Choosing the Right Floor

Interested in choosing the right floor? Appearance matters, but don't forget the ongoing demands of material maintenance.

Choosing the Right Floor

Photo: flickr.com

Floors must withstand your lifestyle. They get nicked by high heels, crusted by muddy boots and crushed by furniture legs. Sunlight, moisture, pets, stains, spills, and childhood accidents all leave marks. Yet it’s common to focus on how a floor covering looks and forget how it will wear.

Carpet
There are four clear choices when it comes to floor covering: carpet, wood, tile, and vinyl. Carpet cuts down on noise and hides problems with subflooring. It also offers wobbly toddlers a softer landing, and warms your toes on chilly mornings. Damage can be repaired using leftover carpet, if the wear and fading have not been extensive. For those who suffer from allergies, carpet squares can provide a viable option. These squares are completely removable and can be cleaned outdoors to avoid stirring up dust mites and allergens. No matter the health concerns, carpet must be vacuumed regularly and shampooed annually, at the very least, to ensure a quality floor covering.

Wood Floors
Wood flooring is a popular choice for many reasons. Wood floors don’’t harbor dust, bacteria, or dust mites the way that carpet can. Wood floors come in natural styles, are durable and, when properly sealed and finished, can be cleaned with a wet mop. Woods such as oak, cherry, or fir don’t dent as easily as pine, and most gouges can be restained to hide the damage. Hardwood floors can be left their natural color or given a stain, ranging from light (blond) to dark (cherry). Simulated wood products, such as Pergo, look like wood but are made of synthetic rubbers that won’t scratch or dent as easily as the real thing — yet they offer the same visual appeal as wood, including the grain that defines hard woods. These synthetic floors are particularly well suited to high-traffic areas like kitchens and mudrooms.

Vinyl
Vinyl makes perfect sense in kitchens, dining areas and entryways where water and grime collect. Vinyl cleans up well, looks attractive, and resists damage from furniture legs and falling objects. Vinyl squares, sold in 12- and 16-inch sizes, are the easiest floor product to install, bar none. They have a peel-and-stick backing, which allows them to go directly onto a prepped floor, and eliminates the mess of working with an adhesive. Vinyl squares also come in styles that mimic ceramic tile, but without the risk of chipping and cracking. Vinyl sheeting is an excellent choice for bathrooms and laundry areas, though sheeting must be cut to the exact size before being laid. Vinyl sheeting, unlike tiles, is not a peel-and-stick product, so you’ll need to apply glue to the floor before laying in the precut sheet. Price and quality vary depending on the thickness, pattern, and design of the floor covering.

Ceramic Tile
Ceramic tile has decorated floors since the days of Greece, Persia, and Rome. Today’s ceramic tiles boast brighter colors, and more elaborate patterns and styles. Fired ceramic is rugged and hard, functional and beautiful. Because it is non-porous, ceramic tile withstands moisture, and is well suited for bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchens. Its beauty makes it an elegant choice for living areas, as well. Installing ceramic tile is a major undertaking, however, even in a small area such as a front or rear entryway. This is not a job for the faint-hearted or weak of knees. If you do it yourself, you will spend much time on your hands and knees, will learn to trowel, and will become adept with a tile cutter.