May 18, 2023
Did you know that there’s approximately 35% of Canadian households have a dog, while 38% have a cat? That’s a lot of dogs and a lot of long doggie nails tearing at your floors! Add in plenty of shedding (yes, cats too) and the occasional… erm… accident and you soon have good reason to think long and hard about which type of new flooring will be the best fit for you and the best flooring for dogs or other pets in your house build or remodel.
First up, there are no textbook rules! There is no regulation against owning pets and installing carpet! Thousands of pet owners have done it and are happy with their decision.
If you have…
a) well behaved pets
b) always keep them well-groomed with their nails clipped
c) own a good powerful vacuum that you don’t mind using every week
… then it’s quite possible to mix pets with carpet. On the other hand, you know your lifestyle and your pets’ personalities better than anyone. For instance, if you have one or two large dogs who love nothing more than getting covered in mud every time they go outside then you’re going to have a problem on your hands if you install carpet throughout your home.
The second main consideration is… what do we mean by “best pet-friendly flooring?” Are we looking at the best floors for them or the best floors for you? In this blog, we’ve ranked flooring by both criteria. Ceramic tile doesn’t rate at number one in our survey – despite the fact that for durability and ease of cleaning, it’s clearly the best option, because for your pets it is a pretty hard, often cold and slippery floor.
Let’s take a look at the list of the best flooring for your pets and you!
The Best Pet Friendly Floors
- Vinyl Flooring – Durable, waterproof, warmer underfoot, easy to clean and relatively soft.
- Cork Flooring – Hypoallergenic, less rigid than wood but can be damaged by dogs.
- Tile & Stone Flooring – Great for cleaning but hard and cold for pets.
- Laminate Flooring – Durable but slippery and loud for pet claws.
- Hardwood Flooring – Softer woods prone to scratches, hard surface for pets and avoid pet urine.
- Carpet – Pets love it but you won’t enjoy the cleaning or floor damage.
Vinyl – Top of the list for dogs and cats must surely be vinyl flooring. Vinyl sheet flooring is often referred to as resilient flooring for the very clear and simple reason that it is one of the most durable options available (on the understanding that you don’t skimp on price and quality). New luxury vinyl tile or plank flooring is an even better option thanks to its added thickness. Installed properly vinyl will wear well, with no scratches or tears, and with its water resistant qualities is a cinch to clean. Cat and dog hairs are quickly removed with a quick vacuum and any urine accidents or vomit are easily removed without leaving a trace. A nice added benefit, certainly with luxury vinyl, is its comparative softness, compared with wood or tile. There’s a lot more give in vinyl which is both more forgiving for our pets and a lot quieter than the click, click, click or nails on a hard surface.
The pricing on vinyl floors are lower than many other flooring options, but if its durability and longevity you’re looking for then avoid cheap product. A thin vinyl floor is the kind of cheap inconsequential floor you might put down in the kitchen of a rental apartment, but don’t expect it to hold up well.
Cork – We suggest you add cork flooring high up on your “maybe” list when looking for the best flooring for dogs. On paper, it has many elements that make it seem a perfect match for your pets. It has hypoallergenic and antibacterial qualities, is less rigid and more forgiving than hardwood or tile and its structural makeup means it is resilient, durable and impact resistant.
That said, the finish of most cork flooring is closer to a hardwood floor than vinyl and consequently it would be untrue to say that cork is scratch resistant. Choosing a lighter shade of cork will help hide scratches and you should look to the higher quality products with a tough finish. Something else to bear in mind…while you can polish or add a new coat of finish to a cork floor, it is not a floor that you can easily re-sand or refinish like solid hardwood. As cork is a fairly expensive option, it is worth considering the overall lifespan of a cork floor in a house with pets.
Tile and Stone – As we mentioned in the introduction, if you’re only interested in your own ease and comfort then ceramic and porcelain tiles or natural stone flooring is definitely the best floor for dogs and cats. Tough, stain resistant, water resistant and easy to clean this type of flooring can stand up to anything. Cats won’t mind it too much either, they can always find a soft chair or bed to curl up on, but dogs can find a tile or stone floor pretty hard and uncomfortable. Cold too unless you have radiant underfloor heating, if you go with tile or stone be sure to get plenty of rugs put down in strategic places.
Laminate – While we put vinyl at the top of our list of best floors for dogs, many other online resources and homeowners are crazy for laminate flooring. It’s hard to argue with the logic…laminate floors are renowned for their incredibly tough clear melamine wear layer making them almost scratch invincible against cat and dog claws. This same layer makes the surface of the floor pet stain resistant and like other hard floors their easy to keep clean with a vacuum and a damp mop. Add in the low cost of laminate floors and it seems like a no-brainer…right?
However, in our humble opinion, laminate isn’t hugely “pet-friendly”, that’s to say friendly to your pets, especially dogs. That same transparent wear layer that is so resistant to scratches also acts much like an ice-rink for animals, pets get little to no traction at all on its surface and this can be a real health hazard especially to older animals. Laminate, like all the less pet friendly floors, is also a hard surface which again isn’t conducive to comfort, so be sure to get plenty of area rugs or pet beds down if you’re going with laminate.
Also, be warned, if you don’t like the tapping sound of little feet on a hard floor then laminate might just drive you a little crazy too. Laminate is known for having a bit of a hollow and louder sound to it compared to other flooring like solid wood or tile, so you can imagine the extra amplification laminate will bring to your dog’s footsteps.
Hardwood – So this is the biggie: most homeowners want to know about the best hardwood floors for dogs. Well, if you have your heart set on hardwood floors, and many, many homeowners do, then the answer is to install the solid or engineered hardwood floor with the toughest finish and/or the highest Janka hardness score. Pre-finished factory produced hardwood flooring typically comes with several layers of tough finish that creates a protective wear layer. If you invest in a top quality floor with over 8/9 layers of finish you have yourself a pretty strong floor that will stand up to a lot of wear and tear.
Similarly, some woods are just naturally harder than others so if you’re looking for the best hardwood floor for dogs always go for the tougher species. Imported exotic hardwoods like Brazilian Cherry, Walnut and Acadia dominate the top end of the table and when looking at domestic woods White Oak, Hard Maple and Hickory are all strong choices (be aware that these hardwoods all come with a higher price tag). Certainly you would do well to steer away from the soft hardwoods like Pine, Teak or Larch.
Generally though, dogs and hardwood floors don’t mix and are not recommended by manufacturers for families with pets, you can certainly limit the damage, but dogs, especially larger breeds, will wreak havoc in the long run. At least with solid hardwood floors you can re-sand and re-finish the damage, whereas with engineered hardwood once the damage is done you have just one chance at a re-sand if you’re lucky.
Furthermore, wood floors don’t like liquids, so urine and vomit, not to mention the dogs water dish are all potential threats to the wood. Dog and cat urine can stain and discolor wood floors and the bad odors can be very hard to get rid of if urine seeps down the cracks. And if liquids are left to stand too long then they can often seep into the wood itself and cause swelling.
Again, it is worth mentioning that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to flooring for pets. Putting the urine issue to one side (not all cats or dogs have regular accidents) if, as a homeowner, you like the current trend for distressed, hand scraped and generally rustic hardwood floors then dog scratches really won’t be a concern or problem, merely adding to the tarnishing of your floors. Many homeowners like a well-worn wood floor and if you’re one of them go ahead and invite the dogs in, just don’t expect the manufacturers to honour their life-time guarantees!
Carpet – Do we really need to explain why pets and carpets don’t get along? We’re sure if you asked your pets which flooring they would choose they would tell you carpet every time. Soft, comfortable and warm, why wouldn’t they prefer to lay on a deep plush carpet over a rock hard, cold tile? And if nothings too good for your pets then go for it, but on a practical level this is the flooring that’s most likely to take the worst beating from your pets.
The best carpet for pets is the one specifically manufactured with pets in mind. Smartstrand and Stainmaster are both well-known brands of carpet well suited to the various risks associated with cats and dogs. Look for a carpet that is pile cut rather than looped (so no to berber) so pets don’t get their claws caught in the threads.
And look for a stain and, as far as possible, odor resistant carpet to give you maximum protection against dirt tracked in from outside and any urine accidents. Nylon and polyester carpets are a good place to start before making sure they have built in stain protection.
Our suggestions above are just a guide to finding the best flooring for dogs and every flooring type can be suitable for certain pets. Whichever floor you choose, try to follow these suggestions:
§ Trim your dog’s nails. Sometimes dog owners just focus on the messes their dogs might make and don’t think about them scratching up the floor. Scratching can be just as destructive as any mess a dog can make and potentially last much longer.
§ Keep their toys in a separate room that can take abuse, or just keep them outside. You don’t want your dog to get too rambunctious in the same room you keep your priceless Ming vases and Faberge eggs, now do you?
§ Keep water and food in an easy-to-clean room. Maybe keep these in the kitchen so you can easily mop or sweep up any mess that gets made. It may be smart to go a bit further and put an easily cleaned mat under their food and water.
§ Speaking of mats, use walk-off mats near the doors your pets use to enter and exit the house to catch the big messes they may drag in. Make sure the mats can be easily wiped down or tossed into the washer.