Whether you are building a custom home or are simply performing a standard renovation, your choice of flooring materials will directly influence how you can use and enjoy the different areas of your home.
While there is a rather extensive list of flooring options at your disposal, the following breakdown compares the efficacy and drawbacks of some of the most common, trendy, and/or innovative flooring materials on the market.
Any conversation on home flooring has to start with the carpet. In terms of affordability, there are few materials that can beat it, as its price-per-square-foot is a mere fraction of most other flooring materials. It is also soft, quiet, and comes in a wide array of colors, making it a strong choice for families with children.
The downside to carpet is that it simply does not work in some rooms, such as the bathroom or kitchen. In addition, it has to be vacuumed regularly, with professional cleanings recommended every year, making it one of the least eco-friendly flooring options available.
While there may be more square footage of home flooring that features carpet, in terms of pure desirability, engineered hardwood is the material that takes the cake. Engineered hardwood has arguably the most classy appearance of any flooring material, making homes with engineered hardwood flooring a hot commodity capable of commanding top dollar when listed for sale. Engineered hardwood also plays well in nearly every room of the house.
The downside is that engineered hardwood is among the most expensive flooring options available, making it inaccessible to homeowners on a budget. It is also noisy, making it less-than-ideal for large, active families. Finally, while cleaning is rather simple, engineered hardwood tends to get scratched and dented quite frequently, meaning that pricey refinishing must take place on a consistent basis.
In terms of ideal surfaces for the kitchen and bathroom, there is arguably no better option than porcelain tile, as it is nonporous and resistant to staining, making it an ideal choice to pair with acrylic countertops. Unlike carpet and hardwood, small sections of tile can be replaced as necessary, making routine repairs and maintenance less time-consuming.
Porcelain tile will be more expensive than some other flooring materials. Furthermore, while the porcelain tile itself is nonporous and easy to keep looking pristine, the grout used to seal it in place is notoriously difficult to maintain, with grimy and stained grout seriously undermining the appearance of what would be a sparkling tile surface.
If you are looking for an environmentally-friendly flooring option at an affordable cost, polished concrete may be the best option available. While not as traditional as some other interior flooring materials, polished concrete is gaining popularity thanks to its extreme durability, essentially limitless lifespan, and lack of electricity and industrial cleaning agents necessary for maintenance.
One drawback of polished concrete is that it may require a specific style of interior design to make for an inviting and personable ambiance. It is also extremely hard and can become exceptionally cold during the winter, making other flooring materials preferable for families or large houses that will require a lot of energy to heat.
For those desiring the look of hardwood but who do not have the financial resources to make that dream a reality, laminate flooring can be a solid, low-cost alternative. Laminate comes in a wide range of colors and styles that make it a strong play in nearly any interior space. It is also very easy to install, making it a strong choice for DIYers.
When looking at negatives of laminate flooring, durability and maintenance are the primary concerns. Laminate can be easily damaged in areas of heavy traffic, but repairs to this type of flooring are not possible, with homeowners needing to do a full-blown replacement to the affected region.
Matt Lee is the owner of the Innovative Building Materials blog and a content writer for the building materials industry. He is focused on helping fellow homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve energy efficiency, and increase property value.