best flooring for high traffic areas

Best Flooring For High-Traffic Areas

You will no doubt have seen how the floors in the high-traffic areas of your home and business start to look worn and unsightly more quickly than in other areas of your space.

Entry lobbies and hallways are scratched and discolored. Kitchen floors have worn patches and are starting to bow near the sink. The living room floor is covered in little scratches and nicks from the paws of your pets and the kid’s toys.

But you can save yourself from needing to either replace these floors frequently, or living with the unsightly damage, by choosing floors that are best equipped to deal with the challenges of high-traffic areas.

High-traffic areas need floors that are durable and won’t scratch under constant use. For kitchens and other areas exposed to water, they should also be waterproof or at least highly water-resistant.

But there are also other things to consider. Aside from cost, the hardest floors can also be cold and hard on the joints in spaces where people spend a lot of time on their feet. The hardest, most scratch-resistant floor is not always the best option.

In this article, we will take you through the five best types of flooring for high-traffic areas and which floor is right for what kind of space. We’ll also take a look at which floors should be avoided and what other things you can do to make sure your high-traffic floors last for as long as possible.

5 Best Types Of Flooring For High-Traffic Areas

There are seven main features to consider when selecting flooring for high-traffic areas, some of which relate to the type of space in which the floors will be installed:

  • Durability – High-traffic areas often mean lots of foot, paw, and other traffic that can scratch and mark floors. The best high-traffic floors are scratch-resistant, so they won’t start to look worn and old too quickly.
  • Low – High-traffic areas need to be cleaned more regularly to keep them looking good and ensure they last as long as possible. Thus, floors that are easy and quick to clean are a priority.
  • Water Resistance – If you are looking for floors for kitchens or other spaces that are likely to be exposed to water, you will need water-resistant floors that will not stain or become warped when assaulted by spills or drips.
  • Comfort – Durable floors also tend to be hard. But these should be avoided for spaces where anyone will spend a lot of time on their feet. Extra hard floors can be bad for the joints.
  • Warmth – Hard floors often don’t conduct heat well and can be bitterly cold when the temperature drops. For this reason, some floors can be icy underfoot and make it more difficult and expensive to heat the space.
  • Aesthetics – Not everything in life is about practicality. You will want floors that look good and meet your personal aesthetic standard.
  • Cost – Naturally, you will need something that fits into your budget and also your future vision for the space, especially when it comes to resale.

We’ve put together a list of five flooring types that all meet the first two of these criteria, but are differentiated by the following five. Read on to learn about each and which one might be right for you.

1. Tile Flooring

Hardest, most scratch-resistant and waterproof flooring ideal for lobbies and other thoroughfares. Less useful for kitchens and workspaces where people need to spend a lot of time on their feet, as it can be hard on the joints. Better for warmer climates as it tends to be cold underfoot.

Tile Flooring

Tile flooring is hands down the best choice for high-traffic areas when it comes to durability and ease of maintenance.

Tile flooring is one of the most durable that is available on the market. If you look after it, your floor will still look brand new in 20 years. The tiles themselves are also easy to maintain and clean. They have no problem with moisture, and spills can be cleaned even if left for a little while.

The tiles themselves should never develop bacteria or mold, though the grout in between the tiles can become discolored and moldy. But this too is easy to clean with a steam cleaner.

They are also both eco and allergy friendly. Tiles do not contain harmful chemical compounds known as VOCs, which can be released into the air. This tends to be bad for the environment and bad for your lungs, and so should be avoided when possible.

But tile will chip and crack if something heavy is dropped on them, so it is worth considering whether heavy objects will be transported across the high-traffic area.

Tile is also extremely versatile in terms of design, as high-resolution digital printing techniques now mean you can get tiles that look like natural stone, hardwood, or marble.

However, while tiles can replicate the look of wood, they can’t replicate the feel. And tile is not always the most comfortable flooring to walk on. Tiles can be extremely cold in winter, both freezing your feet and increasing the cost of heating your space. They can also be very hard. Tiles are not ideal for spaces where anyone will pass a lot of time on their feet.

Tile can be slippery, though there are many textures options available that improve grip and alleviate this problem.

Tile flooring is relatively affordable, with ceramic tiles costing between $5.00-$10.00 per square foot and porcelain between $6.00-$12.00 per square foot.

Though it is worth bearing in mind that tile is difficult to install and usually requires the services of a professional. The subfloor needs to be completely free of imperfections or the finish of the tiles will be uneven, and mold and bacteria can thrive in any air pockets that exist under the tiles.

Laying the grout between the tiles and lining up the tile design into something that looks good is extremely difficult. It requires patience, and if you don’t do it right, you will be staring at those imperfect pieces for a long time.

It is worth bearing this in mind when considering costs.

Nevertheless, overall, tile is an excellent flooring selection for high-traffic areas. It is durable, easy to clean and maintain, and versatile in terms of where you can install it, since it has no problem with moisture and the look you can achieve with the variety of prints available. Though its hardness does mean it should be avoided for spaces where people spend a lot of time on their feet, such as commercial kitchens.

Either ceramic or porcelain tiles make a good choice as long as you select something that has a score of three or more on the PEI scale – the one-to-five Porcelain Enamel Institute scale is used to gauge hardness and scratch-resistance. Though porcelain is a better choice for damp areas as it is denser and, therefore, better at repelling water.

2. Laminate Flooring

Good, affordable flooring if you are on a budget. Ideal for work or play spaces as its softness makes it comfortable and easy on the joints. Not recommended for kitchens or other areas where it is likely to be exposed to water.

Laminate flooring is a good choice for high-traffic areas if you are looking for something durable, affordable, and comfortable underfoot. However, it should be avoided in moist spaces or anywhere that is exposed to water.

Laminate flooring had a bad reputation thanks to the ugly styles that were available and used in times gone by. But new technology means that laminate flooring can now look pretty much exactly like wood or natural stone, but at a fraction of the price.

But make sure you see your flooring in the flesh before making a purchase, so you don’t end up with something looking fake up-close.

You also need to beware that some laminate flooring is made using chemicals, commonly referred to as VOCs, that can release into the air and play havoc with the immune system. It is worth doing your research to find a low-VOC or VOC-free flooring. Look for something that is FloorScore certified and CARB2 compliant, though it will probably mean paying a little more.

But laminate is still highly affordable, costing as little as $1.00 per square foot, though better quality can cost up to $11.00. However, if you want something of decent quality for high-traffic areas, don’t expect to pay less than $4.00 per square foot.

Laminate flooring is highly durable, as long as the assault is not of the liquid variety. While water will cause laminate to buckle and warp, it doesn’t scratch easily. It should be able to stand up against pet’s paws, children’s toys, and considerable foot traffic.

Laminate receives an AC rating to indicate its durability. For most residential use, AC2 is enough. But if you are considering a high-traffic area, go for AC3 or AC4.

While laminate is easy to clean, it is susceptible to staining. Liquids need to be cleaned up quickly, which is another reason not to use it in a space that is likely to be exposed to water.

Where laminate has an edge over tile flooring is when it comes to comfort and ease of install. Laminate has a level of bounciness in it that means it feels comfortable under your feet and won’t leave you with aching joints after a long day. It also holds onto heat.

Laminate is also something you can install yourself and can be installed over the top of most existing floors, often using a click and fix method that requires few specialist skills or tools. This is another reason why laminate is incredibly affordable.

But while you won’t overpay for laminate, it won’t offer much of a return on investment when it comes to resale value. Laminate is not considered a prestige floor and only has a lifespan for 15-20 years.

The environmentally conscious should also bear in mind that laminate is not biodegradable, so once it is disposed of, it will sit in the landfill forever.

Nevertheless, if you are looking for something affordable, comfortable, and which will stand up to the pressures of high-traffic areas, laminate is a choice worth considering.

3. Concrete Flooring

Ideal for an edgy modern aesthetic in areas where durability and ease of maintenance is the primary concern. Avoid in areas where it will be exposed to water or where people will need to spend a lot of time on their feet. It can be cracked by water and is hard on the joints over extended periods.

Concrete Flooring

If you have a high-traffic area where durability is your primary concern, then concrete can be a good flooring option. It is extremely tough and durable, easy to maintain, and lasts a lifetime.

You would be forgiven for imagining concrete flooring as having a harsh and industrial finish. But there are concrete flooring options that can look quite smart when properly finished and cared for. There are a variety of texture finishes, and the concrete itself can be tinted or stains can be added later.

With concrete, you get something that is extremely tough and durable and which is resistant to scratches and won’t mark or scratch. It should even stand up pretty well if something heavy is dropped on it.

However, despite appearances, concrete does not hold up that well when exposed to water. It can produce mold and mildew, and if it gets into any cracks, it can cause expansion and further cracking.

Concrete is incredibly easy to maintain and doesn’t require anything specialist for cleaning and maintenance, though the best quality concrete should be waxed and sealed every three to nine months in order to maintain its aesthetics.

Concrete is certainly an affordable option, as it costs as little as $2.00-$15.00 per square foot to lay new and $2.00-$30.00 to refinish existing floors. You will need to add to this the services of a pro, as doing concrete well is beyond all but the most experienced weekend warriors. But, if cared for properly, the floor should last a lifetime.

Concrete has the same problem as tile when it comes to coldness and hardness. It does not retain heat well and so can make it difficult to heat a space. It is also very hard underfoot, which can result in aches and pains if anyone has to spend all day on foot. Falls will also certainly be painful.

But if you want something that will stand up to the high-traffic wars and will be incredibly easy to maintain, concrete can be the perfect option.

4. Solid And Engineered Hardwood Flooring

Ideal for spaces where classic style and resale value are of high concern. It should be avoided for the highest traffic areas where many people or machinery is likely to cross the surface. But harder woods should be more than suitable for most homes, even with pets and small children.

When you think of high-traffic areas, wood flooring is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. Wood flooring can be notoriously sensitive and easy to scratch and scrape. But, if you are looking for investment flooring that will increase the resale value of your property, and is attractive and comfortable underfoot, some of the more durable solid and engineered hardwood floorings can be a valid option.

Yes, wood flooring can scuff and scrape, but not all are the same. Wood floors are rated using something called the Janka Hardness Test. A score of 1,300 is considered appropriate for most home use. But there are species of wood that are much harder, such as Brazilian hardwood, acacia oak, maple, and hickory. All should stand up pretty well under significant foot traffic.

While investing in wood might seem risky, there are too many advantages not to consider the possibility.

Wood doesn’t always look bad when it gets scruffed. It can sometimes even add a rustic charm. And wood can be refinished to remove marks and scratches. Solid hardwood floors can usually be refinished five to seven times, which means that the same floor could have a lifespan of 100 years. Engineered wood flooring can usually be finished once or twice, so you can expect it to last around 40 years.

Wood is considered desirable, so it increases the resale value of properties. So, if this is something you see on the horizon, wood can be a good choice. It is environmentally-friendly and is unlikely to contain any allergens or VOCs than can sometimes be an issue with other floors.

It also looks good and feels soft and comfortable underfoot. That means that this is the type of floor you can use in spaces where people will be working on their feet.

Wood, however, does not hold up that well under moisture. Wood has a tendency to warp when it gets wet. If you are looking at a space where moisture could be an issue, then go for engineered hardwood flooring. The criss-cross layered production of engineered hardwood does a lot to counteract wood’s natural tendency.

The main drawback of wood flooring is that it is expensive. While you can get planks as low as $3.00 per square foot, for harder woods that will work in high-traffic areas, expect to pay $4.00-$7.00 per square foot. The best quality wood can cost $10.00 or more.

Add to this the fact that wood floors generally require professional installation, and it can be an expensive endeavor.

Nevertheless, if you are looking for something stylish that will increase the value of your property, then the right wood flooring can be an excellent investment for high-traffic areas.

5. Luxury Vinyl Tile Flooring

A good choice for kitchens, as it is waterproof or water-resistant, but it also feels good underfoot and is good for the joints. It is also a good choice for colder climates as it retains heat and is compatible with underfloor heating. But not appropriate for spaces that need to meet accessibility requirements.

If you are looking for something versatile that kind of mixes the best of all worlds, then Luxury Vinyl Plank flooring is an option worth considering. It is durable, affordable, easy to install, and easy to clean. It is soft and comfortable underfoot, but less scratch-resistant than tile and concrete.

Usually, we think of LVP as an affordable flooring alternative. It usually costs between $4.00-$7.00 per square foot. It is also simple to install, so there is no need to pay for professional support except for the most complicated floor plans. But price is not the only benefit of LVP.

LVP offers a huge range of styles. Most popular at the moment is an authentic wood-look, but this is only one of many possibilities with modern printing techniques.

It is also incredibly versatile, as most LVP is water-resistant, and some brands claim to be waterproof. So unlike wood, it can be laid in bathrooms, and isn’t a risk in kitchens. It is also compatible with radiant heating systems, as it won’t warp and buckle with changes in temperature.

The fact that it is soft underfoot is another reason why it is great for kitchens. It won’t result in the same kind of sore joints as tile and concrete.

It is also incredibly easy to maintain. There is no need for wax, chemicals, or even steam cleaners; it is best cared for with a static broom and a damp mop.

But, of course, there are downsides with this versatile flooring option. First and foremost, it has a relatively short life. In commercial spaces and high-traffic areas, you shouldn’t expect it to last more than 15 years. There is also no question of refinishing like with wood; it needs to be trashed. And many of the materials used in LVP aren’t biodegradable, so it will sit in the landfill forever.

LVP also isn’t considered a “desirable” flooring, like wood or tile. Cheap to install, it doesn’t add anything to the value of your home.

While LVP is pretty durable and scratch-resistant, sharps will certainly leave a mark. And while a protective wear layer of 20-mil or more should mean that the integrity of your floors should be difficult to compromise, they might start looking worn and old pretty quickly.

Finally, LVP floors are ideal for accessibility. The floor is prone to shifting, and so might not hold up under wheelchair use or other mobility devices. This can make it a no-go for public spaces where accessibility is a requirement.

But if you are thinking of a high-traffic area in your own home, and you are more concerned with your comfort than resale questions, LVP flooring is a suitable choice.

Floors To Avoid

There are a few types of floors that should be avoided at all costs when it comes to high-traffic areas.

Floors To Avoid

The more obvious option is carpet. It is not durable. Almost anything can catch on the carpet fibers and cause rips and unsightly pulls. It is difficult to clean. In a high-traffic area, you will need to vacuum regularly, and regular shampooing needs to be considered as well.

Water damage can mean replacing the whole thing, and it easily holds on to allergens and germs. If there are a lot of people moving through the area, this is far from hygienic. Soft carpet is lovely in the bedroom, but not ideal for high-traffic areas.

Linoleum is similarly not a great choice. Linoleum is a generally soft floor, which means that it scuffs and scrapes very easily. It is also prone to staining and notoriously difficult to clean. It requires regular waxing, polishing, and even stripping. It is also not waterproof and is challenging to install, so there is little to recommend it for high-traffic areas.

Comfortable, soft cork flooring also shouldn’t be used for high-traffic areas, exactly because it is so soft. It dents and scratches very easily. It also absorbs liquids and stains easily, and needs regularly sealing. Cork will be a lot of work in a high-traffic area.

Maintaining High-Traffic Flooring

While exactly how you care for your flooring depends on the type of floor you install, there are a few key things you should do to maintain any floor that receives heavy use.

Regular Cleaning

In commercial spaces, hard floors in high-traffic areas should be cleaned and swept every few hours and wet cleaned (mop, steamer, etc.) at least once a day. This is because people bring in all kinds of grime into the space on the bottom of their shoes. Some substances, such as salt, can permanently damage floors if left to sit.

Deep Clean At Least Once A Year

While regular cleaning should keep your floors in good condition, deep cleans can breathe a new lease of life into floors. You may have forgotten how good they can look after a year has passed. It also helps extend the longevity of your floors by pulling out deep-set stains that can, over time, undermine the structural integrity of your floors.

Use Mats And Rugs

Placing a mat near the entrance to the high-traffic area can make a big difference, as it can capture a lot of dirt and debris before it comes into contact with the floor. This doesn’t just mean less dirt, but potentially also fewer scratches. Small stones and the like caught in shoes can be the source of unexpected marking.

Use Protectors

The sharp legs on chair legs and table legs, easily knocked and pushed out of place, can easily scratch floors. Use felt protectors on the feet of these legs to ensure that minor accidents don’t do major damage to the floor. Don’t forget to replace them regularly.

Don’t Slide

Sometimes the easiest way to move furniture or other heavy items across a slick floor can be dragging, but this is one of the quickest ways to manage your floors, even if you do it on mats. Invest in hand trucks and other equipment to move furniture without damaging your back or the floor.

Avoid High Heels

While it can be impossible to only wear regular footwear in a public area, you can if the high-traffic area happens to be in your home. While durable flooring chosen for high-traffic areas should stand up to most shoes, high heels are a different story. A woman weighing just 125 pounds can exert 8,000 pounds of pressure with a high-heel shoe. Leave high heels at the door.

FAQs

What Is The Most Durable Type Of Flooring?

Tile, in particular porcelain tile, is the most durable flooring available. It is scratch-resistant and won’t warp when it comes into contact with water. However, the tiles will crack and shatter if heavy items are dropped directly on them.

Is Vinyl Plank Flooring Good For High-Traffic Flooring?

Yes, Vinyl Plank flooring can be an excellent option for high plank flooring. It is durable and scratch-resistant but also affordable and versatile. As well as being inexpensive to purchase, it is easy to install, which can save valuable dollars.

It is water-resistant, and sometimes waterproof. It is a soft flooring, which means that it feels comfortable and warm underfoot. However, it is not as scratch-resistant as other options, such a tile or cement.

What Is The Most Durable Waterproof Flooring?

Tile flooring is the most durable flooring available, and it is also waterproof. Liquids will not penetrate the tiles and they will not develop mold. The grout that holds the tiles in place does need attention as mold can grow within it. Steam cleaning is an effective way to clean tiles and grout.

What Is The Most Scratch-Resistant Flooring?

Tile, porcelain, and ceramic are the most scratch-resistant flooring options, but they are not the only option available. Cement is also very durable, as is linoleum. Harder wood floors, including engineered wood flooring, can also be quite scratch durable, as can LVP flooring.

What Type Of Flooring Lasts The Longest?

Hardwood floors are the longest lasting. They can have a lifespan of more than 100 years if cared for properly. They are not always the best choice for high-traffic areas, as, depending on the hardness of the wood, they can be prone to scratching, though the wood can be refinished five to seven times, breathing new life into the floor.

In high-traffic areas, tile can be a better choice. They are less prone to scratching, and when cared for properly, can last 75 to 100 years.

What Is The Best Flooring For Large Dogs?

While tile or concrete flooring will stand up against the nails, teeth, and drool of your dog, they can be a little bit cold and are hardly comfortable for them to flop down on. Vinyl Plank flooring can make a more comfortable space for your dog, and good quality options are scratch-resistant and waterproof and so should be able to deal with the wear and tear that your dog inflicts on it.

Best Flooring For Kitchens?

For your kitchen at home, tile flooring is a good choice. It is durable, scratch-resistant, and water-resistant. It can be hard underfoot, but mats can be used in key areas such as the sink to protect joints.

In commercial kitchens where there are a lot of people moving around, Vinyl Plank flooring is a better option. It is less durable, but it is waterproof, and it is also more comfortable underfoot, so there is no need for additional protection for joints.

Best Hardwood Floors For High-Traffic Areas?

While wood is known to scratch relatively easily, there are harder woods that can be more resistant to damage than softer species. Any wood with a Janka Hardness rating above 1,300 should be hard enough for most high-traffic spaces. This includes species such as Brazilian walnut, mahogany, cherry, and hickory. These will generally cost more than softer alternatives.

The Verdict

If you are careful about what type of flooring you select to install in the high-traffic areas of your home or business, you can ensure that your floors look better and last longer.

Floors in high-traffic areas should be durable and not prone to scratching, as well as easy to clean and maintain.

Tile and cement are ideal choices for the most durable flooring. Neither is likely to scratch or mark. Tile is better for wet spaces, as it is waterproof where concrete is not. However, the hardness of the floor means that neither is a good choice for places such as kitchens, where people tend a lot of time on their feet, as it can be hard on the joints.

Linoleum, wood, and Vinyl Plank flooring are softer and warmer, so it is more comfortable underfoot for spaces where children play or workers spend a lot of time on their feet. These floors also hold heat better than tile or cement, so it can be easier to keep warm in colder climates.

Vinyl Plank flooring can be the best option for kitchens as it is the most water-resistant of the options available, though engineered hardwood flooring can be another good option for wet spaces.

Dedication to regular cleaning and maintenance, as well as taking a few protective precautions, can also make a big difference when it comes to extending the life of your floors.

If you have any comments or first-hand experiences with flooring in high-traffic areas, please post them below or share your pictures via our social media.

Maricel Dee

About Maricel Dee

Maricel Dee is a writer & blogger on all things home improvement. When she's not writing on her favorite home improvement topics, you can find her immersed in her own home projects.

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