March 19, 2018 – “There are so many options, which one is right for our home?” This is the first of many questions most people will progress through when deciding that it is time to update the flooring in their home. There are many factors to consider when deciding which type of solid surface flooring is right for you: Do you have kids or pets? What is the climate like where you live? Does the area of your home considered to get heavy traffic? Is water a concern, such as in a bathroom or laundry room? What is the construction of the sub-floor in your home? What is the budget for your project? These are all questions that can help guide us through what can be a daunting task of selecting new hard surface flooring. Below is a guide to help with getting started answering the question of which type of flooring is right for you and your home.
Warmth, style, and unmistakable natural beauty are all characteristics associated with hardwood floors. Wood floors are available in all widths and lengths from traditional 2 1/4″ solid planks up to 9″ x 84″ wide plank engineered boards. Oak, maple, hickory, and birch are commonly used domestic species that are generally the most affordable options, however, hardwood floors also come in many exotic species that offer unique and distinguishing grains and color. Wood is exceptional in its appearance and is a desirable finish in many styles of homes, however, it does have some drawbacks to consider depending on its construction or where it is to be installed within the home. In certain climates, such as the Midwest, where humidity levels change drastically from season to season, wood will be less stable and may show gaping or movement. Engineered hardwood floors can perform better in unstable environments, however, these problems may not be 100% preventable. Hardwood in a residential setting is typically done one of two ways: site finished in the home where raw wood is brought in and then sanded, stained, and finished in place, or pre-finished from the manufacturer. Although the finishes applied to hardwood (particularly pre-finished hardwood floors) are better than they have ever been, scratching, denting, and surface blemishes over time are to be expected. Hardwood is not recommended in potentially wet or humid environments as moisture will cause it to warp or perform inadequately, and many wood floors are not suitable for subgrade installations. Hardwood is typically higher priced in comparison to other hard surface flooring options. For More details on hardwood see Hardwood 101
Known for its clean contemporary look, bamboo is usually associated with hardwood flooring, despite not actually being a wood at all. Bamboo is a rapidly-growing grass that can be processed down and pressed into boards suitable for milling and making flooring. Bamboo has a distinguishing unique look and is considered a sustainable product due to the fact that it is a fast-growing plant that can be harvested at maturity within 3-5 years, compared to many hardwoods that can take up to 100 years to reach harvestable age. While typically harder than many wood species, bamboo still has many of the same drawbacks that characterize hardwood: humidity changes can cause it to swell and move, scratching or denting over time is likely, and it is not recommended that it be installed in potentially wet areas of the home. The majority of Bamboo flooring is made overseas where regulations in manufacturing aren’t what they are in the US. Look for products that are certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) for their harvesting and manufacturing practices. Bamboo is typically priced comparably to domestic hardwood flooring options.
Laminate flooring has been one of the top choices for wood-look options at a value price for many years. Laminate floors are constructed of a fiberboard core, typically an image of wood or planking, and a protective top layer laminated together. These floors are not mechanically fastened or glued to a subfloor as they lock together and “float” over the substrate. This makes laminate versatile in its ability to encapsulate older flooring or be used on any level of the home. Laminate offers some of the most realistic looking options for replicating the feel and appearance of actual wood, as well as provides one of the most scratch resistant surfaces available. One drawback of this type of product is its susceptibility to expansion or delamination when introduced to water. It is not recommended that laminate be used in areas of the home with high humidity or likelihood of moisture such as full bathrooms, laundry rooms, or primary entrances to the home. Laminate is generally on the lower end of price and will vary in cost depending on the quality of construction.
An earthy natural look that is truly a sustainable and eco-friendly flooring option. Nearly every other natural hard surface wood product involves the cutting down of a tree or plant, except for cork. Cork is made from the bark of the cork oak tree (Quercus Suber) that is primarily found in Southwest Europe. The bark of the cork oak is harvested once every 7-10 years and is then regenerated without any harm done to the host tree. In flooring, cork produces a unique natural look that is warm, soft underfoot, extremely durable, antimicrobial, and resistant to mold. Cork is typically used in residential flooring in a “floating” application that locks together and is not directly fastened to the subfloor. These types of floors utilize cork as the top layer and then have a fiberboard core similar to that of a laminate. Cork floors are versatile in their ability to be used on all levels of the home and can be used in some areas of the home where most other wood products cannot. Like most natural products, cork may fade or change color over time due to exposure to natural light. Cork is typically priced slightly less than hardwood flooring.
Tile is one of the most popular types of hard surface flooring due to its versatility, durability, and the vast array of options offered to fit any style or design. Tile is offered in ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone, and is available in sizes ranging from small mosaics to large-scale planks and panels. Advances in tile manufacturing technology have led to better products at more affordable prices that look and feel as real as the stone or wood type they are replicating. Tile is the most durable option for hard surface flooring in that it is difficult to scratch, will wear well in high traffic areas, and is suitable for wet environments such as showers, baths, laundry rooms, and entryways. Tile has no insulative properties like most other hard surfaces, so it will conduct cold through the subfloor or ambient room temperature. This issue can be addressed with in-floor heating options, however, that will add to the overall cost of the project. Tile is typically near the top of cost when it comes to flooring due it being a labor-intensive installation process and requiring special underlayment, setting materials, and grouts to meet required installation standards.
The newest major player in hard surface options, luxury vinyl is the fastest-growing category of flooring products on the market today. Luxury vinyl is primarily offered in plank and tile looks and comes in sizes as small as 12” x 12” all the way up to large 10”x 84” planks. There are many variations that are offered from stick, click, rigid core plank, loose lay, to grouted and non-grouted tile look installation options. Luxury Vinyl is extremely versatile and offers styles and designs that will work in any room of the home, or in any application (with the exception showers). Due to new technology in flooring manufacturing, luxury vinyls are being produced with texture, color, and vibrant imagery that truly represents natural wood, tile, and stone. Popular due to its waterproof qualities, Luxury Vinyl is also extremely affordable, typically pricing out slightly more than other vinyl products, but much less than the tile and wood options it is replicating. This is an excellent option for a busy home with pets and children who want a high-end look that is both durable and budget-friendly.
Sheet Vinyl & Linoleum
Sheet vinyl and linoleum have been used in residential applications for many years and are a durable low-cost alternative to luxury vinyl or tile. These products are rolled goods that most often come in 6’ and 12’ wide options that are then cut to fit the shape and size of a room. Although the names linoleum and vinyl are sometimes confused for one another, they are very different products. Linoleum is made from linseed oil and has been around since the late 1800s. While revered for its natural qualities, Linoleum is extremely limited in its design options as it is a dye product only capable of achieving relatively simple color selection. Sheet vinyl, on the other hand, can realistically replicate tile, stone, and wood looks and offers the ability to accommodate any design style. As far as durability, there are some differences between sheet vinyl & linoleum. Linoleum requires sealing and maintenance over time as it is susceptible to moisture. Sheet vinyl, on the other hand, has a protective wear layer on the surface that is easily cleanable and does not require further maintenance after installation. The major drawback of sheet products is that if they are damaged they are difficult to patch or repair, and they typically don’t look as realistic as other wood and tile alternatives.
Randy’s offers the most extensive selection of hard surface flooring options at both of our Eastern Iowa locations. Selecting the right flooring for your home can be a difficult task and our sales professionals and interior designers are here to help in navigating through this process. Contact Us to get started planning your next project today.