Wheelchair vs. Wood Look Floor

We all love a good wood look floor but with so many ways to get the wood look, it can be overwhelming to know what material is best for you. Throw a wheelchair or assistive device into the mix and the choice becomes even more complicated. Here are our hot takes on different flooring materials to get you the wood look of your dreams with the durability that is right for your life.


Pro Tip

Run your "wood" flooring parallel to the front door when it is in the open position. In other words, run the floor so the long side of the planks are in the direction of which you would walk or roll into a house. This is the ideal laying pattern for 98% or homes. You will thank us later.


Real Wood

The OG of flooring. Wood flooring is a classic and always will be. Often imitated, never duplicated, real wood flooring is unique and brings in the warmth of wood into a home. With so many variations it can be completely customized and refinished over time. It is important to know that with so many duplicates for wood flooring, the natural variation and textures of real wood can not be fully recreated by synthetic recreations. Adjust your expectations when choosing something other than real wood, it will not be the same.


Though real wood flooring is a classic, it is not being used in many new builds and remodels these days because it requires unique care and a high price tag. Real wood has natural creeks and squeaks which can be amplified when rolling a wheelchair or walker over it. Floor boards can chip, scratch, and pop up over time. They are not waterproof and even a little bit of standing moisture can be very damaging. They require refinishing, staining and polishing. We like to think of real wood flooring as a living being in a home which adds to the beauty but requires a lot of up keep. Overall, real wood flooring is not our first choice of material for homes with wheelchairs unless a client is adamant on having them. The squeaks of the tires on the wood are loud and durability is not ideal to withstand manual or power chair tires.


Pros:

  • Classically beautiful

  • Organic, natural, living, warm, unique

  • A lot of color and size options

  • Can be custom stained

  • Can be refinished if the client wants to change the color or fix scratches and imperfections

Cons:

  • A lot of upkeep

  • Not water resistant/water proof

  • Needs to be stained

  • Needs to be refinished every 5-10 years

  • A lot of creeks & squeaks

  • High price point

  • Not durable for long term use of tires rolling over it


Engineered Wood

The next best thing to real wood flooring, engineered wood has a real wood top layer with a plywood under layer. This gives the flooring a nice hand and real wood variation with more durability and moisture resilience. There is typically more uniformity with engineered wood and come in many pre-stained colors. In some cases you can re-stain an engineered floor if the wood veneer is thick enough. Consult with a flooring professional before re-staining any flooring.


Engineered wood is used in many new builds and remodels because of the blend of the real wood look and feel with some more durability. It is not waterproof but many engineered woods are rated to be water resistant, meaning it can withstand some standing moisture for short periods of time. It is typically not rated for use in bathrooms unless it is a powder room. It can still be at a high price point, though there are some more options in the mid range pricing these days. Depending on the type, engineered floors can still have creeks & squeaks when rolling over it. It is more resistant to scratches and chips then real wood, but still prone to those damages. Overall we would suggest some engineered wood products to clients using manual chairs or walkers, but do not recommend for power chair uses.


Pros:

  • Classically beautiful

  • Organic, natural, living, warm, unique

  • A lot of color and size options

  • Might be able to be refinished

  • Water resistant

  • Friendly for the careful manual chair user

Cons:

  • Prone to scratches & chips

  • Not water proof

  • Can have creeks & squeaks

  • High-Mid point price point

  • Not power chair friendly


Laminate

Laminate floors have come a long way. With so many options and price points it is no surprise that this consumer friendly product has become so popular. Laminate is a combination of particle board and image printing. It can be cost effective and the image printing can do a decent job of mimicking the look of real wood. They can be easy to install, and great for starter homes, rentals, and high traffic homes. They can vary in durability so check the ratings with the flooring vendors. Some laminates are harder than others.


Laminate can be more durable than real or engineered woods but can still be prone to scratching and chipping. Because the image is imprinted on the top layer, darker colors can show scratches more than lighter ones. It is important to pay attention to the wear layer thickness, the thicker the wear layer the more resistant it will be to scratches. Of course there can still be some creeks and squeaks with laminate, but if there is an option to glue the product down or use a thicker underlayment than can reduce noise. Despite common perception, laminate is not water proof but typically water resistant. It should not be used in bathrooms unless it is a powder bath. And of course, laminate flooring runs the risk of looking fake. Though printing has gotten much better, they use the same patterns 5-12 times so every 5-12 planks are exactly the same which of course does not occur in nature. Overall we would recommend laminate flooring to manual and power chair users due to the durability.


Pros:

  • A lot of color and size options

  • Water resistant

  • Inexpensive options

  • Durable when having a high rated wear layer

  • Can be glued down or floated

  • Friendly for manual and power chair users

Cons:

  • Can scratch & chip

  • Not water proof

  • Some creeks & squeaks

  • Can look "fake"

  • Some textures can trap dirt

  • Can have very strong chemical smells when unboxing - may need to be aired out for a month before installation if the client is sensitive to smells


Luxury Vinyl

Like laminate, vinyl is having a moment. Lots of options at a low price point, vinyl floor has come out of the 70's and can be a great cost effective option. It has an image printed on the top layer and is typically 100% vinyl making it a very waterproof material. This can be used in bathrooms, and wet areas. With a high rating this flooring is very durable. It can scratch but resists chipping. It can be easy to install and can use multiple underlayment options.


Vinyl can be a good option for starter homes, apartments, and condos. It can be used in high traffic areas and resist wear. The biggest downfall of vinyl can be the fake look and feel. Some textures will capture dirt and make it very hard to get all the way clean. The plastic feel is unavoidable and the patterns can be very distinct. It will rarely pass for real wood, and will always have a vinyl look. Depending on the texture it can be squeaky with wheelchair tires. Overall we would recommend some vinyls for manual and power wheelchair users because of the durability but we will be very picky on the pattern and texture layout.


Pros:

  • A lot of color and size options

  • Water proof

  • Inexpensive options

  • Durable when having a high rated wear layer

  • Easier installation

  • Friendly for manual and power chair users

Cons:

  • Can scratch

  • Some creeks & squeaks

  • Can look "fake"

  • Some textures can trap dirt

  • Can have very strong chemical smells when unboxing - may need to be aired out for a month before installation if the client is sensitive to smells


Tile

The newest of the wood look floor material, porcelain and ceramic tile has become really popular to getting that wood look. It is very durable, completely water proof and a good option for high traffic areas. This is the only material that should not have any creeks or squeaks when rolling over it. It is very durable for both manual and power chairs and should not chip or scratch.


This product is installed just as tile would be. There is a lot of grout with this application which can be a pain to clean. Pricing usually ends up in the mid range, but the installation can be pricey. It is very labor intensive. Wood look tile is has the patterned printed on and texture etched in. Most of the time the plank length is uniform which can really add to the fake look. This has become a very trendy material and our designer opinion is it will date a house in the next few years. Though it is durable, it is our least favorite option on this list. We would not recommend this product for anyone because of the trendy factor, yet we would choose another tile choice for the durability.


Pros:

  • A lot of color and size options

  • Water proof

  • Mid range pricing

  • Very durable, resists chips and scratches

  • Friendly for manual and power chair users

Cons:

  • Very trendy

  • Will look "fake"

  • Some textures can trap dirt

  • Labor intensive installation

  • A lot of grout to clean