Interior Design decisions can become overwhelming so let's start at the bottom. Flooring is a very important part of any remodel or new construction. Just like every other part of the process there are too many choices!
Deciding on the type of floors you want for looks, durability and budget runs the gambit in every category so you must narrow down the choices.
Solid wood or bamboo (it is actually a fast growing grass) are both very popular flooring materials today. They come prefinished or you can install and finish them on site. They can be refinished more than once.
Some solid wood flooring is extremely hard and will not dent easily but many softer ones including American Cherry and pine will show dents. American Red Oak is about in the middle of hardness and Brazilian Walnut (Ipe) is the most dense and hard flooring available. Ipe is three times harder than American Red Oak.
Engineered wood flooring has layers of plywood with a thin veneer of finished wood as the top coat.
Engineered flooring has the advantage of easy installation and comes prefinished. Most can be nailed, stapled or glued in place or it can be snapped together as what is called a floating floor. If the wood veneer is thick enough it can usually be refinished once.
Plastic laminate flooring is actually a picture of real wood that is printed on the planks and then coated with a durable plastic.
Plastic laminate can usually be floated and comes in a large variety of wood species and colors. The higher quality laminates wear well and resist sun fading and stains. Beware of the very inexpensive laminate flooring which doesn't hold up in the long run. Laminate floors also have a more hollow sound to them and require soundproofing underneath to minimize that.
Vinyl is available in sheet good and tiles. Today they often try to look like wood or stone floors.
Vinyl is durable and easy to clean but the "soft underfoot" or cushioned vinyl flooring has a foam layer and tends to rip.
Linoleum flooring is an old standby that has come back into favor because it is an eco friendly material made of linseed oil powdered cork, powdered wood, limestone, jute and pine resin. It is durable and resists stains and sun fading.
Linoleum is used a lot in commercial applications so the styles are more contemporary and industrial looking. It is available in sheet goods and tiles.
Ceramic & Porcelain Tiles are the most durable flooring choice but are more expensive than most others and more difficult to install.
Floor tiles are very hard so dropped items break and they can be difficult to stand on for long periods of time. There are very many choices of colors and designs available. Not all tile is made to be used on floors so be sure to check with your supplier.
Floor tile also does not usually come with any or very many trim pieces so you might have to use another material to finish exposed edges. porcelain tile can be bullnosed or polished for a finish edge. This pictures shows metal trim on the stairs.
Stone floor tiles are extremely popular today and require a little more maintenance than porcelain or ceramic tiles.
All types of stone are solid all the way through so it trim pieces aren't required and the edges can be finished. Stone tile can be cut in many different sizes and shapes. It requires sealing with a penetrating sealer in order to resist staining and the more porous materials like limestone and travertine will require re-sealing more often. If the stone finish gets dull over a period of time it can be refinished by honing or polishing.
Carpeting is still a good choice for many rooms and the quality and prices vary wildly.
Loop pile carpeting has been popular because a rug placed on top will not creep. The better the quality, the more fibers in the carpet and the more processing it goes through (patterned, multicolored, etc.) the more expensive it will be but it will also be more interesting.
There are some some very unique floors available today like these wavy edge hardwood planks and these made of peach pits. The peach pits ones come smooth or pebbly. That's a unique way to recycle!
As with most things in life, you get what you pay for in flooring materials so choose carefully and don't just buy something because it is cheaper! It won't look good as long and you will have to replace it much sooner than you would have with a quality product.
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Lila Levinson, ASID, CKD, CID, NCIDQ, IDG