Floors and Flooring Materials

Modern homeowners have an unprecedented range of choices when choosing flooring for their homes. Along with beautiful, traditional materials such as wood, stone, and ceramic, there are also numerous modern innovations available, from the ubiquitous vinyl and linoleum to laminate and engineered wood. There truly is a choice for every taste, every lifestyle, and every budget, but each material has a few pros and cons to keep in mind when choosing flooring.



Although wall-to-wall carpeting in living areas and bedrooms has been popular for decades, interest in other types of flooring has increased in recent years and wall-to-wall carpeting is not longer a given. It is still considered a wise choice for houses that you expect to sell or resell, however, and is particularly appropriate flooring for families with small children. It also acts as an insulate against noise and makes rooms feel warmer and cozier. Because carpeting is not stain-resistant and can grow mold in damp areas, it is not recommended for bathrooms, kitchens, entryways, utility rooms, and any areas prone to flooding or spills. Carpeting also tends to wear unevenly and should generally be replaced every eight to 10 years.

Hardwood Flooring

Traditional hardwood floors remain one of the most beautiful and popular flooring choices available today. They impart an air of elegance and taste to any room, complement virtually any furniture and decor, add to your home's resale value, and can last, with proper care, for centuries. Hardwood is also fairly resistant to damage from structural movement in a home, is fairly easy to clean, and, with proper refinishing, tolerates a lot of use and traffic. Unfortunately, it is expensive and can be difficult to maintain. Hardwood floors need to be periodically waxed or refinished and are susceptible to scratches and dents. Hardwood is not recommended for damp areas as too much moisture can cause the planks to buckle. Woodworms and termites are among the pests that can be of concern if you choose wood flooring for your home.

Other Wood Flooring

Bamboo, a traditional flooring material in Asia, is growing in popularity in America. It is attractive, inexpensive, durable, easy to care for, and a good choice for environmentally sensitive homeowners. While traditional hardwoods may take decades to grow and many ancient hardwood forests are suffering from deforestation, bamboo can be harvested after only five years. Softwoods, such as pine, are another cheaper alternative to hardwoods. Popular in colonial America, they can impart a rustic flair to a room's d��cor. A growing percentage of the market is taken up by laminates and engineered woods, which are cheaper than hardwood planks and easier to maintain as they are less susceptible to warping and require less frequent finishing. Unfortunately, some people are allergic to the materials used in these products.

Linoleum Flooring

Linoleum is often confused with vinyl, but unlike vinyl, which is a synthetic material, linoleum is actually an all-natural product, made of felt or canvas, coated with linseed oil, cork, and resins. Although less elegant in appearance than many natural floorings, linoleum is an excellent choice for kitchens in particular because it is inexpensive, easy to install, clean, and maintain, resistant to grease, oils, and dents, and more flexible and cushiony than wood or stone. Unfortunately, it comes in a more limited range of patterns and styles than vinyl, and can be damaged by standing water.

Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl is the most popular flooring option for kitchens today, and is an excellent choice for do-it-yourself homeowners. It is inexpensive, tough, easy to install and maintain, comfortable, and comes in an endless array of colors and patterns. Vinyl comes in two forms -- sheet and tile. Tile is easier to install, but standing water can cause the seams to separate and lift unattractively. Vinyl patterns can also fade, yellow, or wear off and although vinyl is resistant to scuffs, stains, and dents, it is not immune. The quality and durability of vinyl can also vary widely from manufacturer to manufacturer. The general rule of thumb that you get what you pay for is a good guide here.

Ceramic Tile Flooring

Ceramic tiles are a beautiful, classy, and traditional flooring that have seen a revival of popularity in recent years. They are available in a wide range of prices and styles and, once installed, they are durable and easy to maintain. Ceramic floors work well with radiant heat systems. A few safety and cleanliness issues must be considered when choosing tile. Glazed tile resists water damage and staining but is slippery if untextured, making it unsafe for elderly residents and small children. Unglazed tile needs to be treated occasionally with sealants to protect it, but is generally less slippery than glazed tile. Although textured tiles show dirt less, too much texture can inhibit cleaning.

Stone Tile Flooring

Like other natural flooring materials, stone floors radiate timeless class. They are extraordinarily durable, often lasting for centuries, and are easy to clean and maintain. Stone floors retain heat well and are an excellent choice for radiant heat systems; however, they tend to be cold on their own, especially in the winter, and can be tiring to stand on for long periods, as they lack the "give" of vinyl, linoleum, and wood. Stone floors should be installed in stable structures only; structural settling can cause them to crack and become uneven. Falls on stone are dangerous for people and objects alike, and marble, in particular, is not recommended for homes with elderly residents or small children, as it tends to be slippery.