Floors come in a range of materials: wood, tile, brick, stone, vinyl, rubber, even granite, onyx and slate. Each has its own look and feel. Choosing the material that works best for you means asking yourself a few questions. How much activity takes place in the room? Who uses it? How much help do you have to clean and maintain it?
The most popular and least expensive flooring materials are the resilient ones such as wood and vinyl. They are soft on your feet and because of their popularity, add to the resale of your home. Both come in an enormous variety of styles and colours and are easy to maintain. They are an excellent choice for a busy household.
Wood floors can be installed by the square foot and are available in strip, plank or parquet patterns. Most wood floors are oak, but other woods such as teak, cherry, pine and maple are also available. One Swedish manufacturer makes wood floors backed in cork for added comfort. Other manufacturers make treated wood that is suitable for bathroom floors. Wood is naturally beautiful and is easier on feet and legs than either tile or stone. The draw back with wooden floors is that they are vulnerable to water damage. Infrequent minor spills are not a problem, but in areas where continued exposure to water occur such as around the sink or dishwasher, the floor may warp and buckle.
Resilient flooring is what was once called linoleum. Most resilient floors are vinyls made with a moisture resistant backing that makes them suitable for kitchens and baths. They come in all prices with the most expensive sometimes surpassing the price of ceramic tile. Vinyls are durable, easy on the feet and very easy to maintain. Ceramic tile, marble and granite come in a multitude of colours, shapes and sizes. They are beautiful but hard on the feet. Fragile items dropped on these surfaces will very often break. These floors also create a very noisy room.
Ceramic tile that has been glazed during firing is almost impervious to stains and marks. Unglazed tile must be sealed and requires sealing at least once a year. It tends to scuff and stain so it's wise to avoid it in high traffic rooms.
Granite is a great material for both kitchen and bathroom floors. It is also expensive. Granite is heat-proof, water-resistant, easy to clean and durable. Even better it does not stain.
Tile, vinyl and marble are the popular choices for bathroom floors. To avoid falls in family bathrooms, choose vinyl, textured tiles or matte finish tiles. Natural stones such as granite, onyx and slate are also popular, but make sure to consider who will be using the bathroom before making your choice.
Carpet, popular years ago, may still be fine to use on kitchen floors if it is vacuumed frequently and a good soil retardant is sprayed on the area around the range, sink, and on other areas prone to spills. Although carpet is easy on the feet and shock absorbent, it wears poorly, stains easily, retains moisture and is difficult to clean. It is, however, the best noise reducer.
A word of caution: a 200 pound man wearing men's dress shoes with a regular heel, will exert less than 30 lbs. pressure per square inch. However, a ladies high, thin heel can seriously damage all types of floor coverings. A 110 lb. woman wearing these shoes exerts in excess of 1,000lbs. pressure per square inch. These shoes can dent hardwood floors, chip ceramic tile, puncture carpet and pad, and dent vinyl floors. Sheet vinyl products will withstand static loads of up to 75 lbs. per square inch. This is the return of a problem that our industry encountered 20 years ago. It was not then, nor is it now, considered a manufacturing defect of floor covering materials by any of the floor covering manufacturers.
The same philosophy applies to chair legs, table legs, etc. The narrower the leg, the higher the risk of an indentation problem. Proper floor protectors are a must for preventative maintenance. The ideal size is approximately one inch square (or diameter), completely flat and composed of a material that will not scratch or stain a vinyl floor. The protectors must rest flat on the floor. Uneven or angled protectors, with only an edge in contact with the floor can cause indentation problems.