When faced with the task of replacing the flooring in a home, many homeowners find themselves overwhelmed with the options. Should you go with long-lasting hardwood or perhaps the warmer options of carpet? Maybe you should be environmentally friendly and choose cork instead?
While there are beautiful and stylish options for every type of flooring, some are more costly than others. However, cost shouldn’t be the only factor when choosing new flooring, there are a few other things to consider as well, such as how each room will be used, the longevity of the flooring type, how the floor is laid and maintained.
Let’s look at five of the more popular flooring types and the pros and cons of choosing each one.
Pros: Hardwood floors are stunning and create a natural, warm backdrop for any room. They add value to your home if you ever decide to sell. They are easy to care for; just give them a sweep and light mop and you’re good to go. Unlike many other options, they don’t go out of style and can last for hundreds of years. They are hypoallergenic, so people with environmental allergies such as to dust mites, mold, mildew and pet dander will be less prone to suffer.
Cons: Cost is typically the biggest drawback to installing new hardwood floors. Not only do you have to purchase the flooring material but it will most likely need to be installed by a professional. You can save a little money by installing engineered wood instead of solid wood, but the savings may not be significant.
In addition, hardwoods are noisy to walk on and can create an echo in the room. They tend to be cold in the winter and some find it hard on their feet, legs and back when standing for any period of time. Solid hardwoods also need refinishing occasionally which should be done by a professional.
Good For: Hardwood floors are a great choice for living rooms, dens and home office settings where you want to add natural warmth to the room. You can install it in bedrooms where the occupants have allergies. You might want to install them in dry ground-level rooms as well as second story rooms. It is not recommended to install hardwood floors in basements, bathrooms, foyers and kitchens where moisture tends to be a problem. If you choose to do so, you should plan to refinish the wood more often than in other areas of the home.
Pros: You can find tiles in many sizes and materials such as porcelain, ceramic, slate, travertine, limestone, marble and granite. Tiles are some of the longest lasting flooring available today. If properly cared for, they can easily last a hundred years or more. They come in a wide variety of styles to add sophistication and class to any room. Tile floors are extremely durable and resistant to scratches, water and stains.
Unlike carpet and laminate flooring, tiles are more eco-friendly. Because they are kiln dried in under extremely hot temperatures they are free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are harmful to your health. They are hypoallergenic, which is great for people with asthma and allergies. In addition, they are easy to clean; with just some warm water so there’s no need to use harsh chemicals to enjoy clean floors.
Cons: Costs can be a concern when considering tile flooring. Some tile projects can be quite expensive, especially if you are planning to tile a large area in the home or office. But if you’re looking to add tile to a foyer or bathroom you can probably do so without breaking the bank.
Like hardwood floors, tile floors can be noisy to walk on and are well known for creating echoes in a room. They tend to be cold year-round and hard on feet, legs and backs if standing for long period of times.
If not laid properly or if the home shifts, tiles can crack making repairs difficult. If you’re not experienced in laying tile, you should probably consider hiring a professional – at least for the main areas of the home or office you plan to tile. Finally, tile grout needs to be cleaned regularly and occasionally replaced. While this is something you can do yourself, if you have a large area, it might be more cost effective to hire a professional that has the knowledge and proper tools to get it done quickly.
Good For: Since tile floors are water resistant, they are perfect for finished basements, bathrooms and kitchens. They work well in high-traffic areas such as hall ways and foyers. Tiles are showing up in playrooms, family rooms and dining rooms where food and drinks may be spilled and they are great for bedrooms, especially for those who suffer from allergies and asthma. I once lived in a home that had tiled counter tops!
Pros: Laminate flooring is durable and long-lasting. It is resistant to stains, dings and nicks. There is a large variety of design styles and colors to choose from. You can even get the look of hardwood, tile or stone flooring in laminate – and at a fraction of the cost of real wood or stone. Laminate is super easy to install, maintain, clean and repair. It can be installed over many types of existing floors such as plywood subfloors, hardwood floors, concrete and even linoleum. Cleaning is a snap, just use a broom and mop.
Cons: While resistant to water if you wipe it up quickly, standing water will quickly ruin laminate flooring. Laminate cannot be refinished so if it gets damaged the damaged area it will have to be replaced. Unlike carpet, laminate floors, even with the underlayment padding, are hard on feet and legs. They are poor sound barriers and insulators so you may experience echoes as well as cold feet in the winter time. They also do not have the same resale value as hardwood floors or tile.
Good For: These days, you can find laminate floors in just about any room of the home. Because of their durability they are great for high-traffic areas such as a foyer, hallway or playroom. They make excellent flooring for pet areas, guest rooms, family rooms and home offices. While you can install laminate in kitchens and bathrooms, do take note of the water issues. A child’s bathroom, where they may not remember to wipe up after their bath, may not be a good room to install laminate in.
Pros: Carpet is relatively inexpensive compared to some other flooring choices. It is soft to the touch, warm to walk on and prevents echoes. Carpet can be found in a wide variety of colors, styles and textures. It gives a room a warm, soft feel. Carpet is quick and for the most part, simple to install. It can be installed over other flooring such as plywood subfloors, laminate, hardwood and vinyl. It can be installed wall-to-wall, or laid in a variety of sizes.
Carpet is easy to care for on a day-to-day basis. It just needs a good vacuuming and an occasional cleaning either by renting a steam-cleaner or hiring a professional. It can help lower utility bills because of its insulating factor; keeping heat, drafts and chills from seeping in.
Cons: One of the biggest disadvantages of installing carpet is the allergy and asthma factor. Carpet tends to hold moisture, pet dander, dust mites and more. So those who suffer from environmental allergies and asthma tend to suffer more when living in a carpeted home.
While stain-resistant, carpet is not stain proof. Even when treated with stain guard, spills, pets and other things can leave stains for the lifetime of the carpet. No matter how much it is vacuumed, carpet will still retain some hidden dirt. If you’ve ever pulled up old carpet, you know how much hidden dirt is left behind.
Water and carpet do not mix. Carpet and its padding retain moisture which can lead to mold and mildew, making everyone in the home sick. Carpet is not long lasting. Depending on the quality of the carpet and how well it is cared for, carpet can last anywhere from 10 to 30 years. Unless the carpet is new, it does not add value to a home when it comes time to sell. In fact, poor quality, stained carpeting can actually cause buyers to walk away from an otherwise good deal.
Good For: Carpet is best for bedrooms and other low-traffic areas where there is no food, drinks or pets. It can be great for second story rooms as it will muffle the sounds of upstairs activities. You may want to place carpet in an entertainment room, again, for better sound quality. Carpets should not be placed in bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms or other high-moisture areas.
Pros: Vinyl flooring is popular among many homeowners because it is one of the least expensive flooring types. It comes in peel-and-stick tiles and glue-down sheets. Vinyl self-adhesive tiles can be installed as a DIY project over a weekend without special tools. Sheet vinyl installation can be a DIY project but to get a solid, bubble-free look, it may be best to call an installation professional.
Many vinyl flooring options are backed with foam or felt padding making it quiet and easier on your feet when standing for long periods of time. Vinyl floors are flexible so there’s no cracking if your home settles and floors shift slightly. The available colors and styles are numerous and some even have the look of stone or hardwood – though you need to purchase a quality vinyl in order to get a realistic look. Vinyl is dirt and water resistant and if using the tile version, if a tile is damaged, you just peel it up and replace it. It lasts about as long as carpet, 10-30 years, depending on the quality of the material and how well it is cared for. Cleaning just takes a broom and mop.
Cons: With all the good things about vinyl, there are some not so great things too. First, vinyl is full of VOCs which is emitted into the air, especially when it is new. While it is durable to foot traffic, it can easily dent and tear, especially when moving furniture. If it isn’t laid properly, you may find air pockets between the vinyl and subfloor which usually leads to tears. Vinyl is not easy to remove once it has been glued down. Oftentimes people chose to carpet or add another type of flooring directly over it to reduce the hassle of trying to remove it.
Good For: Vinyl is great in a laundry room, bathroom or kitchen. Though in a kitchen, it may not last as long with the occasional drop of sharp utensils and heavy foot-traffic. You can place it in a mudroom or workshop. It’s good in an office setting where there are a lot of electronics since you want to keep static to a minimum. If you choose to install it in a living room or bedroom where furniture may be moved, consider using furniture pads to keep from gouging and tearing the vinyl.
Flooring is an investment that should be carefully considered prior to purchasing. Beyond the fabulous styles you can get, think about how much traffic each room will receive, what activities will be conducted in each room and which type of flooring will withstand the abuse the best. Also think long-term as far as how often you will need to repair or replace it as well as how much maintenance is involved.