When it comes to home flooring, you have lots of options. Here’s what you need to consider when choosing the right one for different rooms in your home.
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Flooring Buying Guide
There are several things to consider when weighing your options regarding flooring types for your home.
It’s important to not only pick a type that matches your decor and style but also to consider the various materials available and the pros and cons of each.
It’s best to look at the rooms that require and update first, and then pick the type that’s the best match for you that coordinates with your home, matches your needs, and fits your budget.
A. Rooms that Require Careful Flooring Considerations
Whether you’re building a new home or making changes to your existing one, your needs may vary throughout your primary living spaces.
Here we’ve divided your home into three main areas: the kitchen, bathrooms, and general living spaces. There are considerations you’ll want to keep in mind for each as you do your research and make your final decision.
Many people consider the kitchen to be the heart of the home. It’s not only where you’ll prepare meals, but also a popular space to gather and entertain, especially if you have a large island or open concept.
In this high-traffic space, it’s important to choose a type that is both durable and easy to clean and maintain.
You’ll likely see a number of spills on the surface, so choosing an option that’s waterproof is also critical. Additionally, surfaces that become slippery or slick when wet might not be the right fit, especially if you care for children or anyone at risk of slipping and falling.
Generally, good choices in the kitchen are ceramic tiles, natural stone, linoleum, and wood that has been treated to be water resistant.
While moisture is a consideration in your kitchen, in your bathroom it’s pretty much a guarantee. Choosing a material that can stand up to daily contact with water is very important.
Ceramic tile or natural stone tiles made from limestone, marble, or granite are popular choices in this space. The Kardashian sisters, Khloe and Kourtney, did some notable home renovations that included beautiful bathroom stonework in 2016.
For a less expensive option, vinyl tiles are also appropriate, though not as durable as tile or stone.
3. Living Areas
In the living areas of your home, like the family room, dining room, and bedrooms, you have dozens of possibilities. The right choice for you depends largely on your personal preference.
Some people like the warmth and durability of hardwood or tile, and add area rugs to break up the spaces and add a comfortable surface under your feet. Others prefer the classic feel of carpeting.
The best way to start to narrow down your options is to determine your budget and look at swatches online to see what styles, colors, and materials most appeal to you.
B. Types of Flooring
There are dozens of types available, but in modern homes, you see some more commonly than others.
In each of these categories, you may still need to make additional design choices. Picking things like specific material in the case of wood or stone floors, or choosing colors, stains, finishes, or patterns may still be necessary.
Let’s take a look at the most popular choices and the pros and cons of each.
Related: 6 floor design software options – visualize different flooring in your rooms.
Harwood flooring is made from one single piece of hardwood cut from a tree of your choice. Most commonly, you’ll find floors made from oak, cherry, or walnut, but there are several additional solid wood options to choose from.
Generally, planks are three-quarters of an inch thick, but width can vary. The standard width is between three and five inches, and most retailers will call this a “medium” or “standard” plank. Another popular style is wide planks which measure in at between five and ten inches and look beautiful in living spaces throughout the home.
Hardwood floors come finished in one of two ways.
Pre-finished wood will already have the finish applied before you install the planks. Unfinished hardwood will need to be sanded down and finished so that it is both shiny and moisture resistant after installation.
While all solid hardwood floors are hard, different species of wood will have different levels of hardness. Choosing a wood type that matches the amount of foot traffic that the room experiences is very important to ensure your floors don’t experience excessive wear and tear.
The Janka hardness rating scale provides information on the most popular wood species which will help you to choose one that best matches what you need in a specific area of your home.
Expect to pay between $3 and $8 per square foot for hardwood. Exotic varieties could cost up to $14 per square foot. Installation costs vary depending on your area but average $5 to $12 per square foot.
2. Engineered Wood
Engineered hardwood is a more affordable alternative to solid hardwood. Made by combining a top layer of genuine hardwood with multiple layers of ply plank that run in different directions beneath, they look like solid hardwood but have better resistance to moisture.
Engineered hardwood is a good choice in areas of your home where you might be concerned about true hardwood warping due to high humidity levels, like in a damp basement. Additionally, as engineered hardwood floors use less expensive solid wood, they are typically a more cost-effective option.
One drawback to engineered wood is that it’s not able to be sanded down or refinished as frequently as you could with true hardwood floors because of the thin top veneer. However, you can apply the same high-quality coatings to engineered wood floors that you can to traditional hardwood, making them very resistant to wear and tear.
Just like with hardwood floors, you can choose from a variety of species of wood like oak, cherry, and hickory. The plank sizes and finishes are also identical.
Although it falls under the general category of hardwood, most manufacturers put bamboo in a class of its own. The sustainable option has a comparable hardness to oak and is an eco-friendly option for your home.
Natural bamboo produces floors with a very light wood color, but processing treatments are available to give the material a darker finish and make it look like other stained wood options.
The majority of bamboo hardwood is made from Moso bamboo imported from China. The plants, which are actually in the grass family and not a tree, can grow up to over 70 feet high in less than 60 says.
The environmentally friendly plant doesn’t require water, pesticides, or herbicides to thrive. The pant fully matures in around five years, compared to 20 of more in other hardwoods.
Additionally, because bamboo is part of the grass family and not an actual tree, there isn’t a costly and time-consuming replanting process to grow more. It germinates via underground rhizome, making it grow back quickly and prevent soil erosion around the crop.
Because it’s so environmentally friendly, many types of bamboo floors qualify for the prestigious LEED Certification.
In terms of cost, bamboo is comparable to hardwood flooring at between $3 and $8 per square foot on average. Installation is between $7 and $12 per square foot.
If you love the look of hardwood, but just can’t work the cost into your budget, laminate flooring might be an attractive option.
Similar in design to engineered wood floors, it has a top layer that’s been finished and sealed mounted over layers of plywood or compressed fiber giving you stable and durable slats.
The main difference between laminate and real wood flooring is that the laminate option doesn’t have a real wood top layer. Instead, it’s an image captured using photo-realism technology of beautiful finishes like wood, stone, ceramic tile, or stained concrete that’s covered in a plastic coating.
The technology is so incredible the laminate versions look almost identical to the real thing for a fraction of the cost. Expect to pay between $1 and $7 per square foot depending on the quality of the laminate, and between $2 and $5 per square foot for installation depending on the difficulty.
When most people picture linoleum floors, they picture kitchens from the 1970’s with the slick looking surface. Luckily, the option has come a long way since then, and there are many attractive choices available.
Made from renewable, biodegradable materials like linseed oil and cork, linoleum is considered an environmentally friendly material.
It comes in sheets, and to install it you glue them directly to the floor. The sheets feature mineral pigments that create a variety of rich colors and patterns, and they may be sealed with a protective coating to prevent staining and wear.
If the linoleum you purchase includes this protection, it can last a long time. Without it, plan to refinish your floors around every two years to keep them looking fresh.
Depending on the type of linoleum you like best, you’ll pay between $2 to $5 per square foot. With installation, the cost comes in at between $7 and $12 per square foot.
Source: Home Depot
Cork is another option that has a small environmental impact. The material is harvested from tree bark without killing the tree. Every eight to ten years the bark regenerates and can be used again to make flooring.
Aesthetically, it has the same warm appearance as wood but with unusual grain patterns that sometimes include speckles and swirls in the pattern. You can purchase it in either tiles or planks, and it’s constructed similarly to laminate with a top layer that’s glued to a stable core material underneath.
Most cork products will come pre-finished, but it’s a good idea to reseal your floors every three to five years to guard against moisture and protect against stains. The most common sealers are either polyurethane or wax.
In terms of cost, cork comes in on the lower end of the spectrum at between $2 and $6 per square foot plus an addition $3 to $5 per square foot for installation.
7. Ceramic Tile
Ceramic tile is one of the most versatile flooring types. Its many colors, textures, shapes, and sizes make it an option that could coordinate well with any room in your home.
The tiles are made by combining a mixture of clay and shale and then firing it in a kiln to harden the ceramic. Pigments added to the compound give you a variety of color choices in ceramic tile.
It’s important to choose tiles that are rated for use on floors to ensure they will stand up to foot traffic. You may also want to search for options that have anti-slip finishes and meet the slip-resistance standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act to keep your home safe.
There are four different types of tiles to choose from.
a. Glazed Ceramic
Glazed ceramic tiles have a glossy coating that gets applied before they fire the file. This creates a glass-like finish and makes them easy to maintain.
b. Quarry Tile
If you don’t care for the shiny look, quarry tile might be the right choice for you. These are unglazed tiles that get their color from pigments added directly to the clay mixture.
Quarry tiles usually have a slightly rough texture and provide more resistance against slips and falls when they are wet than glazed tiles.
c. Porcelain Tile
Porcelain tiles are available in both glazed and unglazed varieties and are one of the most durable tile choices. They are fired at very high temperatures making them harder than other tile types.
d. Terracotta Tile
Terracotta tile is another variety of unglazed tile that’s common in outdoor spaces or homes with earthy or rustic decor schemes. This is the least durable type of tile, and if you choose to install it, you’ll want to seal it periodically to guard against staining over time.
With so many different options in ceramic tile, it’s difficult to estimate pricing. Some tiles sell for $1 per square foot, while others may cost $100. If you want professional installation for your project, you’ll pay $4 to $12 per square foot depending on the level of difficulty.
Carpeting is another common and versatile option. It comes in more colors and textures than any other potential choices and is woven from a variety of materials.
To determine the quality of the carpet, look for the fiber density count. The more fibers it has per square inch, the more durable the product will be.
Some carpeting options will utilize a rating system that helps predict how well it will withstand wear and tear. It’s usually based on a scale of 1 to 5, and options that fall in the 3 to 4 range are well within normal.
Carpeting can be made from a variety of materials, though will is most common. Here are the other choices.
Considered the standard of quality for carpet, wool is a naturally moisture resistant material that’s both durable and able to ward off stains. It feels good against hands and feet and is the most popular choice.
Another option that stands up well against wear and tear, Nylon is a synthetic fiber known for being strong. It is known for building up static electricity, so be sure that the product you buy has been treated to reduce those effects.
A second synthetic option, Acrylic closely mimics the properties of wool. It stands up well against wear and mildew, and naturally wards off insects.
Polyester is a popular material if you’re looking for carpeting in bold, bright colors. It’s moisture resistant, but if you stain it, beware that it will be difficult to remove.
If you’re looking for an option that can stand up to indoor/outdoor living, a carpet made from polypropylene might be the right choice. It’s the most resistant to stains, moisture, and mildew, and if you install it without a carpet pad, it will work well in an outdoor space.
Depending on the material and quality you choose, you’ll pay between $2 and $12 per square foot for carpeting. Installation is more affordable than many of the other options and will cost between $1 and $2 per square foot including padding.
One of the most expensive flooring options is stone. This high-quality option adds a luxurious look to any space.
Floor tiles are made from many different types of stone including marble, travertine, ledger, granite, slate and limestone. Softer stone likes sandstone won’t resist moisture as well as harder stone like granite or marble.
You’ll need to seal and finish your softer stones every few years, and harder stones every four to five years to maintain their beautiful appearance.
Depending on the stone you choose, it will cost between $2 and $100 per square foot. To have it professionally installed, expect to pay $5 to $10 per square foot.
Vinyl tiles and sheets are known as resilient flooring. They provide a flexible and cushioned floor surface that is durable and maintenance-free.
The most cost-effective option of the bunch, there are a variety of patterns and colors to choose from that include basic designs and colorful mosaics.
Constructed by attaching the top wear layer to a layer of felt and foam, the price of the vinyl is usually determined by the thickness of the tile. The top wear layer has a scratch and stain resistant surface, and most manufacturers will include a warranty with the product. The best tiles will be certified to last 15 years.
Regarding cost, you can find good quality vinyl tiles for as little as $1 per square foot. At the top of the price range, you’ll pay around $5 per square foot and insulation will only cost an additional $1 to $2 per square foot.
11. Polished Concrete
Polished concrete flooring is a new design trend, especially in modern homes. Some people even add colors, stains, or dyes to the surface before polishing to add color to the floor.
B. Flooring Considerations
There are a few additional factors to consider and questions to ask when determining which type and materials are the best fit for your space.
By first determining how you use the room you’re purchasing the flooring for, you can better determine how durable your choice needs to be.
If it is going in one of the main traffic areas of your home, like your living room or entryway, and you have children or pets, you’ll want to choose an option that stands up well to moisture, scratches, and lots of use.
If you’re searching for your kitchen and are someone who likes to cook and entertain, it might be smart to look at options that are easy on your feet and provide some cushioning when standing for long periods of time.
By taking into account lifestyle factors, you can pick the option that’s durable enough for the room.
We will discuss specific installation considerations below, but it’s worth mentioning here as a factor that could help narrow down your options.
Some types require expensive and time-consuming installations. For example, if you want intricate tiling with an inlaid stone mosaic in your kitchen, expect it to be both costly and a project that takes several days.
If you are looking for an easy, do it yourself job or something that can be done in one day, an option like carpeting might be a better fit.
Any home renovation can turn into a headache if you don’t know what to expect regarding time frame for installation before you buy your materials.
Different types have different cleaning and maintenance needs. Think about the types of traction the area gets and what surfaces will be the easiest to keep clean based on your lifestyle.
Most options have a significant range in how much they could cost. Whether you’re looking at wood, carpet, tile, or stone materials, you could pay a little, or a lot, based on the quality of what you choose.
Determine your budget and use that number to help you narrow down your choices based on cost. For example, if you love the look of hardwood but can’t afford the real thing, laminate might be the perfect option.
There are many ways to achieve the overall look you’re going for without breaking the bank or going over budget.
II. More Details
Here are details on specific things you’ll want to research when you’re making the flooring choices in your home.
If you live in an apartment or condo or have design features like high ceilings, you may need to consider options that help to soundproof your home.
Surfaces like ceramic tile or stone can create echoes, and wood and laminate floors will carry the sound of footsteps throughout your space.
Carpeting is a good choice to help to muffle the sounds of everyday life, and there are carpet pads that provide extra soundproofing that is helpful in apartment living situations.
B. Carpet Padding
If you’ve selected carpet as your flooring type, you’ll also need to select a carpet padding to go beneath it. The padding will not only provide a cushion to the surface but will also help extend the life of your carpet.
The carpet manufacturer will have specific recommendations about padding thickness, so be sure to check those guidelines before making your choice.
III. Where to Buy Home Flooring Online
Many online retailers offer home flooring options. Be sure to check out shipping costs, return policies, and available warranties before making a purchase.