Samples of a ceramic tile in layered side by side ranging in color and design.
Home Improvement

The Pros and Cons of Different Types of Home Flooring

Flooring is an important part of any home. When looking to purchase a home, you will see varieties of flooring options ranging in cost and quality. It’s a good idea to understand the different types of flooring so you can decide whether to keep the current floor or change to another one. Knowing the ends and outs of the materials below will help you after you purchase your home and throughout the lifespan of your abode. Here is a rundown.

1. Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tiles are made of natural materials like clay, sand and water. The elements are molded into a tile shape and baked at a high temperature in a kiln. Ceramic tiles come in both glossy and matte finishes and are used in kitchens, bathrooms and entryways. Once the tile is finished, a special glaze is applied to protect it.

  • Pros: Ceramic tiles are highly durable and you can choose from numerous designs and colors. Furthermore, they are perfect for homes with children or pets because they don’t get scratched easily. The tiles can be placed in high-traffic areas and they won’t show wear and tear. Ceramic tiles are also easy to clean and are highly resistant to germs.
  • Cons: Ceramic tiles can suffer damage from exposure to sunlight and the pattern tends to fade over time. They are also slippery and children and the elderly must be careful when walking on ceramic tiles, especially with socks. The material isn’t conducive to areas where people stand a lot because the tile doesn’t give. Ceramic tile is also cold in the wintertime, so the bathroom or other places where you walk barefoot aren’t always the most comfortable.
  • Cost: The price of ceramic tile can range from $7 to $20 per square foot.

Samples of a ceramic tile in layered side by side ranging in color and design.

2. Concrete

A lot of people don’t think about concrete as a flooring material, but it’s becoming more common. Concrete flooring can come in a variety of colors and textures and can add warmth to a room. Kitchen, living rooms, and entertainment rooms are perfect places for concrete floors.

  • Pros: Concrete flooring is highly durable; it’s difficult to scratch or scuff this material. A concrete floor also acts as insulation and reduces heating and cooling costs. Additionally, concrete isn’t combustible and increases the fire protection of a home. Being a flat, smooth surface, these floors make for easy cleaning and maintenance.
  • Cons: Any damage to concrete flooring is hard to repair. You can’t just add a small patch to fix things up. Also, rooms with concrete floors tend to be loud as sound easily bounces off the floor rather than absorbing into the material, like carpet. Concrete is a hard surface and can be uncomfortable to stand on for long periods of time.
  • Cost: Concrete flooring generally costs anywhere from $5 to $15 per square foot.

3. Vinyl

Vinyl flooring is similar to linoleum and is often installed in bathrooms and kitchens. The material has made huge advances in recent years, and both vinyl sheets and vinyl tiles are available. Patterns can resemble wood but bright colors and patterns are also manufactured.

  • Pros: Vinyl flooring is water resistant and is easy to clean with a broom and mop. Vinyl stays warm in the winter and is difficult to damage. Stains are easily removed from this material with a little soap and water or a vinyl cleaner.
  • Cons: Chemicals are used to manufacture vinyl flooring and those chemicals release volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs have been known to harm the lungs and cause eye irritation. Due to this type of material, it can be difficult to repair a damaged section of vinyl flooring. The section must be ripped out and new flooring has to be installed.
  • Cost: Vinyl is relatively inexpensive, ranging from $5 to $7 per square foot.

4. Wood

Hardwood floors went out of style in the 1970s and 1980s, but have become extremely popular in recent years. People seem to really enjoy the natural look of hardwood floors. Hardwood can be solid wood or engineered (where the wood is assembled over an artificial core). Oak, maple, cherry, walnut, and pine are common woods used for hardwood flooring.

  • Pros: Hardwood flooring is a great investment. Homes with hardwood flooring have a strong resale value. You can customize the look of hardwood floors due to the various types of woods and finishes which creates numerous options for homeowners. The wood also serves as good insulation in the home.
  • Cons: It’s easy to damage hardwood floors. Water and other liquids can stain them, leaving you with a hefty bill to either have the wood resurfaced or new wood installed. In addition to that, hardwood floors can be expensive to install.
  • Cost: Hardwood floors cost around $8 to $20 a square foot.

A wide angle of a Brazilian cherry hardwood floor

5. Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is designed to resemble wood flooring. A high-resolution image is printed on the laminate and glued onto fiberboard. The flooring can look like any type of wood. You can even have laminate flooring that resembles aged wood.

  • Pros: The installation of laminate is relatively easy and inexpensive. The sheets are designed to fit together and they can often be placed over existing flooring. The laminate snaps together and no nails or glue are needed. Plus, you only have to sweep and mop the laminate occasionally to keep it clean.
  • Cons: While laminate is resistant to water, it can suffer water damage. It shouldn’t be installed in areas with high water usage like a laundry room. Laminate doesn’t have the same resale value as a real hardwood floor, and unlike hardwood, it needs to be replaced after being worn down. Laminate flooring can also release formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals, which are a byproduct of the manufacturing process.
  • Cost: Laminate is inexpensive, costing roughly $4 to $9 a square foot.

6. Marble Flooring

Marble is a natural material that is quarried out of the earth. It’s been used as a high-end building material for centuries. Marble flooring is valued for its smooth surface and elegant finish. Marble comes in a variety of colors and patterns.

  • Pros: Marble adds value to a home. The well-finished surface brings instant appeal and the material adds a custom finish to any room. Marble can also be heavily polished.
  • Cons: The upkeep of marble is labor intensive and expensive. Marble is also highly susceptible to water damage and stains. While it’s a beautiful option, homeowners with marbles floors have ongoing expenses for the upkeep of this material because it chips easily. Furthermore, this material is slippery, making it potentially dangerous to walk on.
  • Cost: Marble is an expensive option costing about $20 to $50 a square foot.

Huge, grand living room with ivory colored marble floors and fancy decor and furniture.

7. Linoleum Flooring

Linoleum is a timeless flooring option and it’s a cousin of vinyl. This option is common in kitchens, bathrooms and other high-traffic areas. Although its commonly considered ‘out-dated,’ modern manufacturing techniques have improved the style options of linoleum flooring. The flooring is usually made from linseed oil, cork powder, and other natural materials.

  • Pros: Linoleum is built to last. When taken care of, linoleum can endure for decades. You only have to sweep and dry mop the surface. Because it is made of natural material, linoleum doesn’t emit VOCs and other harmful chemicals. The material is biodegradable and thus isn’t harmful to the environment.
  • Cons: Linoleum can be damaged with sharp objects and cut or nicked. It’s not recommended in bathrooms or other areas with heavy water usage as water can damage the flooring. Sunlight can be hard on the pigment. It can fade over time if exposed to too much sunlight.
  • Cost: Linoleum is pretty affordable, costing from $4 to $6 a square foot.

8. Cork Flooring

Cork is made from the bark of a cork tree and is considered an environmentally friendly building material. The cork is ground up, compressed, and bonded together with resin. The material has a natural texture and has become popular in recent years.

  • Pros: Cork flooring is soft and you can stand on it comfortably for long periods of time. That makes it popular in kitchens or in a child’s bedroom. The cork can be resurfaced much like hardwood. To resurface cork, you just need to sand it and add stain or finish. Cork doesn’t accumulate dust, hair, and other material. Plus, it’s hypoallergenic.
  • Cons: Cork is easy to damage. Sharp objects can puncture the flooring, and even with a finish, cork flooring can suffer water damage. Sunlight also damages cork and it can buckle in extremely humid climates. Heavy furniture can leave permanent dents in the flooring.
  • Cost: Cork ranges in price from $4 to $9 per square foot.

9. Bamboo

Bamboo is a relative newcomer on the flooring scene, but it has become very popular. Bamboo is a grass that is manufactured to create flooring and other materials. To make bamboo floors, strands of the grass are sliced and pressed together for form. A variety of different grain styles and colors are manufactured and available.

  • Pros: The appeal of quality bamboo flooring is similar to hardwood. The flooring gives a room a modern look and enhances the resale value. Bamboo flooring is easy to repair because it can be sanded and refinished and its durability means that it can last for a long period of time.
  • Cons: A lot of cheap bamboo products are sold on the market and they don’t last. You have to research the product’s quality before purchasing. Bamboo can suffer water damage and doesn’t work well in humid climates.
  • Cost: Bamboo flooring is priced from $8 to $12 a square foot.

Little girl sleeping laying on an older person on a bamboo hardwood floor.

10. Stone Tiles

Stone tiles come in various styles and colors and add a natural look and feel to any room. The flooring works both inside and outside the home. To make stone tiles, rock is quarried and then sliced into tiles with a saw. The stone is polished to create a smooth surfaced.

  • Pros: Stone tiles are rock which makes them extremely durable. There is a wide variety of colors and patterns to choose from when installing stone tiles and no two stone tile floors look the same. When done correctly, stone tiles can enhance the look and value of a home. They are environmentally friendly because no manufacturing is required.
  • Cons: A stone tile floor is expensive, and some types of stone are porous and can suffer water damage. It can also be hard to create a uniform look with stone tiles due to imperfections in the rock. The stone can be heavy and create stress on the subflooring in the home.
  • Cost: Stone tiles cost anywhere from $10 to $20 a square foot.

11. Carpet

Carpet has been installed in homes since the early 1800s and experienced peak popularity in the 1960s and 1970s. Synthetic fibers make carpet a reliable and inexpensive flooring option. Carpet seems to have gone out of style in recent years, but many people still prefer carpet in their home.

  • Pros: The temperature of carpet is fairly uniform throughout the year and feels soft on your feet. Carpet comes in a variety of styles and colors and is sold at a variety of pricing levels. Carpet just requires vacuuming and occasional shampooing to clean.
  • Cons: Spills easily stain carpets and they can be difficult to remove. Carpet can make a home look dated and doesn’t tend to last as long as some of the other flooring options. Carpet is hard on people with allergies as it accumulates dust, pet hair, and other allergens.
  • Cost: Carpet ranges from $4 to $6 per square foot.

If you’re still unsure about what flooring option is best, read on for more information on floors and how to pick the best floor for your home.

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James Shea is an award-winning journalist and author. He owns Media Lab, a content marketing and search engine optimization company is Richmond, Virginia.

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