What Flooring is Right for You?
So, you're looking to renovate your flooring. What's the right flooring for you? That can be a difficult question to answer on your own, because the sheer amount of options available to you is staggering. The wide-variety of hardwood floors alone can be too much to pick through on your own, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
To help you with your next renovation, we've put together an all-encompassing guide walking you through the various types of flooring, their pros and cons, and where each one truly shines in any design project.
By the end of this guide, you should have no problem choosing a flooring combination for your home that is both aesthetically pleasing, and functional throughout your every day life.
Let's get started.
First and foremost, you're not going to lay down one type of flooring throughout your entire house. You'll need to choose a fairly varied selection both to break up the aesthetic of the home, and to ensure that each room functions how it's supposed to.
Your living area is where you're supposed to feel comfortable, relaxed, and generally stress-free. The flooring you choose for it has a lot to do with whether or not that's a possibility. Luckily, you have a lot of flexibility in this department since you're not dealing with moisture, kitchen spills, and other issues.
Whether you're looking at a living room, entertainment room, or bedroom, hardwood and carpet flooring options shine in a living space. Which one you go with is largely up to your own preferences, and you can find a wide variety of wood species or carpet colors to choose from with little consequence in terms of function.
Kitchens are a lot more complicated than living areas. They're constantly exposed to spills, moisture, and tons of back and forth foot traffic. So, you have to have something durable, while also matching the color scheme and overall theme of the rest of the kitchen.
For the kitchen, you're going to want to look at natural stone, water-resistant hardwood varieties, and various tiles. They're all nearly impervious to water damage and difficult to slip on when wet. Some designers opt for a blend of hardwood flooring, with stone near the sink to add variety to the aesthetic while lessening the chance of slips occuring.
The bathrooms of your home requires special attention due to the amount of moisture they're constantly exposed to. Nearly everything you do in the bathroom puts large amounts of moisture in the air, spills water onto the floor, and generally increases the odds of water damage occuring.
Because of this, water-resistant stone tiles made from limestone or granite, and vinyl are your best options. Stone tile floors add a luxurious feel to your bathroom, and vinyl acts as a cheap alternative. However, vinyl is often a lot less durable, and its long-term costs can nullify any savings you may get up front.
Soundproofing and Heating:
Before we dive into the individual types of flooring, you need to consider whether or not you need soundproofing or heated floors. They're fairly specialized features, and not everyone will need to consider them.
Soundproofing is key in apartments, multi-tier office buildings, and other buildings that have multiple floors with plenty of foot traffic.
There are a couple of ways that you can achieve soundproofing, but the most simplistic is to use carpet or cork. Carpet fits well into apartment living areas, hotel lounges, and other areas where comfort is a priority, and cork works well as an alternative to hardwood.
You can also opt to use soundproofing underlays, but these force a more complex installation process, and they are tacked on to the overall price of your flooring.
- Reduced noise levels in multi-family buildings, offices, and other buildings with noise restrictions.
- Can be easily implemented with carpet or cork.
- Higher investment cost if underlays are used.
- Fewer flooring options without underlays.
Heated flooring is a major boon that adds a luxurious feel to any bathroom, but it's not an option for everyone.
Essentially, heating systems are implemented underneath the flooring of your bathroom. These systems can either be electric or hydronic, and both have their own pros and cons.
An electric system is the cheaper of the two, and it heats your flooring faster. However, it's not as reliable as a hydronic system.
A hydronic system consists of pads containing tubing and heated water. Your water boiler pumps hot water through the hydronic system, and this heats your floors. It's a lot more complex than an electric system, requires full water boiler, gas line, and water hookup installation, and costs a lot more than an electric system. It also doesn't heat the flooring as quickly. However, it is more reliable and easier to maintain in the longrun.
Heated bathroom flooring increases the value of your home a bit, provides a more comfortable bathroom experience, and helps decrease your monthly energy bills by heating your entire bathroom without the use of your HVAC.
- Increased home value.
- Spa-quality bathroom experience.
- Decreased energy bills.
- Discreetly hidden beneath your flooring.
- Higher initial investment on top of flooring costs.
- Complex installation; especially with hydronic systems.
The Types of Flooring:
Now that you have an understanding of the basics, we're going to divide the types of flooring into four separate groups and discuss the pros and cons of each popular flooring option within each group.
Wood flooring comes in a massive variety of wood species, and it comes in various styles ranging from natural, to engineered and laminated.
The species or style you choose is largely up to you and dependent on the overall theme of your renovation. There are differences in durability, but this is mostly going to correlate with price, and the difference isn't obvious outside of long-term observation.
Instead, you need to focus on how your flooring is made, how it's treated, and the different properties each style has.
Depending on the wood species and finish, hardwood can add a rustic vibe to your home, or it can look luxurious and match modern standards perfectly.
Hardwood is perfect for living areas and hallways if you don't want to take risks with carpet, and it works well in kitchen areas that aren't as susceptible to moisture and spills. You can also refinish it and stain it as much as you want to keep it looking brand-new for decades to come.
However, it's far from perfect, and it requires a lot of work to maintain. Hardwood is highly susceptible to moisture and liquid spills. This also makes it a horrible choice for bathrooms, basements, and other areas prone to causing water damage. It also requires constant resealing, buffing, and other maintenance processes to ensure it doesn't rot.
Hardwood has a vast price range depending on what you go with. Cheaper woods can be purchased for $4-$6 per square-foot, but the more extravagant species can cost you as much as $14 per square-foot.
- Long-lasting and beautiful if maintained.
- Comes in a wide price range.
- Durable against foot traffic.
- Perfect for living areas, hallways, and kitchens.
- Huge variety of wood species to choose from.
- Fairly easy installation.
- Exotic woods are a high investment.
- Susceptible to water damage.
- Requires constant maintenance.
Laminate is a type of highly engineered flooring that consists of engineered wooden layers and synthetic materials to mimic natural wood or other materials while increasing its durability.
Laminate flooring is almost impervious to surface damage, it's nearly waterproof, and its ability to look like almost anything makes it a highly flexible low-cost option.
However, it's so hard that it can be uncomfortable to step on, and while it's waterproof, it gets extremely slippery. This makes it a poor choice for kitchens, bathrooms, and other places where large spills frequently occur.
It's also impossible to refinish laminate since sanding it will remove its protective layers.
- Low-cost option.
- Extremely durable.
- Mimics most materials.
- Uncomfortable sometimes.
- Can't be refinished.
- Slippery when wet.
Bamboo flooring isn't technically a wooden floor. It's an Eastern grass. It does perfectly mimic hardwood and has most of its properties, though.
It's slightly less durable unless you shell out for the most premium options, but it does perform well over the longrun in most situations. Luckily, it usually doesn't cost more than $7 per square-foot to pick up high-quality bamboo.
One drawback, besides the typical issues present with wood floors, is that it's not as green as you may think. Bamboo is more sustainable than traditional hardwood materials, but the cost of importing it, coupled with the carbon footprint maritime shipping leaves, almost nullifies the environmental benefits.
- Cost-effective even for premium options.
- Mimics hardwood well.
- Has most of the properties of hardwood flooring.
- Not as “green” as most claim.
- Slightly less durable than hardwood.
- Same cons as hardwood.
Engineered Wood Flooring:
Engineered wood flooring is similar to laminate, but instead of having a transparent protective top layer, it has a wooden veneer on top that masks synthetic materials in the bottom layers.
This top layer gives it the appearance and feel of hardwood floors, but with a reduced cost and easier maintentance. However, it produces a few problems you should consider.
First, the top layer is susceptible to impacts and scratches. Simply toppling a cabinet during a move can destroy the look of your flooring. To compound this problem, you can only sand it once since the top layer is so thin. This means you have to be extra-careful with this flooring type.
- Natural wood look and feel.
- Easy to install DIY.
- Easily damaged.
- Can only be sanded once.
Tile flooring is perfect for areas where spills, high amounts of moisture, and flood risks are an issue. This includes bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, and even basements if you opt to stay away from standard concrete flooring.
Regardless of what tile you get, you can expect it to be waterproof, come in a variety of appearances, and it's easy to install; whether it be professionally done, or installed by an experienced DIY enthusiast.
Stone tile looks and feels luxurious, and it comes in a wide variety of stone types. Limestone and granite are the most popular for their waterproof nature and nearly age-proof design, but you can find other varieties to match your aesthetic theme.
Stone tiles, while a great long-term investment, are typically mid-to-high in price. You won't find extremely cheap stone tiles for renovating on a budget. Luckily, these tiles can be used as accents in specific areas, such as near the kitchen sink, to reduce costs.
The main faults of stone tiles are that it can be broken by impacts, and it requires constant grout maintenance.
- Great long-term investment.
- Aesthetically luxurious.
- Reasonable selection of styles to choose from.
- Not a great choice for budget projects.
- Frequent grout maintenance.
- Uncomfortable to barefeet and long periods of standing.
- Can break if impacted.
Ceramic tile is very similar to stone tile, but it comes in a huge array of styles, and you can find it very reasonably priced.
Like stone tiles, ceramic can be broken by harsh impacts, but it's nearly impervious to all other forms of damage. The same grout maintenance is also necessary.
Ranging in price from a single dollar per square-foot, to more than $20 per square-foot, there's something for every budget with ceramic tile.
- Slip-resistant when wet.
- Huge variety of options.
- Various prices for all budgets.
- Durable besides harsh impacts.
- Not suitable for comfort zones such as living rooms.
- Breaks require replacement tiles.
- Constant grout maintenance.
Vinyl and Rubber Flooring:
Vinyl and rubber flooring are cost-effective options with a wide range of applications, but they have some drawbacks.
Vinyl is extremely cost-effective, can be used in most rooms of your home safely, and can look like just about anything since it's synthetic. However, it's not perfect.
It lasts a very long time and is nearly impervious to aging, but it can't be refinished if it's damaged, and it isn't durable against scratches, dents, and gouges. Basically, if it gets torn up, you have to replace it. Luckily, it's pretty cheap.
- Great for budget renovations.
- Practically impervious to aging.
- Reasonably comfortable to walk on.
- Flexible in appearance.
- Less durable than other options.
- Cannot be repaired in a practical way.
Rubber flooring is great for basements and other rooms where concrete is typically used, but you want something more comfortable.
It ages gracefully, is easy to install, is impervious to water and stains, and is fairly cost-effective, but it can be gouged, scuffed, and otherwise damaged fairly easily. It's best kept in basements and other rooms that aren't expected to be pristine.
- Easy to maintain.
- Durable against standard damages and aging.
- Easy to install.
- Gouges are an issue.
- Not suitable for many rooms.
Eco-friendly flooring comes in a few different varieties that could easily fall into another category, but they're different enough to warrant their own group. These flooring types are made from sustainable materials, work well, and have a low carbon footprint. More importantly, they're often fairly affordable.
Cork is treebark. As such, it mimics the look of wood easily, and it has a unique woodgrain that sets your flooring apart from other varieties of “wood”. However, it comes from a tree that isn't damaged by the harvesting process, and it grows back. This makes it green option with little ecological impact.
Cork is soundproof like carpet, is fairly durable when sealed with wax or polyurethane regularly, and feels great under your foot. It's also affordable and comes in around $4-$7 per square-foot.
However, it's nowhere near as durable as real wooden floor planks, and it's susceptible to water if you don't seal it properly.
- Looks like hardwood.
- Soundproof like carpet.
- Softer than hardwood.
- Sustainable and eco-friendly.
- Needs to be sealed every 3 years.
- Not as durable as hardwood.
Linoleum is an extremely affordable option, costing between $2 and $5 per square-foot, and it has a large variety of color schemes and patterns to choose from. It's also made from cork and bio-degradable materials to ensure it's not hanging around in a landfill 20 years from now. So, it's a green option.
Linoleum isn't as durable as hardwood and tile, and it can look a bit outdated unless you really search for more modernized options, but it still stands as a solid, water and damage resistant, option that you can use on a budget.
- Very inexpensive
- Huge variety of options.
- Reasonably durable.
- Somewhat outdated.
- Not as durable as other common kitchen options.
- Can't be repaired.
Start Your Flooring Renovation with IntraBuild
At IntraBuild, we've developed a reputation with New York City residents as the go-to renovation and construction experts, and we've worked with all of these flooring types in our many projects across the city.
If you're looking to renovate your home, apartment, or other property, we can help you find the perfect materials, and handle the installation professionally.
Upgrade your property with Intrabuild, schedule a consultation for your apartment renovation.