Flooring 101: Everything You Need to Know to Choose the Right Flooring

Rocio Espinoza Porch.com

With so many flooring options on the market, choosing the right material for your home can be a daunting task. You’ll need to consider various factors, including your budget, lifestyle, typical home activities, and aesthetic preferences. Additionally, some flooring materials are more appropriate for some rooms than others. This guide highlights some of the most popular types of floorings and their advantages so you can pick the right material for your home.


Hardwood

For a traditional and homey appearance, you can’t beat hardwood flooring. Hardwood flooring is the best choice for homeowners who prefer a warm, natural appearance as well as a durable, long-lasting surface. In fact, there are many homes over a century old that still feature their original wooden floorboards. While oak remains the most popular species for hardwood flooring, other choices such as maple, black walnut, and hickory may be worthy of consideration.


Pros and Cons of Hardwood Flooring

Pros:

  • Non-toxic

  • Boosts home value

  • Easy to clean and maintain

  • Durable and long-lasting

Cons:

  • Unaffordable for smaller budgets

  • Prone to dents and scratches

  • Susceptible to mold and termites

  • Can develop creaking over time

Hardwood Flooring Installation

The good news is that hardwood planks are fairly straightforward to install, particularly if you already have experience in DIY home improvement. Installing the floorboards yourself can save thousands of dollars in labor costs. However, if you lack the skill or experience, you’re better off hiring a pro since small errors may result in gaps and crooked boards.

Hardwood Flooring Cleaning and Maintenance

Hardwood floors require frequent polishing, especially in areas of the home with higher traffic. To clean, simply use a microfiber mop, and cleaning solution formulated explicitly for wooden floors. If vacuuming the floor, take care not to use a brush roll as this may lead to dents and scratches. Depending on the level of use and damage, hardwood floors may occasionally require sanding and refinishing.

Hardwood Flooring Durability

Hardwood floors are designed to withstand heavy use and frequent foot traffic. Unlike carpet, which needs to be replaced every 10 years, hardwood floors can last a lifetime with proper care and maintenance. While finish may need to be redone every decade, but the original boards may well last as long as the home itself.

Laminate

Laminate flooring is a lower-cost, easy-to-install alternative to traditional hardwood flooring. Comprised of different wood-based layers, each laminate board features a photographic imprint on the top layer that mimics real wood’s appearance. This makes laminate flooring the ideal option for homeowners who like the appearance of wood but have a more limited budget.

Pros and Cons of Laminate Flooring

Pros:

  • Resistant to humidity damage

  • Easy to clean and maintain

  • Easy DIY installation

  • About half the price of hardwood flooring

Cons:

  • Unable to sand and refinish

  • May warp due to water spillage

  • Shorter lifespan than hardwood

Laminate Flooring Installation

Laminate is the go-to choice for DIY homeowners because it is relatively easy to install, provided the subfloor material is structurally sound. Installation doesn’t require any special knowledge of adhesives or power tools since the boards snap together and rest atop the underlying floor layer. An average homeowner can complete a one-room installation on a weekend. Just be careful not to damage the plank edges when snapping the boards together; this can make the floor more susceptible to water damage from spills.

Laminate Flooring Cleaning and Maintenance

Laminate is easy to clean and care for, but you need to make some special considerations to avoid damage. Water can seep into the cracks and beneath the boards, causing laminate flooring to warp and stain, so stick mainly to sweeping and vacuuming. Use only a flat mop as needed, and be sure the cleaner you use is designed for laminate surfaces.

Laminate Flooring Durability

Unlike hardwood flooring, laminate can’t be refinished, so its lifespan is limited, and unsightly scratches and dents can be difficult or impossible to repair. However, with proper care, laminate flooring can typically last 15 to 25 years. Most laminate is treated with a highly durable top layer that can stand up to foot traffic and sun exposure. However, with proper care and maintenance, laminate flooring may last decades.


Carpet

Carpeting remains one of the most popular flooring options on the market, and for a good reason. Cozy and comfortable, carpeting is the perfect choice if you enjoy hanging out barefoot at home – or just prefer a soft floor to sit on. With a versatile array of textures and designs, homeowners and builders have plenty of great options to choose from.

Pros and Cons of Carpeting

Pros:

  • Adds insulation for lower energy bills

  • Cozy and comfortable for bare feet

  • Extremely affordable

  • Reduces sound

Cons:

  • Not appropriate for all living areas

  • Shows wear and tear

  • Requires regular replacement

  • Often needs professional cleaning

Carpet Installation

Installing a carpet is difficult for a novice, so for quality results, hire a professional. Carpet installation requires specialized equipment such as tackless strips, knee-kickers, carpet stretchers, and seam rollers. You will also need to know how to properly lay padding and stretch the carpet to avoid lumps and warping.

Carpet Cleaning & Maintenance

Unlike other home flooring options, carpets degrade quickly without regular cleaning and maintenance. You will need to vacuum your carpets at least once a week and possibly more in high-traffic areas. For best results, carpets should be professionally cleaned at least once a year.

Carpet Durability

The biggest downside of carpets is undoubtedly their short lifespan, with most carpets needing replacement after 5 years of regular wear and tear. However, with proper maintenance and a new underlay, you can prolong the life of your carpet by several years. Not all carpets are created equal, so durability is an important consideration to make when choosing your carpet material.

Vinyl

Available in plank, sheet, and tile form, vinyl is one of the most versatile and affordable flooring options. Vinyl flooring is designed to mimic other flooring materials such as hardwood and tile realistically. Vinyl is appropriate for any home area, and its waterproof nature makes it a perfect choice for high-moisture areas such as bathrooms, basements, and kitchens.

Pros and Cons of Vinyl Flooring

Pros:

  • Fully resistant to water damage

  • Simple DIY installation

  • Easy to clean and maintain

  • Low cost

Cons:

  • Difficult to remove

  • May become discolored from sun exposure

  • Prone to dents from heavy objects

Vinyl Flooring Installation

Not only is vinyl flooring a fraction of the cost of hardwood, but it’s also incredibly easy to install yourself. This makes it no surprise that vinyl is the most popular flooring options for budget-conscious homeowners. With a few inexpensive tools, a typical vinyl installation project can be accomplished in a single day.

Vinyl Flooring Cleaning and Maintenance

The best way to clean vinyl is to dry mop or vacuum dust and debris from the surface. For periodic deep cleans, use a commercial cleaner designed for vinyl floors – or better yet, a homemade solution of white vinegar and water. Avoid using abrasive scrubs, detergents, and ammonia – these can damage the vinyl flooring and cause unattractive scuffs.

Vinyl Flooring Durability

Vinyl is tough but does require good maintenance practices. Always use sliders or plywood sheets when moving heavy furniture and consider adding mats and rugs in high-traffic areas. As a general rule, thicker vinyl can stand up to more traffic, so keep this in mind when shopping for materials.

Ceramic & Porcelain Tile

With a multitude of colors, shapes, and styles to choose from, ceramic and porcelain tiles are a great way to provide your home with a high-value appearance. As one of the most durable flooring and water-resistant flooring options, tile is ideal for bathrooms, kitchens, and high-traffic areas of the home. While tiles can become cracked and damaged, the good news is that you can easily replace individual pieces, saving you the trouble of ripping up the entire floor.

Pros and Cons of Tile Flooring

Pros:

  • Available in many styles and colors

  • Rot-resistant

  • Increases home’s value

  • Does not stain easily

Cons:

  • Time-consuming installation

  • Cold and hard underfoot

  • Prone to cracking and chipping

  • High-maintenance grout lines

Tile Flooring Installation

Laying tile is a relatively straightforward process, and one that many homeowners will opt to take on themselves. However, since even slightly crooked tiles can throw off the whole look of a room, you may want to work with a professional for more visible areas of your home. Before jumping into a DIY tile project, keep in mind that tilework is difficult to reverse, so any mistake you make is likely permanent.

Tile Flooring Cleaning and Maintenance

One of the biggest advantages of tile flooring is how easy it is to clean. Because the surfaces are non-absorptive, it’s simple to wipe spills clean with a damp cloth. Feel free to use a mild detergent for a deeper clean. While the tiles themselves are easy to clean and maintain, the grout lines require more care and attention. However, you can usually resolve common issues like stains and mildew buildup with a simple vinegar and water solution.

Tile Flooring Durability

Ceramic and porcelain tiles are considered very durable and can easily stand up to high foot traffic volumes. You will need to check the hardness ratings before purchasing your materials to determine if it’s appropriate for the area where you plan to install it. Tiles are rated on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the hardest and most suitable for heavy traffic. With a proper installation and good grout maintenance, tile floors can easily last a lifetime.

Concrete

Due to its durability and aesthetic flexibility, concrete has surged in popularity in recent years. With endless choices for colors, textures, and finishes, creative homeowners embrace concrete for the visual diversity it offers. Concrete can take far more of a beating than vinyl, tile, and even hardwood, making it an ideal choice for kitchens, bathrooms, and foyers.

Pros and Cons of Concrete Flooring

Pros:

  • Budget-friendly

  • Long lifespan

  • Ideal for radiant heat systems

  • Moisture resistant

Cons:

  • May be slippery when wet

  • May develop cracks overtime

  • Requires area rugs for warmth and comfort

  • Difficult to patch

Concrete Flooring Installation

Concrete flooring requires a more time-consuming installation than carpeting or laminate, but it’s well worth the effort as it is expected to last decades. Concrete installation consists of three phases: surface preparation, decorative treatment, and a topcoat. Pouring, leveling, and texturing concrete is somewhat specialized procedures, so for best results, always hire a professional.

Concrete Flooring Cleaning and Maintenance

No joints, fibers, or grout lines mean concrete is super easy to keep debris clear through regular sweeping. When due for a deep clean, opt for microfiber cleaning pads or mops. Be sure to use a pH-neutral cleaner that won’t react with the concrete and damage the surface. Except for polished concrete, concrete flooring requires sealing or waxing every few months to maintain its looks.

Concrete Flooring Durability

Concrete floors are incredibly resilient to foot traffic and heavy furniture. When properly sealed and maintained, concrete rivals the hardwood’s longevity, boasting a lifespan of more than 100 years. This durability will save you tons of money in the long run. Unlike carpeting, vinyl, and laminates, concrete flooring is pretty much guaranteed to as long as the house.

Conclusion

While you may not think about them very much, floors have a significant impact on your life. The type of flooring you choose doesn’t just influence a room’s appearance – it also affects how comfortable and practical certain activities are. Besides your budget, you should also consider your personal tastes, lifestyle, and regular home activities. This will help you narrow down your choices and select the right material for each room of the house.



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