8 Best Materials to Substitute for Solid Wood
Reap all the warmth and beauty of wood with these other options that accommodate different styles, budgets and spaces.
1. Cost-effective Engineered Wood
A great alternative to an expensive solid wood floor is engineered wood. Constructed from layers of wood, these floorboards contain a core layer of a substrate, like plywood. The thin top layer (usually around 2 to 6 millimeters thick) is actual hardwood, so once the floor is laid it will appear no different than a solid wood board.
Engineered wood boards tend to be a better value than solid wood boards due to the reduced amount of hardwood material used per board. In addition, they are more stable than solid wood because of their resilience to temperature and humidity changes.
2. Hard-Wearing Vinyl
Vinyl flooring has come a long way! It is now a high-quality and attractive substitute for real wood. Available in a wide variety of shades and styles, the flooring is very easy to install and super tough, which makes it perfect for kitchens, bathrooms and high-traffic areas.
3. Beautiful Bamboo
An increasingly popular alternative to wood (flooring and furniture in particular), bamboo is fast-growing and highly renewable, which appeals to eco-conscious homeowners. In addition, it is easily maintained and fairly strong. While it is susceptible to scratches, blemishes can be sanded out and refinished.
4. Waterproof Wood-Effect Tiles
Water and natural wood flooring can lead to disaster. Wood-effect tiles (ceramic or porcelain) are a perfect option to embrace a timber look in a high-moisture area without stress. They are also ideal in spaces that get harsh sunlight during the day, as the color will not fade like natural wood.
If your budget will allow it, porcelain tiles are the better choice. They provide sharp, clean edges and are able to be laid very close together so you can achieve a more realistic wood-plank flooring look. Ceramic tiles typically have a more irregular edge, which means a wider grout space is needed.
5. On-Trend Plywood
Once considered a cheap building material, plywood is having its moment in the spotlight and is becoming a trendy interior finish for floors, walls and furniture. Perfect for a range of interior styles — including contemporary, industrial, Scandinavia, and minimalist — plywood is often displayed in its raw, unfinished state.
Plywood is made from thin sheets of wood that are glued and compressed together. Versatile and stable structurally, it can be a sustainable alternative to solid wood. It is much stronger and less likely to warp, although untreated it will soak up moisture like a sponge. Some varieties of plywood can be bent for curved finishes.
6. Practical MDF
MDF offers a simple and economical alternative to solid wood for those wanting a painted finish. Constructed from fine particles of wood compressed together with resin and wax, the result is a strong, smooth, versatile and hard-wearing material. While you won’t get the texture and appearance of natural wood, MDF is easy to paint and removes the hassle of blemishes and knots showing through. For a clean contemporary look, try using it by itself. Or combine it with natural wood finishes for a more traditional style.
7. Eco-Friendly Cork
An emerging trend being used on floors, walls and furniture, cork not only looks good but is an eco-friendly choice as well. It is harvested from the bark of a cork oak tree, which do not have to be cut down for harvesting.
As flooring, cork is soft and warm underfoot as opposed to wood and vinyl. It is great for insulating purposes (noise and temperature) which makes it a great choice for energy efficiency. It is also hypoallergenic, so is an ideal solution for people with allergies who want a softer, carpet-like floor. Easy to clean and water-resistant, it is an excellent option for kitchens. The soft surface makes it not-so-pet-friendly, however, as it is susceptible to damage from claws.
8. Wood-Effect Concrete
Previously considered a construction material, concrete is being used as an exposed finished surface more and more. To create the warmer appearance of natural wood, it can be set and stained to become a convincing wood alternative. Extremely hard-wearing, concrete is ideal for use in areas where wood is impractical, such as high traffic areas, wet areas or outdoors. If treated and maintained correctly, it should last a lifetime.