So What Should I Keep In Mind?
Durability: If you don’t want to replace your floor every year or two you need to consider how well your floor will hold up to the daily abuse of feet, shoes, dirt, pets and furniture. Some floors are very resilient and will maintain their original shape and feel no matter how many times you walk across them. With others you need to be shoe-free and cover your furniture feet with felt pads to keep them looking their best.
Moisture Resistance: We all have spots in our homes which are prone to moisture problems, from laundry rooms to bathrooms to basements. If you are re-flooring an area which tends towards the damp side you need to choose a floor which is moisture resistant. This will prevent problems like warped, uneven floors and water stains.
Maintenance: Unless you really enjoy cleaning or you have a lot of free time, you are probably going to want a fairly low maintenance floor. But how low is low maintenance? The sad fact is that there is no miracle floor that doesn’t require cleaning. If you don’t maintain it at all, a dirty floor is still going to look like a dirty floor. The question is, how much work will it require to keep your floor looking shipshape and do you have the time to put it in?
Softness: This category is not about how your floor feels to the touch but how comfortable it is to stand on. If you’re on your feet for long periods of time or are prone to dropping dishes, a softer floor will be far more forgiving than a hard one. On the other hand, if you like to move your furniture around a lot, a hard floor will stand up to wear and tear better.
Sound Absorbency: Do people move through your house without a sound or does it sound like a herd of elephants is running through? This may not be a huge issue for everyone but for apartment dwellers, townhouse owners or people with home offices, keeping the noise levels low may be essential, instead of just preferable.
Eco-Friendly: More and more people are making choices for their homes which are also beneficial for the environment. Many flooring products are now made from renewable, recycled or recyclable materials for environmentally-conscious consumers.
Cost: This is the bottom line. What can you actually afford? A small budget is going to go a lot further in a small room. If you have a large room then you may need to think a little more creatively about your options
So What Are my Options?
Carpet – With a variety of colours, patterns and thicknesses, carpet has been an affordable flooring choice for years. Most carpets also have the benefit of stain and wear resistance and are generally thick and warm underfoot. These insulating properties come back as winter energy savings if you like to keep your home warm during the colder months. Plus they are cushioning and not as slippery as hard floor surfaces which helps cut down on noise and injury from falls, making them great for kid’s rooms and the elderly. The main drawback of carpet is that they are more susceptible to wear and tear and need to be replaced more often in high traffic areas. Carpet also does not fare well in damp conditions so it’s better to keep them out of rooms where moisture and wet spills are common.
Cork – Due to naturally occurring air pockets, cork flooring features very low impact noise and is soft to stand on for long periods of time. It is also easy to clean, hypoallergenic and highly resistant to mould, mildew, rot and invasive insects such as termites. These qualities make cork a great choice for kitchens but they are also making their way into other residential and commercial settings. As with any wood floor you do need to be mindful of moisture so installation in bathrooms or laundry rooms is not ideal. You will also need to invest in some foot pads if you have heavier furniture since constant pressure can cause permanent dents in cork.
Vinyl – Vinyl flooring is one of the least expensive flooring options for your home. It is resilient, available in a wide variety of colours and styles and is water resistant, which makes it an ideal choice for kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms and other spaces which are subject to moisture. Vinyl is easy to clean and maintain and depending on the surface coating, it can be used in low to high traffic environments. It can also be easily installed over cement, old tile or even old vinyl which is great for DIY-ers. You do, however, need to make sure that your floor surface is prepared correctly and a proper adhesive used, otherwise the vinyl will start to lift or irregularities in the floor underneath will start to show. You also can’t put off repairs because once vinyl tears or lifts it just keeps getting worse.
Laminate – This durable, mid-price flooring solution gives you the look of hardwood without the expense and maintenance. It is very easy to clean with a broom or damp mop, is highly resistant to UV rays and replacing damaged pieces is a snap since they just click into place. Due to the fact that they are pre-finished and require no glue for installation, laminate floors also have very few emissions which mean fewer health considerations for installing them in your home.
Tile – The sturdiest flooring choice is ceramic, porcelain or stone tile. This has always been a popular choice for high moisture areas such as bathrooms and laundry rooms but tile is also starting to make an appearance in other rooms. It is very durable, easy to clean and excellent for heavy traffic areas such as entryways and kitchens. There are also plenty of styles and colours to choose from ranging from rustic to ultramodern. On the down side, tile can be quite cold to walk on and is very unforgiving if you have a tendency to drop breakable objects. Price can be an issue as tile is more expensive to purchase and install than other flooring choices. Installed properly, however, tiles will more than make up for their high cost in low maintenance and durability.
Hardwood – When it comes to warmth, quality and classic good looks nothing beats hardwood floors. Wood types range from traditional oak floorboards to environmentally-responsible bamboo and there are also a wide variety of stains available to match any type of décor. A lot of the newer floors have factory finish coatings which are consistent, easy-to-care-for and resistant to staining and scratching for durability in heavy traffic areas. The downside of wood is that it does not fare well in moisture-heavy environments and it can be very labour intensive if you ever need to refinish it.
Rugs – Strictly speaking, rugs are not flooring but they do provide some attractive and inexpensive solutions for a couple of floor décor issues. The first is the quick fix. Sometimes a mark or stain on a floor is extremely noticeable but doesn’t warrant the cost and effort of refinishing the entire floor. A rug can be a good stopgap for hiding a nasty scratch or cracked tile while you’re saving your pennies for a proper repair job. The second is changing styles. Sometimes you want a funky pattern or a splash of colour but what happens when you get tired of it? A rug can add some pizzazz to your décor without a huge, permanent investment. If you wake up one morning and don’t like it anymore, just roll it up and start over again.
Food for Thought
Lights and Darks: Want to open up a room or create a cozy, intimate space? Using light or dark tones will change the visual size of a room. Light colours create a brighter, more spacious room and have a cooling effect. Dark colours dim things down and create warm, intimacy within a room. Also keep in mind that medium values (neither light nor dark) create a relaxing atmosphere which is nice for bedrooms and bathrooms.
Colours and Neutrals: Colour is both an important consideration and a matter of personal choice. Neutrals are easier to decorate around; they often wear better and are not as dependant on personal taste, which is important if you are renting or selling your home. If you’re bored with beige and want something a little more colourful, you need to consider the room and the effect that you want to create. Reds, yellows, oranges and browns are all warm colours and will create a close, cozy atmosphere, especially in darker hues. They can also be used in high contrast combinations to create a lively, cheerful and energizing environment. Cool colours, such as blues, greens and some purples, tend to be spacious and calming, especially in lighter hues.
Textures: Texture is a very important and often overlooked feature of flooring. It affects temperature, noise levels, safety and determines whether you walk around in bare feet or not. Hard, slick surfaces, such as tile and vinyl are easier to clean but they are cool to the touch. This is great for the summer months but may not be as desirable during long winters. They are also slipperier and less forgiving for those who are unsteady on their feet, which is not ideal for households with very young or elderly members. Carpets and other soft flooring options are warm, comfortable to stand on and have better traction. On the downside, they show wear more easily and are harder to clean and maintain.
Transitions: One final thing to think about is transitions. Do you want your décor to flow easily from one room to another or do you want to separate your spaces? Using the same floor covering throughout a series of rooms will connect the spaces and create a more open effect. Just keep in mind that if your décor varies a lot from room to room, you will need to choose a neutral colour or pattern that will not clash with anything