What Type of Flooring is Best for My Home?

Today's selection of hard surfaces can be overwhelming and includes hardwood, laminate and tile. For the average consumer, eight to twelve months go by from the time they decide they want a new floor to their final purchase date.

Spending just a fraction of that time learning about various options can ensure they will enjoy their beautiful investment for years to come. Homeowners should consider the characteristics of the individual product and the rooms involved before making their purchase.

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Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood flooring is known for its timeless beauty and durability. It increases home value and adds warmth and character to any space. Recent strides have been made in factory-applied finishes, including the addition of aluminum oxide.

The durability of this material adds years to the wear warranty. Though the finishes address surface wear, consumers should still consider the hardness rating when selecting a species for their home.

Hardwood flooring is susceptible to denting, so the higher the hardness rating the better in very active rooms. Most exotic hardwoods have very high ratings and are excellent choices for rooms that house a pool table, a piano or other heavy furniture that would damage softer woods like pine or maple.

One thing to keep in mind about exotic wood flooring is that the light-sensitivity and a visible darkening of the floor can be witnessed over just six months. Area rugs should be either moved from place to place over this initial oxidation period or temporarily avoided to allow the floor to darken uniformly.

Laminate Flooring

For active families concerned over possible damage to hardwood floors, modern laminates are a great option. Far removed from the earlier styles, new laminate floors have texture, color and grain variation with beveled edges to make them look more like real wood.

Since the surfaces of laminates are made exclusively of non-porous aluminum oxide, they are warrantied for stain, fade, wear and moisture. The fade-resistance of laminates can be important in rooms with many windows and makes it possible to install one room at a time without worrying about future color match.

Laminate moisture warranties usually cover only surface spills, so keep in mind that water is an enemy of both laminates and hardwood, doing severe damage in the case of a flood or plumbing leak. The proper cleaners evaporate quickly and should always be used to avoid adding moisture to the floor.

Neither hardwoods nor laminates are typically warrantied for scratches, though laminates are more scratch resistant. A matte finish makes surface scratches less visible than a hi-gloss hardwood floor. Warranty instructions for either flooring option recommend felt pads under furniture and the use of rubber wheels rather than plastic or metal-wheeled casters.

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Tile Flooring

Because of the potential for damage due to plumbing leaks, consumers sometimes opt for tile in kitchens and bathrooms. Ceramic, porcelain and stone tiles are available to suit any decor.

Ceramic tiles are either red-clay or white-clay bodies with a baked decorative glaze on the surface. This glaze has a PEI, or hardness rating, of one to five, with five being the hardest. Residential floor tiles require a rating of three or better and ratings of four or five are usually thicker and baked at a higher temperature, making them more durable.

One drawback to consider for ceramic tile is the potential of chipping or cracking and the struggle to keep grout clean. Porcelain tiles can address both of these concerns since they are manufactured from a finer, denser body that is usually similar in color to the surface glaze, rather than a white ceramic tile whose red-clay body stands out with each new chip.

Porcelain tiles can also be rectified or cross-cut to avoid size variation that comes with baked products. For this reason, rectified tile can be laid with either a very fine grout line or, in some cases, none at all.

Stone tiles are yet another option for consumers, but can be limiting due to their expense and upkeep. They require sealing to avoid stain and regular maintenance of the surface, which many customers prefer to avoid.

In considering their options, consumers should take into account the rooms involved. More active spaces lend themselves easily to hard surfaces, but a formal dining room might be a better place for a hi-gloss wood, while a laminate is perfect for the kid’s playroom or den.

Tile might be a better option for an area that could be affected by water like the foyer, kitchen, utility room or baths. Customers who often prefer carpet underfoot in their bedrooms should extend hard surfaces into their hallways, since this is where carpet will show the earliest signs of wear. With hard surfaces dividing individual bedrooms, carpet can then be replaced in each room as needed.

Browse room scenes online and take samples home to see them with your furniture and in your lighting before purchasing your new floors. Then feel confident in your selection and enjoy their beauty for many years.

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