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January 15, 2020
What is wide plank wood flooring and why is it so popular? Great questions!
Wood floor planks have traditionally been on the narrower side—because hardwood has the tendency to expand and contract depending on its environment. And the narrower the plank, the less prone to warping it is.
However: modern advances now allow for wider planks that don’t expand as much with humidity or heat, allowing for this beautiful new trend. Engineered wood flooring, in particular, allows for wider planks because its multiple layers make for a super-stable product.
Whatever the case, wide planks look great and have an amazing effect on any room they’re in.
But we know: you still have questions! What are the pros and cons of wide plank wood flooring? Which wood species work best? How much does wide plank hardwood cost? And what effect does wide plank wood flooring have on a room’s appearance?
Below, we’ll answer all of those questions (and more) in this complete guide to solid and engineered wide plank hardwood flooring.
First of All: What Is Wide Plank Hardwood Flooring?
Most types of wood flooring range between two and five inches wide. Wide plank hardwood, on the other hand, is generally defined as six inches or wider.
And that’s about it! Wide plank flooring doesn’t have any special care requirements. You don’t have to do anything different than you would with normal-width hardwood.
Common Wood Flooring Plank Widths
As we said, wide plank wood flooring starts at six inches, but eight-inch and 10-inch widths are also common. Anything wider than 10 inches is exceedingly rare and usually limited to custom jobs.
This is true for both wide plank engineered wood flooring and wide plank solid wood flooring.
Is Wide Plank Wood Flooring Better than Narrow Plank Flooring?
This depends on how you define “better.” From a practical standpoint, there’s no significant difference between wide planks and conventional narrow planks, aside from the obvious difference in width.
Looks-wise, plenty of people will probably say that wide planks look better—but the same could be said for narrow planks. It’s all subjective!
Are Wide Plank Wood Floors More Expensive Than Normal Planks?
Wide plank wood floors can be more expensive than narrow width planks, but it really depends on a lot of factors. In general, the wider the cut, the more expensive the individual plank will be.
But: while it may cost more to buy wide planks, it may be cheaper to install them. This will probably come down to your contractor choice, but since wider planks cover more surface area, it’s reasonable to expect that they won’t take as long to cover a surface.
How Does Wide Plank Hardwood Flooring Affect the Look of a Room?
In terms of functionality, wide plank wood flooring—whether solid or engineered—isn’t different than any other wood floor. However, wide planks can have a big effect on the appearance of a room.
Wide Planks Can Make a Small Room Look Bigger
A small room may look bigger with wide plank wood flooring. The exact reason for this comes down to optical illusions and fun sciency stuff, but the point here is that if you’re trying to open up your limited space, wide plank floors could help!
But Super-Wide Planks Can Have the Opposite Effect
On the other hand, if your planks are too wide, they might have a shrinking effect instead. Here we’re talking about planks over 10 inches or so—but it really depends on the size of your room. And don’t worry, we’ll talk about this in more detail below!
Solid vs. Engineered Wide Plank Flooring
To this point, we’ve noted that wide plank wood floors exist in both solid and engineered hardwood options. So what’s the difference? Is one better than the other?
Engineered Wide Plank Flooring Was Designed to Be Stable in Humidity
As we said earlier, the best engineered wood flooring handles humidity better than the best solid hardwood does. This means that you can safely install it in more humid environments without worrying about warping or swelling.
You’re More Likely to Find Wide Plank in Engineered Wood
Finding wide plank wood flooring isn’t too hard, but you may find more wide plank engineered wood options. The reason for this likely goes back to the whole “engineered-wood-handles-humidity-better” thing.
Engineered Hardwood Can Be Installed as a Floating Floor
Engineered hardwood is a little more DIY friendly than solid hardwood because it can be installed as a floating floor (solid hardwood doesn’t usually have this option).
Solid Hardwood Can Be Refinished Over and Over Again—Engineered Can’t
One of the biggest disadvantages of engineered wood, however, is that even the best brands can only be refinished so many times before the veneer layer is finished right off. Some can’t be refinished at all! Solid hardwood, on the other hand, can be finished indefinitely.
That being said, refinishing isn’t really an issue if you buy factory-finished engineered wood—its super-durable coating makes it really scratch-proof. All it requires is an easy screening and resurfacing every few years (or decades).
The Pros of Wide Plank Hardwood Flooring
So, what are the advantages of putting in of solid or engineered wide plank hardwood? The differences mostly come down to aesthetics.
Wide Planks Are Great for Unique Wood Floor Designs
Wide planks are awesome for creating non-traditional wood floor designs. They tend to be popular in more rustic and shabby-chic-inspired design themes, but there’s really no limit to where wide planks can look appealing.
We already mentioned this, but making a room look bigger is certainly a big pro for some floor buyers!
If you have limited space, even the feeling of more room can make for a more welcoming environment. You won’t feel as cooped up, which can benefit your mental wellbeing.
In Some Ways, Wide Planks Are (Slightly) More Durable Than Narrow Planks
Now for the non-aesthetic factor: wider planks are, from a certain point of view, more durable than narrow planks. The reason for this basically comes down to simple physics—wide planks have more surface area so they’re better at dissipating impact forces.
Naturally, if there are benefits to wide plank wood flooring, there have to be disadvantages too! Here are some of the most common ones:
Humidity Can Have a Larger Effect on Wide Plank Wood Flooring
Wide planks expand and contract more noticeably than narrow planks with changes in humidity. This means that wide planks aren’t necessarily better than narrow planks if you’re looking for indoor/outdoor flooring options.
Now, the good news here is that wide plank engineered hardwood flooring actually counters humidity much better than solid hardwood—so if you live in a humid area you can still get wide plank wood floors! They just have to be engineered.
Wider Planks Tend to Cost More
Because there’s literally more material per plank, wide plank wood floors usually cost more. However, take this with a grain of salt because you also don’t need as many wide planks to cover a room as you would with narrow planks.
The difference isn’t always significant and often comes down to installation costs. So, if you’re looking at the cost to replace carpet with hardwood, for example, the plank width is unlikely to have a big impact.
And Super-Wide Planks Can Make a Room Feel Smaller
And as we also mentioned earlier, if your planks are too wide, you could actually shrink the appearance of your room. To quote Avengers super-villain Thanos, your wood planks should be “perfectly balanced, as all things should be.” (Muahaha!)
Costs for wide plank wood flooring are, on average, roughly a dollar more per square foot than for narrow planks. So, whereas you might spend between $3 and $12 for regular solid hardwood per square foot, you can expect to pay closer to $4–$13 per square foot for wider planks.
One more thing: it’s probably safe to assume that eight and 10-inch planks cost more than six-inch planks on average (but again, you’ll probably need fewer planks total).
Cost of Wide Plank Engineered Hardwood Flooring
Another interesting perk of going with the best engineered wood flooring: there’s not usually a big difference between the cost of narrow and wide plank engineered hardwood.
Engineered wood’s price tends to be influenced more by the number of layers it has rather than its width. In general, engineered hardwood runs from $3–$15 per square foot.
That said, there are two types of wood flooring that are almost always available in wider planks: oak and pine.
Wide Plank Oak Flooring
Oak is one of the most common hardwoods used for flooring, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see it here. A general toughness, abundant supply, and plenty of color options make it a great choice to pick. Plus, it’s readily available as both solid and engineered wide plank hardwood flooring.
Wide Plank Pine Flooring
Pine is one of the few softwoods that’s frequently used for flooring, mostly due to its abundance and history (wide plank pine was the main option in Colonial America). And really, wide plank pine flooring has never particularly gone out of style. Plus, it takes a stain very well!
You Can Also Find Wide Plank Wood Flooring Alternatives
We’d be remiss if we avoided mentioning a few hardwood floor alternatives! The reality is that hardwood—engineered or otherwise—can be a pain if it’s not taken care of. And wide-plank faux-wood flooring can offer an amazing, gorgeous alternative.
The best vinyl flooring stacks up against hardwood flooring in terms of durability and appearance, with the added benefit of being waterproof. Many of the best vinyl plank flooring brands offer wood-look options that are surprisingly realistic, including with wide plank widths.
One thing worth noting, vinyl isn’t the most eco-friendly flooring and even “greener” options like low-VOC vinyl flooring can be hard to come by. So this is one area where wide plank engineered hardwood flooring has the clear advantage.
And we’re serious—many types of floor tiles are great at mimicking the texture of wood. One downside: finding wood-look tile in a wide plank flooring may be slightly difficult. One upside: you’ll have infinitely better waterproofing with a tile vs. a wood floor.
You May Also Be Able to Find Wide Plank Cork or Bamboo Flooring
If you want a more natural wood substitute, cork and bamboo may be good choices. Both are relatively environmentally-friendly flooring options compared to synthetics like vinyl.
The best bamboo flooring products come in both solid and engineered varieties. You may be able to find both of these in wider plank widths. And if you look into the pros and cons of engineered bamboo flooring, you’ll find they’re very similar to the pros and cons of engineered hardwood—so wide-plank engineered bamboo may be more stable.
Whatever the case, we definitely recommend buying your cork from a local retailer rather than going with the cork flooring Lowes or Home Depot sells. It’s always going to be much higher quality.
Bamboo and Cork Don’t Offer as Many Wide Plank Options as Other Hardwood Alternatives
Ultimately, if you want wide plank wood flooring and don’t care if it’s made of real wood, it’s probably easier to choose vinyl, tile, or laminate over cork or bamboo. The sheer availability of wide-plank bamboo flooring vs. laminate makes the latter a more practical option.
However, the flooring market is an ever-changing field and it wouldn’t shock us to see wide plank cork and bamboo options start popping up more frequently in the future!
What’s the Best Wide Plank Wood Flooring Width?
Whether you’re going with wide plank solid or wide plank engineered hardwood flooring, you’re going to want to balance your plank width and the size of the space you’re installing it in.
Wood Flooring Plank Widths for Small Rooms vs. Large Rooms
A small room will most likely benefit from wide plank wood flooring of no more than six inches. Though that’s the minimum to be considered “wide plank”, it’s still a heckuva lot wider than normal planks!
On the other hand, larger rooms can probably accommodate larger widths, like eight to 10 inches.
Now, you’ll note that we didn’t specify exact room sizes because this is ultimately a subjective matter. But, if you want a starting point, anything below 200–300sq. ft. could be considered a smaller room.
Wide Plank Wood Flooring for Hallways
The rules above don’t explicitly relate to hallways. Playing around with the widths of your planks in a hallway can actually be a great way to change the dynamic of your interior space.
If you want to emphasize the “closeness” of your home, putting wider planks in a short hallway might make more sense. Alternatively, if you do the opposite you might create the illusion of a larger interior.
Ready to Shop for Some Wide Plank Wood Flooring?
So: did we tell you everything you needed to know about wide plank hardwood flooring? We certainly hope we did.
Because in the end, wide plank wood flooring looks great, won’t bloat your project’s price tag, and can do amazing things for your home’s design. Whether you go with one of the best engineered wood flooring brands or a solid hardwood, light or dark hues, or anything in between—wide plank wood flooring is fantastic.
Christian is a freelance everything-writer, editor, & SEO guy. When he’s not writing about flooring and remodeling, he’s either writing news for the California American Legion or writing fresh content for his camping & EDC blog (or, you know, actually camping).
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