There are many important factors to consider when deciding on flooring for your home; lifestyle, budget, climate, style, comfort and degree of use all play a part. There are thousands of ideas and designs, so let the fun begin!
- Lifestyle. Different types of ideas and designs require varying levels of care so this is a major consideration. If you lead a very busy and active lifestyle, you will want to choose one that is easy to take care of and needs very little maintenance. Also, take into consideration the other members of your family, including the four-legged kind. If you have children or pets, choosing one that can be easily cleaned is definitely a plus. Hardwood is easy to clean, but it needs to be refinished periodically and can be easily damaged by water or spilled drinks. Laminate can closely mimic the look of hardwood, without the high maintenance and susceptibility to damage from liquids. Cleaning is easy with laminates, you simply need to use a damp mop to clean when needed. Ceramic tile is easy to take care of, but it does require you to seal it about once a year. Carpet is certainly low-maintenance, but it can be very difficult to clean.
- Budget. When choosing for your home, cost is a huge factor. There is a wide range of prices so take time to explore inexpensive options. At the top end of the range is hardwoods. The most popular are oak, maple and cherry. American cherry will start out as a light red-brown, and will darken over time to a very deep shade of this color. It is fairly soft compared to most wood, and also one of the most expensive. If you like the color of American cherry, but are looking for a harder option with a better price tag, Brazilian cherry is a good option. Since it is more readily available than American cherry, the price is significantly lower. Maple is another choice for hardwood that will age to a deep golden color over time. It's also very hard, which makes it more durable. However, it does not accept stain well and is prone to shrinking and swelling with weather changes. Oak is the final choice among the common hardwoods, and has been the traditional choice in wood for over a hundred years. Oak has a distinct, open grain which makes it look less refined than cherry. Red oak is the most popular choice within these options. It is a golden color with red undertones, very hard - harder than maple or cherry, and it is the least expensive option of those listed here. If you do not like the red tones that are present in red oak, it can be bleached. White oak is also available and very similar to red oak, but usually has slightly green undertones and cannot be bleached.
Laminate is similar in price to hardwoods, but because it's more durable and needs very little in the way of upkeep, it may be more economical in the long run so will likely come in as one of the more inexpensive options. Laminates can emulate the look of nearly any hardwood you can imagine. The more you spend on your laminate, the more likely it will look like real hardwood. In fact, with some high-end choices, you can't tell the difference until you touch it!
Ceramic tile is a less expensive option for. You can also install it yourself in most cases, which can be a big money-saver, since a large portion of the cost consists of installation labor.
Carpet can be a very inexpensive choice, but it can cost more than hardwood, depending upon which carpet you choose. Very plush, dense carpets tend to be more expensive, while those with shorter, more sparse fibers are less expensive.
- Climate. When you are choosing a material, you'll want to consider the area in which you live. If you live in a climate that is warm and fairly dry all year-round, lucky you! Climate will not present much of a challenge for you. However, if you live in the Pacific Northwest, where heavy rainfall is common, you may want to steer clear of hardwood, which is easily damaged by moisture. Likewise, if you live in the upper midwest, where temperatures frequently dip far below zero in the dead of winter, you may prefer carpet, which will insulate better than other choices. However, this problem can be alleviated if you have in-floor heat in your home. With this heating option, plastic tubing runs in parallel lines under your subfloor, so it stays toasty warm year-round, even ceramic tile!
- Style. The style of your house can also determine your choice for you. If your home is formal and elegant, hardwood will contribute to this look. On the other hand, if your home is noisy and filled with people, carpet will lend an informal air to your home. It may also muffle some of that sound, so that you don't feel as if you are living in an echo chamber! Ceramic tile and laminates are at home in nearly any type of space.
- Comfort. No matter what other factors play into your decision, comfort is an important one. If you spend a lot of time on the floor, or have children who do, you'll want to make sure that you choose one that is comfortable to sit on. Carpet is the obvious choice here, although you can also use area rugs on laminate, hardwood or tile to soften them up a bit. If you choose carpet, make sure you choose a type which meets your comfort standard. Berber carpets are durable and easy to clean, but they're not friendly. Any crawlers or beginning walkers in your family are likely to end up with rug-burned knees! A tightly-woven, but plush carpet would be a better choice.
- Degree of use. The final factor that you should take into consideration is the usage that it will receive. If it's a very high traffic area, choose material which will stand up well to heavy use. Laminates can fill the bill here, as can ceramic tile. Hardwoods and carpets are not such a great choice for these areas.
This covers the advantages and disadvantages of the basic options in materials when choosing for your own home. If you can't find the right match though, don't despair! There are a multitude of other options. These include exotic hardwoods, such as mahogany, ebony and bamboo; porcelain tile, which is much harder and therefore, more durable than ceramic tile; stone and slate floors, which are similar to ceramic tile in their care requirements; and vinyl (or linoleum), which has been the classic choice for years in high-moisture areas such as bathrooms. You could even use concrete! Concrete can be stenciled, stamped, etched and colored to achieve any look you desire. One final note is to choose material that will still look great if you decide to paint or redecorate your entire home. You don't want to toss out such a major investment because it no longer matches your sofa!