New flooring can dramatically change the look and feel of any room. If you are renovating a space, one of the first things you should consider before you do anything to the room is replace the flooring. This is especially true when you are dealing with old and worn out carpets, outdated laminate flooring, or tattered linoleum.

Trends in flooring have kicked things up a notch and provided much more choice for homeowners than ever before. Todays homeowner can make decisions on their flooring based on needs such as cleanliness, environmentally friendly products, durability and room usage.

Besides the traditional Canadian mainstay of carpet, some of today’s best and most innovative choices for flooring include some unexpected products such as bamboo, cork, as well as classic mainstays such as hardwood. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each.

Hardwood

Flooring by Ecowoods Inc.

Flooring by Ecowoods Inc.

Milled from solid lumber – a natural insulator – hardwood adds structural strength to the home. Hardwood is easy to clean, durable, and looks beautiful with any decor. Hardwood floors tend to attract less dust and trap less dirt than carpeting. They do not attract allergens or molds that cause allergies, which tend to travel with dust, which makes them a better choice for individuals with allergies or asthma.

Hardwood is less expensive than engineered hardwood but is not moisture resistant, so any spills must be promptly cleaned up. Also be aware that because hardwood floors are essentially solid wood cut to 3/4″ thickness, individual boards can shrink and expand depending on the humidity in your home. In order to avoid seasonal gapping from becoming noticeable and to reduce the amount of movement, relative indoor humidity level should be kept at 45-55% throughout the year.

Your new floors must therefore be installed to leave the right amount of space for natural expansion and contraction. If the individual boards are fitted too tight your floor will buckle. If they’re too loose the gaps between the boards will get too wide in the winter. Keeping humidity consistent is also key.

Hardwood is much more challenging to install in a condominium than in a house. This is due to the fact that hardwood boards must be nailed into the floor and condominiums are almost exclusively built with concrete or gypecrete. Both would require some sort of solution placed on top of the concrete or gypecrete which will act as both a moisture barrier as well as a media upon which to adhere the floorboards. When creating a sub-floor, it’s important to be aware of noise transfer requirements in accordance with your condo association rules. Make sure you hire a contractor who is familiar with the ins and outs of hardwood installation in condos.

Engineered Hardwood

Flooring by Alliance Floor Source Inc.

Flooring by Alliance Floor Source

Engineered hardwood is a top layer of actual dried out hardwood with lower layers consisting of either of several layers of plywood, HDF or solid wood bonded together under pressure. To most homeowners, there is very little visual difference between engineered hardwood and hardwood. It is durable and more moisture resistant than hardwood so therefore suitable for interiors where fluctuations in humidity and temperature may be significant such as cottages and basements.

Compared to hardwood, there are more methods of installing engineered hardwood, which means that it is a more flexible product. It can, however, be more expensive than hardwood, depending on the plank size, cost of lumber, and cost and quality of glues used for adhering layers.

Cork 

Cork is the bark of the Cork Oak tree. It is environmentally friendly as the tree does not have to be cut down to harvest the cork. It is also hypoallergenic and because of its natural properties cork resists mold, mildew and bacteria. It is also a natural fire retardant.

Cork is warm under the feet. As Cork is 50% air, it will absorb the heat of your feet while walking on it and will reflect it back to you. Although Cork is a resilient wood, care must be taken to prevent damage from furniture feet and pet nails, etc. Furniture feet should have pads and ensure that high heels are taken off at the door; pet nails should be kept trimmed.

Like hardwood, cork is affected by humidity and therefore expands and contracts. Humidity levels should remain between 30% and 60% to prevent cork flooring from either drying out or becoming too moist.

Bamboo

Bamboo floor planks are made by slicing or shredding the stalk of the bamboo grass plant, and then adhering the pieces back together using heat, pressure, and a resin based adhesive. This adhesive can release volatile organic chemicals into the air of an interior space over time. Not all bamboo flooring has the same level of VOC’s, so it’s good to check with the manufacturer before making any decisions if this is of concern to you.

Priced at the same level as most hardwood floors, bamboo is an easy-to-install, highly renewable source of material. It is simple to clean, non-allergenic, easy to install, long lasting and fire resistant. While bamboo is water resistant, it is still susceptible to water damage and humidity. Like all natural wood products, it is also fairly easy to scratch and damage. Bamboo can however be refinished, depending on the thickness of the planks.

Concrete

Concrete and epoxy floor by Unique Touch Concrete Design

Concrete and epoxy floor by Unique Touch Concrete Design

Concrete is a stylish choice for homeowners that wish to live with an industrial type of decor choice for their floors. Concrete has some real benefits for as it is difficult to damage. High heels, furniture legs, and pet claws will not scratch the surface, and water does not easily damage a concrete floor.

A concrete floor is very easy to take care of. Mop the floor periodically and seal or wax every 3-9 months depending on the level of traffic in the room. A sealed and properly maintained concrete floor can last indefinitely. Some homeowners find concrete floors cold, but this can be circumvented by the addition of radiant heating under the floor surface.

Stone Tile Flooring

Beautiful and organic in nature, stone tiles are quarried from mountain materials and include Slate, Marble, Limestone, Travertine, Granite, and Sandstone. Each of these types of stone has slightly different properties. It’s important to understand the characteristics of each type of stone flooring to determine whether it is appropriate for a specific location. Stone tile can be used inside and outside the home, depending on how porous the stone is.

Tile by Invision Hardwood & Decor

Tile by Invision Hardwood & Decor

For high-traffic areas in your home, or patio areas outside, look for vitreous or impervious stone. Additionally many stone floors are graded for quality. Grade 1 refers to high quality, uniform materials. Grade 2 consists of materials with minor defects such as chips, scratches, or irregular surfaces. Grade 3 materials have major flaws in size, shape, surface, or chipping, making them appropriate only as accent or decorative pieces.

Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tile has been used by humans to covers floors since ancient times. It is made of clay which is then fired in a very hot oven and glazed to protect the surface from moisture and damage. Glazed ceramic tile is ideal for kitchens, bathrooms and high-traffic areas such as entryways as it is totally water resistant, easy to clean and does not harbour germs. Ceramic tile is a great choice for those who suffer from asthma, as dust and debris are easy see and clean up.

Quality ceramic tile is typically more expensive than carpeting, but less expensive than hardwood. An installation by a skilled tradesperson can last between 10 to 20 years.

Depending on your needs, any of these innovative ideas can create beautiful looks in your home. Check out our Floors Pinterest board for inspiration while you’re pondering your project, and when you’re ready to have some work done, get a quote from a flooring professional, click here.

If you have had a recent floor laying experience, write a review on HomeStars! Include pictures of the work, before and after. We would love to feature your reviews in an upcoming blogpost.

Posted by Leslie Andrachuk