Choosing a Type of Flooring
Before you make a flooring selection, assess the needs of your household and how much time and money you can afford to invest in the care of the floor. Flooring can have a large impact on a home’s resale value, overall appearance, and livability, and you will want the best possible return on this investment. The variety of flooring options ensures that, with a little planning, homeowners can enjoy floors well suited to their sense of style, the function of their rooms, and their budget.
Though oak is still the most popular choice for hardwood floors, many homeowners are opting instead for more exotic woods that are often grown outside of the United States. Brazilian cherry is among the most stylish of these offerings. It has a rich, russet hue and is extremely durable. Technically the bark of a hardwood, cork is also becoming popular due to its supple feel and vast range of shades. As not all woods are appropriate for all climates, it’s important to consult a professional before purchase.
As with any other type of flooring, hardwood floors require maintenance to keep them looking lustrous. Homeowners should never use water to clean hardwood floors. It’s OK to use a damp cloth to wipe up spills, but regular cleaning should be done with a neutral-pH cleaner. To reduce wear on your floors, place mats and rugs to minimize the amount of dirt, sand, and other grit that gets tracked onto the floor, and vacuum regularly with a soft-bristle brush attachment. To prevent scratches and dents, use felt protectors or furniture coasters on furniture legs. Finally, UV-ray exposure accelerates the wood’s aging process, so avoid subjecting it to sunlight for prolonged periods of time.
Homeowners who are concerned with the environmental impact of their hardwood floor may want to consider bamboo as an eco-friendly alternative. Bamboo behaves like wood for flooring purposes, but it is technically a grass. Bamboo grows more rapidly than almost any other plant in the world, fully maturing in only four years, compared to forty or fifty for most hardwoods. This means that harvesting bamboo for flooring can be sustainable. However, not all bamboo producers are concerned with the environment, especially in countries with little oversight of the industry. Try to choose a bamboo supplier that is endorsed by a reputable environmentalist organization, such as the Forest Stewardship Council. Also inquire about the amount of formaldehyde glue that is used in the planks. For safety reasons, bamboo floor planks should not emit over 0.01 parts per million of formaldehyde.
Still one of the most affordable flooring options, today’s vinyl is much more durable and resistant to wear than earlier iterations. Vinyl is easy to maintain and highly resistant to mildew and mold, making it a frequent choice for kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. A wide variety of colors and styles are available, including high-end textures that mimic natural materials, such as stone and wood.
Linoleum has seen recent resurgence due to its environmentally friendly composition. Unlike vinyl, which is synthetically produced, linoleum is made of natural materials. In addition, linoleum production releases fewer toxins and requires less energy. Forgiving of spills and grimy shoes, linoleum is one of the most cost-effective flooring options for a busy household, and the huge variety of available styles fits most budgets and tastes.
Tile is another option that’s largely maintenance-free. Tile sealant only needs to be applied about every four years, and if a tile is damaged, it is much easier to replace or fix that specific area than it is with most other types of flooring. However, the coolness of tile underfoot is a downside for colder climates. Tile flooring does not hold heat well, and many homeowners may find underfloor radiant heating necessary for staying warm in winter.
Types of Carpet
Berber. Berber is a type of loop-pile carpet commonly used for stairs and high-traffic areas. Due to its sturdy loops, the carpet is very strong and resistant to marks left by traffic and vacuuming. However, dirt can get trapped between the loops, and the larger the loops, the more prone they are to snags, which are difficult to repair. Berber requires careful cleaning; before you buy a carpet, consider its texture and maintenance needs.
Frieze. Frieze (free-‘zay) carpet is a cut-pile or loop-pile carpet with extremely twisted yarn that has been crimped in various places along each strand. Coiling the yarn this way allows for the side of the fiber, rather than the head, to bear the brunt of the traffic. This extends the carpet’s life and disguises footprints and vacuum tracks.
Plush. Plush carpet is a delicate type of cut-pile carpet. It has an exquisite and formal look, but it retains footprints and marks. It is level-cut, meaning that it appears uniform throughout.
Carpet performance rating. Some manufacturers and retailers put a carpet performance rating on the carpet’s label. Based on a scale of one to five, it denotes how well the carpet can withstand extended wear. The higher the rating, the more durable the carpet should be. A rating of two to four suggests average durability. A carpet with a rating below two is only appropriate for areas like bedrooms, where traffic will be the lightest.
Nylon. Nylon is the most common synthetic fiber used in carpets. Nylon carpets are noted as being very soft to the touch, and they come in a wide variety of colors. This fiber tends to stain easily unless it is treated with stain-resistant chemicals, but it is otherwise extremely resilient to wear.
Polypropylene. Referred to as Olefin by carpet manufacturers, carpets made from polypropylene fibers have a tendency to be less durable than carpets made from nylon or natural fibers, but they are nonetheless a good choice for specific environments. Berber carpets are often made from polypropylene.
Polyester. Because of how it is made, polyester is stain resistant. For those wanting a green option, polyester carpets, specifically polyethylene terephthalate (PET), are made of recycled plastics from bottles and tires. Polyester carpets are popular mid- to low-priced options and work in most areas.
Wool. The most commonly used natural fiber in carpet production, wool has a low flame spread rate and is naturally resistant to static electricity. Non-allergenic wool is also an option for people sensitive to the material.