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It Might Be Time to Replace Your Flooring — Here Are the Signs to Look Out For

By the Vevano Home Team
September 29, 2020

If your floor is showing signs of irreversible damage and has clearly seen better days, it’s time to consider an update to your flooring.

Each type of flooring comes with it’s own signs of damage, including wear and tear that could indicate an update is needed.

In order of shortest lifespan to the longest, below is a list of flooring types and their lifespans along with other individual signs of damage that suggest a replacement is necessary.

Carpet Tile

Lifespan: 5 years with low quality material and installation, up to 8+ years with high quality material and proper installation.

Carpet tile has the shortest lifespan of the many flooring types, but it’s also very easy to replace when the time comes since you can replace a tile or selection of tiles rather than the whole floor (like you would have to with wall-to-wall carpet).

Stains that can’t be spot treated and any other visible damage from extensive wear and tear may indicate that it’s time to replace a carpet tile or more.

Laminate

Lifespan: 10-15 years for low quality tile and installation; 20-30 years for high quality with proper installation.

While affordable, easy to install, and easy to clean, laminate flooring has to be replaced once it’s damaged since it can’t be refinished or sealed like other floor types it may resemble.

Water damage in laminate is often indicated by warping, which can lead to cracking, splitting, buckling, and discoloration. Direct water damage can cause bubbling around the edges of the planks. Mold from water damage or trapped moisture beneath the laminate flooring, can also cause issues. These could be all signs to replace your laminate flooring.

Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT)

Lifespan: 10 years for low quality and installation, 15-25 years with high quality tile and proper installation.

An upgrade from vinyl from decades past, LVT is thicker and more insulated than traditional vinyl flooring. LVT is also waterproof, dent and scratch resistant, and easy to DIY install in tile form. It may have the appearance of wood, tile, or stone, but it cannot be refinished or sanded.

While more resistant to common issues, LVT still has a breaking point. If it cracks or rips from moving heavy furniture or appliances, it will need to be replaced. If moisture happens to gather in the subfloor, then the LVT can come loose, so you’ll want to make sure the subfloor is dry before installing new tiles.

Tile

Lifespan: 20 years with low quality tile/installation, 30-50+ with high quality tile and proper installation.

One of the most versatile floor types, tile is incredibly resilient, especially to water, with proper maintenance. This is a major perk over other flooring types, particularly when it comes to flooring for your bathroom. When it comes to replacing tile, usually you only need to replace the damaged tile(s) rather than the whole floor.

More often than not, tile is made from ceramic or porcelain, though tile can be found in stone like marble and granite. Porcelain is more water-resistant and stronger than ceramic, both are susceptible to chipping and cracking when heavy items are dropped on them. If there’s a crack, you may want to replace the tile(s) to prevent leaking water from damaging the subfloor and causing further issues.

Grout issues are among the most pervasive problems for tile that may call for replacement. As a very porous material, grout is not easy to maintain or clean, so it can be a hotspot for issues. If not properly and routinely sealed, grout can absorb moisture and grime, which can lead to stains, rotting, mold, or internal damage. Standing water damages grout, not necessarily the tile. Water damage can lead to loosened tiles and leaks into the subfloor, which can further impact how tiles sit. Tiles may buckle or crack with changes due to water damage in the subfloor.

Also, if grout isn’t mixed and applied correctly, it can crack or lead the surrounding tile to crack, particularly if the substrate/subfloor material behind the tile isn’t secure. The latter situation certainly calls for replacement grout or tiles.

Wood

Lifespan: As low as 20-30 years with low quality wood and installation, 50-80+ years for high grade and quality installation.

Wood is one of the better investments when it comes to flooring with a higher cost, but a higher return on investment in terms of style and longevity. It’s also easy to refinish with a stain or sealant as opposed to replacing the wood, but only up to a point. It’s recommended to only refinish solid hardwood floors around six or seven times, max. If you’ve already refinished your wood floor several times, then it may be time to update it.

Wood can last for decades, however, it is less resistant to water than engineered hardwood. Engineered hardwood floors can withstand a bit more moisture than solid wood though they can’t handle as many refinishing processes. Because of this, they shouldn’t be refinished as often.

Depending on the type of wood, your wood floor may be more prone to shrinking, expanding, or warping. If it’s a softer wood, it will be more prone to scratching and scuffing than harder wood varieties. Large scratches, gouges, or chips not only leave the wood vulnerable to water damage, but may also warrant replacing the floor.

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Water damage is a common “end of life” sign for hardwood floors. Once the seal or stain can’t keep out the water from the wood beneath, the wood can discolor, warp, and separate. Standing water that doesn’t get wiped up quickly can contribute to quicker wood deterioration, that’s why it’s not ideal for bathrooms. Water damage appears as discoloration that leads to a gray stain, but if it goes untreated and turns black, then the wood is damaged to the point of replacement.

The stain on a wood floor will give away how the wood floor is doing. If it’s faded or discolored, it may be time to refinish or replace. Worn-out stain can lead to the wood splintering or warping, so keep an eye out for this.

Other signs it’s time to replace your wood floor:

  • Nails sticking out of the floor, especially if you start seeing them all over.
  • Creaking or moving boards; or if they bend, shift, dip, or swell, it’s a sign of structural issues.
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What About the Subfloor?

Lifespan: 20-30 years if damaged or defective, up to several decades.

The subfloor sits directly underneath the visible flooring in order to provide a level and stable surface to install the flooring onto, often made with softwood boards, plywood, or oriented strand board (wood scrap and glue composite). For tile, a cement board is required between the subfloor and the tiles for a more secure hold.

Just as the surface flooring is susceptible to issues, the subfloor is as well. Signs the subfloor may need replacing include:

  • Sinking between floor joists, which is a sign of water damage or poor installation
  • Squeaking, when the nails securing the subfloor to the joists loosen
  • Cupping, the appearance of the flooring panels raising on the edges/seams, also a sign of water damage
  • Popping or cracking tiles, possibly due to water damage or improper material used in the subfloor

To sum up, water damage is often a culprit of damaged floors. It can show up with most types of flooring and it can affect the subfloor as well. If left untreated or unnoticed, water damage may require the replacement of your entire floor, if not the subfloor as well. Water damage can be particularly common in kitchens, bathrooms, and basements. Any leaks, flooding, or even spills can lead to different levels of water damage to your floor, so you’ll want to watch out for the early signs in order to prevent large-scale or internal damage that would require more extensive replacements. Along with water damage, keep an eye out for scratches, chips, excessive wear in your flooring as these also take their toll over time.

While cleaning, refinishing, or replacing individual tiles can take care of minor issues in your floor, sometimes it’s time to replace the whole floor--whether that’s due to water damage or the floor is otherwise damaged or aged out. Or you may feel like updating your flooring! However you are updating your flooring, we are here to help with our expert design consultations.