Budget and Lifestyle Are Key Factors in Choosing Types of Flooring

Choosing the types of flooring you want in your home might seem like a mundane decision but actually, it’s a critical one from a number of aspects: The design foundation it lays for your rooms, the ease of maintenance, cost and durability. These are all important factors to consider when choosing among types of flooring. All of these flooring materials, except for carpet, rubber and cork, will require some sort of area rugs to absorb sounds and make standing for long periods more comfortable. The cost for the rugs should be included in your home construction or renovation budget.

954bartend has pulled together this overview of flooring materials to help you choose from the wide array of options available today:

Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tile, most likely of the porcelain variety, is one of the more common types of flooring in homes today. The array of sizes, styles, colors and designs mean that there’s something for every taste among the ceramic tiles that are on the market.

View in gallery
Porcelain flooring tiles can be large or small.

Porcelain is denser and less porous than regular glazed ceramic, which makes it far more durable and appropriate for use as a flooring material. Porcelain is solid and the same throughout the entire thickness of the tile, while the finish of a ceramic tile is only on the surface of the tile. Chips in porcelain tile are not generally noticeable because the color and composition are the same throughout the material. Porcelain tile actually ends up harder than granite. Hence, properly installed porcelain tiles can last decades.

Even with all these benefits, ceramic tile does have a downside. It is a very heavy material and if it is used in an upper level, an expert needs to check the home to make sure the structure can support the added weight.  Also, it can be costly. According to , the cost of an average porcelain type is $9.50 per square foot installed. Of course, if you venture into the custom selections, the price can go to $25 or more per square foot.

Hardwood

Hardwood is highly sought after by home buyers.

Very popular among types of flooring, home buyers are drawn to properties that have plenty of hardwood floors. It’s difficult to beat hardwood for its beauty, warmth and durability. Solid hardwood floors are durable and can easily be polished and refinished if necessary. In addition, today’s engineered wood floors offer the same look for less cost because they fuse a wood veneer to an underlying synthetic product that is also easy to install.

Yes, hardwood floors look great, but they are a more costly option than some other flooring materials such as carpet or vinyl. Depending on the type of wood you choose it’s easy to drive the price up from an average of $4500 to more than $10,000 for more exotic types of wood. They also require a basic level of maintenance, from regular sweeping and mopping to the occasional refinishing that is necessary to keep them looking great. Also, unlike other flooring materials, standing water can damage the floor by causing the wood to swell or mold to grow between the boards.

Painted Hardwood

These are a versatile version of hardwood that can reflect a greater degree of creativity. The color you choose and any design you might add can make a big impact visually, if that is what you’re going for. Painting a wood floor is also a quick way to get a new look at just a fraction of the cost. It can also be a relatively easy DIY project, which refinishing a wood floor is not. The color and design will also drive the style of the room. A solid painted floor will be more versatile than a graphically adorned floor. Also, this painted flooring material lends more of a rustic, home-spun or eclectic look to a room. According to , painting the floor lets you highlight or accent a specific space in the house, whether or not the rest of the spaces are painted.

Painted hardwood is an inexpensive upgrade in the short term.View in gallery
Painted hardwood is an inexpensive upgrade in the short term.

Painted hardwood floors are easy to clean if they are sealed properly. The downside is that the painted surface is more likely to chip or flake, which is annoying even if relatively easy to fix. When it comes to resale, painted wood can be more of a liability than an asset. Many buyers will want the natural wood surface restored, which takes longer and costs more after the wood floor has been painted.

PVC Flooring

Vinyl floors  — the same thing as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) floors – are similar to linoleum but made of a more modern material. These flooring materials are high shine, low cost and very durable. Available as sheets or tiles, vinyl flooring is another good option for minimizing allergens. And, as points out, advances in materials have made many vinyl products look just like ceramic tile for far less money.

Vinyl flooring comes in all kinds of styles and patterns.View in gallery
Vinyl flooring comes in all kinds of styles and patterns.

When choosing vinyl tile, there are two types of this flooring material: Inlay vinyl tile, which consists of layers of vinyl – all the same color – that are fused into one. This type is good because any scratches will be less noticeable.  The other type is “rotogravure” which has only a thin layer of vinyl topped with vinyl paint and a protective coating. This kind can wear down over time, damaging the color.

Although these types of flooring are comfortable and easy care, they are more susceptible to damage from heavy foot traffic or contact with sharp objects. Vinyl floors are also known to fade from being in direct sunlight, so they’re probably not the best choice for a sun-drenched room. Last but not least, vinyl flooring can be a DIY project but its success hinges on the quality and smoothness of the layer underneath, so many people opt to leave it to the pros.

Laminate

Similar to vinyl flooring, laminate flooring materials are created by combining several layers of different materials together.  Laminate floors are a cinch to clean and hold up well because they resist fading, staining and damage from scratches and chips.

Laminate that looks like wood flooring is popular.View in gallery
Laminate that looks like wood flooring is popular.

For many homeowners, these types of flooring are the obvious choice because they are among the cheapest options. Of course, this doesn’t mean you are choosing a less-attractive flooring material: Many of today’s laminate flooring products look like natural materials and are available in a wide array of designs and colors. The downside of this flooring material is that while it is durable, it can indeed scratch and laminate cannot be refinished like a wood floor can.

Marble

Among the most luxurious options for flooring materials, marble is very elegant and instantly upgrades a space. It is very durable and is available in a range of colors and veining patterns. This natural stone has been used for centuries in buildings and artistic sculptures, and now is a frequently sought-after flooring material. Its unique qualities – no two pieces or tiles are alike – the highly polished surface and lustrous shine make a statement no matter where you install it. Of course, all that shiny sophistication is going to cost you: You can to get low-end marble floor tiles for $5 – $7 per square foot, but the minute you start looking at patterns, unusual colors or mosaics, the cost can quickly soar to $30 – $50 per square foot installed –and even more!

Marble is one of the most sophisticated types of flooring.View in gallery
Marble is one of the most sophisticated types of flooring.

Because marble is a natural flooring material, it’s eco-friendly and does not require the use of any potentially toxic harmful chemicals. That said, the world’s supply of marble is not unlimited and it may be increasingly challenging to purchase quality pieces.

Even this gorgeous flooring material has its downsides. There’s a reason that you usually see marble in an entryway or living room: It gets very slippery when wet. Consequently, using marble for the floors in a kitchen or bathroom is not a good idea due to the risk of slipping and falling. In addition, stains and scratches are a concern. While scratched can be polished out, this is a costly job. The shiny surface of marble is also susceptible to damage from acidic liquids so spilling wine or a fruit juice can badly stain the surface or degrade the stone.

Stone

In addition to marble, there are a number of other types of natural stone flooring materials that provide a really rich and earthy feel: granite, travertine and limestone are also common choices. As popular and durable as they might be, natural stone is soft as well as very porous. This means it is more likely to scratch or stain and it needs additional maintenance. Keeping it clean and dirt free is essential, as is periodic sealing of the surface.

Natural stone has a casual, organic vibe.View in gallery
Natural stone has a casual, organic vibe.

This is another one of those flooring materials whose installation is best left to the professionals, especially as you might need to consider extra subflooring.

Natural Slate

Slate provides an organic, natural look unlike many other flooring materials. Perhaps not the best choice for colder climates thanks to its inability to retain heat, it is still one of the most attractive choices. Fire, water and stain resistant, good quality slate is a very durable material.

Slate is highly durable and naturally attractive.View in gallery
Slate is highly durable and naturally attractive.

Different quality grades will have different prices, with the cheapest types of slate being mined near the surface of the ground and the more expensive grades from further below the earth’s surface, says . The kind that comes from near the surface is cheaper because it is weathered, flawed and porous. Also, colors will vary with the region from which it is mined thanks to the minerals contained within it.

Maintenance is easy and only requires regular sweeping and mopping. Slate has few drawbacks, except that it can chip or crack even though it is exceptionally hard. Of course, some might consider the cost a drawback as slate is one of the more expensive types of flooring materials. You will likely pay $10 to $15 per square foot for a professionally installed floor if the materials cost $3.50 to $4.50 per square foot.

Mosaic

Mosaic flooring – made from thousands of tiny tiles or stones arranged in a specific design – is one of the oldest types decorative flooring materials. They add an immediate focal point to a room and can be very shiny and shimmery or natural and understated. They can be used as flooring in any room of the home. Mosaic tile flooring is generally very durable and easy to clean, especially glass mosaic tiles. They are totally non-porous and do not harbor allergens or molds.

Mosaic tiles are one of the flooring materials with the most artistic leeway because it is possible to mix different types of tiles on one floor in any design you wish. This adds a good bit of flair and individuality to a home.

Mosaic designs can be plain or highly artistic.

Of course, using this flooring material also has some negative aspects. The small size of mosaic tiles can make them fragile, so dropping something can scratch or crack individual tiles. Also, the glass variety is not fully opaque so the surface underneath must be in a corresponding color otherwise it may be visible from above. They can be pretty slippery when wet too!

Cork

For some people, cork is an unexpected option, but it should not be. Cork flooring materials are superior for their insulating and sound-absorbing properties. It’s a marvelous choice for rooms like the kitchen where you spend a lot of time on your feet because it is so comfortable for standing. The natural color is a neutral base for any style of interior. It can also be very affordable: From as low a price as a dollar or two per square foot, the cost can increase, with most homeowners picking something from the middle range that is $8 to $12 per square foot, according to .

Cork flooring is comfortable, warm and durable.View in gallery
Cork flooring is comfortable, warm and durable.

Besides being extra comfy to walk on, cork is among the more durable flooring materials, assuming that you properly seal it every 5 years or so. In addition to being hypoallergenic, it also holds heat well, meaning your feet will stay toastier in the winter with a cork floor.

On the minus side of the equation, cork flooring materials must be installed properly or else any problems with the subfloor will transfer to the cork surface. Also, even though it is quite durable, it can be nicked or scratched, which required refinishing. Moreover, it does not last as long as hardwood floors do.

Bamboo

Today’s push toward greener, more sustainable home products has given a big boost to bamboo flooring. The durable material is available in a range of tones, from warm browns to paler tan colors.

Among flooring materials, bamboo is a highly renewable source, which makes it really environmentally friendly. Unlike hardwood floors that are harvested trees that are anywhere from 20-120 years old, bamboo can be harvested in 5 to 7 years, reports . Bamboo farming is low maintenance and uses no pesticides because the wood is naturally resistant to pests. The species used for flooring materials is not the same as what is fed to animals such as pandas. Moreover, bamboo flooring is very affordable: You can buy good quality green-certified bamboo for about $3-$5 per square foot.

View in gallery
Bamboo is one of the most sustainable types of flooring.

Besides its sustainable properties, bamboo flooring materials provide a durable surface that is easily swept or vacuumed. Although you’ll want to wash it periodically, it is important not to leave excess water on the surface, which could damage the floor. It is still a good choice for kitchens or laundry rooms because it is generally weather resistant and won’t swell in hot, humid weather.

Bamboo is very durable but its surface can still be scratched. If the layer of wood at the top of the flooring is thick enough, it is possible to refinish a bamboo floor. When choosing among bamboo flooring materials, pay attention to whether they are strand woven, horizontal or vertical. Strand woven is the hardest type available while the latter two are softer and far less durable. And, while it may be most durable, the strand woven variety has a contemporary feel that might not go with the style of your room.

Rubber

Never heard of rubber flooring materials for the home? Many people have not, however, these types of flooring materials are definitely gaining popularity. They are great choices for areas of the house that often get wet or have high traffic, as well as for playrooms or home gyms. Rubber is an exceptionally hard-wearing material that can still look quite luxurious depending on the style you choose.

Rubber flooring is great for high traffic areas like mudrooms.View in gallery
Rubber flooring is great for high traffic areas like mudrooms.

Rubber flooring comes in the form of tiles or material on a roll. A wide variety of colors and textures can fit with any interior style. Prices run the gamut from very inexpensive plain styles that can run around $2.00 to $4.00 per square foot to pricier embossed or marbled styles for $20 per square foot. It’s also one of the more sound absorbent types of flooring materials available.

On the downside, if you’re looking for a high-gloss finish, rubber is not for you. Its natural appearance is dull and even if polished, it doesn’t look as shiny as many other flooring materials. Rubber is also hard to clean. Grease tends to stain it and you’ll need specialized cleaners to keep from discoloring the surface. Otherwise, it is easy to maintain it by sweeping and vacuuming.

Polished Concrete

Concrete floors were once reserved for only industrial style décor but thanks to polished concrete flooring materials, the versatility of these floors has greatly increased. All concrete floors are essentially the same, except for the surface. Polished concrete is treated with a chemical to fill in the holes and pores and then progressively ground down. It is measured by grade and finish: The higher the grade, the larger the exposed aggregate and the higher the finish, the shinier the polish.

Polished concrete is a modern, high-shine flooring option.

There’s a lot to love about concrete.  Exceptionally durable, water won’t damage it. Cleaning is very easy with sweeping, simply mopping or spot cleaning. As long as it’s not wet, concrete floors aren’t slippery. Among types of flooring materials, polished concrete is ideal for minimizing allergens.  And, from a design perspective, new techniques make it possible to add colors, lines or borders.

With regard to cost, polished concrete is an affordable choice as long as you’re not looking for complex patterns or multiple colors. A basic design with one layer of stain will run you $2 to $6 per square foot. A cost of $5 to $8 per square foot will allow you to have other design elements such as scoring maybe an additional color.

Terrazzo

Terrazzo flooring is back in the spotlight for many of today’s designers. Flecks of color and a mottled look —not to mention amazing durability — make terrazzo popular for homes as well as commercial buildings. The history of the material goes back centuries but new colors and changes in production are making it a modern material that is in demand, ideal for minimalist interiors. Because the spectrum of colors nearly limitless, you really can achieve a one-of-a-kind floor with terrazzo.

Despite its high initial cost, terrazzo is cost-effective thanks to its durability.

Floors done with terrazzo —  which is also comparatively light —  are about as durable as they come. Stone or glass chips are mixed into a concrete or resin base that is stronger than any other flooring option. Yes, they can still chip – although it’s hard to do – but the repair of a terrazzo floor is not expensive. Besides, the appearance of a terrazzo floor camouflages any minor chips or scratches if they do occur. If the terrazzo floor was not properly installed, cracks can form and these are much more costly to remedy.

Maintenance is also a breeze for terrazzo floors. There’s no scouring, polishing or scrubbing. The speckled texture and strong base material make them difficult to stain and just about everything can be cleaned up with a mop and a bucket of water.

The biggest negative of terrazzo is the initial investment: The size and design of the floor will affect the price, but the types of chips you choose to mix in can also make it more expensive. The cost of installing a terrazzo floor can run anywhere from $25 to $90 per square foot.

Carpet

Alongside hardwood, carpeting is probably the most common type of flooring material. People have definite opinions on the subject: There are those who really hate carpeting because they feel it is never really clean as it captures dust, allergens and microbes.

A wide variety of styles and thicknesses is available for carpet lovers.

That said, those who love carpeting prefer its warmth, sound absorption and comfort for walking and sitting. Wall-to-wall carpeting can also be an inexpensive choice. The cost is determined by the carpet itself, and it’s important to understand the different types available before setting out to shop. The plushness of the carpet, the loop style and the type of fibers all vary the cost. From $1-$2 per square foot for the cheapest kind to more than $9-$11 per square foot for Berbers and luxury styles, the price runs the gamut. Also, the thickness of the padding you choose to put underneath also adds to the cost.

On the downside, spills and dirt can stain carpeting and it needs regular vacuuming and deeper cleaning periodically. Also, carpet doesn’t last forever and it will need to be replaced periodically, depending on how much wear and tear it receives.

Linoleum

Linoleum has been around for a long time. It is made from a  mix of materials including solidified linseed oil, pine rosin, ground cork dust, wood powder, and minerals.  The mixture is then attached to a canvas or burlap material. This flooring material is recyclable and water resistant, which is why it’s often used in kitchens. Cost wise, say that linoleum flooring costs more than vinyl, averaging anywhere from $2.00 – $5.00 per square foot.

Lineoleum works very well for retro style interiors in particular.View in gallery
Lineoleum works very well for retro style interiors in particular.

There’s a reason linoleum floors are found in older homes:  They are very durable and can last for decades. As long as it is sealed, linoleum is a low maintenance and easy care type of flooring material and needs only regular sweeping and the occasional mopping job. If unsealed, it will need to be buffed and polished periodically. Linoleum is also biodegradable and environmentally friendly because it’s made from linseed oil. It’s also softer on the feet than other types of flooring materials.

Of course, because it is a softer material, it is susceptible to scratches and tears – along with damage from stiletto heeled shoes. Over time, linoleum will develop a slight yellowish cast due to exposure to light.