands include Bruce, Somerset, Harris, Lauzon, Johnson Hardwoods, Kahrs, and Anderson Tuftex.
Keep reading about this flooring’s pros, cons and costs in our Engineered Hardwood Buying Guide.
Other Wood-Look Flooring Materials
There are several other wood-look options on the market today that are worth considering including Bamboo and Hemp. Both Bamboo and Hemp are milled into planks, like hardwood, and both have pros and cons.
Bamboo is not very water resistant. High-quality Bamboo is much more durable than low-quality bamboo, but at $12 or more per square foot, it’s expensive and only available in limited colors.
Hemp is one of the newest flooring products on the market. It’s very green, fast-growing, water-resistant, and not prone to rot. Hemp costs about $10 to $12 per square foot.
Your Favorite Fake Wood Flooring
You might benefit from going back through our list and using the links to read more about those fake wood flooring options you think might be a good fit for your home. Each has a lot of useful information that will help you make a purchase you’ll be satisfied with today and for years to come.