What types of Hardwood Flooring are best for pets - Westchester NY and Stamford CT

Home Builder with The Flooring Girl

I get this question often from my customers - which type of hardwood should I use for pets?  It's a hard question to answer because truthfully all hardwood will dent and scratch over time - it's just a matter of how much and how much you can see it.  But I do not think this is a reason to avoid getting hardwood for your home.  Tons of consumers have hardwood and pets and they can easily co-exist together.


Usually, this question is less of an issue for cats and more of a concern with dogs, especially active dogs.  And, while there are things you can do w/ your pets (e.g. clip or file nails), I'm going to focus on hardwoods that can take a better beating and/or not show it as much.


1.  First, by all means stay away from the softer woods:american cherry wood not good for pets

  • American Cherry
  • American Walnut
  • Pine

These woods are softer and will dent very easily - even without a pet or without kids.  They look beautiful, but they are not practical.  And, ironically, they often cost more (because fewer people buy them).  Note: American Cherry and Walnut are different than Brazilian Cherry and Walnut.  American = soft; Brazilian = hard.


2.  Take your shoes off.  A lot of customers blame their pets for scratches, but often we are the worst culprit.  While high heels are often not wonderful for hardwood floor, the biggest culprit is not the shoes themselves, but rather what gets caught in the shoes.  It's those pebbles and dirt that get caught in our shoes that cause most of the scratches.  Or, sometimes w/ high heels that have been worn a while, the rubber wears off and there is a nail at the bottom.   So before blaming your lovelu pets, look at your own habits.  For my customers that take their shoes off, their hardwood floors are in way better condition and it's a much longer time before they need to be refinished.


3.  Consider handscraped or distressed hardwoods.  This is a stylized look tHandscraped distressed hardwood in Westchester NYhat some customers love and some hate.  It tends to be in style in the South, certain areas in the west, and more rustic homes in the Northeast.  This look is not for everyone.  But, here's why it's good for pets...it shows the scratches and dents less because that's how the wood is designed - it dent looks like it fits right in.  Likewise, hardwood that has more knots and character marks will hide the dent and scratches more.


4.  All things being equal, harder hardwoods are better.  This is tricky because not all things are equal - see the next point.  But, Hickory is great choice (1820 on the Janka scale).  There are many other hardwoods that are harder...see the janka scale of hardness...but you can't jut look at hardness by itself.


red oak hardwood flooring westchester NY5.  Woods with stronger graining are better for hiding the scratches.  Oak is a great example of this, especially red oak which has stronger graining than white oak.  While Red Oak is only 1290 on the janka hardness scale (which is still hard and is hard enough), it does an excellent job of hiding the dents and scratches due to the strong graining.  In fact, it usually hides them better than Brazilian Cherry (2,350) and Brazilian Walnut (3684) which have less and smoother graining.


6.  Less glossy finishes.  Satin finishes are usually best.  The glossier the finish, the more it will show the scratches from the light reflecting off of it.


7.  Usually, lighter colors are better for pets.  First, darker colors seem to show the scratches more.  I'm not sure why, but they just do.  Second, oak is the most common type of hardwood and oak is naturally light.  So, if you have a scratch that penetrates the stain color, it will show less on lighter colors since what is revealed beneath is simiar in color.


8.  Solid hardwood or high quality engineered hardwood that can be refinished.  It's always good to have an insurance plan so that you can refinish the hardwood floors when you need to.


9.  Bamboo is "iffy" with pets - can vary greatly - some are good; most are not.  Bamboo's resilience can vary widely pending the type and the brand, and what follows are some generalizations.  a) stay away from stained bamboo - these scratch very easily and bamboo does not accept stains as well as oak does, b) carmelized bamboo is weaker than natural as the process of heating it weakens the grass, c) strand bamboo can be very strong - so if you have pets and want bamboo, this is a GREAT option - more expensive, but will hold up better, d) buying bamboo from big box stores and/or cheap bamboo results in a lot of dents, e) even though natural bamboo is technically stronger than oak, it shows dents more easily (and carmelized bamboo is usually softer than oak).  See my page on bamboo flooring for more info and for pictures.

10.  Use felt pads underneath furniture and area rugs/entrance mats.  This is especially important for chairs that are used a lot.  Oh, and stay away from chairs with wheels - often thing get caught in the wheels and cause scratches.  If you do have chairs with wheels, put an area rug underneath.  And, make sure you have area rugs/entrance mats at all your main entries.  You can even have one outside, too.  These are the areas that get worn down the fastest due to rain, snow, salt, dirt, so protecting these areas will go a long way towards preserving your floors.


I hope this is helpful.  Sorry it's long, but there are a lot of things to consider with hardwood and this is not an easy question to answer.  Above is meant to address denting/scratching.  If you are concerned about pets peeing on the hardwood, that is a whole different issue...basically no hardwoods will stand up well to that, so clean up the mess quickly is the best advice I can give you on that.  Also, if you have pet stains already in the hardwood, when you refinish the floors, try to replace those boards as that blackness from the water/urine, will not sand out.  If you replace them and refinish, your floor will look good as new.  Alternatively, if you can't replace them/can't afford it, then use a dark color to hide the dark marks.

Comments (119)

Jan Stevens
Coldwell Banker Pittsburgh - Cranberry Township, PA

Asked a local flooring guy this question and he said "forget it -- get ceramic tile!" Nice to have another point of view and a good, practical explanation. Thank you!

Dec 22, 2010 07:47 AM
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Jan - Thanks.  Hope this is helpful. Yes, of course you could do tile (and then you won't need to worry about the scratches).  But, tile is more expensive (usually), it's colder and harder on your feet and often harder to clean.  In warmer environments, the coldness may not be an issue. 

Dec 22, 2010 09:06 AM
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Debbie, the cool thing about "real" wood floors is that they almost always look better distressed than any synthetic type floor covering does

Jan 02, 2011 03:56 AM
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Maureen - Oh, thank you so much.  I really appreciate the reblog.

Charles - That is so true.  They are now doing it w/ laminate, too, but it just doesn't look or feel the same.

Jan 02, 2011 05:06 AM
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Debbie, I had one of the "distressed look" aritificials the other day and I had to be the one that had to tell my buyer---sorry---not real wood.  Had to show them the identical "whacks' in a pattern all over the floor :)

Jan 02, 2011 08:38 AM
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Charles - LOL,  I see that, too - both on laminates and some of the luxury vinyls.  And, yes, I've had plenty of customers (and realtors) that thought they had real hardwood only to learn it was laminate (and can't be refinished).

Jan 02, 2011 08:52 AM
I had my hardwood floors redone last may. My contactor used trek plus water based poly and my dog already destroyed them! Any suggestions on brand of poly to use and whether we should go for water, oil or moisture cured poly? We have also stained them a little darker than the natural color we had originally. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!
Mar 26, 2011 12:55 AM
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Hi Valerie.  I try to avoid water based poly.  It doesn't last as long and certainly not good for pets.  I would use an oil based poly.  Minwax tends to be good, but there are others.  Also, you might consider adding an extra coat.

Mar 26, 2011 01:03 AM
Shar Sitter
Rooms With Style - Minneapolis, MN
Home Staging and Redesign Minneapolis/ St. Paul, M

Love this post Debbie. If it wasn't already a feature I would suggest, ha. I have oak floors in my kitchen and DR which I hate the look of but with St. Bernards they show very little scratches after 11 years probably because they are lighter too. The need to be refinished but not because of the scratches. Now the hardwood in my porch is only 5 years old and it is really scratched from the dogs because it is Douglas Fir which is stunning but the contractor didn't tell me how soft it is!!

Apr 29, 2011 11:23 AM
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Shar - Thx.  You are so sweet.  Sorry abt the fir - yes, beautiful, but very soft.  BTW, there are several Floor Coverings International people near you, so I'm happy to recommend someone when you are ready.

Apr 29, 2011 12:24 PM
Dennis Niec
NieCo Productions, Prudential Great Lakes Realty - Fenton, MI

Just got a new pet pug.  I'mhappy to report we have the right pet that we love AND the proper floors.  Thanks for the info.

May 19, 2011 04:25 PM
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Dennis - Congrats on the neew addition to the family.  So glad that your flooring choice will work out.

May 19, 2011 11:42 PM
DeeDee Riley
Lyon Real Estate - El Dorado Hills CA - El Dorado Hills, CA
Realtor - El Dorado Hills & the Surrounding Areas


Just now seeing this but what an excellent post!  I'm sharing it on my facebook because I think it's something a lot of consumers want to know!

Oct 05, 2011 04:26 PM
Juli Vosmik
Dominion Fine Properties - Scottsdale, AZ
Scottsdale/Cave Creek, AZ real estate 480-710-0739

Debbie, THANK YOU SO MUCH for taking the time to find this post and send it to me for my clients.  I have forwarded it to them and, honestly, can't say thank you enough!!!  

Jun 10, 2012 01:43 PM
Lisa Von Domek
Lisa Von Domek Team - Dallas, TX
....Experience Isn't Expensive.... It's Priceless!

Hello Debbie,

Excellent post - information that will be most helpful to consumers, there is a big difference when it comes to "wood" flooring!

Jun 11, 2012 08:31 AM
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

DeeDee - Oh, thank you so much.

Juli - Thank you.  You are so sweet.  I hope it helps them.

Lisa - Yes, there is.  Thank you.

Jun 11, 2012 10:57 AM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

Thanks, Debbie! I'm sure my dog would thank me if she could talk. :)


Love and light,


Jun 24, 2012 01:50 PM
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Laura - I'm sure she would.  And, yes, wouldn't it be fun to hear them talk?

Jun 24, 2012 07:40 PM
Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, EXP - Stevens Point, WI
Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671

Thanks for the tips Debbie, we are huge hardwood floor fans and we are getting ready to restore the hardwood floors in our home as well as a few of our rentals and your tips are always helpful.

Jul 04, 2012 10:41 PM
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Bob - Oh excellent.  I'm so glad to hear this is helpful.

Jul 04, 2012 11:09 PM