Types of flooring for your home

Flooring is a major part of any kitchen or bathroom reno. It’s extremely important to carefully select the right flooring that best suits your needs. Consider how the flooring fits into your design scheme; What is your budget and what are your needs for durability and maintenance? 
First decide what statement you want to make. Do you want to blend it in the background or make it a bold design? 
Do you like a rustic country look, or is your plan more formal?

Durability and maintenance in your flooring changes from room to room. Kitchen and bathrooms get heavier usage than any other floors in the house. That specific flooring must handle the task of heavy foot traffic, potential water damage from overflowing sinks and tubs, spills of all kinds and heavy things being dropped on them. And just like any other floor, dirt builds up and makes it look dull.

Do you have a large family and not a lot of time to spend cleaning or waxing your floor? Or are there just two of you in rooms that get little use? And of course, the budget is always a major consideration. Currently, there are more flooring options than ever, so finding the right flooring for your needs shouldn't prove a challenging task.

Since materials are the most important choice in your flooring decision, knowing the pros and cons is the first best step. Wood has always been a classic choice. Its wide varieties of colors and unique designs work well with any decor. Wood floors can withstand time, are easy to keep clean and warm and comfortable on your feet. Prices range from expensive (standard, unfinished oak) to very expensive (cherry with an inlaid design).

There are many types of wood flooring available: oak, maple, ash, cherry, mahogany or pine. 
As well your choice of (natural or stains), grain, and board widths to choose from.

Lighter woods like maple and ash work well to brighten a room and are often used in more contemporary designs. Wide board pine flooring can be used to create or compliment a rustic or country look.

Another option with wood flooring to choose is whether it's, pre-finished solid wood, unfinished solid wood or engineered wood flooring. Pre-finished Flooring has a stronger coating and wears better than wood that is installed and finished on site. Be aware that installing unfinished wood or refinishing wood floors will create a lot of dust that goes everywhere! If the floor is finished after installation, you'll need to choose a Satin or Gloss finish. 
Keep in mind that a satin sheen will hide dirt better (an important plus in kitchens and bathrooms). Glossy finishes can be slippery when wet and will show scratches. People with dogs that like to run and slam on the brakes can be the worst thing for a floor (unless you want the hand scraped look).
Engineered Wood Flooring is made up of several layers, rather than being cut from one piece of wood. The top layer is a veneer of the hardwood that you see as the floor. (Get the thickest you can afford, so it wears well and can be refinished.)

The other 2-4 layers are made of less expensive wood laid in opposite directions for added strength and stability. Engineered Wood comes pre-finished in strips or planks. 
They are usually installed as a “floating” floor (meaning the boards are glued together, rather than being nailed to the subfloor). Beware of tongue and groove flooring. This feature will make a floor look more level, even if the boards don’t match up correctly. 
But beveled edges can allow moisture between the boards, lessening the life of the floor.

Despite the myth that wood and water don’t mix, wood floors can be an excellent choice for a kitchen or bathroom. If the floor is properly sealed and well maintained, it will last for years. However, keep in mind that a properly finished floor can stain if wet things are left untouched. Softer woods, such as pine, can mark and dent easily. As well, most
wood will darken with age, which can change the look of your floor over time. To stretch out the life of your wood floor, put rugs and mats (with slip proof pads underneath) wherever you can that has high foot traffic (such as kitchen sink)

Another popular option is tile and an excellent choice for do-it-yourselfers. It's durable, water and stain resistant and available in a huge array of colors, sizes and shapes. Tile can be combined for an infinite number of designs to create contemporary or traditional looks. The varieties of tile are as follows.

Machine-made, glazed Ceramic Tiles are the most common. They come in many assorted colors, with a matte, satin or glossy finish. A glossy finish will be more slippery when wet. Some are made to look like stone. They are generally minimal maintenance, durable and moisture resistant. They range from very affordable to mid-range in price.

Quarry Tiles have a rough texture and are available in a wide array of shapes and sizes. They are very durable, minimal maintenance, affordable, and can be sealed to be moisture and stain resistant.

Porcelain Tiles are made of high-fired, refined clay, and are more durable than ceramic tiles. They are available glazed or unglazed (which has extra traction). They are moisture resistant if properly sealed. The cost is mid-range to expensive.

Terra Cotta Tiles are made of low-fired clay and are either hand or machine made in Mexico or Europe. They're beautiful to look at and give a great feel to walk on. However, they are not very durable. They are high maintenance because they need to be sealed every year for moisture resistance. They're low to mid-range in cost.

The best thing about tile is the infinite number of designs you can create by mixing tile sizes, shapes and colors. It’s a good idea to work out a design on graph paper before laying down tile.

There are a few things to keep in mind when planning your tile design:

- Smaller tiles and lighter colors work best for small spaces. Be aware that contrasting grout colors and bold designs can overwhelm a small room.

- If you want the floor to blend in as a backdrop, use neutral-colored square tiles with matching grout. If you want the tile to stand out as a design element, choose contrasting colors, shapes or grout color.

- To make the room appear longer, use alternating stripes of dark and light tiles along the length of the room. To make it look wider, use the stripes along the width of the room.

- Glossy finishes can be slippery (perhaps not the best choice for homes with young children or elderly folks), whereas rougher tiles, or smaller tiles with more grout lines will add extra traction.

- If your floor tile is meeting wall tile, be sure to either match grout lines perfectly or lay the tiles in such a way that the grout lines won’t meet.

- Square tiles placed in a grid are easiest to work with.

The one down side of tile is that it is cold and hard to stand on for prolonged periods of time, especially in the winter with drafty areas. If it cracks or chips, it can be difficult to repair and, it may be hard to find a perfectly matching tile, so make sure you have leftover tiles when the job is done.

And then there’s the grout... Both the tiles and the grout must be sealed for moisture-resistance. Grout can end up looking dirty quickly and if stains or moisture do seep through the sealer, it can be next to impossible to clean and may need to be replaced. (Diluted bleach can work well to clean grout, but it could change the color of colored grout. So, test it on a small area first.) Bright white grout is not the best choice for flooring.

You should also consider what the tile will be laid on. It is best to lay tile on top of cement backer board such as wonder board, which rests atop a moisture-resistant sub floor. New tile can be laid over old tile if need be. Just make sure that whatever you lay new tile over, it is level and sound. If your floor is not level or uneven in spots, and you can’t make it level, use the smallest tiles you can and choose a neutral color with matching grout so the floors defects
are not highlighted.

Stone is another popular option for flooring. It comes in a wide array of patterns and colors and has a natural, timeless beauty. It is nearly indestructible and can add elegance (polished marble), or a rustic (uneven slate) look. Granite is probably the best choice because it's the hardest stone. It's wise to get a honed, non-glossy finish for better lower maintenance and better traction. You may also want to choose a tumbled or honed finish if you’re laying down a Marble floor. 
Remember, it must be sealed regularly to protect it from dirt, stains and moisture. 
Slate is a natural looking stone that often comes in irregular shapes. Depending on your skill level and project needs, installing your own flooring, can inspire your creativity or make for a daunting task. Slate will need to be sealed to repel dirt.

If you decide to choose stone, remember that it will be cold and hard on the feet as well it's very expensive so make sure that your subfloor can handle the extra weight of a stone floor.

Laminates are another popular flooring. They are durable, scratch-resistant, easy to clean and maintain. They come in a wide range of designs, colors and textures that can imitate wood, stone or ceramic tile. They can also be installed over old flooring. They are in the mid-range price and an excellent choice for do-it-yourselfers.

Although the planks are sealed on the top layer, spills should be cleaned right away so that moisture doesn't go to avoid between the joints. Even the most durable laminates cannot be refinished if damaged, but can be replaced.

Laminates can be used in damp environments, such as below grade basements. As with other types of flooring, choose lighter shades for small spaces or to give a more open feel and darker colors for larger spaces, or for a more intimate feel.

Resilient Flooring is another option such as Vinyl or Cork and are an excellent choice for heavy use areas. They're comfortable on the feet, easy to install, easy to clean and stain-resistant. Vinyl is available in simple designs or made to look like tile, stone, wood or brick. You can also create your own designs with vinyl sheeting by cutting out pieces of the sheeting
and replacing them with contrasting pieces, or make a design from different colored tiles.

Vinyl Sheets come in 12-foot widths, which is great for a no seam floor in smaller rooms. Tiles are easier to install than sheeting and many come with an adhesive backing that makes it even easier. But it is important to get the tiles to butt up against each other, so no dirt or moisture can collect in between. Although sheeting costs a little more it may be worth it for high traffic areas or where there is a lot of moisture. Overall, vinyl is inexpensive and quick and easy to install.

The cons are that vinyl is prone to dents and tears. Solid vinyl is more expensive, but last longer and wears better than vinyl composites. Expect a 10-year warranty on the best vinyl flooring, compared to about 5 years or no warranty on the cheap stuff.

Glossy finishes are not only slippery when wet, but need to be waxed regularly to keep the shine from turning dull. There is a cushion layer on vinyl flooring, which makes it comfortable to walk on and quiet, but the thicker the cushion the more easily the floor will dent. Keep in mind that textured patterns are better at hiding dents than smooth ones.

Cork is another excellent flooring choice and it's made from sustainable materials, which is great for the environment. Since it is a natural material, like wood, there is a lot of texture and color variation. It comes in many shades of brown with a few other colors. It's very soft to walk and stand on, has good traction, it won’t rot or absorb dust and its stain-resistant.

Cork comes in sheeting or tiles which may have an adhesive backing, making it as easy to install as vinyl. It is available unfinished or sealed with polyurethane and is affordable. However, it’s not as durable or as easy to clean as vinyl.

Besides cork, there are a few other sustainable flooring materials, which are good for the environment, worth mentioning. Although some wood is sustainably harvested, much of it is not. Bamboo has all the beauty of wood and is more durable and sustainable
than wood. In fact, some species grow as much as 3 feet a day! Marmoleum is made from linseed oil, wood flour, pine rosin, jute and ground limestone. It is anti-static, hygienic, biodegradable, durable and comes in many shades. Occasionally it will need to be polished or waxed.

Carpet is another option which can make the room feel warm and comfortable. Carpet is generally not advised in bathrooms or kitchens as spills over time can begin to collect various foul odors. Carpet is very warm and soft on the feet and it muffles sound. It's slip-resistant and there are lots of colors and styles to choose from. It is best used in drier climates, where humidity and mildew aren’t a problem.

Since carpet is harder to keep clean than other flooring, the best choice would be a tightly-woven, high-wear, commercial carpet, that is moisture- and stain-resistant, such as polypropylene. For more humid environments, try throw rugs over existing floors for the same effect.

Radiant Floor Heating is a wonderful choice for kitchens and baths. It's especially good under cold ceramic or stone floors. Some laminates are specially designed to be used with radiant floor heating systems, but check first. Never install one under a wood floor as the constant change in temperature and moisture could cause the wood to warp and buckle. Although you will spend a little extra on installation, you will save money on heating costs, since radiant floor heating warms the whole room so effectively. In a radiant floor, the heating elements are placed into a specially designed subfloor, which the flooring is then placed over. 
You can install a radiant floor heating system yourself or hire a flooring contractor to do it for you.

If you are remodeling and find that the old flooring is securely stuck in place, but is fairly level it may be best to leave it there. 
If the flooring was installed before 1986 and you’re not sure of the material, it may contain asbestos. Asbestos can cause serious health hazards and you could be putting yourself at risk by pulling up the old floor. 
If it’s feasible, patch and mend what you can and lay the new flooring on top. 
Keep in mind though that if you do put new floor over old, it may require changes to be made to cabinets and baseboards and transitions into other rooms. 
Also, your appliances may not fit under the cabinet again once the new floor is in place. Baseboards may need to be cut to accommodate the new flooring material.

Bring home a sample of your desired flooring. This will make life a lot easier.

Some of the information above came from "from the long and short of it"