Choosing the right floor for your home isn’t an easy task as many factors play in the choice of the right floor.
Unlike wall colours and furniture, flooring is more of a permanent finish for your home. Replacing ceramic tiles is not exactly the same effort as repainting the walls once you are tired of a colour you chose 5 years ago.
Flooring is possibly the most critical finish defining your home, giving it a specific character. Your taste or your aesthetic values can’t be the only parameter of choice when selecting flooring. Lifestyle, location and practicality play a huge role in the selection of flooring. You need to be smart about your choice and need to think long term as well. What seems a good decision today may not turn out practical in the future; you may decide to have kids or adopt a puppy. And until you find yourself in this new scenario, (with kids and a dog!!), you won’t be able to anticipate what flooring will work best for you and your home. Take my word of advice; I learnt from my own mistakes…I am wiser now!
Let’s get started!!
1. Pick Flooring that Matches Your Aesthetic Values
Your aesthetic values are very important as they pretty much speak about you. The type of person you are, and what makes you comfortable. You want to make your house your home; a comfortable place you come back to at the end of a stressful and busy day; your refuge, your cocoon. You need to feel comfortable and relaxed in your home. You can’t choose a type of floor just because is practical, or on the opposite hand, just because it’s trendy, or just because you’ve always believed that that’s the type of flooring you install in one particular space.
Your aesthetic values, your taste, does not have to be compromised by budget or practicality. You can achieve the look you want for you home by finding the right products that meet your taste, lifestyle and budget. There are thousands or products out there these days that allow you to find the right product for your home! Just give yourself enough time to do a lot of research on product performance, maintenance and cost comparison.
You don’t know how to identify your home style?
Just peruse through the many home renos and interior design sites out there to see what are the elements you like the most; clean stark lines, country or nautical look, etc. Once you’ve defined what you like, or perhaps, the easier route for you is to define what you don’t like, take note of the finishes you like the most or dislike the most. This will help you determine your look, your style.
What is really important is that you maintain consistency throughout the house. Every space, every room, need to flow together harmoniously, even if they are enclosed, separate spaces.
2. Consider Your Geographical Location
Where you live is an important factor to keep in mind when selecting flooring.
What works in warmer countries, doesn’t work in colder countries, (and I can speak for experience on this!); what works on a typically sunny and dry region, may not work in a rainy and humid region.
Sometime, certain products are easier to source in one particular area and they are very popular and cost less than other areas where you would need to import the product.
Your geographic location also determines a specific local culture or religion which can translate in the interior look of homes and use of finishes.
This is why research is always important.
Make sure that once you narrow down a few flooring materials you do your local availability research. This will have an impact on cost and time too!!
For example, let’s say that through your home style research you’ve determined you love the look of desert architecture and landscape (or southwestern style), but you live in a cold region that has nothing to do with deserts, heat and cacti, (I am not making any references to myself here…).
Would you use the same paint colours on the interior walls? Would you use the same materials and colours on the exteriors? Would you plant the same plants to create your landscaping? The answer is no. The climate is inherently different, the context is different. Homes in cold regions are designed and built to withstand greater changes in temperature and humidity stress. The type of entrance doors and windows used in southwestern homes are different than the ones used for colder climates. The same reasoning should be applied to flooring materials. Changes in temperature and humidity may cause some type of floors to contract and expand, so perhaps ceramic tiles need to be installed differently, hence they become pricier to buy in a colder region than a warmer region. This is just an example. Costs are always relative to the quality of a material.
3. Align With Your Lifestyle and Life Seasons
When you choose flooring for your home it’s critical you consider you and your family's lifestyle and be practical and realistic about it. Don’t choose an expensive and high maintenance floor if you are a busy person with a full schedule. If you love the look of solid hardwood floor but you own a dog or a cat, or have young children dropping cutlery from their high chairs, you should probably consider using engineered hardwood or laminate interlocking planks, or be prepared to spend some money and time sanding and refinishing your solid hardwood floor.
Think about where you are at in your life and how you and your family use your home. What are the most common spaces and what do you do there? What are the least used spaces? Perhaps you want to invest more money in a “showcase room” that is rarely used but it’s important to you for specific events.
For example, let’s pretend you have a family with young children and a shedding dog. You love the look of solid hardwood floor and ceramic tiles. You want to minimize the use of carpet. What are the best flooring options for you? Can you use these materials?
The answer is yes, but you need to be smart about it.
Let’s see how;
- Ceramic tiles; use them in wet and humid areas, such as the main entrance, mud room (if you have one), bathrooms, kitchen (only if it is an enclosed room with defined walls) and laundry room (unless it’s in the basement). It’s critical you choose the right finish and colour for these tiles. You have a shedding dog and young children so you better hide the dirt as much as possible. The best colour to do that is a light grey. You can either go warm or cold grey. Anything charcoal, black or brown will show your dog’s hair and footprints coming from the outside!!! The best finish/texture to use in your circumstances is matte. A glossy tile is a slippery tile! A textured, stone looking tile is hard to clean!! I still recommend you purchase an entry rug for your main entrance ceramic tile. It will help you absorb water from melting snow or rain coming in from the outside. Water can still find its way through a grout that hasn’t been properly sealed or cracked. If you get water under your tiles, you’ll eventually get mold and that’s not good!!
- Hardwood Floor; use it throughout the house except for the areas with ceramic tiles and maybe the bedrooms…As explained before, if you have a dog and young children and not much time to do maintenance on your floor, Engineered Hardwood Floor or Laminate Floor is your best option. You could use this floor in your bedrooms too. It’s much easier to clean than carpet, especially in the kids rooms. You can purchase some nice accent rugs to place by your bed if you like the softness under your feet when you get out of bed. The down side is that it can’t be sanded as much as solid hardwood if it is damaged.
- Carpet; reduce its use to the bedrooms and the basement. Like with ceramic tile, you need to be smart about the right colour to control stains…In addition to that, you should consider different types of carpets for bedrooms and basement. Again, you have young children that want to ride their pretend car in the basement and have friends over and spill juice all over the place! Use a cut pile carpet for your bedrooms as it is softer, (harder to clean but softer) and consider a loop pile carpet for your basement. It’s harder and smoother on those wheels and totally delay the absorption of liquids when those juices get spilled. It’s also an easier surface to exercise on in case you want to workout in your basement without building a specific workout room.
4. Choose the Right Flooring for Each Room Within Your Home
It is very important to choose the right floor for every area in your home. As mentioned in the examples here above, every room has a specific function and need and your floor needs to adapt to this space.
Let’s see where different flooring materials can be used.
- Ceramic Tile; use it in wet and humid areas, such as; main entrances, mud rooms, bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms. You can select to use ceramic tiles throughout your home if you choose. It’s a beautiful material and it’s very easy to keep clean. It’s generally water repellant but becomes a slippery hazard when wet.
The few downsides of ceramic tiles are:
- It can be cold on the feet; it’s not much of an issue in warmer regions. If you really love ceramic tiles you can install in-heat mats underneath the tiles and program the temperature of your floor.
- it’s a hard surface so it’s not your first choice if acoustics in your home is a concern.
- It can crack if something falls on it, especially on larger sized tiles.
Solid and Engineered Hardwood; use it in open areas of your home, such as living room, dining room, hallways. All areas that are generally away from excessive water like bathrooms, kitchen sink and main entrance.
Solid hardwood is the natural wood strip or plank. It’s rich, beautiful and available in many different wood species and stains. It can be sanded multiple times to be brought back to its original look.
Its downsides are:
Engineered Hardwood is made by layers of hardwood plies, giving this material greater stability than solid hardwood. It’s more resilient to damage and humidity and temperature changes, making it a good material to install over radiant heat or concrete as it does not need to be nailed or stapled to a subfloor. Planks of engineered hardwood are floated on top of an underlay-material.The downside of this product is that it cannot be repaired as easily as solid hardwood once is damaged.
- It’s susceptible to changes in humidity and temperature.
- Depending on the wood species selected, it can be soft and scratches easily.
- It’s nailed or stapled to a wooden subfloor so installation can be lengthy and pricey.
Resilient sheet and tile flooring; use it in main entrances, mud rooms, bathrooms, laundry rooms and basements. This category of flooring includes; sheet linoleum, linoleum tile, sheet vinyl, luxury vinyl tile, rubber floor and vinyl composition tile. Many of these floor finishes are used in commercial applications, however, Sheet Vinyl and Luxury Vinyl Tiles are quite popular in residential applications.
Sheet Vinyl is often used on budget driven project. It's mostly used in main entrances, bathrooms, basement bathrooms, laundry rooms and kitchens. This floor is a very hardy, easy to maintain and clean floor. It’s water and stain repellent. There are many different versions of sheet vinyl on the market; from solid colours to small patterns, to very realistic pictures to mimic stones and wood.Luxury Vinyl Tiles, on the other hand, are not as economic as most Sheet Vinyl products! They are used in main entrances, dining rooms, bathrooms and kitchens. These tiles range in shape, from square, to planks, to even hexagons. They are designed to be installed in all sort of patterns like herring bones. They depict all sort of materials, like stones and wood, (sadly, even carpet!!) in a very realistic way. They are very easy to install, maintain and clean. If properly installed and there is no gap between the tiles, it’s water and stain repellant. It generally makes a good choice for condos and rental homes and apartments.
- Carpet; use it in bedrooms and basements. This is probably the hardest floor finish to keep clean. You can regularly vacuum it but you should also have it shampooed once or twice a year! If only installed in bedrooms it should keep generally clean.Consider a softer carpet in your bedrooms and a harder, smoother carpet for your basement, where kids play and eat snacks or where you may entertain friends and want the ability to clean liquid spills easily.
5. Pick Flooring for Easy Maintenance and Durability
Choose a floor you have the time to maintain easily and will last you for a long time! As mentioned in several points above, being practical and realistic in choosing the flooring that is right for you, it’s very important.
Always consider how you are going to maintain and clean the floor finish you choose and how much time and effort do you want to put into it.
There are several different products on the market that vary in maintenance and durability.
Consider that the same type of flooring may require less cleaning and maintenance when installed in different circumstances.
For example, solid hardwood floor will have less damage and require less re-finishing if installed in an empty nester home with no dogs; the owners are retired and the children have moved out.
6. Consider Future Upgrades and Use
Think about the near future when choosing a type of floor! We always want to choose based on what we want, need and like right now!
Thinking about the foreseeable future is extremely important if you don’t want to repair or replace your flooring for a long time.
You need to think and ask yourself these questions;
- How long am I going to be in this house for?
- Will life circumstances change while living in this house, (i.e. we are getting married and we are planning on having kids and maybe, even if I don’t want to, we’ll end up adopting a puppy)?
- Do I want to sell this house in the near future?
How am I going to clean this house and how much time I want to spend doing that?
If you are clear on the near future plans for your home, you will make the right choice for flooring.
7. Plan in Advance and Research Products
You need to research, research and research your products!
Give yourself plenty of time to choose the right floor for your home. It’s an important element of your interior environment. When researching flooring, consider your aesthetic values, your current and future lifestyle, where you live, which type of floor is more suitable for which room, maintenance and cleanability and cost of course. These are all important elements to keep in mind. Always weigh the pros and cons of each material…You may find a product that is cheaper than another upfront but then end up spending more money and time maintaining it….
Now that you've gone through the 7 most important tips to select the best flooring for your home, you need to think about the finishing touches.
Other important elements to consider when selecting flooring are baseboards, and accessories such as flooring transitions which are typically used where one flooring material transitions into a different one and registers, (if they apply to your home).
Do not under-estimate the aesthetic and practical value of baseboards. Baseboards are an important finish touch for your home. Choosing the right baseboard is like picking the right frame for a painting or a picture. It can make or break the floor and ambiance of the room.
Baseboards can be made of different materials. Sometimes the baseboard is made out of a different material than your floor, sometimes is coved with the same material. Coving baseboards is more common in commercial applications than residential.
The most common residential baseboards are made out of solid wood or Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF). They vary in height and profile. They can be painted or stained.
I would shy away from MDF baseboards. From personal experience, MDF baseboards are not hardy enough to withstand the abuse of vacuums and mops, pets and children. MDF baseboards do not perform well with water in bathrooms. They chip and the paint peels off.
MDF baseboard are less expensive than solid wood baseboards, whether they are painted or stained.
Flooring Transition Selection
There are different flooring transition profiles based on the two different flooring materials transitioning, (i.e. From ceramic tile to carpet, from laminate to ceramic tile, from carpet to laminate). Sometime they are just used to separate to type of floors of the same height, sometime they are designed to adjust differences in floor heights, (i.e. solid hardwood to carpet).
These profiles are manufactured in different materials, such as wood, plastic, aluminum and stainless steel. The choice is mostly based on the transitioning materials and budget.
Some of them are simple double-sided caps that press the two flooring materials down. Some of them are more durable and secured to the subfloor.
If you live in a typical relatively new, North American home, chances are your heating and air conditioning is diffused through floor registers.
Registers, like other floor accessories, come in different materials and colours and, based on that, vary in cost. You can have hardwood and ceramic tile matching registers or simply plastic or aluminum register in an array of different colours.
Have you noticed I haven’t mentioned cost? The reason why I don’t do that is because, unless you go with a polished Italian marble floor, costs vary depending on your location, quantities and style differences within materials. There are high end Luxury Vinyl Tiles that are pricier than the budget driven Solid Hardwood Planks. Installation, underlay and maintenance are also very different between materials.
You really need to research your product of choice based on the 7 tips I provided to you. Source your local suppliers for material and labour costs and try to gauge how much it will cost you to keep the floor clean, seal it or even sand it periodically, if you selected solid hardwood.
You are now ready to make a tasteful flooring selection! If you have any questions about selecting flooring, please let me know in the comments below.
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