A Guide to Choosing Your Flooring Materials

Whether you plan to install new flooring in one room or all throughout your home, there are many floor materials to choose from out there and they can really make an impact. Today, there is a myriad of new hardwoods and even some old favorites are making a comeback (yes, you guessed it: linoleum has been on the radar the past few years!) No matter your budget, there are quite a few choices in flooring material that will make a dramatic difference to any room.

Your first consideration when picking out a flooring material is that you'd better really like it. Flooring can last quite a long time (with some carpeting and cheaper vinyl products being exceptions), in the cases of hardwood floors – 50 to 100 years. If you pick out the latest trend or latest fashionable color, it could become dated in a short period of time. It doesn't mean you shouldn't make a bold statement with your floors, but don't always jump at the first color or pattern. Think it over for some time, ask friends and family for opinions, and compare it to your existing color palette in each room.

The next consideration is wear and tear. When installing new flooring, think about what kind of a beating these floors will be taking. Is the flooring in a wet area, like a main or side entrance, a bathroom, or a kitchen where there is the potential for a lot of moisture? Water can do a lot of damage to a wood. If you're putting new flooring in a family or living area, will it be comfortable? Ceramic tile can be quite cold during those long winter months. Natural stone can handle a lot of traffic in a kitchen, but it can be hard to stand on for long periods.

Finally, consider what your budget can stand and take into account the overall value of your house. You might want to install marble throughout your house – but if you can't afford it, well you can't afford it. Stay within your budget and you won't need a second mortgage to replace or install your flooring. Also, if your home is in the low to medium value range, it might not be a great idea to install an expensive flooring material. An incredibly luxurious floor in a below-average home can really expose all the other weaknesses around it. And when it comes time to sell, it will be hard to recoup the investment if the floor is in perfect shape and the rest of the house is not up to par.

So, what are the latest flooring materials for your home today? Hardwood floors are still at the top of everybody's wish list. Naturally. But there are a host of materials currently rising in popularity across the country, including: stone, concrete, laminate, vinyl, tiles, and – yes! – Linoleum is coming on strong. And don't leave carpet out of the equation.

Carpet has fallen out of favor over the last twenty years. But many are still taking advantage of the new carpeting patterns, colors, and styles that are available today. Gone is the boring beige carpet found in nearly every apartment, condominium, and model home across America. It's being replaced by stain-resistant carpeting with high quality padding and great designs. To recap some of the major carpeting styles, you can choose from Saxony, Berber, textured, velvet, frieze and sculptured. Saxony is the plush style that shows the footprints and vacuum marks. Frieze is the durable style that resists footprints and the short pile can really highlight the colors and textures in the carpet. The name Berber seems to be everywhere these days. Berber is usually made of non-allergenic wool with flecked colors, usually with short thick loops that make it easy to clean. It's great for high traffic areas.

Index

  • Carpet has fallen out of favor over the last twenty years. But many are still taking advantage of the new carpeting patterns, colors, and styles that are available today. Gone is the boring beige carpet found in nearly every apartment, condominium, and model home across America. It's being replaced by stain-resistant carpeting with high quality padding and great designs. To recap some of the major carpeting styles, you can choose from Saxony, Berber, textured, velvet, frieze and sculptured. Saxony is the plush style that shows the footprints and vacuum marks. Frieze is the durable style that resists footprints and the short pile can really highlight the colors and textures in the carpet. The name Berber seems to be everywhere these days. Berber is usually made of non-allergenic wool with flecked colors, usually with short thick loops that make it easy to clean. It's great for high traffic areas.

    ADVANTAGES OF CARPET

    • Great insulating capabilities; energy savings
    • Soundproofing
    • Excellent selection of colors, textures, styles, & designs
    • Very comfortable to walk on

    DISADVANTAGES OF CARPET

    • Carpeting can hold onto odors, allergens, stains, and bacteria
    • High maintenance
    • Not as durable as other materials

  • Hardwood floors are probably the most popular and most requested flooring option these days. There are a huge variety of natural woods with oak, pine, birch and maple still at the head of the pack. But these days, people are branching out (sorry, couldn't resist!) to new types of wood, including mahogany, bamboo, cherry, pecan, hickory, Brazilian walnut, and more. Why is hardwood so popular? It most likely starts with the durability of wood. Hardwood flooring should last the lifetime of the house (and in some cases, outlive it.) It's also very easy to maintain. Even after years of wear, the surfaces can be easily refinished to remove stains, grooves, and cuts. Properly installed, hardwood floors can not only add to the beauty of a home, but also to the overall value.

    ADVANTAGES OF HARDWOOD

    • Easily cleaned
    • Timeless beauty; works with nearly every design style
    • Due to popularity, it's a great investment
    • Promote healthy indoor air quality

    DISADVANTAGES OF HARDWOOD

    • Easily stained; easy to scratch
    • Water is the enemy of wood; can warp or shift and even rot, if ignored
    • Expensive to install; pricing of material varies, but can cost a lot

  • Laminate flooring has been gaining in popularity because of an increase in the technology that makes it look exactly like hardwood, stone, or tile floors. It's actually a man-made material that comes in either boards or tiles. It can be installed anywhere and it's very easy to maintain. Of all the flooring materials, it's probably easiest to clean.

    ADVANTAGES OF LAMINATE

    • Durable
    • Easily maintained
    • Stain and fade resistant
    • Variety of styles, designs (look like wood, stone, or ceramic tiles)
    • Easy and inexpensive; should be fairly cheap to install

    DISADVANTAGES OF LAMINATE

    • Can be noisy to walk on
    • Cold and noisy to some
    • When parts wear out, you can't replace sections but need to replace the whole floor

  • Porcelain, Quarry and Ceramic Tiles are a perennial flooring favorite. It's been big in kitchens for years because of the durability, low maintenance requirements, and the variety of designs and colors. Ceramic tiles are made from pressed clays and color is added. It will either be glazed or have a matte finish applied. Porcelain tiles are baked at a high temperature and the color is usually consistent all the way through (which is great if the tile chips.) Quarry is usually not glazed and maintains that flat matte look of natural stone. The tiles are impervious to water, mud, and grease.

    ADVANTAGES OF TILE

    • Looks very luxurious; adds value to home
    • Easy to maintain
    • Very durable
    • Low maintenance
    • Individual tiles can be replaced if damaged

    DISADVANTAGES OF TILE

    • Grout lines can stain easily
    • Can be expensive for quality tiles; installation is expensive
    • Cold underfoot; hard surface to stand on for long periods
    • Can be slippery on glazed surfaces

  • Stone floor tiles are made up of a somewhat porous natural stone like marble, granite, limestone, travertine, or slate. These stone floors are the definition of the term luxury. Many love the unique look, the veins, and color changes within a natural stone surface. The material can last the lifetime of the home and most applications are usually considered permanent. Granite is nearly indestructible but some stones can be cracked or chipped or even dull from heavy foot traffic. It can be easy to clean, but if you have marble floor throughout your house, you probably don't clean the floors yourself anyway.

    ADVANTAGES OF STONE

    • Gorgeous natural look; elegant
    • Very durable
    • Perfect for radiant heat application
    • Adds excellent value for the home; great ROI

    DISADVANTAGES OF STONE

    • Not great for long periods of standing
    • Expensive
    • Porous surface needs to be constantly treated to prevent stains
    • Can be very slippery

  • Concrete? Really? Well, we're not talking about the cold, gray concrete that's out in your garage. Concrete is, of course, that mixture of sand, water, and cement, but it can be tinted and textured into whatever style you want. It can be made to be smooth and seamless or have the look of a tiled floor – at much less cost than tiles or natural stone. Another nice custom touch is when pebbles or broken glass are added to the concrete for a truly one-of-a-kind floor.

    ADVANTAGES OF CONCRETE

    • Inexpensive; cost effective replacement for natural stone
    • Can be styled to look like aged brick, ceramic tiling, or even marble floors at a fraction of the cost
    • Extremely durable; easy to fix problems or damage

    DISADVANTAGES OF CONCRETE

    • Surface is porous and needs to be sealed on a regular basis
    • Can be hard and cold underfoot
    • Hard to stand on for long periods
    • Noisy

  • Vinyl flooring is next on our list. Vinyl has been around for ages and new technologies have helped it make a comeback. There are more choices in textures and finishes, designs and colors. The vinyl can either be inlaid, where color goes all the way through, or rotogravure, where the color and design is only on the surface. It can come in either sheets or tiles and it can be fairly easy to install. It's very easy to clean and considered to be somewhat durable, depending on the quality of vinyl purchased.

    ADVANTAGES OF VINYL

    • Easy to stand on for long periods
    • Least expensive of all flooring options
    • Easily installed
    • Readily available in a variety of styles

    DISADVANTAGES OF VINYL

    • Can peel off if not installed properly
    • Easily stained if not treated and monitored
    • Low life expectancy for lower end vinyl
    • Not quite as visually appealing; lower end tiles can look cheap

  • Linoleum is sometimes confused with vinyl flooring, but it's actually a natural material. It's made with felt or canvas covered in linseed oil, resin, and cork – which makes it more environmentally friendly than vinyl. It also comes in sheets or tiles and looks very similar to vinyl. It's durable enough to last 10 to 15 years (perhaps more with proper care.) As with the other materials, linoleum comes in a huge smorgasbord of bright, vibrant colors and patterns. It's very durable, comfortable, and easy to maintain.

    ADVANTAGES OF LINOLEUM

    • Anti-static material; surface doesn't hold on to bacteria or allergens
    • Environmentally friendly
    • Cost effective
    • Doesn't mark as easily as vinyl
    • Water resistant if installed properly (although it's not recommended for basements)

    DISADVANTAGES OF LINOLEUM

    • Needs to be waxed and polished on a regular basis
    • Can smell for long periods of time after installation
    • Hard to remove once it's installed
    • Not as many design or color options as vinyl

  • The shear number of flooring options has exploded over the last fifteen years so the decision can be mind boggling – the choices are probably ten times greater. When you're ready to install a new floor, do plenty of research and visit a lot of showrooms or websites to find ou