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 complete 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 based on our experience.
- The floors are unfinished which allows you to finish them any way you want. The wood is red oak so it does have a natural tendency to have a warmer finish, 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.
- 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.
- 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. Also, oak is more forgiving than some other wood types. It’s a bit softer and easy to work with compared to some harder wood options.
- 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.
- The flooring is very affordable. At roughly $1.69/sq foot for the 5″, the price is very affortable. 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 500 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 is not 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 precut 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.