Flooring: A simple start-up guide
When it comes to selecting flooring, does it seem overwhelming once you see a wall presentation with types of flooring, colors, and what rooms are planned for these detailed selections? Are you debating on carpet versus wood, wood versus tile, or one type of flooring throughout? Or maybe the budget will guide you and help narrow your options. The kicker is, that all flooring types have pros and cons…there is usually not a one size fits all.
When it came time to investigate flooring for our new home, my husband and I had already made the decision to choose engineered hardwood flooring throughout our home due to my husband’s allergies, and after factoring spending 10 years in a condo/apartment with carpet that was hard to keep clean even after annual professional cleaning, I could only imagine the mold and dirty monsters growing under the shag! Don’t get me wrong, carpet has some great benefits, too.
Flooring selection is often a personal preference however when focusing on universal design in a home, I like to be more practical, safer, consider how easy it is to maintain, and make sure it’s usable by most people. I also like to factor in costs, and factor in the value of the home, and the client’s ultimate or long-term goals.
After months of searching for flooring for our home, we ended up purchasing engineered hardwood with a ¾” thick top layer from a small, reputable company: Uptown Floors. They provide so much education on the types of wood flooring and the colors and the owner was very knowledgeable in flooring in general. We really enjoyed learning from him and his company. In addition, the flooring was less expensive than what we found through local flooring companies who had less quality and fewer color selections (in our city, that is, prices vary from city to city).
We chose the least amount of sheen or gloss on our floors. It was simply hard to find flooring in the light color we wanted without gloss. Flooring without a high gloss would reduce the reflection of light that shines through our windows. Glare can interfere with vision especially those that already have vision deficits. Again, we could not find what we needed in the local stores, but we did find it at Uptown Floors.
[Photo of our flooring on Houzz: Click on photo for details and more in gallery below]
After working with a client recently and providing a little education on different types of flooring, I’d thought, “why not write an article to helps others make some informed decisions on flooring,” probably the largest and most used materials in a home. In fact, when budgeting, perhaps consider flooring to be one of your financial priorities.
Here are some things to think about:
Do you or your family have allergies?
Does anyone living in the home have mobility challenges or use equipment to assist with walking around the home?
Are you prone to back discomfort or pain after standing for periods of time?
Do you plan to live in your home forever or “age in place?”
Will there be areas exposed to frequent water splashes?
Do you have pets?
Do you have an open floor plan?
What is your budget?
These are just few factors to think about when choosing the type of flooring. Again, it’s all based on personal preference. However, let’s refer to the function of your space in the design and consider the safety as well as the quality of the product. When looking at the questions above, I can think of one flooring that could be at the top of the list and benefit almost all of the above considerations.
Luxury Vinyl Plank or COREtec Luxury Vinyl (also known as resilient flooring)
This is one I suggest most of the time for many reasons. We used luxury vinyl from Home Depot, Lifeproof, in our pool house and it was 1) inexpensive, 2) easy to install ourselves, 3) came in many color choices, 4) is textured, 5) is waterproof, and 6) comes with a sub floor padding (no need to install extra unless you prefer). Vinyl is great for all areas of the home and not as slippery especially if it’s textured. Vinyl can look like wood and tile. Keeping the same flooring throughout the home will likely reduce falls as well because there are no seams or thresholds for transitioning from room to room. This type of vinyl can withstand wet areas (hence why we put it in our pool house). It’s more cushioned than tile and hardwood, which can benefit those whose back problems are worsened from standing. Harder surfaces like tile in kitchens exacerbate back discomfort and pain.
Perhaps vinyl is a little too much on the budget. There is also the option of laminate.
Laminate is a less expensive option made out of thin fiberwood below a printed image of wood It’s easy to install as a floating floor that doesn’t require a lot of prep work. While laminate is water resistant, if water gets between the joints it can buckle or show signs of water damage. Laminate is cushioned, however, furniture legs and dropping heavy objects on this material will show damage more easily. It’s also sensitive to UV rays and can change in color over time. Otherwise, the floor can last up to 10+ years if maintained. The floor is safe to use for individuals with equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, safe to use for persons at risk of falls and helpful for people that have pets. It’s a great option for people with a smaller budget. Some laminate floor selections look like real wood, although laminate is mainly printed material on the top layer).
Maybe you’d like a step up and consider wood flooring. If so, consider engineered wood first over hardwood.
Engineered Wood vs. Hardwood
When you look at samples of engineered wood in the stores, check out that top layer of wood and the layers of plywood below. Most come pre-finished with a top layer of sheen to protect the wood, although there are some that have the option of being unfinished. The thickness can often tell you more about the quality of the floor. Uptown Floors has ¾” engineered wood much like the ¾” solid wood with 5.2mm of a top wear layer allowing it to be sanded down a couple to a few times if needed and enhances the longevity of the floor. Again, check out their site for additional detailed information. When looking at wear layers less than that, there is not much room to sand.
Engineered wood can withstand water due to the ability to expand and contract whereas, hardwood is not recommended for places like kitchens due to water exposure. Hardwood is more durable when compared to engineered and can be sanded down many times. However, engineered wood has improved over the years and can be less expensive and better choice for areas prone to water exposure. Some companies like Uptown Floors have the option of doing both engineered and hardwood. We chose hardwood upstairs due to less traffic and it being less expensive (in this case) and chose engineered hardwood throughout the main level and stairs due to higher traffic and exposure to water. The colors are identical and no one would know the difference. When selecting hardwood or engineered hardwood, less gloss and more matte as well as texture is better to reduce glare, provides a little more slip resistance, and doesn’t show scratches as well. Darker wood floors will show more scratches and dirt. If water does get on the engineered wood floors, be sure to wipe it down because it will buckle or produce a gap between the boards if water sits on the wood and dries. Not to make it more overwhelming, but there are different types of wood such as hard and soft woods which make a difference whether the floor is more sensitive to scratches.
There are other types of flooring to consider as well such as tile, bamboo, and even cork that would be worth looking into if you wanted to look at additional options and compare. I will review tile in another article later but for the purpose of this article, these are main flooring options to keep in mind when thinking about the function of you in your home, what your budget is, and your safety concerns.
Other tips to keep in mind:
Consider the transition of the flooring throughout your home. Adding tile to bathrooms and other areas of the home raises the floor slightly creating a slight threshold. If you want both types of flooring, look at the thickness of the floor and tile / stone to keep the floors around the same depth to create less of a threshold in your doorways.
Keep the pattern simple especially if anyone has vision difficulty.
Stick with low gloss to reduce glare from natural and overhead lighting.
Keep the floors seamless. Some wood and laminate flooring can have bevels which, can create a tripping hazard or make it more challenging for those who have difficulty with mobility (i.e., they shuffle when walking) or use a wheelchair or cane.
Don’t be afraid to put some samples on the floor and try out the texture or test it out especially with water on it. Take the samples and put them in your home or your home that is under construction. Colors look completely different in your own home and look different next to your paint colors. Light reflects differently in every room and home.
Hopefully, this is a good start for anyone that has begun to consider new flooring or searching for flooring for their new home. Go to the stores and ask lots of questions. YouTube is also a great resource for education. Uptown Floors has great videos and demonstrations on how lighting affects the color of the flooring.
[Scroll through the gallery above to view the flooring transitions and how various lighting can affect the color and sheen.]