A Guide to Choosing the Right Flooring

Hard surface flooring is really hot right now. The days of automatically putting carpet throughout a home are long gone. More and more customers are choosing to cover their floors with wood or tile and then accenting them with area rugs. Hand scraped hardwoods and fancy tile floors are selling at a record pace. If you are redecorating should you be considering tile or wood floors too? That's a decision you get to make but you better put some money aside if you do. It can take the cost on an average home from around $6,000 for carpet to $15,000 - $20,000 for a wood floor with rugs.

Wall to wall carpet has dominated most home floors since the 1950s. People didn't want their feet to freeze so carpet has always been the answer. Now people are saying a little discomfort is OK if their home looks more stylish.

When this trend began a decade ago, many larger homes were putting carpet into bedrooms primarily with hard surfaces covering the rest. Now we're seeing more cases where hard surfaces are going throughout the entire home. This hasn't been the case for over 50 years when oak, tongue and groove hardwood was put into every home as the standard floor. In smaller homes, carpet is still king. Kitchens, entry ways and laundry rooms are getting hard surfaces, but the rest of the home is usually carpet. Carpet is and will always be a warmer, comfier choice.

When deciding on a tile or wood for your home there are four main choices; hardwood, tile, laminate and luxury vinyl tile (LVT).

Hand scraped, wide planked hardwood is probably the most trendy and popular floor today. This is really a vintage hardwood look recreated in today's popular color pallets. This wood is aged; sometimes by machine and other times by hand. It's common knowledge that certain wood manufacturers operate out of some of the country's most notorious prisons. Inmates receive a token paycheck to bang, scrape and dent some wood lines into looking old. Most of these floors are very expensive, but that doesn't seem to be slowing sales. When you think of a hand scraped hardwood floor you probably think of a ski lodge and a rustic theme. But we are seeing these floors going into mansions and very elegant homes as well. It's a beautiful, durable choice if you can afford it.

Tile is another great choice. Of all the hard surface floors to pick, this is probably the most expensive and nicest. Tile includes ceramic, porcelain, granite, marble or any variety of limestones and travertines.

The cost of the tile can be pretty significant, but that is only part of it. Tile has to be laid over a special subfloor which can cost a bunch. Then you have to add the cost of installation, which can be troubling as well. A tile floor, however, can give you a look and feel that none of the others can come close to. Because of the different shapes and sizes that tiles come in and the varying textures, the design possibilities are endless.

Although all the hard surface choices are colder than carpet under foot, tile is the coldest by far. If you have ever been anywhere in Europe, most of the century-old floors are some type of tile. Most of them still look new and are timeless in their styling. Tile can cost you twice as much as any wood or laminate, but it really deserves to be in its own category.

If you were to compare the number of square feet of all hard surfaces sold each year, laminate flooring would probably be at the top. That's because laminate is the least expensive of all our choices and gets used in many apartment and track homes. If you don't know what laminate flooring is, its formica put on a board that is then laid on a floor. It's extremely scratch resistant and very durable.

Many people mistake laminate for hardwood flooring. Laminate is designed to look like hardwood and comes in strips like hardwood. Since it is not real hardwood, some choices don't look as authentic as real wood. It also can sound hollow underfoot and not solid like wood or tile, making it feel less expensive as well. If you are on a budget this is going to be the best choice. Almost all laminates snap together making installation very easy. A great do-it-yourself choice, and every year they get better at making it look more realistic.

LVT is the newest member of the hard-surface family. This floor is rated commercially so it can really take the wear. This floor is a thin sheet of vinyl that usually looks like wood or tile. This is not like regular linoleum or sheet vinyl. It is a compound of vinyl that is ten times denser than a regular sheet vinyl floor. It can be floated or glued down. It's water resistant and is a great choice for most businesses or basements. It clicks together like laminate but there is no cushion on LVT like laminate.

This floor has been around for a decade, but was recently expanded and re-engineered. Now, there are many more qualities, colors and looks available. For businesses especially, it's a choice that's hard to beat. It's mid-priced but delivers high-priced performance. The new LVT is targeted for mainstream residential use but that will take some time. We are seeing it primarily in basements, laundry rooms and garages. In time, this may change however.

Homeowners over the last decade have made an abrupt about face. They've decided that comfort and style are equally as important. In fact, if a little comfort has to be given up at a cost, so be it. Wanting their homes to be trendy and stylish has become front and center. Historically, only a tiny segment of the population cared about this. If you are planning to redecorate your home, your two best choices are tile or hardwood if you can afford them. The good news is dozens of rug manufacturers have noticed the trend and are making gorgeous rugs that replicate antique rugs at a fraction of the cost. If you can't afford wood or tile then look at laminate or LVT. If you are handy and can do some or all of the installation, that can save you dollars. Wall to wall carpet will always have a place though. It's the warmest, most comfortable and the easiest to care for. Carpet just can't compete with the beauty of a tile or wood floor covered by a gorgeous rug.