Everybody get on the floor!

Posted by on October 8th, 2014

There are a growing number of home owners who are happy with the quality of their quarters right up until they look down.

Is the 1980s wall-to-wall carpet in the living room something you just can’t stand? Has the linoleum inthe kitchen lost its kitsch?

One thing is for sure. Many floors have flaws. Or as they say in the South, many flaws have flaws. Is it a good idea to replace your floors? Is it a good investment?

There are so many options, the prospect of choosing can floor you. This flooring primer can get you on your feet again.

The great flooring debate

It’s a questions as old as time itself. Well, as old as floors, at least. Should you go with carpet or hardwoods?

If you’re betting on selling in the next few years, the smart money is on hardwoods. The vast majority of modern-day buyers expect hardwoods, and if the home isn’t move-in ready for their tastes, they’re likely to take a pass.

Real wood flooring provides an immediate impression of class, but while considered more desirable than carpeting, the initial costs are going to be greater. Additionally, solid wood floors often require professional installation, which is also pricey.

Both carpet and hardwoods should be cleaned daily, but if polished regularly and refinished when needed, wood flooring will last a lot longer than carpet, so the price difference is somewhat negated.

Carpets, on the other hand, or should we say, other foot, are soft and inviting. Carpets provide warmth, insulation and sound-proofing, which hardwoods do not. Carpets come in a wider variety of colors and styles than hardwood, although modern hardwood designers are cutting into that lead.

It’s nice to walk around barefoot on carpets, but if you wear shoes on them, they are going to get worn. And if you don’t vacuum once or twice a week and have carpets shampooed on a regular basis, they are going to get dirty and smelly, particularly in high traffic areas. Hardwoods do not have this drawback, but carpets don’t give you sore feet and dust bunnies, either!

Many hardwoods are susceptible to warping due to humidity, so it isn’t advisable to install them anywhere moisture might lurk. For this reason, stone and laminate tiles are preferred by many homeowners in warmer climates.

Options are afoot

The result of the great flooring debate over the last several decades has been the rampant development of alternatives to carpet and real wood.

Synthetic woods, known as “laminates,” have greatly improved in look and quality, and usually come at a far lower price. They are produced in a dizzying array of styles, including to match any real hardwood, and many of the higher-quality laminates cannot be scratched. At all. No wood is hard enough to resist scratching the way some of these synthetics do.

Engineered wood floors are a sort of the middle ground between hardwoods and laminates. Produced with three to five layers, stacked in a cross-grain configuration and bonded together under heat and pressure, each has a thin layer of real hardwood applied on top.

As a result, engineered wood flooring is less likely to be affected by changes in humidity and can be installed at all levels of the home. Unlike real wood, laminates and most engineered flooring can be installed directly on concrete or another hard surface.

Laminates and most engineered woods are much easier to install because planks are crafted to be simply clicked together in place. If you have a little do-it-your-self attitude, you can save significantly by putting them in yourself. But it’s not exactly like hammering in a nail. If you’re not ready to tackle a moderately difficult carpentry project, and deal with the contingencies that might arise, you might want to call a professional.

Environmental options

Many environmentally-minded buyers today balk at the idea of cutting down trees to be milled into floor planks, and join the ranks of customers opting for cork and bamboo hardwood flooring.

Cork is produced from the bark of the cork tree and can be re-harvested every ten years without ever damaging the tree.

Bamboo is not a wood at all, but a grass that grows very quickly and replenishes itself every three to five years. There is some controversy surrounding the production of bamboo flooring. Some say it is not always harvested in a sustainable way, and others charge dangerous chemicals are used in creating the glues that bind its fibers together.

The best way to avoid these issues is to go with reputable manufacturers who guarantee the best quality and practices. Your flooring dealer should be able to steer you clear of the questionable brands.

That being said, both cork and bamboo are climatically adaptable and easy to install. Cork gives an extra layer of insulation and soundproofing similar to carpet, and contains a natural antibacterial.

Though some people like cork’s porous look, bamboo flooring resembles traditional hardwoods. Not to say that bamboo will add more value to your home than cork, simply that cork isn’t to everybody’s tastes.

Neither cork nor bamboo, however, are easy to maintain long-term. While both will respond to daily cleaning a decade or so of polishing, neither takes to refinishing very well. Cork floors will likely have to be re-sealed every few years.

Kitchen floor

The kitchen and bathroom are probably the most important in the house when it comes to flooring choices.

There are many choices for kitchen floors – tile, wood, vinyl, laminate or rubber. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some are easier to keep clean than others, for example. Take into account how long you normally spend standing in the kitchen, as some are less comfortable to stand on for long periods of time.

Wood and some laminates may have issues with moisture. There are new laminates available made of moisture-resistant PVC and vinyl rather than wood, and many other home owners opt for woods and laminates that have been treated.

Rubber flooring is a relatively new concept in flooring that is moisture-resistant, easy to stand on, easy to clean, relatively cheap and good looking. It is also environmentally friendly.

Vinyl is a low-cost option that is moisture-resistant, versatile and fairly comfortable. It comes in a variety of styles and is easy to clean.

It may not bring any increase in home value, but it will at least say to a buyer, “this home is clean and well maintained.” And you won’t have to worry about getting a higher price on your home to recoup the cost on a pricey improvement.


If you are through using vinyl or linoleum for the bathroom floors, most home owners like tile. In the bathroom, the most important consideration is moisture. Tiles hold up to lots of moisture and water and come in different sizes and colors to allow for a little creativity. However, grouting needs to be cleaned regularly. Mix baking soda and water and scrub with a toothbrush to prevent mildew build-up.

Bathroom laminate is another way to go, but the main concern is moisture, like with virtually any wood floor. once the slightest bit of water makes its way between the cracks of the sections of the floor, it can be almost impossible to get out.

Of course, the best answer is to not use a wood laminate flooring, but to go with the aforementioned PVC/vinyl laminates in kitchens, bathrooms, home gyms and other areas where water and moisture could be a problem.

Each homeowner should research the pros and cons to each flooring option and choose that one that is most suitable and affordable.

Most prospective home owners are looking for hardwoods throughout, so if you’re going to sell, that could be the deciding factor.

But if you’re going to be the one living in the home for 10, 15 years or more, it’s a matter of personal choice.