Do you dream of having a Tuscan kitchen, a country den or a luxurious bedroom? Great flooring helps to achieve the look and feel you desire in every room of your home.
"Flooring is a background to your furniture," says Anna Merotto, an interior designer and former instructor of wall and floor coverings at George Brown College in Toronto. "It can make or break your decor."
But selecting flooring can be a daunting task. A room's function, traffic and location, as well as the amount you can spend, are all contributing factors in your flooring decision, be it carpet, ceramic tile, hardwood, laminate or vinyl. Which one is right for you? Here's a look at the most popular flooring options for your home.
Carpet keeps feet warm, steps soft and kids' knees protected when they take a tumble. It hides sub-floor irregularities and can be used throughout the home, including the basement, where moisture can ruin other types of flooring materials. It's also inexpensive to install and comes in a variety of colours and textures, making it easy to decorate with.
Carpeting should be short and dense, made with a tightly twisted yarn and a good quality cushion to resist crushing and matting. To reduce the risk of pilling, look for continuous filament nylon (CFN), which begins as a long strand before being spun into yarn.
Keep in mind that dust particles can easily be trapped in carpeting, says Anna. So, if you have allergies, carpeting may not be the best choice for your home.
Because of its dense composition of clay, minerals and water – and a coating of liquid glass for colour and texture – glazed tiles are resistant to moisture, odour, fire, stains, scratches, allergens and bacteria, making this material ideal for kitchens, bathrooms and entranceways. Shiny, glazed tiles should be restricted to walls as the surface can be slippery and can scratch easily when used underfoot.
Laying ceramic tile can be a lengthy and costly process. "Floors have to be completely level," says Anna. "If not, you'll have cracking that you can't repair." It can be tricky to restore eroded or discoloured grout between the tiles.
Hardwood is certainly one of the most beautiful flooring choices, and can, at once, give a space a rustic or elegant feel. It can also wear out in high-traffic areas, especially if you have pets. If you truly love hardwood, sanding and refinishing it every few years is one option, says Anna, as is placing an area rug or runner "so you get the best of both worlds – the comfort feeling of carpet and the classic look of wood."
Hardwood flooring comes in classic 3/4-inch solid wood floors, usually made from maple or oak, as well as engineered and longstrip plank floors, both made from a variety of domestic and exotic woods. All three look similar, but because engineered and longstrip planks are made from thin strips of wood glued together, this option provides better stability and resistance to moisture – which means it can be used in basements or over concrete, where solid wood would contract and separate.
If you love the look of hardwood, tile or marble, but can't afford or maintain these finishes, you may want to consider laminate. The Swedish import can resemble any of the materials since it is simply a photograph under a clear wearlayer – and therein lies its biggest fault. For Anna, the inexpensive alternative is "almost too perfect."
That said, laminate is almost impossible to stain, scratch or burn, and because it is a collection of interlocking planks or squares glued to one another – and not the floor or subfloor – it is easy to replace and is moisture-resistant.
With its easy maintenance, resistance to stains and spills and ability to hide scratches, vinyl has long been the number one choice for kitchens. Perhaps it has also been the ugliest – but newer offerings of this material are more hip, with a dynamic selection of colours, patterns and textures.