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Review: NuCore Flooring from Floor & Decor

This NuCore flooring review will also function as a Basement Update:

We're finally, officially moving forward on the Phase 2 finish work.

But I couldn't just turn the entirety of the project over to the professionals... I had to do some part of this basement on my own.

After all, I'm allegedly writing a DIY blog.

Enter NuCore flooring from Floor & Decor.

NuCore (and yes, I'm going to keep capitalizing that C in the middle) is a "luxury vinyl" plank flooring product.

It looks a LOT like wood. It's waterproof.

And yes, you can install it yourself.

Why Vinyl Plank?

Flooring in a basement can be tricky.

Basements can be cold, and they can be damp.

To avoid the cold, you'd prefer carpet, right? Cozy.

Of course, carpet and moisture do not mix... we've never had water in the basement, but we had visions of musty old carpet in the future.

We also have a 10-year-old and a 2-year-old, and we can essentially guarantee that there will be multiple catastrophic juice spills in our future.

Wood looks awesome, but it is pretty much a nonstarter.

You lose all of carpet's warmth, but keep the issues with moisture. Wood floors need to be able to expand and contract with temperature changes, and any water will warp and cup the planks.

So - how about those new wood-look porcelain tiles?

We have 2 friends who put tile floors in their basements - they look great, and obviously can deal with water like a champ.

That said... they are cold floors. It's a tile floor, in a basement.

Our 2 friends both have walk-out basements - so I have to imagine that the cold isn't as much of an issue, given that they aren't even really below grade.

This is how we wound up looking at vinyl tile. It's waterproof, and while it isn't as warm as carpet, it's warmer than tile.


We started with the area behind the bar.

NuCore is a floating floor - which basically means it's not attached to your house in any way.

There's no glue, either - each plank snaps into the others using a tongue-and-groove system.

You slide each plank into place, whack it with a mallet, and move on.

Install the planks, moving left-to-right, until you reach the wall at the end of your row. Like a typewriter.

Then you cut a small piece to finish your row - and use that piece as the starter for a future row.

Not much waste.

Cutting the planks to size is pretty simple, too - just score it with a box cutter, and snap it over your knee.

Wrapping around the bar... uh oh.

So, you lay it right on the concrete?

The version we chose (Driftwood Oak, with Cork Back) allegedly needed no underlayment - we could install directly on our concrete basement floor.

Our basement floor isn't EXACTLY level... but it's pretty close. There aren't any obvious pits or bumps.

What we DO have, is a somewhat unconventional floorplan.

For starters, there's a drink ledge/bar jutting out into the middle of the living area.

It's going to be great for extra TV seating, but it makes for a tricky flooring install.

I started with the area at the bottom of the stairs, behind the drink ledge.

I was happily moving along with no issues. until I noticed that the end of the bar was going to require an unconventional cut - a "notch" in the plank.

Even more worrisome - on the opposite side of the bar, I was going to have to work "up", instead of "down" when creating new rows... and NuCore doesn't like that.

Success! But the poles are lurking...
You're supposed to work left-to-right, while moving "down" with each new row.

So, I started a second section on the "right hand" side of the bar, working "down" towards my wrap-around piece.

I figured that I could meet in the middle... but this was going to take some meticulous measuring.

My first row on the left side of the bar had to start at *precisely* the same spot as the first row on the right side.

Somewhat amazingly.... we were close enough to make it work. I was about 1 mm off, but was able to "nudge" the left-side section into place with a mallet.

More Unconventional Cuts

The poles slowed me up, but couldn't stop me.
It seems like every one of our basement posts has discussed the steel poles holding the house up.

They're going to be wrapped up in wood, with a craftsman-style "newel post" look.

That's going to increase the size of the poles somewhat - so I didn't have to cut the NuCore exactly flush with the posts.

I measured carefully... then used my angle grinder with a cutting blade. It wasn't perfect, but I more or less got the cuts where they needed to be.

I imagine that a pro would use a reciprocating saw.

But, I'm saving a ton of cash by installing myself.

So What Does it Cost?

NuCore is a mid-range Luxury Vinyl product - the version we chose was $2.59/sq.ft.

So, we were in for around $2,500 for the floorboards themselves.

Based on multiple quotes, it was also going to cost $2,000+ to install the floor... so this is a DIY project that provided real value.

For $2K, we can buy the sectional sofa that's going into the basement living room, and still have some cash left over!

I'll be finishing the NuCore install later today.... have to stay ahead of the contractors who are installing doors and trim.

Here's how it looks right now:

View from the TV, looking back at the drink ledge. Stairs to the left..
UPDATE 6/7/16 - Another late night, but I'm getting close to finished.

I'm also getting quite a bit better at laying the NuCore planks.... to the point that I'm half-considering lifting and re-laying some of Sunday night's work.

I probably won't... but it's frustrating to see how much better the install looks when you're well-practiced, and can appreciate the almost infinitely-small tolerances required for a perfect "fit".

Also, I definitely see the overall plank pattern - no two planks are exactly identical, but the same markings show up throughout the floor.

I imagine that F&D has a 15-foot repeating "wood pattern design", and then cuts 4-foot planks from that design. So a certain "knot" may be at the center of one plank, and toward the edge of another.    

 The Review

NuCore definitely LOOKS like wood. 

I'm not sure how many different "prints" NuCore makes on different planks.... I'm not sure I've ever seen one repeat! 

(So don't worry about seeing the same pattern of grain and knots over and over again.)

It installs easily. This is, literally, a "do-it-yourself" project. You, the reader, can do this yourself. 

I can't speak to its durability - we'll be moving furniture around on it soon enough, and if it scratches easily I'll be disappointed. 

It's waterproof, or at least "water resistant". 

It's likely that a pro installer would have given us a more-waterproof floor - My install has the odd "bad seam", which is tight, but not PERFECTLY tight. This would appearto allow liquid to seem through. Still, it's waterproof enough

If you're walking barefoot, it doesn't really feel like wood, but I'm not sure that's a legitimate gripe. 

The floor feels like what it actually is - a textured vinyl floor. 

That can mean that it feels "plasticky" - but maybe that's just because I know that it's vinyl. No one else has shared my "complaint" yet.   

RE: underlayment -- There are definitely spots where our concrete floor wasn't perfectly level - And in those spots, there's a bit more "give" to the floor.

Again, not a dealbreaker... but it reminds you that you're walking on a floating floor product.

Ultimately, time will have to tell. But so far, we really like what NuCore has to offer.

It's has the look of wood, with some additional benefits (water resistance) that will come in handy in a basement installation.

So far - a pleasantly surprised THREE STARS.


  1. Hello there,

    Your project looks awesome, congrats! I am currently deciding between NuCore Driftwood or Cheyenne.

    I would like to install NuCore on the 2nd floor of my house in all the bedrooms. NuCore says that no underlayment is needed, do you think this is also the case for a 2nd floor? Just wondering if it will be loud or not, I also have dogs.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Vivi. I'm not sure why it would be different on a second floor --- if anything, I'd assume you have a plywood base to work with, which will be a more even/level surface than the bare concrete we installed over.

      We initially were going with Cheyenne, but changed our minds at the last minute. Cheyenne definitely has more contrast between the "dark" and "light" parts of each plank.

      As for the noise - the cork backing really cuts down on regular walking noise - I'd imagine that you are more interested in the noise your dogs' claws will make when they click-clack across the floor.

      I haven't really listened to our dog on the NuCore for comparison purposes, but it seems slightly quieter than when she's clacking around on the wood floor upstairs. I'll take her down there tonight and let her run around :)

  2. Hey there Matthew,

    I'm also very interested in putting this floor in my home on the second floor and after reading your review and process, I'm going to give it a shot and do it myself. Quick question, now that it's been about two months, how has it come out? And noticeable scratches? I also have a dog and I didn't think about scratches until I read the comments.

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    1. After a couple of months, the floor has become an afterthought- and that's good! It just seems like a regular floor.

      No scratches at all - none from the dog, none from moving furniture around.

      I think that you'd have to REALLY scratch the floor in order to create noticeable scratch marks... the "color" is more than surface deep, and the floor has a somewhat "distressed" look to it as-is.

      But I can report that I dragged a pretty heavy entertainment center/wall unit across our NuCore floor, and didn't leave a mark.

      One note - we installed two edge transition pieces - one under the door to the utility room, and other under the double-door to the closet.

      The official transition pieces are designed to "snap in" over a metal track you screw down into the floor. Given that we installed over bare concrete, and I wasn't eager to put screws into the basement floor, we just glued the pieces down with construction adhesive.

      So far, so good.

    2. A few years later - obviously, we're in a new house now, but I wanted to clarify one point. Eventually, we had to screw those transition pieces down with Tapcons.

  3. So what do you use to clean your nucore flooring? I have it installed in my house but I feel like where the light comes in my front window it never looks 100% clean. It almost looks streaky in a few spots. I have never been told anything but that we should use a neutral ph cleaners so I have a gallon of zep cleaner that I mix and fill in to a spray bottle and the mop with a microfiber clothed mop.

    1. Well... our flooring is only in the basement, so we don't have any issues with direct light. and probably have a stronger tolerance for the acceptable amount of cleanliness.

      We generally use a Swiffer-style dry mop.

  4. Looks great! Just wondering, can this floor be installed flush to other flooring (such as ceramic tile) without needing transition ("T-molding etc) trim? I don't like the look of transition trim, wondering if the floor expands/ contracts slightly like Pergo type flooring and thus can't be installed butting up flush. Thanks!

    1. Kari, it will expand/contract in a similar manner to Pergo. I would think expansion might not be much of an issue since you need to leave space for expansion around the other three sides. The biggest issues might be what the cut edge looks like against the tile, any height differences (creating a potential trip hazard), and having to glue the edge down where it meets the tile. I might be worried about the cork underlayment separating from the vinyl substrate above it at some point.

    2. Our NuCore was installed flush to ceramic tile in one spot - entering the bathroom.

      I hadn't even considered this -- our contractor used a thin metal tile edge/transition piece, and apparently fastened the NuCore to the floor in that spot. So far, no issues.... but that transition would be a little more advanced work than I could have handled.

  5. What NuCore flooring color/style did you use?

    1. Our floor is the Driftwood Oak with cork back.

  6. My husband installed our NuCore floor a few weeks ago. There are planks that aren't set in completely and I can lift their corners. He says it's because it's a floating floor and how it's made. I disagree. Are you experiencing this?

    1. My guess would be that it wasn't installed properly. You have to be sure it clips together as it's supposed to. After the flooring is down you should install baseboards. I don't think you would be able to lift corners if installed correctly. We've recently installed it in 3 bedrooms and a bath with no issues such as that.

  7. NuCore looks fabulous running through my kitchen, living/dining rooms/sun room and hallway!
    I chose a slightly gloss finish and it's only three weeks old, so I have no long-term reviews. I do have a Big But however, in that my refrigerator's being repaired right now, and when it was moved, it was obvious that the front wheels have have made obvious dents in the NuCore. Guess it's a lot softer than anyone explains, so bear this in mind if you're moving anything heavy.

  8. We are looking to replace our laminate flooring due to water damage with this new NuCore flooring. We are pretty impressed with the feel of it. We are wondering now since the last review of heavy marks left by the fridge. Wondering if just furniture will leave dimples like carpet would? Also what if there is damage to one lets say in the middle of the floor, how to fix it?

  9. We purchased the NuCore flooring in August. We have been so disappointed with it. We installed the cocoa oak and it is very dark. It scratches so easy. It seems like there is a new scratch every day. If you want dark floors, do not buy these. Look for something that is more durable.

  10. My NuCore floor has gaps in several places, shifts and moves all the time. I hate it. I took out Home Depot plank flooring to change the light oak color for an ash grey color and I regret installing this product every day.

  11. We just installed this in our home, and I'm curious how obvious your soft spots are? There are few areas that after install we can tell the floor was not level. Do we have to rip the whole thing out and put leveler down there in specific spots? I love the color, but I'm getting nervous.

  12. 'Cocoa oak' seemed to scratch easily--it's the most commented on color for scratches. I've been reading through many reviews as I prepare to install some NuCore at my house.

  13. I purchased nu core ridge gray with cork back and I hate it. It was professionally installed. I have had the installer bake twice already because the corners spread and create an open seam. They want to rip it up and add foam under thinking that would solve the issue, except we cannot reach anyone from the store or Nu Core for advise. It is impossible to clean no matter how many times it streaks, I have even done it on my hands and knees . What to Do?

  14. Thank you so much for this piece. Reading it 5 years after, I installed the same flooring yesterday in my basement over concrete. Used a vapor barrier. Now intend to do the shoe molding. What did you use for that? baseboards are out of question because of our uneven subfloor. Does Nucore make matching shoe molding? Does generic white look good?

    1. We just used standard wood baseboards, with a quarter-round shoe molding. White looked pretty good.


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