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Hardwood Floors vs. Vinyl Plank Floors

Really, those two? Usually we’re comparing either of them to laminate flooring, not each other. This topic was suggested by friends of ours, and I’m glad they did, as it might never have occurred to me to cover it.

Which of these are which? Hover over each to find out.

Vinyl Plank Maple - Supreme Click Elite Waterproof Vinyl Plank Brazilian Cherry - Supreme Click Elite Waterproof Vinyl Plank Rustic Oak Hand Scraped - Supreme Click Elite Waterproof
Hardwood - Caramel Maple Engineered Hardwood Flooring from Mohawk Unilin Hardwood - Brazilian Cherry Handscraped from CFS Fiji Hardwood - Santa Barbara Plank Harvest Oak Hand Scraped from Mohawk
Discount Flooring

(and ship most of it free)

Hardwood and vinyl. First, how are they alike?
Mainly, in the way they look! Obviously the look of a vinyl floor is a fabrication of something else, but the same technologies that have made laminate floors look so real also apply to vinyl flooring, especially the plank style vinyl floors. This paragraph is sandwiched between selections from our current catalog. If you hover your cursor over each, their names and types will show up. Even when we don’t have vinyl products that intend to be exact matches of specific hardwood floors we carry, you can see how close they still get.
These days choice really comes down to the features you want, or problems you want to avoid.

Hardwood - Solid Oak Winchester from Mohawk Hardwood - Gunstock Oak Hardwood - Weathered Brown Handscraped Oak from Kingsmill
Vinyl Plank Floor Oak Plank - Supreme Click Elite Waterproof Vinyl Plank Gunstock Oak Vinyl Plank Flooring Sierra Oak - Tuff Guy Standard Luxury


In Praise of Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood adds value to your home, and here I mean money. If you have hardwood floors, you can sell your house for more. That’s pretty much not true of any other type of flooring.

Genuine hardwood is warmer to walk on. It’s much thicker. Just look at these samples from our warehouse.

Vinyl & Hardwood Samples
With some hardwoods, you can also have padding underneath. This often isn’t an option with vinyl plank.

Hardwood floors are known for their longevity, some lasting generations. One reason is that rather than replacing an entire floor after it has become worn, you can sand and refinish a hardwood floor. This is usually less expansive than the cost of replacing flooring of any kind, and keeps the look around which the rest of the home was established.

The Dark Side of Hardwood Flooring

This stuff can be expensive! Very generaly, hardwood is going to be the most expensive type of flooring you can buy. Since we are discount flooring specialists, we can probably beat most stone and tile prices, the second most expensive, but verses vinyl, the range of prices is higher with hardwood.

Installation is a much more difficult affair with hardwood. Even comparing floating, click together versions of both, hardwood requires more care and preparation.

Damage is more of an issue with hardwood. Wood and vinyl have different kinds of durabilities. One breaks, one bends, both can dent from high heeled shoes. Aside from that, hardwood is usually more susceptible to permanent damage from dents, scratches and the like.

Real wood has natural crevices which can harbor dust. As problems go, it’s generally slight if the floor is taken care of to a normal degree, but comparatively, this is a problem vinyl just doesn’t have.

Water and moisture. If wood has a downfall, this is it. You can’t let your hardwood floors get wet, and if they do, you must clean the spill immediately. Even humidity can be an issue with wood floors, especially solid hardwoods.


In Praise of Vinyl Plank Flooring

Vinyl flooring can be one of the least expensive kinds of flooring you can buy.

Installing a click together, floating vinyl plank floor is as easy as doing the same with a laminate floor, the cream of the do-it-yourself flooring crop. For a video showing the angle angle style of click together system, we used one of our best vinyl plank floors to do the demonstration. You can see how easy it is right here.

Generally, vinyl plank flooring has a tougher surface for foot traffic than hardwood, enough to recommend it for public and commercial areas such as hotel lobbies or hospitals.

Vinyl is easier to clean. You can mop it. You have more chemical cleaning options, though all you need is a light soap and water mix. Also, locked together your vinyl floor won’t have the gaps and crevices natural to a wood floor, which means less trapped dust.

Waterproof. Vinyl plank flooring can be 100% waterproof. Now add to durability the ability to handle snow covered boots, rain drenched clothes, mud, spills, puppy training mishaps – none of these are an issue for the floor. Floods? Bad for the house, yes, no question, but a 100% waterproof vinyl plank floor will survive it.

The Dark Side of Vinyl Plank Floor

It’s colder to walk on than hardwood flooring.

It adds no value to the home. It doesn’t take any away, but it isn’t a selling point, just a good, durable floor.

Damaged planks must be replaced. You can’t sand and refinish a vinyl floor.

So what do you think?

Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood Flooring

Vinyl Plank Flooring

Vinyl Plank Flooring

– – – –
David is a Writer at Floors To Your Home (.com), as well as the PPC Manager, a Marketing Strategy Team member, a Researcher, Videographer, Social Strategist, Photographer and all around Resource Jitō. In my spare time I shoot and edit video, explore film history, mix music (as in ‘play with Beatles multi-tracks’) and write non-fiction for my friends. Connect with me on W. David Lichty’s Google+

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David is a Writer at Floors To Your Home (.com), as well as the PPC Manager, a Marketing Strategy Team member, a Researcher, Videographer, Social Strategist, Photographer and all around Resource Jitō. In my spare time I shoot and edit video, explore film history, mix music (as in 'play with Beatles multi-tracks') and write non-fiction for my friends. Connect with me on W. David Lichty's Google+

Posted in Hardwood Flooring, Vinyl Flooring, waterproof
40 comments on “Hardwood Floors vs. Vinyl Plank Floors
  1. Vinyl Floors Novato says:

    Wow! It was really interesting to see the vinyl and hardwood floors right next to each other. They look so similar! Thanks for this post!

  2. Ashliegh says:

    It is very important to determine the type of wood before cleaning it . Most sealed wood floring could be sealed with 3 different types, one could be Urethane, polyurethane or polyacrylic.

  3. Tina says:

    We are going to put vinyl plank flooring in our basement because it will give us the look of hardwood but will be waterproof! I am just curious if you found any particular features to durable vinyl plank floors? (thickness, brands, etc.)

    • David says:

      Adam replies:
      To the durability of the Elite Waterproof. The top coat of the flooring is just a urethane finish which does provide some scratch resistance, but durability is not as good as a laminate with Aluminum Oxide. The 1 major advantage of going with the vinyl planks is waterproof, which is definitely worth more than durability especially if you have kids and pets. If pets have an accident or kids drops the sippy cup and moisture gets into the seams of a laminate very easily can ruin it. I hope this helps! Please let us know if you have any other questions.
      Adam Long

  4. John says:

    To Tina: My vinyl plank product says do not clean with soap and water. I would imagine this would apply to all vinyl plank flooring. Likely, this is because using a lot of water could allow it to seep under planks and damage the adhesive grip, causing the planks to warp or come loose. We plan to use only a damp mop and swiffer type cleaning.

    • David says:

      Yes, John is right, and in fact this is true of many click together products, with or without adhesives.

      These floors are always designed to prevent water from slipping through the cracks as much as possible, but when a lot of water sits for too long or, as with a mop, is pushed in and down, then some water can seep through the gaps and get under the flooring. With a laminate, the water seepage from heavy mopping will get into the flooring material itself, ruining the planks. If it’s vinyl, your flooring itself is fine, but you still have water under it. Even if there is no adhesive, trapped water can still foster mold.

      Don’t mop a click together floor. At the very worst damp mop. Better is to use a rinse-free cleaner, sprayed onto the flooring and then wiped around and up (like Windex for the floor) with a dry mop, if you must employ some moisture. Swiffers and dust mops are best, of course.

      Most of us have grown up thinking of cleaning a floor as either sweeping or mopping, plain and simple, but we must be careful to learn what our particular floor needs and can handle. These floors are developed to handle unpredictable tragedies like a spilled drink, giving you time to get the spill up. But cleaning improperly is not a tragedy, it’s neglecting the instructions. All floors can be cleaned, but all must be done in their manufacturer designated manors.

  5. Holly says:

    Thats so great to hear about vinyl flooring since I am actively involved in dog rescue but all vinyl plank flooring cannot be the same. What manufacturer and/or collection would you recommend?

    • David says:

      Holly, the best is the Supreme Click Elite Gold Loose Lay. All of these waterproof floors will stand up to pet puddles, but the Gold collection also has the thickest wear layer on top. It’s our only vinyl product whose warranty has a commercial element. The others are only warrantied for residential uses. It’s pretty tough. Thanks for asking!
      – David

    • Susan says:

      Be careful with vinyl plank flooring. We installed about 8 years ago the top brand. Our older dog became incontinent and we didn’t realize he had wet against a piece of furniture. Even though I cleaned it up, it buckled or warped. We’ve had this happen with a puppy also. I wouldn’t ever put down vinyl plank flooring again. One other thing – we put the flooring down in my husband’s office. He rolled his chair off the flooring cover and he damaged the floor in just a few days – the laminate popped off the planks. At least the hardwood, although more expensive, can be repaired.

      • David says:

        Susan, I’m sorry to hear about your experiences. You’re right that hardwood can be repaired while a damaged vinyl plank cannot be, and that hardwood would also have been damaged by those chair casters. Your situation illustrates that the things we do to protect our flooring we really have to do consistently, and that they are different from floor type to floor type. I confess I am mystified about the wetness issue you had. I don’t know your brand, but the stuff we carry is 100% waterproof. While we make sure to clarify with customers that it does not water shield the subfloor, doesn’t seal it off so to speak, we also emphasize that no matter how intense is the wet event that happens, even a full flooding of the basement for instance, the planks themselves are able to be dried off and, after the rest of the water event has been handled, put right back down. They don’t swell or buckle, no warping happens because water just doesn’t affect them. We stuck some in an aquarium over a weekend, set some outside in a storm over a weekend, and (end of that second video) had a piece out under a drain spout for a year just to test these ourselves. They all held up.

        Now we’ve only carried flooring with this guarantee for …not quite three years in a click-together form, and not quite two in loose lay, so the technologies allowing us to guarantee what we do simply may not have existed eight years ago. I actually think that’s the case, but you should still look at your warranty. Ours range from 20, 25, and 30 years to lifetime for residential uses, and some are even rated for light commercial use. If you had the best brand, they should have given you a good warranty too, one that should still be in force, and they may owe you some replacements.

        To date we have sold close to 2000 waterproof vinyl plank floors and we have about 90 reviewsl, 89 positive. Our click-together vinyl sold well immediately, and I know that for at least the first year and a half we had no claims and no complaints about it, which is pretty unheard of in flooring, to be honest. In addition to the factor of human error at any step in any production process, just the fact that all of our flooring ships in to us on third party trucks and then ships out from us on third party trucks can lead to an issue, but these almost seem to have been charmed.

  6. Lynn says:

    I don’t understand why the video of installing laminate flooring is in the discussion of hardwood and vinyl plank

    • David says:

      The video demonstrates an installation method common to both laminate flooring and vinyl plank flooring. With laminate, there are two major types of installation, Angle Angle, and Drop & Lock. Brian did a video on each back when this vinyl plank flooring was new – we weren’t used to referring to it. The material used in the video is a vinyl plank product. Brian doesn’t say that in the video until about 2 1/2 minutes in, so I mentioned it in the text right above. The product is a Supreme Click Elite Vinyl Plank floor, so it you wanted to see how one of those goes together, that’s what you’re seeing here. Sorry for the very understandable confusion.

  7. Dianne Clemons says:

    Can you use a Scooba rebot on vinyl plank floors?

    • David says:

      Hi, Dianne,

      I’m going to say a qualified ‘yes’. Here’s why. These I, Robot cleaners use some liquid to do their jobs. That’s not a problem with the vinyl we sell, because it’s waterproof. It could be an issue with hardwood floors, even laminates, if the device was to malfunction and stay in one place for too long, or if the water extracting part was to get clogged, with cat hair, for instance. I called the manufacturer of our Supreme Click Elite Waterproof Vinyl Plank flooring, and he agreed that your flooring would be fine if the little guy made a mess.

      The rollers are rubber, so that is also no problem, and the recommended cleaning solutions, including the one I, Robot sells would be fine. Our one concern would be the brushes. Vinyl comes with a basic UV coating, not aluminum oxide, like a laminate floor has. That’s the toughest coating you can get, but it doesn’t go on vinyl (yet?). We would have to make sure that the brushes are non-destructive. Unfortunately, the I, Robot site stays in sales mode even in the Product Specifications area, so that’s hard to determine. What our manufacturer suggested makes sense. The Scooba would almost have to have okay brushes, because if they didn’t there would be a flood of complaints from owners of solid hardwood, engineered hardwood and bamboo, to say nothing of vinyl. It would only work on ceramic tile. Since that’s not the case, that Scoobas are well known to be badly reviewed products, it follows logically that the brushes should be fine.

      So how logical do you think the world really is? Therein lies your final answer.

      I hope this has been at least a little helpful. Even at 11 years on the market, Scoobas and Rombas are still in an early phase. When they have been around long enough to have a retail price always under $199, we’ll all know more about them without having to have one ourselves, which I’m afraid I don’t. If you’re still unsure, I would find a Scooba salesman and make him do a little work for you, possibly even demonstrate the machine on a standard vinyl plank floor – or a sample of ours, if you have one!

      – David

  8. Dianne Clemons says:

    Sorry, I meant robot

  9. Melissa says:

    Can upright steamers be used on luxury vinyl plank flooring or full sheet LV. I’m looking at Cortec Plus from US floors.

  10. Jody says:

    Can the vinyl plank flooring be used in a summer home? We shut if down in the winter – no heat. Will the vinyl planks survive extreme temperatures?

    • David says:

      Jody, no vinyl is recommended for extreme temperatures, I’m afraid. The Click Together series still have a recommended expansion gap, though a pretty small one, because they will respond to temperatures as most materials do. Their instructions list a high limit of 92 degrees for under-floor heating, for instance. The Loose Lay, which are designed to stay together because they do not expand or contract, still have special adhesive instructions for areas with high temperature variations, and recommend not going over floors heated to 80 degrees by a floor heating system. While their installation instructions don’t specify this, we would never recommend allowing the flooring to fully freeze.

  11. David S. says:

    What do you think of Elevations vinyl plank flooring (Raskin) for concrete basement flooring? Among other things, what about mold?

    • David says:

      David, it sounds like a comparable product to our Loose Lay Vinyl, but we have never had that brand in stock here, so I can’t comment on it knowledgeably. Now, ours is ‘mold resistant’, which means that mold can’t feed off the flooring as it can a hardwood, for example. What that does not mean is ‘mold killing’, that no mold will ever show up under it. The subfloor can feed mold trying to grow if there is lingering moisture under the Loose Lay. To avoid mold altogether, you would have to keep up with any ongoing moisture issues, but that’s one of the best things about a Loose Lay floor. They most enable you to handle any ongoing moisture issues, more than any other floor I can think of, because you can easily pull planks up, take care of any issues, and put them back down.

  12. Stefanie says:

    We just put in Vinyl wood plank flooring and it looks great! It is commercial grade, 25 year residential warranty, water proof and apparently scratch proof, however it seems to scuff/ scratch very easily! I am almost disappointing! We have a 25 lb dog and he runs all over it and doesn’t scratch it, however if i slide a chair out to sit down it easily scuffs! Any ideas on what to put on our table and chair legs? Or should we seal the floor? Can you get rid of the scuffs or scratches?
    Also, the home depot guy sold us a wood floor cleaner to use with a mop to clean the click together flooring. Should we discontinue this to prevent mold?
    Thank you!

    • David says:

      Dan, the owner of the company chimed in, Stefanie:
      “Mold should not grow on this floor since it anti bacterial. She should use those felt pads that stick to the bottom of the chair legs so that the chairs just slide. Those can be purchased anywhere—home centers, dollar stores, grocery stores. I think a windex type cleaner—ammonia and water mix – should take out basic scuffs.”

  13. Pam says:

    We are putting a log cabin up in Ohio and need a durable flooring. What do you recommend? We have a large dog and winters are sometimes bad.
    Thank you

    • David says:

      Pam, I asked our specialists. Jeff replied, “I would recommend loose lay vinyl. It won’t really be affected by tough winters, especially if you glue down some or all of the flooring. Big dogs may scratch it up a bit, but the planks are extremely easy to replace, and they can choose to purchase the 20mil wear layer option for more durability. And if you glue it down then the dogs will probably affect the flooring even less. It is water-proof, so it wont be affected by spills or accidents from the big dogs and what-not.”

      For more questions, Jeff can be reached directly at (317) 472-8888.

  14. Brinn says:

    To my eye, with the vinyl planks you showed, the pattern would show up as too uniform if you do it as instructed above, taking the end cut piece to begin the very next row. Real hardwood is more random in pattern (grain, knots, etc). Vinyl will never exactly replicate hardwood. But for the best effect, I suggest customers shuffle/mix the cut planks a bit as they install so as to avoid an overly patterned repeat. Will you have more waste? Possibly a bit. But overall, the floor (esp in a larger room) will have a much better appearance. Wasting some planks, say 5-10% is not a huge expense to have a more realistic look. Example, if your floor material cost was $500, you would purchase approx $50 extra material to cover waste. To me, it’s worth it for the best look possible.

    • David says:

      Brinn, I think you’ve even undersold your case. Hardwood doesn’t simply have more random patterning – every single plank is different. Vinyl plank does not do that, so you’re also right about things to do when installing it. We always recommend working out of multiple boxes to provide the greatest variance, and being selective about each plank as it goes in. With loose lay, where there are no locking mechanisms, you also have the option of flipping planks around.

      You’re right, vinyl will never exactly replicate hardwood flooring, but it’s not designed to do that. It’s for people who like the wood plank look for their floors, but need to put flooring into a bathroom, kitchen – any area prone to the kinds of moisture problems real wood cannot handle.

  15. Cory says:

    What are the advantages of using glue-down LVT versus locking? I’m currently scheduled to have glue down installed, but I’m second guessing this. The application is for my home: living room, kitchen, dining room, laundry. Thank you.

    • David says:

      Hi, Cory. Sorry for the delay, I’ve been away on holiday. With the vinyl plank floors, most of the features are going to be the same across the board, the waterproof factor and so forth. I would honestly give the advantage to a click-together, with the possible exception of your laundry room. If you never have any issues, there should be no difference (unless you see a very particular look you like, and it only comes in one of these installation styles, of course). The concern is if you do have something happen, either a need to replace a plank, say it gets gouged or something, or to pull up the floor after a major spill or even a minor flood. In the case of the latter, your planks should be fine (these are almost all waterproof now), but you would still need to get the flooding taken care of, and dry the subfloor. A glue-down floor is quite an ordeal to take up in such cases, where a click-together or Loose Lay vinyl floor can come right up and get out of your way fast. Then replacing the flooring after clean-up would also be easier with a loose or click style.

      My exception of the laundry room is because you might have a drain in that room, and therefore a bit of slope to the floor. Almost all floors require a certain levelness to maintain their warranties, if not to be installable at all just on a practical level. Being resilient, vinyl is already your best option there, and it does help to glue planks down on a slope to ensure that they conform with the existing floor. Still, there I might go with a Loose Lay, because while they are designed to be installed loose, any plank or set of planks may be glued down, so you could have the easy pull-up in most of the room, and still have secured to the floor planks where there is a slope.

      – David

  16. Angelica Cortis says:

    Thanks for all the details. Wood is a common choice as a flooring material due to its environmental profile, durability, and restorability. Keep sharing!

  17. Andyrain says:

    We have two large dogs and we are involved in rescue so we occasionally foster. Can you recommend a product that will be the most durable and least succeptibile to scratches? Also, warmest under foot as we live in assuming the vinyl is warmer than tile at least.

  18. Jennifer Rizzolo says:

    Thanks for the education. I like and now would prefer the laminate option. I have radiant in-floor heat in a barn apartment. Do I have to worry about plastics chemicals leaching because it’s being heated?

    • David says:

      Jennifer, I would say not from the laminate product itself, certainly not a wood based laminate, which most are. I have a post on our Resource Center about how laminate is made that should help clarify this (there’s a video too). Basically there just shouldn’t be chemicals or plastics to be emitted in the first place. Now, we don’t sell every single laminate product made so I can’t speak for all of them, but what we keep on hand, which is quite a lot, is pretty much as described in that link.

      When Consumer Reports goes over flooring, the only category they seem to know about is called “Plastic Laminate,” which I always find frustrating. There isn’t plastic in our laminates so even if they mean some other kind of laminate product, by leaving these out, which seem to be the majority of what’s manufactured, I think they confuse people into thinking that plastic is what laminate is. It’s wood material, some resins, an aluminum oxide coating… there’s a photograph. Take a look at that page I’ve linked to, and feel free to call us too if you want to ask about something specific, a product, a feature or some odd term. Our people are pretty great about that.


  19. Bonnie Mello says:

    We are looking at installing some type of “floating floor” in my office/sewing room. Our biggest problem is the condition of the current concrete floor. It is not a slick finish. It was originally painted many years ago.
    In places the paint has worn off – but in others the paint is still pretty thick. Also, the concrete itself has some shallow pitting and is rough. I am concerned that the pitting may affect the vinyl planking.
    What is your advice on dealing with this?
    Also, can the vinyl planking with a vapor barrier be installed over existing flat (no texture) sheet vinyl. (very cheap stuff)

    • David says:

      Hi, Bonnie,

      For your concrete floor, the main issue with a floating vinyl is that the concrete underneath it be flat, as you have ascertained. I don’t think the paint would even be a concern, but the little dents might, and the solution to those would fix both anyway. To handle any roughness, you would need to use what is called a leveling compound. It does just what you might imagine – you pour it over your concrete floor, and it spreads out, fills in the gaps and cracks, pits and dents, and dries to become your new, flat surface. Most people use this when the floor is not level, such as when it slopes or dips broadly, but it should handle this for you as well. You should find this at any local home and hardware stores too, so getting it needn’t be a hassle.

      As for moisture barriers, that’s actually not recommended with vinyl planks. The planks are going to be waterproof anyway, so they don’t need it. As for going over existing sheet vinyl, the requirement is the same – it just needs to be flat under your new flooring. Not even marble flat necessarily, there can be a little texture, but we don’t want to have more than a 1/8″ change over any 8 foot area. I can’t see a sheet vinyl, old, cheap or otherwise, being a cause of that much variation in the floor. Take a look at your rooms with these things in mind, but it sounds like you’re going to be fine!

      – David

  20. Wendy says:

    What wasn’t mentioned in any of the discussions is how highly toxic vinyl flooring is. I wonder if you are aware of the many health hazards of long term exposure to vinyl flooring

    • David says:

      Hi, Wendy,

      We are aware that some vinyl is bad to stay around, but that’s far from universal, and the safety is only increasing over time. As crass as the reasoning might be, and some do just really care, these days it’s in a manufacturer’s best financial interests to make safe stuff because peoples’ awarenesses are only rising. Broadly speaking vinyl floors are made in numerous ways with many different chemical make-ups. Some really can be hazardous, you’re right, but the fact is that many just aren’t. I wrote an entire piece on just this topic last year in response to a comment on health concerns regarding vinyl and linoleum. If toxicity really was a standard feature of all vinyl, then it would have made sense in the comparison above, but that isn’t the case, certainly not here, where we meet both international and federal health standards with what we carry in any flooring. There are better and worse finishes for hardwood flooring as well, but it is not at all the case that hardwood finishes are poison as a general feature, so I did not list that as a flaw with the product. We try not to broad brush if we can help it. There are too many differences that matter.

      Take a look at the article linked above in this comment. It may do what you were hoping we would, and now it’s also linked here, in this piece, thanks to your response. Hopefully people with concerns either way can now read up, and of course can Google for verification of my statements or just for other views than the one I present.

      Thanks, Wendy, seriously.
      – David

  21. Ellen says:

    Great info in this article. Thanks! We are deliberating between actual hard wood flooring and vinyl hard wood flooring for a 3rd floor townhome that our daughter lives in in a college town. After she graduates, we will probably continue to own it and rent to other college students for rental income. It is a 2 bedroom/2 bath unit. Ease of maintenance and long term durability would be my main concerns. Your advice?

    • Meredith says:

      Hi, Ellen! Glad you enjoyed our article :) For a home like you describe, I would offer a couple of recommendations. Vinyl flooring is indeed easy to care for, and our Supreme Click Elite Gold vinyl is built to stand up to heavy duty traffic. Another alternative is INNOcore WPC, which combines vinyl and laminate technology with the benefits of both! It’s a very durable floor that’s easy to care for, waterproof, and has an attached cork pad for maximum sound reduction. Hardwood is strong but it’s not waterproof, which may present an issue in a college age home. Hope that helps!

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