Any household renovation, build, or update will leave you asking questions about what type of flooring to install. Should you blanket the home in carpet, focus on environmentally-friendly choices, or lay down laminate?
There are many questions to ask when making your final decision, and one of them is whether your choice will stand the test of time. After all, flooring isn’t cheap, and you’ll want your investment to give you the most bang for your buck. This is especially true if you plan to put your house on the market in the near future.
So, what types of flooring are in style, and what are the pros and cons of each? Let’s take a look.
Fishing huts, shacks, and tool sheds all got their start with wood floors, as have houses throughout the ages. It’s been a staple in the flooring industry since the beginning of housing.
Today’s hardwood flooring is available in a wide assortment of options. You can get prefinished or untreated, wide plank or thin plank, and in most types of lumber. There are many colors to choose from too.
There’s a reason it’s such a longstanding, popular option. Actually, there are several.
Real hardwood is durable. Although it might suffer a scratch or chip here or there, it’s arguably one of the most durable products on the market. In part, this is true because it can be sanded down and refinished, giving it an even longer lifespan.
Its natural appeal, especially with the many finish options, means it matches nearly every type of decor too.
Of course, there are also reasons we started finding alternatives to hardwood flooring. It’s a fairly expensive option compared to other materials. In addition, it’s more time consuming and somewhat more difficult to install than synthetic and hybrid ‘click together’ floating floors.
In addition, hardwood floors aren’t right for every application.
Since they don’t perform well in moist environments, they aren’t a good choice for bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, etc. They can also suffer water damage from spills, just like you might see on wood furniture.
Engineered Hardwood Floors
When shopping for hardwood floors, you’ll see options for engineered hardwood. These are a subcategory of hardwood flooring.
Engineered hardwood flooring is hardwood. However, it’s not solid hardwood. Instead, it’s made up of layers of wood that are pressed together with a top layer of solid hardwood.
Engineered products are less expensive than traditional hardwood and perform very well in many situations. Unlike true hardwood, it’s less susceptible to warping and shrinking from temperature and moisture changes.
It’s also an environmentally-friendly option since it relies on lower quantities of solid wood and makes use of smaller wood waste.
The downside of engineered hardwood is that it isn’t endlessly refinishable like solid hardwood. Some higher quality brands can be refinished once or maybe twice, but the product won’t last as many decades as solid hardwood.
While we’re talking about quality, be sure to do your research before selecting an engineered hardwood flooring. Some manufacturers will cut corners that lead to an inferior product and reduced lifespan.
Overall, though, engineered hardwoods are one of the most popular floors on the market.
Ceramic and porcelain tiles are timeless options for many homes. They are especially common in warmer climates since they moderate heat.
Tile is one of the most durable surfaces you can put in your home. It’s easy to clean and resists scratches well. If a tile breaks, it’s possible to cut it out and replace it, so the floor continues looking great for decades with a little DIY maintenance and repair as needed.
Terracotta floor tiles are made from baked clay. It falls under the category of ceramic tiles although it undergoes a specific process during heating that sets it apart from other tiles, being heated at a much lower temperature than other types of tile.
Created from a naturally-occurring clay, terracotta is readily available and affordable. It’s so prevalent, its use has been recorded in history dating back to over 20,000 years BC.
While it’s likely its common use was based on availability, that type of history shows the material, and the methods to make terracotta from the clay, are a viable solution for myriad home materials concerns.
In the modern era, it remains popular because the look is a good fit within a variety of settings and architectural designs.
The look of tile flooring is timeless and matches most types of interior decor. Plus it’s highly water resistant, making it perfect for bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, mud rooms, and sun rooms. And it’s very easy to maintain.
Tile is, however, more expensive than other options and some people find it to be hard and cold underfoot. It’s also a more advanced installation procedure than other options.
The most problematic part of tile floors is coping with discoloration and staining of grout, which can alter the look of your flooring. It does require some upkeep, but an easy DIY seal every few years will keep it up to date.
This is more a general category of flooring. Obviously the material is bamboo, but it can be formed into categories of laminate, hardwood, and engineered hardwood.
In fact, bamboo isn't wood at all. It’s a fast-growing grass that has found itself in the center of the sustainability movement. Bamboo can grow up to three feet a day. Plus, harvest just means cutting it down rather than removing the entire plant. So it grows back and is endlessly renewable.
Bamboo also has some pros and cons. In its natural form, the color is light, but some processing techniques can make it appear darker. Its popularity comes from its natural vibe. Inasmuch, it meshes well with the clean lines of minimalist style and provides an overall airy feel.
The structure of bamboo is incredibly strong--stronger than common hardwoods. However, bamboo is fairly soft on the surface, so it can scratch and dent with impact.
There are a wide range of bamboo flooring qualities (like all options), and they can range from $3 to $12 per square foot.
The many types of laminate flooring are probably the single most popular type of flooring at the moment. It’s a trend that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and there are a variety of reasons why.
Laminate flooring is a melamine and fiberboard. Basically, it’s pressed wood with a resin layer on top. It’s an incredibly versatile product that was created to look like wood with an easier installation and lower cost. It achieved both.
Now there are endless rows of options by a vast array of brands. Laminate flooring is made to look like wood, tile, and many other prints. It’s available in myriad color options and designs.
Laminate flooring comes with a host of benefits. Although there is a wide price range and associated quality levels, it’s much less expensive than hardwood or tile.
Part of that savings comes from the fact that it’s practical for DIY installation. With a little practice and few tools, many homeowners can install laminate flooring themselves, saving on installation costs.
Laminate flooring is also durable, resisting scratches very effectively. Watch out for cheap materials, however, or you’ll see the flooring chip, separate, and show premature wear.
Luxury vinyl tile (LVT) or planks (LVP) are a form of laminate flooring, which is highly water resistant. It’s great for basements, kitchens, laundry rooms, bathrooms, and other areas that may encounter moisture.
Laminate floors are also exceptionally easy to keep clean with basic sweeping and mopping.
This type of flooring is incredibly popular because of the reasons mentioned; it’s affordable, easy to install, easy to find, durable, easy to clean, and water resistant.
The primary con of laminate flooring is that many people find it lacking in visual appeal. If you’re dreaming of a wood floor, laminate is not going to fool anyone into thinking it’s real wood.
While the improved prints can make a room feel clean and natural like hardwood, there’s still an artificial look to the design. If you decide to go with laminate flooring because of all the advantages, look for the highest quality materials for the most realistic finish.
We’re all familiar with it, and although the trends evolve from shag to Berber to frieze, carpet is always a popular choice.
The sheer number of carpet styles is enough to make one’s head spin. There are patterned or solid, textured, prints, tall pile, short pile, and other cuts to consider.
Then there are the different materials, which include nylon, polypropylene, polyester, and wool. Each of these materials performs slightly differently, so visit a few floor covering stores in your local area to gather information on options for your specific needs.
Ask about stain resistance, wear, and warranties. Carpet is not a one size fits all material, but it’s a common choice for bedrooms and living areas.
Depending on the style you decide on, carpet can be soft underfoot or offer commercial-grade wear. Either way, note the pad you select is as important as the carpet you choose. Don’t skimp on the pad quality.
The price of carpet falls in line with many other flooring choices. Of course it can cost less or more with so many options to choose from.
A good carpet can last anywhere from 15-25 years, putting it on the lower range of lifespans for flooring. This means you might be replacing your carpet twice as often as you wood a hardwood floor, for example.
Carpets also require a good amount of maintenance. Not only is there a need for frequent vacuuming, but they may require spot removal and you should plan to schedule professional cleanings once or twice per year.
Whether it’s a basement pour or through the use of concrete tiles, concrete continues to be a popular choice for many people.
Part of the reason concrete floors are in style is because of recent advancements in finishes. The pour-it-and-leave-it look is a thing of the past with customizable options on the market.
Concrete offers maximum durability and does an outstanding job of withstanding wear.
Plus, it's resistant to fire, stains, cracks, water, bacteria, and odors. It won't scratch, it's easy to clean, and there are options for every type of decor.
Radiant Heat Floors
There’s another trend in the flooring market that doesn’t have anything to do with the surface you come into contact with when you walk on your floors.
Radiant heating is basically a heating coil that is installed beneath flooring. The coils can be electric, which includes a temperature sensor to measure heat. Much like your electric furnace heating, an electric radiant heat floor can be adjusted with a thermostat.
Another type of radiant heat flooring is hydronic. This is a system where heated water is pumped through the coils to warm the floor above.
Radiant heating provides more than just warm floors to enjoy--although that’s a wonderful perk.
It’s also an energy-efficient way to warm the space. In fact, it will pay for itself over time and provide a more comfortable environment every day. Plus, it’s an upgrade that adds value to the home, especially as energy costs rise.
Because radiant-heat floors are installed beneath flooring, it’s an expensive add later on. Save yourself the hassle, and lower the energy bill, by getting them installed during the build.
The Final Choice
Flooring has a huge impact on everyday use of the space, so it’s not a decision to make lightly. For most people, budget will be the initial factor in filtering through flooring options.
Once you’ve found products that fall within your budget, be sure to consider how you use the space. If you have pets, carpet may not be best, although they do make pet-resistant carpets now that help with stains.
If anyone in the family has allergies, solid surfaces will be better than carpet.
For a room near a pool or other water source, water resistance will take priority.
Take your time in making your flooring decisions. Gather as much information as you can, talk to local vendors, and use online ‘Show me my room’ software to get a better idea how the room will look with materials installed.
If you’re considering installing your own hardwood, check out How to Use a Flooring Nailer. You can also continue this discussion in our related article Flooring Trends.