Different Types of Flooring: A Comparison
Flooring plays a major part in any home. If you’re not happy with your flooring, you’re usually not happy with the whole room. So it’s important to get flooring right. We put together a comprehensive comparison list of different types of flooring. So after reading this, you’ll definitely be able to pick flooring that works for you and your home.
1. Laminate Laminate is a very affordable option, and also comes in many different varieties. It is constructed out of dense fiberboard (laminate is 99% wood) with a photographic image beneath a clear protective layer made out of plastic. With this photographic technology, it can very accurately imitate stone, wood, and tile, which are all more expensive flooring types. So if you still want the look and feel of these higher priced materials, but don’t want to spend that much money, laminate is a good option. Laminate has many pros, among which is its durability, often coming with warranties ranging from 15 to 30 years. It is also easy to maintain, and is stain and impact resistant. It can also be installed over existing floors and comes in so many varieties that you can match your floor to existing furniture or other décor elements. Some of its cons are that laminate cannot be repaired when damaged. If a piece gets damaged, it must be replaced. Some laminates may feel slippery and hard underfoot. Finally, laminate flooring doesn’t add much to your home’s resale value. Typically, the price of laminate ranges between $1 and $7 per square foot.
2. Vinyl Vinyl flooring comes as tiles, sheets or planks, all of which are flexible and a bit soft underfoot. Luxury vinyl tile is also an option; this is the high-end version of vinyl flooring. Vinyl can also imitate wood, stone, and tile. It is completely made out of plastic, which some may not like. However, the pros of vinyl are many; it is very affordable, can be installed on your own (good for DIY projects), has a soft feel, comes in a wide variety of patterns and colors, and needs almost no maintenance. On the flipside, some of vinyl’s cons include that it is petroleum-based (not very eco-friendly), can gouge relatively easily, can off-gas for a while after installing (for PVC-based vinyl), and if maintained poorly, it will age badly. The price is very reasonable, going from $2 to $5 per square foot.
3. Linoleum Linoleum and vinyl are often confused with each other. So let us first explain the difference between the two: Linoleum has existed since the 1860s and is made of solidified linseed oil. In contrast, vinyl was invented in 1926 when developers were experimenting with PVC. While the patterns on vinyl are only printed on the surface, they run all the way through linoleum. This makes linoleum’s good appearance last longer, but makes vinyl easier to install. As stated, linoleum is made with linseed oil, which is biodegradable. An addition, linoleum also doesn’t give off any harmful vapors, which further make linoleum an eco-friendly choice. Some of linoleum’s other pros include its multitude in style options, ease to install, stain-resistance and resilience against foot traffic (the later two apply when the linoleum is made with a protective coating). Among linoleum’s cons, we find that the scratch and dent resistance varies greatly depending on what linoleum you get. The higher-end options for linoleum can also be rather expensive. The price, therefore, ranges between $2 and $8 per square foot.
4. Solid Hardwood Hardwood flooring will last a lifetime, that’s what makes them so attractive. Hardwood flooring is usually ¾ inch thick, and come either pre-finished or raw. Wood flooring varies in its color and style depending on what type of wood you use; there’s maple, white ash, hickory, oak, cherry and many, many other options. Each type of wood comes in strips or planks, the latter of which are wider. Also, depending on what type of wood you use, the characteristics of the flooring will differ slightly. For all hardwood options, the main pros are its beauty and durability. Wood’s classic look lends warmth to a room, and it also acts as an insulator (wood can hold warmth for a while). Hardwood can be refinished many times by sanding, and are generally easily maintained. Wood also doesn’t trap dust and other allergens. Hardwood has some cons too, however. These include its susceptibility to moisture, which makes it unsuitable for bathrooms and laundry rooms. Also, hardwood cannot be placed on damaged or uneven sub-flooring. So in addition to installing your hardwood, you may also have to pay for preparing the sub-flooring. Some wood finishes can scratch easily (but these can also be repaired easily). Finally, wood makes a louder sound when walked on, so you may have to ad padding or floor rugs to mitigate the noise. Solid hardwood is one of the more expensive flooring types, the price ranging from $5 to $10 per square foot. Some exotic wood varieties can go as high as $14 per square foot.
5. Engineered Wood Engineered wood is widely available and can be made with any type of wood. It’s made by baking layers of cheaper plywood together, which are then topped with a veneer of real wood. This way, it’s less susceptible to temperature and humidity changes, when compared to solid wood. If the top portion is 3 millimeters thick, then you can sand the that layer two times to repair scratches, but anything below 2 millimeters should only be handled with light sanding. So, engineered wood’s pros include its resistance to moisture and its ease of installing (it can be installed over any sub-flooring type). Among its cons, we find that the quality and durability of engineered wood can vary greatly. There are also a limited number of refinishing options, and the edges of the panels can fray and allow water to seep in (since the edges lack a finish). Engineered wood does not last as long as hardwood, but the price of both materials is similar. Engineered wood costs $3 to $9 per square foot.
6. Bamboo Originally from China and South Asian countries, bamboo is a highly processed material; Bamboo strands are glued together, which then turn into solid strips or
engineered planks (similar to hardwood). The natural color of bamboo is a very light brown, so in order to get darker shades, bamboo goes through a carbonizing process in which it gets steamed under pressure and heat. Bamboo can thus be made to resemble many types of wood. Bamboo’s pros include that it’s easy to install and very durable, and that it’s hypoallergenic. Additionally, bamboo comes from plants that grow easily and regenerate quickly, which means that it’s considered a sustainable material and environmentally friendly. Bamboo is susceptible to water, however, which is one of its cons. Another issue to consider with bamboo is that its color may fade over time when in contact with sunlight. The price for bamboo varies between $3 and $8 per square foot.
7. Cork What makes cork so attractive is that it’s 100% sustainable. Cork comes from the bark of a tree and since the bark is only harvested every 10 years or so, this allows the tree to regenerate its bark that can be harvested over and over again. Cork production is usually regulated to insure a minimal impact on the environment, thus making it very attractive as an eco-friendly option. Cork’s other pros include its warm natural appearance, and its comfort to walk upon. It is also resistant to moisture, scratches, dents, and fire. Cork also retains warmth, so it’s great for insulation. Even though cork is resistant to moisture, it can absorb water if improperly finished. Also, another con is that cork’s durability is dependent on what type of finish you use. Cork, can go for as low a price as $2 per square foot, and as high as $10 per square foot.
8. Tile Tile flooring comes in many different material and style options. There are ceramic, marble, granite, limestone, slate, travertine, quartz, and porcelain tiles, each with slightly different characteristics. What all tile materials have in common is that they are suitable for all climates, locations, rooms, indoors and outdoors. They are also easy to maintain, and will never look dated. Other pros include their suitability for radiant floor heating, durability, easy cleaning and maintenance, and hypoallergenic quality. Another big advantage of tile is its almost infinite customizability. Tile also has cons, however, such as its difficulty to install and that it is slippery when wet. Tile sometimes amplifies sounds, which may be considered bothersome. While tile can withstand heavy foot traffic, fragile objects can break easily when they fall on tile surfaces. Additionally, if a tile does become chipped, the repair is not very easy and will require professional help. Prices for some ceramic tiles start at $1.30, while marble tile can go for $8 per square foot.
9. Pebble Stone An interesting option for flooring is pebble stone. You can decide what colors to combine, making each pebble stone floor unique. It’s great to use in bathrooms and pool areas, or for walkways both outside and inside. Pebble stone, since it’s made out of stone, will have many pros similar to tile, such as its durability, hypoallergenic quality, and suitability for all climates. Since pebble stone floors are made out of many little individual stones, there are many cracks where dust and dirt can settle, which makes these surfaces hard to clean. This is pebble stone’s main con. The price for pebble stone varies between $4 and $9 per square foot, and if the pebble stone floor comes as a tile, with a 12 x 12 inch mesh, the price is usually around $7.
10. Carpet Carpet comes in a seemingly infinite number of options: different colors, styles, patterns, textures, and loops. Carpet is often a budget-friendly option and can be used in most areas of your home. Among carpet’s many pros are its relatively low maintenance, easiness to install, and stain resistance (for modern carpets). It also insulates well when it’s very hot or very cold, and helps to reduce noise. Carpet’s noise reduction quality makes it very popular for bedrooms. Carpet also has cons, however. These include that it traps moisture (often leading to mildew issues), it can also harbor dust, allergens, insects, and other types of dirt. Smells from liquids (think of your pet accidentally urinating on the carpet), can linger for a while. And excessive amounts of water spilled onto a carpet can actually destroy it, making replacement necessary. Prices will range between $1 and $12 per square foot.
11. Concrete Concrete flooring is a relatively new trend. Originally it was used only for gray industrial looks, but now it is used in residential homes as well. Concrete has many pros: it stays cool in hot weather, and can be used together with radiant heat flooring for the cold days. It can also be designed to look like marble, and is highly customizable through the use of paints and dyes. Concrete is also water resistant and can be used easily in a combination with many other flooring materials. It does not scratch, is easy to clean, and stain proof. However, concrete is rather noisy and will need a lot of staining to achieve a more elegant look, which are its main cons. The price for concrete ranges between $2 and $6 per square foot.
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