The Best Hardwood Floors for Messy Kids and Pets

by Jennifer TuohyJanuary 19, 2018

Hardwood floors trump carpet for households with kids and pets. It’s a whole lot easier to clean up when spills are on wood, not wool. Plus, hardwood is more forgiving than ceramic, concrete, or tile. But if you have rambunctious pets and messy kids, you may be concerned about whether hardwood floors will stay beautiful in your home. Here, we’ll look at the four factors to consider if you’re thinking about installing hardwood.

Longevity

Solid hardwood floors can last a lifetime, even after years of abuse. While it can dent easily, solid hardwood offers superior scratch resistance and can be refinished multiple times. Engineered hardwood — where a thin veneer of wood or bamboo is placed over structural plywood — doesn’t wear as well and dents just as easily. It can be refinished only once or twice before the plywood shows through. Laminate, which is a synthetic flooring made to look like wood, has a shorter life expectancy of about 15 to 20 years. If it’s badly damaged, it can’t be refinished and will need to be replaced.

Moisture Resistance

Wood and water don’t mix. Even if you have solid wood that can be refinished, moisture can seep through its many layers, and stains can be permanent if not cleaned correctly and quickly. For this reason, hardwood does not work well in bathrooms, laundry rooms, or other places where lots of humidity and moisture is present. If you want hardwood in these rooms, consider laminate flooring or wood-look tile instead.
Playing with pets

Durability

Flooring in high-traffic areas such as the family room, entryways, hallways, and kitchen will see the most wear, so durability is a key factor. Laminate promises fewer scratches and dents, but it doesn’t last as long as solid or engineered wood, both of which can be refinished. Plus, when coated with three or four layers of polyurethane, the real-wood options become just as durable. You can also consider an additional polyurethane coat a few years after installation as preventive maintenance. Scratches and dirt are more visible with shiny finishes, so choose a satin or matte varnish to better camouflage wear and tear.

Scratch Resistance

No matter what type of wood you select, it’s nearly impossible to prevent scratches. Instead, consider some ways to hide them.

  • Choose a hardwood with an open grain that won’t show marks. Oak and hickory are both good choices.
  • Opt for a light-colored hardwood that is less likely to show scratches. If you use solid wood, you can always change the color when you refinish, so if you’ve always longed for a deep, dark wood floor, you can have it — once the kids are away at college!
  • Go rustic. Hand-scraped wood, reclaimed boards, or flooring with lots of knots and color variety camouflage dents and scratches excellently.
  • Avoid soft woods, like pine, bamboo, fir, American walnut, and cherry, which are more prone to showing scratches.

The most important thing to realize is that hardwood floors will scratch and dent over time — and there’s nothing you can do to prevent that. Whether or not you have children and pets, you will end up with blemishes on your floors. Think of it as adding character to your home. After all, the natural look of wood embraces some scratches and dents. A scratch on wood doesn’t stand out as much as a crack in ceramic, and it’s easier to fix.

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Keep Your Floors Looking New

Whichever type of flooring you install, these tips will help give your wood floors a better chance of staying scratch-free for longer:

  • Take your shoes off in the house (especially soccer cleats and stilettos!).
  • Put felt pads on the legs of furniture — and keep a supply on hand in case they fall off.
  • Lay down runners and area rugs, especially in high-traffic areas.
  • Put plastic mats under rolling chairs.
  • Consider pet socks if your furry friend will put up with them. They help prevent scratches and make it easier for elderly dogs to walk on the flooring.
  • Use a good hardwood floor cleaner regularly and clean up any pet accidents or spills immediately.

By selecting a durable, resistant wood flooring option that’s right for your busy lifestyle, you can focus on enjoying time with your family instead of worrying about your floors.

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About The Author
Jennifer Tuohy
Jennifer Tuohy writes for The Home Depot on DIY projects and home technology.