Flooring that fails the foot traffic test

Consumer Reports' tests put flooring through its paces

Published: May 13, 2014 08:00 AM

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Home Legend Strand Woven Bamboo

You can try to avoid scratching, staining, or denting your floors, but you can’t keep from walking on them. That’s why the durability of a floor’s finish carries the most weight in Consumer Reports' flooring tests. And that’s what inspires the grandest claims from manufacturers. Alas, those claims aren't always borne out, especially among wood and bamboo floors. Some examples:

Home Legend Strand Woven Solid Bamboo Toast HL40S, $3 per square foot at Home Depot, is said to have “a 7-layer Aluminum Oxide Finish providing protection from everyday wear.” This flooring was great at resisting scratches and stains and was impressive at withstanding color change from sunlight. But in our foot-traffic test, which measures how quickly surface wear becomes noticeable, the product scored only fair. Another Home Legend solid-bamboo flooring, the Home Legend Horizontal Solid Bamboo Toast BAFL24TO, $2, makes the same claim—and scored the same for wear.

Among engineered wood flooring, the Millstead Red Oak Natural Click PF9356, $3, made in the U.S., did well against scratching and staining. Yet in our foot-traffic test it scored poorly despite an aluminum-oxide finish said to provide “10 times more abrasion resistance than ordinary urethane finishes.”

And Pergo Max Natural Oak 90870, a laminate selling for $3 per square foot at Lowe’s, has a “Premium PermaMax wear layer with ScratchGuard Advanced surface protection” that “provides twice the wear resistance and superior scratch and scuff protection.” The flooring was indeed great at resisting scratches, as were most other laminates we tested. But the Pergo showed noticeable wear to its finish as quickly as the Home Legend bamboos.

Our top picks in flooring products resisted wear from foot traffic, along with scratches and stains, better than others. See our buying guide for advice on which types to consider before reviewing the results of our tests of prefinished solid and engineered wood, laminate, vinyl, and ceramic-tile flooring.

—Ed Perratore (on Twitter, @EdPerratore)

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