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How to select the right flooring for your home

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Polished Floor by Grinding Reflections

Choosing the right kind of flooring for your home can be difficult because there are a large number of options. Your choice is going to depend on the room the flooring is for, the type of products you like, and the amount of foot traffic the floor material will be subjected to.

If you have pets, or children between the ages of five and 16, you'll need a durable flooring material such as hardwood finished with a thick protective coating; a high-density, short pile carpet, possibly of commercial grade, polished concrete, or hard-wearing non-porous tiles (you wouldn't, for example, choose travertine tiles as they are relatively soft and can chip in high traffic areas if part of the tile edge is exposed).

So what kind of floor is perfect for you?

Listed below are the four basic steps you need to follow to ensure you choose the right floor.

Step 1 - Make a list of your flooring needs

You need to consider things like your family: Do you have children? Do you live alone? Do you have pets? What is the general feel of the room? Do you want something warm and cosy, something highly durable, or something that looks elegant?

What's best for kitchen floors?

•   Soft flooring that is comfortable to stand on with bare feet

•   Flooring that prevents breakages when cups and plates are dropped

•   Something warm under-foot "I spend hours in the kitchen"

•   Easy clean, "I hate the dirty spaces between tiles"

•   Flooring that the dog won't destroy

•   Something soft on my two-year-olds' knees.

See how these requirements exclude tiles, wood, sea grass and concrete but they suggest products like, rubber, vinyl, cork and linoleum?


Travertine

What's great for lounge rooms?

  • Something sleek, hard wearing and durable
  • This space should be lively and funky

Therefore... say "no" to soft flooring and "yes" to rough surfaces like sisal, concrete, timber, travertine or industrial looking tiles.

This first step is really important and it helps you exclude products that don't suit the way you live.

TIP: never buy a floor based purely on looks or current trends.

Step 2 - Research your flooring options

Polished concrete floors

Concrete is mixture of aggregate, water and cement. Concrete has been polished by hand since Roman times and the effect is a looks very shiny, glass - like surface without coatings. Polished concrete is currently seeing a resurgence of interest as a modern flooring product in residential and commercial architecture.

Polished concrete floor
Polished concrete floor using aggragate

Traditionally, concrete floors have been used as a base for a variety of floor coverings, otherwise known as "overlayments". Often, the ongoing maintenance and eventual replacement of overlayments can be costly in comparison to a single concrete application. Smooth and modern, polished concrete floors have great flexibility of aggregate. These fills can even include car parts, stones, glass and trinkets.

Rubber flooring

Rubber flooring is the 'coolest' architectural product, not just in terms of current trends but also in terms of thermal quality. Cool in summer and far warmer in winter than ceramic tiles, natural stone and concrete. Rubber is great for toddlers and crawling babies and it will reduce breakages too.

Tiles

Tiled floors can last many decades if you choose a timeless style. Tiles can be made of ceramic or porcelain (porcelain will cost much more to install), and they are one of the few flooring products that will help warm your home in winter and cool it in summer. This works through thermal massing which comes into effect when a concrete slab sits directly on the ground. The tiles are laid directly onto the slab allowing the earth's reasonably constant temperature to radiate through the floor and into your home.

Cork

Untinted cork tiles

If you have children who are under six years of age, cork is the best flooring product for your house. It is soft on little knees and heads, it's warm and soft under foot and you can drop a wine glass on it and see the glass bounce. Cork is a unique product that is not too expensive. It can look like chocolate-coloured concrete and is great for large noisy areas that need a soundproof finish to absorb noise. Cork is finished with a polyurethane cover, just like regular timber floors.


Bamboo floors

Bamboo is a sustainable product which grows quickly in countries like Indonesia, which supplies much of the bamboo flooring sold in Australia. Bamboo is amazingly durable and much harder than traditional timber flooring. Bamboo has the same colour range as timber and most floors come fully dressed, so there are no sealing costs.

Carpet

Carpet is a perfect floor covering for bedrooms and TV rooms where acoustics and warmth are important. When making the choice of which carpet to buy, keep in mind type (wool, nylon, acrylic or polypropylene), traffic, risk of staining, acoustic properties and cleaning and maintenance. If you have a young family, choose a dark acrylic, non-marking, compact, short-cut pile carpet to keep spaces warm. It is worth noting that cut pile can look shiny due to its uniform length but if you choose a loop pile, light is reflected at different angles reducing carpet shine.

Traditional timber floors


Timber flooring

Timber floor choices have changed greatly over the last 20 years due to availability and new products. Many people love the idea of natural, wide-timber oak floors but this option is now very expensive. And don't think the recycled option is any cheaper; it's usually the opposite. There is a high demand for recycled timber flooring as today's timber is generally young and cut in smaller sizes for high demand. Today's timber is generally inferior in strength and durability in comparison to the slow-grown trees of a century ago. Floating timber veneer and parquetry products are also becoming very popular

Timber laminate

Timber laminate is a much more economical option than solid timber floors and there are some laminates that you will have trouble distinguishing from the real thing. Laminated products are not dirt cheap as they are fantastic products in their own right. Many laminates can be highly durable, long wearing and easy to keep clean, but be careful as this is not the case with all laminates.

Natural stone

Natural stones are brilliant for longevity and can provide a timeless look. Limestone (Travertine) and granite are the most widely used stones for internal use. Sandstone can be used and can look fabulous but it is very porous. There are three main sandstone finishes, rough, honed and polished, they all look good but the polished option with a heavy sealant or an epoxy coating is the best way to ensure the look of your floor over the long term.

Composite stone

There are so many composite stone choices on the market. Some are pre-made overseas, while some, like terrazzo, are made to order. Pre-made products are generally cheaper than terrazzo as they combine natural stones and other organic products, such as seashells, with acrylic resins. Modern terrazzo is so different to the cold, cement-based terrazzo products that were used for entry thresholds and public toilet partitions in the 1960s. Now many terrazzos are resin-based and warm to the touch. Terrazzo comes in a cornucopia of colours combined with natural and manmade aggregates, including glitter chips, rubber pieces, memorabilia and pebbles.

Chipboard or 'yellow-tongue' flooring

Chipboard or particleboard is commonly used in residential construction as the base that flooring is applied to. This product is underrated as a finished flooring product but it can look fabulous. It is also durable and warm. The raw product is sanded, stained and coated the same way as timber floors. To ensure the product doesn't go yellow over the years a black tint should be added to the polyurethane coating.

Step 3 - Floor maintenance requirements

This is something really important to consider, especially if you have a large family or are busy and don't have time to clean your floors continually. Many wood floors are now resistant to staining, scratching and other damage due to the new generation of sealants. Likewise carpets, thanks to technology you can now find many non-marking carpets, or you scan simply choose a dark carpet to hide stains. Products like polished concrete and tiles are very low maintenance once sealed. They are also easy to clean and will last forever.

Step 4 - Set a budget


Black tinted Cork tiles

Finally, you really need to consider your budget, which is usually what it comes down to. The fact is flooring can get expensive. It's a two-way street though in that some of the more expensive flooring options will generally last longer, while some of the less expensive flooring choices may need to be replaced after several years. Basically, do you want to get less expensive flooring twice, or more expensive flooring once? There are of course many options that fall in the middle, and some of the less expensive floors will last for quite some time.

Keeping all of these things in mind will help you to choose the best flooring for your needs.