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Flooring 101

The right choices in flooring can make your home shine
The right choices in flooring can make your home shine
Photo taken by the author

No matter what type of home you live in, it’s got to have flooring. While flooring may be a basic component of every house that’s ever been built, the options are nearly endless as far as the type of material, style, and color. Many homes combine different flooring types as well, as some perform better in certain rooms versus others.

Hardwood Flooring: Hardwood flooring has been used for centuries in homes and is one of the most durable, attractive flooring choices available. It comes in a wide range of wood, from the more common oak and pine hardwood floors to exotic woods like eucalyptus and Brazilian cherry.

Styles of hardwood flooring include strips (usually in widths of 1”-3”), planks (usually over 3” in width), and parquet, with those options available as solid wood or engineered wood (which is made by laminating layers of wood together).

One of the appeals of hardwood floors is that they can be stained and finished in a variety of colors, so they allow you a wide choice of colors and finishes. If properly maintained and cared for, they can easily last 50+ years, so you don’t have to periodically replace them as you do with carpet and vinyl flooring. Refinishing hardwood floors can also be an attractive option if your home has original hardwood floors that have been covered with carpet or vinyl flooring.

Carpet flooring: There’s more carpet flooring in homes than any other type, and for good reason, as it’s relatively inexpensive to install and comes in a seemingly endless variety of colors and textures. Carpet can also be installed very quickly (unlike hardwoods or tile), so it’s a common choice in both new construction and for remodels.

The main downside to carpet is that it can’t be used in kitchens or bathrooms and you always have to worry about stains and tears during normal everyday use. Carpet will need to be cleaned regularly and replaced entirely every 3-4 years in homes with high foot traffic.

Tile flooring: Tile is an increasingly popular flooring choice, even outside its traditional domain in kitchens and baths and entryways. Tile flooring is very durable and easy to maintain and can be used in high moisture areas like bathrooms where hardwoods and carpet dare not enter.

Tile comes in three main varieties: porcelain, ceramic, and natural stone (which includes slate, granite, marble, and travertine). Tile flooring comes in numerous sizing, with standard floor tile ranging from 6”x6” all the way up to 24”x24”, but 12”x12” is the most common choice.

While tile and hardwood flooring are the two most expensive flooring options, they’re also the most durable and easiest to maintain, so you have to factor in how long they’ll last when deciding between various options and how much they cost. A $4,000 tile floor that last for 20 years can be less expensive than a $1000 carpet floor that has to be replaced every 3 years.

Vinyl flooring: Vinyl flooring is a very flexible, inexpensive flooring option that’s quick to install and comes in a wide range of colors and styles (including some that imitate hardwood and tile flooring). It’s a great choice for kitchen and baths and can be installed from full roles or applied individually in squares, like ceramic or porcelain tiles.

Like carpet, vinyl flooring won’t last for forever, and you have to take care not to dent or scratch it, especially when moving heavy appliances in kitchen areas. It’s easy to clean but you’ll have to replace it periodically, especially in areas with lots of foot traffic as it eventually dulls and wears out. 

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