Choosing the Right Flooring for Your Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/13/15 11:27 AM

Picking any home upgrade can seem like a daunting task, especially when you expect that home improvement to remain in your home for an extended period of time. When selecting flooring, you need to combine your personal taste with practicality of the investment.

 FLOORING

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What You Need to Determine

Ask yourself a few key questions when entertaining the idea of a new floor surface to ease your choice and increase long-term satisfaction.

  • How much foot traffic will the floor receive?
  • Do you have pets or children? Plans to have them in the future?
  • Is the flooring likely to come in to contact with moisture on a regular basis?
  • How often will it need to be cleaned?
  • Do you desire low-maintenance flooring?
  • How long to you expect your new flooring to last?
  • What is your home style and decor taste?
  • What's your budget? Make sure to incorporate the cost of underlayment, delivery, installation and removal and disposal of old flooring, if you aren't the DIY type.

Wood Flooring

Hardwood is a classic choice that offers charm  and a "homey" feel to any room, gaining character with age. Wood flooring is a great choice if you're looking for a durable, hypoallergenic surface but does come with obstacles for certain homeowners.

Factors to Consider

Where to use it: Any room except full baths or laundry rooms (where your flooring is likely to come into contact with the most moisture).
If you have pets: Your pets' nails can leave scratches and you'll want to clean up accidents immediately.
Underlayment: If you're considering hardwood, you'll want to provide a base for the flooring to limit noise and add insulation. Cork and foam are optimal beneath floating floors, while vinyl and plastic-lined underlayments are great options for moisture-prone areas.
Cost: Expect to spend between $3 and $10 per square foot, depending on solid or engineered wood flooring and wood species. This is cost prior to installation charges. It's best to leave installation to the professionals, but some wood flooring is available in lock-in planks for glueless installation.

Laminate Flooring

HGTV calls laminate the "chameleon of the floor world", because you can pull off practically any flooring look - hardwood, tile, stone, etc. - without the hefty price tag. It's also one of the most popular flooring choices. While it won't develop character over time as real hardwood does, laminate is extremely durable, easy to install, affordable and stain, fade, and moisture resistant.

Factors to Consider

Where to use it: Anywhere - laminate is extremely versatile.
If you have pets: Laminate is tough and will resist nail scratches, but as with hardwood, accidents should be taken care of immediately to avoid moisture seeping into the seems.
Underlayment: Laminate also requires underlayment to muffle sound and prevent moisture damage. Certain underlayment can also make laminate sound more like hardwood when walked on.
Cost: Laminate typically costs between $1 and $4 per square foot without installation charges. It's a great choice for DIY homeowners because of the lock-together planks it is typically sold in.

Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl flooring is a good option for the value-conscious homeowner. It's resilient, durable, low-maintenance and easy on the wallet. It is sold in sheets, tile and planks to cater to your style and installation preference.

Factors to Consider

Where to use it: Vinyl is a best-bet for rooms that see a lot of foot traffic and are prone to moisture. Keep in mind that some vinyl styles can't be installed on stairways.
If you have pets: Vinyl is extremely pet-friendly, standing up to nail scratches and deterring accidents better than most other flooring surfaces. It's also a softer walking surface than tile or hardwood, making it a comfortable option for pets.
Underlayment: Another benefit of vinyl is that it can be installed over virtually any flat, dry, clean surfaces. For best results, a plywood underlayment is recommended.
Cost: Vinyl costs between $1 and $5 per square foot, uninstalled. Vinyl tiles are typically easy for DIY homeowners, but sheet vinyl is a task better left to the pros.

Linoleum Flooring

Linoleum may seem like a blast from the past but it's making a comeback as a flooring option for homeowners who discover its eco-friendly and durable benefits. Like vinyl, linoleum is available in sheets or tiles.

Factors to Consider

Where to use it: Anywhere. Linoleum is durable and anti-static, meaning it actually repels dirt and dust.
If you have pets: Like vinyl, linoleum is also very pet-friendly, withstanding paws and allergens your pets leave behind.
Underlayment: Linoleum can be placed over any flat, dry, clean surface with proper preparation. For best results, a plywood underlayment is recommended.
Cost: Expect to spend between $3 and $6 per square foot, uninstalled. Like vinyl, tile linoleum is fairly easy for novice do-it-yourselfers but sheet linoleum is better installed by professionals.

Tile Flooring

Tile was once reserved for entryways, bathrooms and kitchens because of its versatility and durability, but now tile is making its way into every kind of room in the house, adding elegance.

Factors to Consider

Where to use it: Anywhere. But keep in mind that tile is literally a cool flooring option, so lots of homeowners have to opt for in-floor heating, especially in basements.
If you have pets: Tile is extremely scratch, moisture an odor resistant, but it doesn't offer a soft resting spot for your four-legged friends.
Underlayment: To be installed properly, there must be a subfloor that is smooth, flat, rigid and clean. Depending on what's already beneath, you may have to place cement tile backer underneath your tile installation.
Cost: Ceramic tile usually costs between $1 and $8 per square foot, uninstalled. If you're upgrading to stone tile, expect to spend between $2 and $15 per square foot, uninstalled. Tile installation is moderately difficult to do yourself.

Carpet

Carpet, the cozy option, insulates up to 17 times better than other floor surfaces, reducing energy bills, according to HGTV. It's quiet to walk on, non-slip, cost-conscious, and offered in various colors, fiber types, and materials.

Factors to Consider

Where to use it: Bedrooms, living rooms, family rooms, dens, and playrooms are popular options.
If you have pets: While the softest choice, carpet is the most prone to pet damage so choose a style that is durable and stain treated. Carpet actually traps pet allergens to minimize them from circulating in the air, which also means it will need to be deep-cleaned on a regular basis.
Underlayment: Certain underlayments - foam, rubber, or fiber - work best when paired with certain carpet types. Check with the manufacturers to determine which underlayment will add the best cushioning and noise resistance to your flooring.
Cost: Expect to spend between $1 and $10 per square foot, uninstalled, and its installation is best left to professionals.

From carpet to hardwood, there is a flooring option that will fit your home style, needs and budget. Plan ahead by answering the questions above and educating yourself on what each flooring option has to offer.

Interested in financing large home improvements? Download our free Rehab & Construction Guide, which includes information on available home improvement loans.

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