Choosing flooring can be a complicated task as more and more options become available. With a ton of styles, finishes, and installation options it can be tricky to decide what’s right for your space. You may have an idea about what some of the traditional flooring options are, but when you start getting into engineered wood versus laminate flooring the lines can start to get a little blurred. We’ve put together this guide to give you the lowdown on the popular flooring options you may be considering.
Hardwood flooring is perhaps one of the most sought after flooring options and is renowned for its durability and natural beauty. Hardwood is a good option for open floor plans because it can help easily maintain continuity between rooms. Between domestic and exotic wood species there are numerous options of color and grain pattern available. Hardwood flooring is typically available in 1.5 – 2.5 inch wide strips or 4 – 8 inch wide planks. Though technology has improved hardwood floor finishes to make it more durable it is still susceptible to scratches, scuffs, and wearing. Fortunately hardwood floors can be refinished numerous times.
Engineered wood has a top layer of real wood veneer backed by either layers of plywood or recycled wood fiber substrates. Since the construction of engineered wood makes it more stable and less sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity it is a good option for kitchens and basements. Engineered wood is also a good idea if you’re looking to install the flooring yourself, since many companies are now creating engineered wood floors that are “clickable” and lock into place without the use of glue or nails.
Incredibly low-maintenance, laminate flooring is similar to engineered wood because it has a bottom layer of plywood or recycled wood fiber substrates. But instead of real wood on top it is a photograph that’s been covered in a plastic coating. Since it uses photorealism technology to produce look-alike finishes it’s available in many different styles from different types of wood to even stone or ceramic tile. Most laminates are floating floor systems that can easily be installed directly over existing floors.
Bamboo may sometimes get grouped into the hardwood category, but technically bamboo is a grass, not a wood. Tough and durable, bamboo flooring is created by gluing strands of bamboo together to form solid strips or planks. Depending on how it’s assembled you can find different grain patterns between flat, vertical, or woven, to choose from. Since bamboo grows quickly and easily bamboo flooring is considered a sustainable flooring option.
Though cork comes from the bark of a tree, it is not hardwood flooring. Cork is another sustainable flooring option since the tree is not cut down to create the product – the bark is simply harvested off and allowed to regrow. Cork makes a unique flooring option because it has unusual grain patterns with speckles and whirls. Cork can be installed as planks or tiles, and needs to be sealed (and resealed every few years) to keep out moisture and protect against wear and tear.
Made from renewable, biodegradable materials such as linseed oil and cork, and gets its rich colors from mineral pigments, linoleum is considered one of the most environmentally friendly flooring options. Linoleum can be installed as a sheet that’s glued down or as tiles for a floating floor system. Linoleum can be purchased with a protective coating that will help prevent staining and stand up to foot traffic. If you opt for linoleum that doesn’t have such a coating it will need to be refinished every so often.
Virtually maintenance free, vinyl flooring isn’t called “resilient flooring” for no reason. Tough and durable, vinyl sheets and tiles are flexible and slightly soft underfoot. Cushioned vinyl products are backed with a thin layer of foam for added comfort and safety, and all vinyl is backed with a layer of felt. Thicker vinyls can have a textured surface that resemble real stone or wood. Vinyl flooring has a wear layer to help protect against stains and scratches. Good quality vinyl should be able to last up to 20 years.
With more colors and textures available than any other flooring systems, carpet may be one of the most versatile options. Wall to wall carpeting has fallen out of favor over recent years, but some rooms, such as the bedroom can still benefit from carpeting since it is softer and warmer than woods. Wool carpeting is naturally durable and resistant to moisture and stains, and has the best feel against bare feet. If a carpet is not made of wool, it is most likely going to be made out of a synthetic fiber. Synthetic fiber options for carpeting include nylon, acrylic, polyester, and polypropylene olefin which all have their pros and cons for various settings.
With many shapes, sizes, and colors available, ceramic tiles allow you to easily create custom patterns. Ceramic flooring tiles come in four basic types: glazed ceramic, quarry tile (which is unglazed), porcelain (available as glazed or unglazed), and terracotta (unglazed). If using for a bathroom or kitchen, look for ceramic tiles that have had an anti-slip finish applied, or use unglazed tiles to cut down on the chance of slips and falls. Porcelain is the most durable of the ceramic tile options. Double check to make sure the tiles your purchase are rated for use on floors.
Concrete as a flooring option has been rising in popularity over the years, likely in connection to the popularity of industrial style. Concrete has long-lasting durability and is also incredibly low maintenance. Just plain gray may seem unappealing, but with a wide range of sealers and specialty stains available concrete can be stamped and stained to resemble polished marble, tumbled stone, brick pavers or almost anything. There’s no limit to the design possibilities, which makes concrete a great option if you want to turn your floors into a work of art.
Now that you have information on all the options, there’s still some questions to consider before selecting the flooring for each room. Bathroom and other high moisture areas will require flooring made to withstand moisture like ceramic tiles or vinyl. You’ll also need to keep in mind how much foot traffic the area will be getting and how much maintenance you’re willing to put into your flooring. But hopefully this post as at least made the process a little bit easier.