As a homeowner, you have so many options for flooring! Let's review the latest and greatest and make sure you're up to speed with what's available out there, or at least the top seven:
1. Tile - a classic favorite, most often found at your front entry, back door, kitchen and bathrooms. All these locations need a floor type that can be easily cleaned, so tile with its smooth (usually) ceramic finish will fit the bill. As a side note, tile is not my favorite choice for two reasons. First, if you have a room filled with tile and let's say, a two story ceiling, the noise will bounce and echo like crazy, which is a personal pet peeve.
It's difficult for a room to feel warm and cozy, though adding a rug and curtains and other soft surfaces can help. Second, grout can be a challenge. The purpose of grout is to keep moisture from getting under the tile and messing with the adhesion to your slab or underlayment. However, grout can be hard to keep clean and does require maintenance from time to time. On the positive side, grout does not have to be white which can help on the cleaning and you can ask your installer to make sure the grout is as thin as the manufacturer recommends. (Note: if you install tile closer together than the manufacturer recommends, they won't stand behind their product, so it's important to keep that in mind when making a tile selection.)
2. Carpet - Ahh, such a fond memory of gold shag carpet growing up on the south side of Houston. It was the cheapest carpet available, I'm sure, and I learned early on to not step on the threshold because I would often get carpet tacks in the foot. Even with that early history with carpet, I actually do like this product, even though it's become less
popular in recent years because of a whole litany of reasons including allergies, can't tell if it's clean, holds stains, etc. Living spaces and bedrooms are ideal locations for carpet and there are great options out there that I see in residential settings including berber, cut pile, frieze, and the list goes on. Discover which look you like the best and consider your audience. For example, I don't recommend Berber for houses with pets, especially cats. Something about the loopy carpet reads scratching post to them, which destroys the carpet. (Note: if you have that issue, let me know, I've got a guy that can help you with that.)
3. Concrete - Well concrete is just, um, concrete, typically with a glossy seal on it for protection. This is a hard floor, so see my notes on some of the downfalls of tile and echoes, but going with concrete is more of an aesthetic choice. I find it very appropriate for a loft, not so appropriate in a 500K suburban home, though there are always exceptions. Keep in mind that concrete can develop cracks over time which you can't really fix. Also, I would strongly recommend keeping this floor type to the main level of your home because it's heavy and most construction, especially wood construction, isn't designed to hold that much weight.
4. Laminate - First of all, laminate is constructed of particles of wood pressed together, with a wear layer on top for protection. It's considered a very versatile option because it has some of the aesthetic appeal of a wood floor, but installs easily, which is perfect for the DYI enthusiast. Laminate floors usually have a floating install so the pieces of material are connected to each other but not to the floor. Plus, laminate can give the appearance of hardwood, tile or stone, but does so at a lower price. The two downsides to laminate, in my opinion, are the hollow sound that sometimes is present (since it's not attached to the floor) and since it is considered a layered wood product, if water gets to those layers, it can cause the flooring to swell or buckle. Laminate can appear cheap, but if you try to stick to a medium or high grade product and you'll be fine.
5. Engineered Wood - This product has a plywood base topped with a veneer of 100-percent real wood, while laminate has no plywood (remember, it's particles of wood pressed together) and no natural real wood veneer top. It makes more sense actually to compare an Engineered Wood floor to a Solid Wood floor, they have much more in common. Solid wood floor is a floor that is all wood, solid, from a tree. See #6 on more info on that option, but engineered is like wood flooring in that the top layer at least, is actually wood, while other layers are plywood.
6. Wood - Who doesn't love wood? It's a beautiful choice, and you can pick different slat types, wood species, distressing, and so forth. It's not a cheap choice, but will definitely add value to your home. Though this option does require professional installation, it really warms up a space. I say if you can afford it and can handle the cost of professional installation, do it! My one warning on this one is pets. If you have pets that like to make a mess on your floor, I wouldn't recommend wood. Over time, stains will show and smells will linger.
7. LVT - The whole reason I wrote this article was for this product. I LOVE IT! LVT stands for Luxury Vinyl Tile. I find myself recommending it to clients all the time, and most have never heard of it. LVT is a tile product that is considered very durable, softer than tile or laminate, and comes in many looks and varieties. In my own home, we took out the tile in the kitchen and front halls and carpet in the formal living and dining rooms, and changed them all to LVT. The uniform flooring throughout the entire front of the house shows really well, but what I love most about it is even though it is a hard floor product, it's much easier to stand on and doesn't reflect sound like tile and laminate products can. Plus, it's 100% impervious to water so it's a great choice for the kitchen. LVT is also a good value, comparable to laminate, though I highly recommend you don't buy the cheapest option you find, a mid-grade or higher is best.
This should be a good foundation of information to get you started if you're considering a flooring change, but be open to learning about new products. Your local flooring store is a good place to start, especially so you can get a good feel for the look of the finished product and to see what's new in the marketplace. Trends and technologies are always evolving, so be open minded to what's available and you'll find the perfect product for you and your family!
Rebecca Robertson is a Realtor in Cypress, TX who really enjoys helping her clients and friends learn more about design choices that are both functional and economical. Drop her a note at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or need a trusted advisor for your real estate goals.