Picking the Best Floor for Your Home
The old favorites, wood, stone, tile, and linoleum, are still among the top favorites with homeowners when it comes to flooring choices. But thanks to technology there are now dozens of other options, including some creative alternatives as well. It can make it hard to pick the perfect flooring.
Try to remember all floors have their pros and cons and there is no “perfect” flooring, only the flooring that works best for you and your application.
So think about what you’ll be using the floor for the most. Will it be in a high traffic area? A bathroom? Will it be subject to water, mud, and dirt – like in an entryway? Will there be lots of furniture in the room? Will you be standing and walking on it for long periods of time – like in the kitchen? Consider each room or area in terms of how it will be used most. Bedrooms, for instance, may be carpeted for barefoot comfort and warmth while the adjacent bathroom may be tiled. Things to consider when picking the best floor for your home:
- The amount and kind of care the floor will require.
- How much water the floor will be exposed to?
- The amount of foot traffic the floor will have.
- How much maintenance is required?
- The cost of the purchase and installation.
If selecting a wood floor, also consider the Janka hardness scale. This scale is used to determine whether or not a wood species is suitable for flooring. It’s also the primary test measuring wood’s resistance to wear and dentability. The Janka test measures the force required to embed an 11.28mm steel ball halfway into a piece of wood. The higher the amount of force needed, the higher the Janka score and the more durable the wood. Oak, for instance, has a higher Janka score than pine.
Kinds of Flooring
There are hundreds of types, colors, prices and products when it comes to flooring. Visit a local flooring store, Lowes, or Home Depot to get an idea of your choices and then learn about the pros and cons of each. From the popular to the somewhat non-traditional, flooring choices include:
Tile comes in different types – Travertine, a type of limestone; ceramic, a product that is created through heating and cooling of natural clay and minerals; and porcelain, also manufactured through heating and cooling natural clay. However, porcelain uses more refined clay and higher temperatures making it denser and better for use indoors and outdoors.
Laminate flooring (also called floating wood tile in the United States) is a multi-layer synthetic flooring product fused together with a lamination process. Laminate floor panels come in a variety of designs from reclaimed wood, weathered metal, to natural stone.
“Laminate is constructed in layers,” said Sarah Walsh, an Armstrong Flooring spokesperson. There’s a bottom layer, or backing that resists moisture that could cause the boards to warp. Then there’s an inner core made of high-density fiberboard. That’s reinforced with a special resin to resist moisture and increase durability. Then there’s the design layer, which can look like anything from tile to wood, to marble. Some of these designs are textured, which makes them more realistic. Then there’s the top or wear layer that protects the design.” Laminate is very affordable, durable and easily replaced if damaged, Walsh said, making it a great choice for most homeowners.
While many people are familiar with unfinished plywood subfloors, many homeowners are using plywood cut into lengths, like traditional wood planking, and staining, painting or pickling the planks to look like wood planks. It’s not for everyone, but it’s an affordable, casual look that’s easy to maintain. Pinterest, home blogs, and some Tiny Home forums have extensive examples and tutorials. Plywood plank floors are inexpensive, durable, customizable, and definitely a Do-It-Yourself project.
Cork floors are becoming more popular, but they’re actually a very old flooring choice. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright used cork in many of the homes he designed. Cork’s primary advantage is its shock absorbent qualities, making it a favorite among those who spend time on their feet in the kitchen. That same absorbency means your dishes, glassware and wine glasses are less likely to shatter if dropped on a cork floor. Like Bamboo, cork has a great reputation as a green and sustainable floor product. It’s great for people or families with allergies as it doesn’t collect dust and contains a natural substance that resists mold, mildew, rot and pests. It’s durable, but not indestructible. Like wood and bamboo, it’s not a good choice for high moisture areas as water can damage the joints.
Considered a “green alternative,” bamboo floors are very popular with homeowners who like the different texture and grain pattern. Like wood flooring however bamboo should not be allowed to remain wet and therefore is not a good choice for bathrooms or areas where high moisture is a problem.
“It’s hard to beat a wood floor for durability, beauty, and classic good looks,” said Chip Wade, an HGTV carpenter and flooring expert. Wade agrees the right choice for flooring can be challenging, but lists wood as one of his favorites. It requires extra maintenance – no vacuuming with anything with a beater bar, stiff bristles or wet mop, daily cleaning and protection from direct sunlight. The warmth, feel and look of a real wood floor are hard to beat, and if maintained properly a wood floor can outlast its owners.
No matter what flooring you choose, take your time and make an informed choice – it will be with you for a long time!