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Best Wood Floors for Dogs

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Dog on Wood Floor

"But I Promise I Won't Scratch Your New Floor!"

Image Public Domain; Lake County, FL
Wood floors and dogs don't mix. But you doth protest! Max, Rupert, Aloysius, or whatever might be the name of your Golden Retriever, Chocolate Lab, or Basset, would look so adorable sprawled on the Brazilian Cherry in front of the fireplace. You're correct...

Then What's the Problem at Hand...or Paw?

Claws. Unless you're prepared to declaw your beautiful furry friend, you'll need to adjust the floor to the dog, not the dog to the floor. Claws don't have to the sharp to affect your wood floor, either.

I once had a lovely new wooden floor and a handsome Golden Retriever with the broad-tipped (i.e., not sharp at all) claws that big dogs have. Still, the floors were ruined. His claws only rarely penetrated the sealer coats; it was more a matter of creating long, shallow dents.

Lay out as many runners as you like: your dog will not remain confined to them, guaranteed.

1. The Best Wood Floor Isn't a Wood Floor

If you're bound-and-determined to have nothing but wood, skip to the next item. Otherwise, read on...

When I originally wrote this article, the class of porcelain tile that I call Tile That Looks Like Wood did not exist in its current form. You've always been able to buy this type of tile, but it looked awful. Then two things happened. Tile became plank-sized, just like short wood planks you purchase for flooring. More importantly, the graphics became more realistic. Peruse these pictures of ceramic tile that looks like wood and see if any might satisfy your urge.

2. Brazilian Walnut or Ipe

Brazilian hardwood flooring is universally hard and dense. Beyond that, it's mostly a matter of personal preference. Ipe, often called Brazilian walnut, is hard enough that it's even used on exterior decks.

3. Hard Maple

If you're looking for flooring on the domestic front, hard maple may be the way to go. Hard maple has long been used as a surface for basketball courts, so it should stand up well to pet traffic. Hard maple can hit a Janka rating of 1,450 or higher. Don't confuse hard maple with just any old maple. It's a specific type, alternately called sugar or rock maple.

According to industry group Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association (MFMA), hard maple "is produced from trees grown north of the 38th parallel [roughly above a longitudinal line drawn between San Francisco and Richmond, VA] where shorter growing seasons produce maple with closer, more uniform grain."

4. Bamboo - Strand-Woven and Fossilized

Bamboo is a grass, not a wood, but in the flooring industry it is often classified as wood and can be subjected to a Janka test, too.

Bamboo flooring is very durable, but only as a result of the manufacturing process that impregnates the grass with hard resins. I mention the Cali brand of bamboo flooring because its Janka rating is an astronomical 5,000. Compare this to a Janka of 2,000 to 3,000 for conventional strand-woven bamboo flooring.

Conditions You're Looking For

  • Pre-Finished: Pre-finished wood floors are stained and sealed in the factory with multiple layers of alligator skin-tough aluminum oxide-impregnated urethane finish.
  • Hardwoods:. Soft woods such as pine or fir are poor choices for houses with dogs. No amount of surface prep can shield against dog claws.
  • Solid Hardwood, Not Engineered Wood: Engineered wood flooring is a sandwich of laminated wood with a real hardwood veneer on top. Engineered wood flooring is a superior product, but it raises red flags for a dog-inhabited homes. Engineered wood can take only a limited number of light sandings. Scratch marks might be able to be sanded down hard--once. But you've used up your Get Our of Jail Free card. A second deep sanding poses a risk of exposing the structural wood beneath.

Cost Considerations

Every major flooring manufacturer steers consumers with dogs away from wood flooring and toward more pet-friendly flooring. Wood--any wood--will scratch. It's all about liability, nothing personal here.

If you just want a minimally acceptable wood look for a low price, laminate flooring looks a bit like wood, and it holds up well against claws.

Luxury vinyl flooring possesses the look of wood in plank form and works well for households with dogs.

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