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The great Alaskan flooring debate

Let's be real honest, Alaska life can be tough. Not only is it tough on the people who live here, it's tough on our cars, our animals, our houses, you name it. So not only do we have to be tougher than Alaska, so does our home. Aside from our heating sources, one of the most abused and mistreated parts of our homes, is most likely the floor. Snow, salt, silt, dirt, mud and animals all take their toll on the thing under our feet. So our flooring needs to be tough, but we also want it to be warm, and inviting. It is, after all, where we spend a lot of our time in the winter months. So that begs the question, what flooring will meet all of these demands?!

Truth be told, there's not many types of flooring that will cover all of these bases. Odd's are pretty good that some sacrifices will be made in the name of budget or practicality, when it comes to making a decision on the right flooring for your home. That being said, technology has recently been making leaps and bounds in terms of Alaskan "toughness". In the past the go to flooring has been a LVT or LVP, which stands for luxury vinyl plank or tile, the reason for this being vinyl is 100% waterproof. The downfall of this material is it is quite soft, and can scratch fairly easily. In a place where big animals and rocks are the norm, that can be problematic when you are trying to keep your floor looking beautiful for the long term.

On the flip side, laminate flooring is much harder and less susceptible to scratching. The problem this product presents is it has a particle board core, and is prone to be damaged easily by water or liquids. With the constant issue of snow in the winter here this flooring option is also not ideal.

Another popular option for flooring is tile. While in general tile is a great option in terms of durability, it is also extremely cold if one does not have in floor heat. This can be especially unpleasant in the bathroom where people may often not be wearing shoes, brrrr! Secondly, tile has a tendency to crack, which is especially problematic when we have fairly frequent earthquakes. Finally, tile is not only an expensive material, but it can be very expensive to install even if you are doing it yourself. So if you have a large budget and in floor heat tile is a great option for you, but it's not necessarily the best option for everyone.

Finally in the runnings we have the classic wood flooring. Wood flooring has been a popular flooring choice for decades, especially in the lower 48. It seems like wood would be an obvious flooring choice for Alaska, but what people (ok, outsiders) might not realize, is that Alaska's climate is super DRY. The problem with a dry climate, is it makes wood shrink, causing gaps in your flooring. Engineered wood combats this issue to a degree by incorporating thinner pieces of wood that have been adhered together to create a more dimensionally stable (less likely to shrink and expand) product, there still can be some movement. Engineered wood is also usually not able to be sanded and refinished like a solid wood floor. Additionally, unless it is an extremely hard wood (i.e. more $) it is pretty likely the wood will scratch easily. Wood floors can also come with a pretty hefty price tag and often are not a very cost effective option for the average consumer.

This being said, there are two new innovative "hybrid" products on the market that we really think up the ante in the flooring market.temp-post-image

The first product is a laminate floor that incorporates a water resistant core (shown above in the color Whiskey). This material has the hard, scratch resistant strength of a laminate, but adds in a level of water resistance. While it cannot be called water proof, the atrogaurd technology has been tested against sitting water for 72 hrs. When it came on the market last year it had limited color and style options but has been expanding quickly. Most of these floors are also stocked in nearby Kent, WA and do not take much time to arrive.

This year another new water proof product was announced from Armstrong (shown below). This material has a laminate top again, but adds a vinyl core to create a 100% waterproof product, that also will not dent. While we love that this product is so resilient, it does come in at a higher price point at over $5 a square foot, and may not fit every budget.

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So what is the absolute best flooring for Alaska? While we love the two new products mentioned above, the truth is there is no definitive answer for every household. It is an answer that is very relative to a families preferences and lifestyle, so each families answer will likely be different. Our hope is that this will give you a little more insight on each products pro's and con's and will allow you to make a well educated decision for your home and family.

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