Today we’re talking floors. Everybody loves a good floor, right? Upgrading your floors is an easy, relatively inexpensive way to update any room. There are choices beyond your wildest dreams, including some you wish weren’t. (Who else had fake grass in their house in the 90s?) However, deciding on what type of flooring to install isn’t as simple as What’s the current trend? Not because trends come and go (they do, but the right choice will transition well over the years) but more because there are pros and cons to all of these choices. Today, we’re pitting carpet, tile, vinyl, and wood/engineered wood against one another to see how they stack up in the battle for your renovation.
First category: durability. Your floor needs will vary from room to room; rooms with lots of water action need to be able to withstand moisture; rooms where food is present are going to need to weather spills. Overall, you want a floor that’s going to stand the test of time as well as the elements.
Tile/Natural Stone: Relatively durable if given the proper treatment where grout and sub-flooring are concerned. If these are skimped on, they are more susceptible to cracks. However, this material handles spills like no other. It’s no surprise why this versatile floor is most common in kitchens and bathrooms. As for general traffic and scratches, the only stone you need worry about is marble. It’s ever so delicate.
Carpet: Eh. It scores high marks for other things, but when it comes to spills and moisture it just can’t compare. Stains can be removed, especially if treated quickly with the right remover. Certain fibers (nylon and wool) stand up to foot traffic better than others, so be wary when choosing what type you install.
Wood/Engineered/Bamboo: Yes, these are three different things. Hardwood is wonderful because it can always be restored to its natural splendor. Engineered wood has a vinyl seal and as long as that holds up, you’re in good shape. And incredibly resilient floor option, though, is bamboo. The plant itself is naturally strong, and it translates just as strong into a floor option.
Vinyl/Laminate: Not the same thing, but they both fall to the bottom of the durability race. While these materials are certainly being improved upon and they’re amazing at fending off scratches, their inability to handle moisture makes them less than ideal for your water heavy rooms.
As far as energy efficiency goes with flooring, there are a few factors to consider; insulation, the manufacturing process, and disposal.
Tile/Natural Stone: Total crap for insulation, but it does flow with weather patterns, so it can retain heat in the summer, but that’s not exactly when you want extra heat, now is it? But as far as being a natural resource, it’s “manufacturing” process is relatively green, and it can be recycled and used in other projects. Transporting adds a bit of carbon to the air, but if it’s being sourced locally, there’s a little break there.
Carpet: Often used with petroleum and other toxic chemicals, it’s definitely more comfortable than all the other options, and can be recycled through special companies like Carpet America Recovery Effort, but it’s not the best. If you’re going for carpet, the most environmentally friendly options are natural fibers such as wool. This floor, however, does help with insulation better than any other floor on the block.
The Woods: Engineered wood will give you the best “added insulation” value as many of them are made with a foam backing that increases their R-value. Natural wood obviously increases deforestation, but you can choose the Recycled/Reclaimed wood route. Bamboo flooring, on the other hand is incredibly sustainable. Aside from some brands being made with formaldehyde, the only real drawback is transporting the product from the Pacific Rim where it’s most commonly produced.
Vinyl/Linoleum: Neither option will add any extra insulation. Shucks. While the amount of petroleum used to make vinyl is less than that of most other plastics, it’s still a very non-renewable resource. The manufacturing also releases tons of toxins into the air. Then there are the adhesives used during installation. Linoleum on the other hand is known as a closed-loop material. It uses a natural, renewable resource. At the end of its life it can be burned to make fuel to make more linoleum.
Comfort Vs. Style
No debate. It comes down to you and your personal preferences. You can always make the harder floor options more comfortable – and extend their life in general – by using area rugs throughout the room (which also gives you more opportunity to express your personal style). But as far as options, in each category there exists an array of colors and patterns so you’re only as limited as your imagination. You can choose a detailed carpet pattern, or opt for something neutral that can grow and compliment whatever changes to your room you end up making throughout the life of your floors.
There you have it. The best judge for which to crown the winner comes down to the room and its elements. After that, it’s up to you and your style.