Deciding Whether to Gamble

Ok, we admit it, we're totally incapable of making a speedy decision on the flooring. Here's where things stand: the laminate we chose, which was the most realistic style we could find within a reasonable price range (we're $2k over budget on what we planned to spend and just aren't going up any more), is in China. It will be here in 4-6 really long weeks. We want the project done yesterday, but we've got the 450 sq ft we need on reserve.
Boston Cherry laminate from Robina
Meanwhile, yesterday we decided to trek up to Baltimore after work during rush hour traffic to look at larger samples of in-stock laminate flooring at Wood Floors Plus, a store that apparently the dozen dealers S called can't compete with on price. They have a website and if you're looking for flooring are definitely a place to check for a deal.

We walked in the store and I saw a large sample floor on the ground behind a display near the door. "Oooh, I like that one!" I proclaimed...and then kicked the floor when I realized it was the Boston Cherry laminate...that's in China. S and I discussed laminate, tile, everything flooring with a few different associates. Two people pointed us toward engineered hardwood, an option we definitely hadn't considered. And then one guy pointed us toward an engineered hardwood on clearance that looked exactly like our oak floors upstairs.
Engineered Hardwood Oak
The price happened to be exactly the same price as the laminate...that's in China. And when we interrogated three or four associates over whether they would put engineered hardwood in their basements. The response was, "yeah, of course, it's a wood floor for more humid areas." And then pointed to where it says "installation: below grade" on the box.

We left the store with yet another option to consider. And while we ate a dinner of crabcakes overlooking Baltimore's Inner Harbor, we buried our noses in our iPhones and researched engineered hardwood floors and read the specs and installation instructions for this particular floor. It's a wood floor that's apparently more structurally stable because it's several layers of wood veneer on top of layered wood and composite backing. And there's no glue in the installation (this particular floor is a floating engineered hardwood) to be affected by the moisture inherent in concrete that would dry out and cause a regular wood floor to un-glue and buckle. So the box says, "installation: below grade," the floor looks exactly like the floor upstairs and it's wood, not something that looks plastic-y in certain lights. What's not to like?

On the way home we stopped at S's parents summer house to look at their newly finished basement (which S's dad worked on himself over the winter), where they installed tiles in the basement. It looks amazing and I'm kicking myself for not taking a picture. We were in awe of the work S's dad has done and just how beautiful everything looked. The tile is absolutely perfect for the house, a summer house on the water. It will be cool and dry and a great hide-out when it's 102 with 98% humidity outside. Plus it's the perfect choice for their particular basement that had moisture problems remedied by french drains installed two years ago. But one hurricane without power would probably ruin laminate or engineered floors or carpet in their basement. Tile made 100% sense for them. And it looks great.

On the ride home S was fixated on the fact that tile is perfect for a wet basement (which we haven't had) and was ready to do the hard-sell until the light bulb went off. This isn't a $25k decision. It's only 450 square feet. That's ~$900 in flooring, $1000 with supplies. Not short change, but not so much that it's worth what-if'ing to death over. What if the basement floods? What if  wood or laminate floor is ruined? What if?! Oh well, if it's ruined and we've made a horrible decision, we change it. It's not like we're not capable of laying any floor ourselves; in a catastrophe we'd be upset, but we'd be out the cost of materials for a very small area. 

As safe an option as tile may be for a basement and as beautiful as it looked at S's parents house, it just does not work with our house. I'd love to live on the water, I'd love to worry about tracking beach sand inside, but we live in the city, in a neighborhood of brick colonials and personally, tile outside of the bath or kitchen just doesn't say colonial to me. Plus, if we ever decided we didn't like the tile, it would be a heck of a lot harder to remove and replace than a floating laminate or engineered floor (or we'd have to cut all the doors down and re-do thresholds so that we could float a floor on top of the tile).

I think I'd rather take the gamble and go for the floor that looks the same as upstairs. Maybe it will look horrible in 5 years, but it maybe it would be fab; that's what a gamble is all about, right? It's a small area, we may as well give it a shot, no?

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  2. Sounds perfect! Glad you are floating yours because we had an awful time removing our engineered hardwoods (they were over 10 yrs old and worn). Oh and they are a bit softer (hence why they do well in humidity, they can bend) but becareful of doggy nails!

  3. Oh god - as I was reading your post I almost cried thinking your husband had convinced you to go tile in the basement!! haha

    Go with the engineered hardwood - I can't imagine it will get ruined any easier than laminate and you can't always plan on the worst case scenario. If you did, you'd live in a bunker. :-)

  4. We went with engineered hardwood and loved it! We bought from Lumber Liquidators (online sale). They shipped it to our "home store" and we brought it home from there. I totally recommend them (sorry to add another what-if to your list!!). :)

  5. Anonymous6/03/2011

    Just to give a different opinion, I live in the middle of nowhere in Minnesota, where we have 10 months of cold weather, 2 days of sun, and the rest of the time it rains. Guess what? We have tile floors. Everywhere. My husband built the house before we met, so I didn't get a say in the decision. I would love wood floors, but with kids the tile really does hold up.


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