B and I have been working for the past month on installing hardwood floors in the first floor of our home. After looking at every possible option everywhere within a 50 mile radius, we settled on Utility Oak Flooring from Lumber Liquidators.
Now that we are nearing the end of the project, I thought I would share our thoughts on the pros and cons of this type of flooring. These opinions are completely based on our experience with them so far. There are clear ups and downs to choosing this kind of flooring, so I thought my experience may help you if you are looking for flooring for your own home.
I also want to be clear that I am not receiving any compensation for my opinions. We paid for our flooring on our own and these opinions are completely my own based on our experience.
Pros of Utility Oak Flooring from Lumber Liquidators:
- The floors are unfinished which allows you to finish them any way you want. The wood is white oak so it is already beautiful, but the possibilities are endless. If you love a dark, walnut like finish you can go dark. If you love a pickled finish, you can do a pickled stain. You are completely in control of how you want the floors to look. I have already shared that we are doing nothing but a clear sealer because the color is already the perfect balance of light and dark.
- The floors have a lot of Character. If you love the character of color variations, texture from knots and a more raw look, these floors are for you. The look is definitely more rustic feeling. Because these are the pieces that get removed from the lots of wood that are pre-finished, just about every piece has a unique look to it. Together, these floors have lots of movement and character that is perfect for a rustic or more industrial look. It is not a uniform look that you are used to with pre-finished flooring.
- The floors are solid oak. Quality flooring can improve the value of your home. Unlike laminate or engineered flooring, utility flooring is a solid wood product. While some people love the durability of laminate, many people still look for solid wood in a home over a wood-look.
- The flooring comes in both 3″ and 5″ planks. Even with utility flooring you have options. Whether you prefer the thinner, 3″ plank or the wider 5″ plank, you can still do utility flooring. We went with the wider, 5″ plank for our house.
- The flooring is very affordable. At roughly $1.69/sq foot for the 5″, the price is very affordable. Pricing does vary on the market so it’s not the same every time or location but this is what we paid in central PA. If price is one of your deciding factors, this gets you a solid wood flooring for the same cost as laminate. Even if you stain and seal the flooring after, this is still a great, inexpensive option. Lumber Liquidators also gave us a discount for ordering more than 1000 sq. ft. which brought the price down even more. This discount helped us cover the cost of the floor sander rental and the sealer.
- The boards are mostly short pieces. I did not realize when I agreed with B to order these floors that they come as mostly short pieces. When I first saw the bundles I got really upset because it looked like all the scraps. That’s what it is. This utility flooring is the knots, or imperfect pieces that cannot be used for pre-finished flooring. If you are not ok with lots of short pieces, this isn’t the flooring for you. I will also warn you that while the floors do look nice once they are down, installing these floors are more like putting a puzzle together. You have more cutting and fitting the right lengths in with this flooring which does take longer.
- You should expect to have more waste with this flooring compared to other floors. The salesman recommended we order 25% more flooring than we needed to account for pieces that aren’t usable. We are 90% done with laying the floor and haven’t thrown near that much away, though we have had a lot of waste with pieces that are too damaged to use or with boards that have a hole in the knot that goes all the way through the board.
- These floors require a lot more work to install. Each new row is completely unique so you can’t pre-cut a bunch of started pieces like you would with regular flooring. Once installed, these floors need to be sanded, cleaned, stained and sealed. That’s a lot of extra work.
- The flooring does not come in boxes like regular flooring does. Our flooring came bundled with plastic straps on a palette not in boxes like flooring usually comes in. This made the packs harder to move because with all the short pieces, the bundles fell apart easily. It made it easier for me to carry but it was harder to move and stack. This also mean the flooring wasn’t really protected by anything during transport which could have caused more damage.
- This flooring takes more time to lay down and finish. With the shorter pieces that end up going down like you are putting a puzzle together the simple act of installing the floors takes more time. Once the floors are in, they have to be sanded, stained and sealed which also adds more time to the total project. This is likely not the best option for someone looking to complete a project in a weekend.
Weighing the pros and cons comes down to budget, time and the amount of work you are willing to put in. It’s not impossible to find flooring options with character that are already finished. B and I decided that we wanted solid wood and were willing to put in a little added work to save some money for future projects that we still need to do. We felt the character and price outweighed the added time and work and in the end, because we ordered 25% more than we needed, we’ll have enough flooring left over to do our stair landing and hallway upstairs. We also really love the more rustic look compared to pre-finished flooring so this was the right choice for us.
Hi!’ We love utility oak but we’re worried our contractor won’t work with it- did you diy or was your contractor willing to work with the irregularities?
Hi Lisa, We installed this ourselves. We bought a flooring nailer directly from Lumber Liquidators so that we could do this on our own. My husband and I are pretty experienced DIYers so we knew we could tackle this without hiring outside help.
We did learn in talking with other pros and contractors we know that some actually have their own secret recipes for filling in the knot holes. We chose not to do any special filler because we found very few boards that would have needed it anyway. We were just very careful when we sealed the floors to make sure we got down in the grooves. LL also tells you to order as much as 25% more than you need but we found that while we did have to throw out boards that had broken tongues or grooves, we didn’t have anywhere near the 25% that we couldn’t use. Everyone will be different and we actually liked the boards that had knot holes and even used a few that were discolored because it adds so much character to the floor.
If you are using a contractor, it may cost you more in labor because the utility oak comes in very random sizes, many of them pretty short. It’s almost like putting a puzzle together so it takes longer than installing regular, pre-finished flooring. Sanding and finishing takes longer too because not all the boards are perfect, you have to work to get them smooth and even. This might be why some contractors wont install it. We found it to be worth the effort and in the end because you can’t fake character like we think this flooring has.
We really love all the imperfections and the white oak is beautiful. There is so much character that you don’t get with pre-finished flooring even ones that have been “distressed”. Hopefully that helps you out. Feel free to email me if you have more questions.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful answer! I love the look for utility oak for the imperfections and the price for 8” wide boards 🙂
Hi Lisa, You are so welcome! I’m sure if you go that route, you will be happy with your decision. I wish you the best of luck with your project!