Whether you are building a new home or renovating an old one, flooring is an important design element. While furniture and interior décor can be changed or removed quickly, the floor is permanent and cannot be altered easily. Besides being an extensive job, it will also cost you time, money and effort. It’s important to be choosy when selecting the right flooring material. Every option has its pros & cons and choosing the right fit depends on your needs and preferences. One material may be inexpensive and easy to install but difficult to maintain, while another may be durable and easy to clean but expensive. Here’s a guide to help you decide which type of flooring is best for you and your home.
Different Types of Flooring Explained
1. Hardwood Flooring
- Hardwood comes in a range of shades and finishes to suit different interior décor styles.
- It is easy to maintain. Regular sweeping and occasional mopping should be enough.
- Hardwood doesn’t trap dust, pollen, dander or other allergens, which contributes to a cleaner, healthier environment. This is a big benefit to those with allergies or asthma.
- Hardwood is durable and can be refinished (sanded and polished) to keep it looking like new.
- Modern hardwood floors can be re-sanded and stained to match current trends.
- Unlike carpets that suck up moisture and encourage mould and mildew growth, hardwood doesn’t trap anything and is easily maintained.
- It is expensive.
- Hardwood has low resistance to atmospheric changes. (It expands in summer and contracts in winter.)
- It weakens when exposed to moisture.
- It doesn’t retain heat.
- It scratches easily.
2. Laminate Flooring
- Laminate is an attractive, durable and easy-to-install alternative to solid hardwood flooring.
- With sharper high-definition imaging, deeper embossing and improved seaming mechanisms, laminate looks and feels just like authentic hardwood.
- It is easy to maintain and resists scratches and dents.
- Unlike marble and wood, laminate does not fade when exposed to sunlight, thus retaining its original beauty.
- Laminate contains formaldehyde and other harmful chemicals that can affect the environment.
- Unlike hardwood, laminate cannot be sanded and refinished.
- Prolonged exposure to standing water can damage it.
- Laminate is smooth and slippery.
3. Concrete Flooring
- Concrete is highly durable and resistant to impacts or dents.
- Although generally seen in patios, car parking areas and garages, it’s now used in interior flooring and paving as well.
- Advanced technology means it is available in stained, coloured, stamped and customized designs.
- Concrete possesses high thermal mass, which can be used to reduce the energy demand for thermal comfort.
- Concrete flooring is non-absorbent so resists damp and mould.
- As concrete is very hard, it’s uncomfortable to stand or sit on for too long.
- It is unsuitable for use in coastal or riverside areas, where ground moisture can damage stain or coating.
- The manufacturing process requires a significant amount of energy, which releases much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
- Over time, concrete cracks, requiring patching or replacement.
4. Vinyl Flooring
- Best known for its waterproof properties, vinyl is ideal for kitchens and bathrooms which are prone to moisture and humidity.
- Vinyl can endure high traffic for a long time without incurring damage.
- As it is relatively inexpensive, it makes a great substitute for high-cost hardwood.
- Modern vinyl floors are easy to remove and replace, making it a great flooring option for DIY types. However, hiring professional floorers is always recommended.
- Vinyl is slightly softer than wood or tile, making it easier to stand on for a long time.
- Vinyl floors need only occasional sweeping and mopping to keep clean.
- As vinyl is a relatively soft flooring material, sharp objects and heavy furniture can gouge or scratch it, leaving ugly dents and marks.
- In case of tears or other damage, you usually need to replace the entire sheet which could be quite expensive.
- Due to the chemicals involved in the manufacturing process, vinyl may continue emitting volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) into the air long after installation.
5. Tile Flooring
- Available in a range of colours, designs, textures and types, tiles are extremely versatile and suit different interior décor styles.
- Ceramic tiles are resistant to high temperatures and do not damage or rot when exposed to harsh chemicals or extreme weather.
- Some types of tiles are glazed or coated with liquid glass to guard against stains, making them easier to clean.
- Usually made from natural clay and other raw materials, tiles don’t exploit environmental resources like trees or plants during their manufacture.
- Considering all the costs, including installation and maintenance, tiles are an affordable flooring option.
- Being very hard and close grained, tiles are easily susceptible to cracks and chipping.
- If there are cracks, dips or any other type of damage, you might have to replace the entire floor because finding the exact tile is often difficult.
- Tiles are slippery, which is a definite safety concern if you have kids, pets and elderly people living with you.
- The hard surface makes it difficult to stand on for a long time.
6. Cork Flooring
- Made from the bark of the cork oak tree, this material is environment friendly, biodegradable and does not contain harmful chemicals.
- Cork has a soft, cushiony surface that’s gentle on your feet and knees.
- Made up of several tiny air-filled chambers, cork acts as a barrier against noise and helps with soundproofing.
- Just like hardwood, cork can be refinished periodically to give it a new look.
- Unlike carpets, cork doesn’t trap dust, hair, pollen or other particles that aggravate (or cause) allergies and asthma.
- Cork contains a waxy substance called suberin that repels small insects, thus promoting a healthy environment.
- Thanks to cork’s soft and cushiony texture, sharp and heavy objects can pierce the surface and scrape the material.
- It’s unsuitable for homes with pets, as cat and dog nails can scratch and dent it.
- Excessive humidity can cause cork to plump or curl up, which may cause the tiles to pop out.
- Direct exposure to sunlight can discolour that part of the floor.
- Made from natural vegetation, bamboo is an eco-friendly and sustainable flooring material.
- Much like hardwood and cork, it can be refinished to regain its original look.
- It is easy to clean. Regular vacuuming and occasional mopping using an alkaline-free solution is enough.
- Natural and un-carbonized bamboo (with proper harvesting and processing) can be as durable as hardwood.
- It is not suitable for high-humidity areas, as bamboo is prone to mould and other problems caused by moisture.
- It is very susceptible to scratches caused by heavy furniture and sharp pet claws.
- Bamboo flooring often contains adhesives made up of VOCs that are harmful to your surroundings.
Most Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Will my hardwood floor change colour after installation?
It may over time.
It’s natural for hardwood floors to yellow, darken or even lighten over time, depending on the kind of wood used. Exposure to direct sunlight is the most common reason. Use heavy window curtains and rearrange your furniture and floor coverings to minimize fading, or at least achieve a consistent flooring colour.
Q. Is an underlayment required for laminate flooring?
It is not always required but is highly recommended.
Using an underlayment between the subfloor and laminate boards is not necessary but is very important for uneven subfloors. This smooths out any unevenness and cushions boards to minimize noise and early damage.
Q. How do I remove spots and spills from tiles?
Pat dry and rinse with water (if required).
Use a tissue/blotting paper/cloth towel to absorb wet spills as quickly as possible. Rinse with water if required and blot dry. If the spill has already dried, take some rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) on a clean white cloth and gently clean the area. Do not use harsh detergents, abrasive cleaners or sharp objects as these can leave scratches and ugly marks.
Q. Is “carbonized” bamboo flooring dark in colour?
Yes, because it undergoes a chemical change during its manufacture.
Carbonized bamboo is darker in colour because it undergoes a change, not a stain. During the manufacturing process, strips of bamboo are boiled, causing the change in colour (becomes browner in tone). This process also softens the material.
There’s nothing worse than spending money on a new floor only to have it damaged in a few years. While there are hundreds of flooring options, each has its benefits and drawbacks. Now that we have discussed the pros and cons of some of the most popular flooring options, you are in a better position to weigh your options and choose the best one. Just make sure that your investment is worth both your money and time. Good luck!