The Fabulous Flooring Guide
By: The HGTV.ca Editorial Team
When it comes to decorating, or redecorating a home, minds often jump to thoughts of new furniture, paint colours and accessories. We vow to keep fresh flowers on hand or to make those curtains that we've been dreaming of for so long, but we often overlook one of the most important, decorative surfaces we have - our floors.
To overlook your floors is a major decorating mistake. Your floors are not only one of the largest, most visible surfaces in the overall décor of your space, but they also play an invaluable role in the life of your home. They are where you walk, where your furniture sits, where the baby crawls and the milk gets spilt. They can make all the difference in whether a kitchen is inviting or cold, and whether a bedroom looks sensual or stark.
So take a moment to think about what is under your feet. The next time you are thinking about redoing the living room or giving the bathroom a facelift, give your floors some serious consideration. You'll be surprised to find how many options you have and how fabulous your floors can really be.
Things to Consider
Before deciding on what type of flooring to put in, or automatically jumping to the hardwood conclusion, take a minute to consider what it is you need from your floors:
- What normally goes on in the room where the new floor will go? Is it a high traffic zone, requiring a durable, easily cleaned surface?
- Do you have small children or pets that will be crawling, lying or sitting on the floor?
- Is this a room where it is likely that the floor will get wet, such as a bathroom, kitchen or laundry room? How about it's proximity to outside - will there be muddy or snowy boots tracking across the surface regularly?
- What role will your new floor play in your overall decorating scheme? Should it stand out, blend in, or enhance the overall architectural design of your home?
- Are you willing to put in a surface that requires special care, such as waxing, vacuuming, or shampooing?
- Are you looking for your floor to have any special features, such as heating up beneath your feet or working to help insulate your home?
- How much are you willing to spend redoing the floors in your home and have you investigated all of your options?
Once you have considered these factors and made a list of everything that you require and desire from your new floors, it's time for the fun to begin. There are so many wonderful options, from traditional to ultra-chic, from practical to decadent. Below are only a small selection of all the wonderful floors you can find, don't hesitate to do your own research and as always, be creative!
Hardwood and Almost Hardwood
Hardwood: Nothing beats a beautifully restored, antique hardwood floor for a traditional, elegant look. Hardwood is tremendously versatile in its decorative ability. It can look ancient and sophisticated or super-modern and cool. It all depends on two things, the type of wood and the finish. You can have a pine floor, stained to look dark and daring, or a high glossed new maple floor that will look fresh and warm at the same time. Even an old country home with bare old barn-board flooring can be refinished to look stylish and chic. The possibilities are almost limitless, if you have the resources.
One of the deterrents to putting hardwood throughout your home is the cost. Laying hardwood is a rare skill and you can expect to pay a great deal to have somebody come in and do it, not to mention the price of the material itself. On the other hand, many older homes already have beautiful hardwood floors hidden just below a wall-to-wall carpet, or one that is exposed but is looking worse-for wear. As long as your hardwood is not completely worn down to the exposed wood, you should be able to refurbish it yourself. It's a great project for the do-it-yourselfer.
If you can't afford to put in or redo hardwood floors, or if you want the look but need a surface that is slightly more durable, there are several other options that are almost hardwood, but may be a bit more practical and a lot more affordable. Here are a few:
Pergo: I'm a huge Pergo fan - it is the type of flooring that I currently have in my own home. This Swedish company makes laminate floors that look like hardwood (from a distance) but are affordable and extremely durable. Perfect for any room in your house, be it living, dining, kitchen or bathroom! You can wipe them clean easily, they are not damaged by water and they will stand up to the test of children and pets. They are even easily installed. Available in a multitude of colours and textures there is a Pergo floor perfect for any living space. Check out the super cool Pergo website for more info. You can even pick and choose colours and see how they will work with your own décor!
Hardboard is an inexpensive type of flooring, however, may not be the most durable, particularly in room where it is likely to get wet. Made from softwood pulp, it is a form of sheet board that can be laid directly over a sub floor. Use it on it's own, or as a surface below another type of flooring, such as carpet.
Chipboard is slightly more durable and thicker than hardboard and can have an attractive, warm look for a rather reasonable price. It's easily laid and comes in large sheets, but you have to be sure to seal it promptly as it will not survive spills or messes and will become badly stained.
Types of Tiles
Ceramic: When it comes to tiled floors, the possibilities are truly endless. Probably the most popular and classic form of tile is ceramic. Pick from thousands of colours, shapes, sizes, patterns...you name it you can get it. You can get them handmade for a charming, less-than-perfect look, or machine made for accuracy and precision. Ceramic tiles are extremely durable, but you should consider that they are very cold to the touch, hence, perfect for hot climates. In cold climates, a ceramic floor can be heated from below giving the room a wonderful warmth and elegance. Downsides? Your dishes will certainly shatter if dropped and a ceramic floor can be dangerously slippery when wet.
Mosiac: Possibly the most intricate flooring style available, mosaic tiles offer a flooring option that can be closer to fine art than simply a place to put your feet. These tiny tiles can be made from materials ranging from glass to marble and are normally laid into a stunning pattern to create a dramatic and beautiful look. There are ways around the seemingly honed skill one needs to lay a mosaic floor. Today the mosaic look is available in sheets with a peel-off backing, but for the real thing, expect to pay a lot and expect long waits before your masterpiece is complete. One cannot rush art.
Marble: The word itself invokes thoughts of extravagance and, yes, you will pay very high prices for the cool, stunning beauty of a marble tiled floor. Unless you live in an ancient Italian palace, you probably would only want to tile a small room with marble, such as a bathroom or an entrance hall. The material is extremely durable and requires no special treatment after it has been industrially polished upon removal from the ground.
Vinyl or Linoleum: The perfect floor for any family home, particularly in the kitchen, bathroom, mudroom or laundry room, vinyl or linoleum tiles are tough to beat when it comes to durability, cost-efficiency and lifespan. While we are quick to judge either material as unattractive, in fact they can both look very trendy and modern provided you choose your colours and patterns carefully. When it comes to care - wipe and rinse - there truly is nothing simpler.
Soft and Supple
Wall-to-Wall Carpet: It has definitely been sent out to pasture the last few years in terms of a serious decorating trend, but wall-to-wall carpeting still has numerous uses and it's own unique sense of style. There are so many different types of carpeting that it deserves an article all on it's own. The beauty of a wall-to-wall is simple to see. It's comfortable underfoot, warm and soothing, and it can be used quickly and easily to tie a room together. The price of wall-to-wall varies greatly depending on the size of your room, the quality of the carpet and of course the style that you choose. In most cases you will also require a foam underlay. I like the use of wall-to-wall carpets in a child's bedroom or playroom and it's great to use a more industrial variety in a finished basement.
Area Rugs: As a method of hiding a less than desirable floor surface, there is certainly no better method. You can use an area rug in any room in your house as a basic way to add comfort to your home, or as the decorative focal point of a room. Since you can get a rug in virtually any size, shape, colour and style there is no doubt that, if you have the time to search, you will find the one that is right for you. Just don't get carried away, the sheer variety can be overwhelming, stick to a simple colour and pattern for a busy room, and only if you have a minimal overall design in your space should you pick a rug that is really intricate. Remember, a rug will only last if you treat it right, so save the expensive Persian rug for a time when the kids have grown and moved away, taking the family dog with them.
Cool and Unusual
Leather: You know how a well-worn leather jacket just keeps on getting better and better? Same theory goes here. Covering a floor with large, thick sections of heavy leather can have a stunning affect on a room, particularly suited to an office or a library, it adds a feeling of relaxed, intellectual comfort. Obviously not the best choice for a room where it'll often get wet, this surprisingly durable option can withstand the odd spill. The stains and marks simply add to the rustic charm over time.
Cork: That's right, cork! This material is getting a lot of use in today's chic, modern loft spaces as an alternative to dreary linoleum or traditional hardwood. It comes in tile format and once properly treated will be extremely durable, suited even for a bathroom. It comes in a few attractive natural shades and has a shiny appearance that will help add depth and dimension to any space. Don't expect to get it for nothing - remember the earth's natural cork shortage - you'll definitely pay for this trendy flooring.
Brick: An absolutely beautiful rustic, natural look for floors, brick is a great way to warm up a room. They don't feel as cold to the touch as ceramic tile and certainly hold their own in the strength department. They make a wonderful transition from outside to in and so they are particularly suited to a kitchen that backs onto the backyard or a funky looking front entrance. Not all bricks are created equal so before attempting this option, see a bricklayer for advice. You'll want to find one that is not overly porous.