Home Style - While many floor options are versatile enough to use in any style of home, some may simply just look out of place. For instance, a knotty pine floor may not be the best choice for a home filled with modern furniture.
Lifestyle - Whether you have four young children running through your house or a pack of sloppy teenagers, your family's makeup and lifestyle should be a factor in your decision. Falling on a marble floor will cause a lot more toddler tears than landing on a plushy carpet. An entertainment room for teenagers or adults will probably see more than its fair share of spilled drinks and greasy potato chips, so choose flooring that is easy to clean and stain resistant.
Climate - If you live in a climate with extreme weather conditions you will want to choose a flooring option that is suitable for your climate. Cold, long winters make tile a chilly choice, although area rugs can help. Locations that receive heavy rains may want to think twice about hardwood, which can be damaged by moisture.
Budget - If you are working with a limited budget, laminate floors are generally less expensive than hardwood and tile. Carpet is available in a wide range of prices, depending on the style and quality. When calculating costs make sure to include the cost of installation.
Traffic - Living rooms, hallways and stairs see a lot more activity than a bedroom or den and require a floor covering that is durable and easy to clean.
Now that you know what factors to keep in mind, let's see how the various types of flooring stack up.
There are a number of factors that contribute to carpet's popularity. Available in a myriad of colors, textures and prices, carpet is appropriate for any room and any decor. In addition to its versatility, carpet offers warmth and softness, making it ideal for bedrooms, children's play areas and living rooms. Another advantage of carpet is that you won't be distracted by noisy footprints - a definite advantage in a raucous game of hide-and-seek. Carpet is relatively affordable, depending upon the style you choose, and is generally easier and less expensive to install than other types of flooring.
Another popular flooring choice is hardwood. Available in a range of tones from light to almost black, wood floors provide a rich, warm look that is appropriate in almost any room. Unlike carpet, wood floors do not trap dust and allergens, making it a good choice for people with severe allergies or respiratory problems. As mentioned in the section on climate, hardwood is susceptible to moisture, and is not a good choice for bathrooms or other damp rooms. While hardwood is typically more expensive than some of the other types of flooring, its durability and ability to last for decades make it a smart long-term investment.
An alternative to hardwood, bamboo is actually a fast growing grass, making it an eco-friendly choice. It is fire, insect and warp resistant, durable and easy to clean, making it a viable alternative to hardwood.
One of the most popular floor coverings in the United States, laminate flooring is a multi-layer synthetic product that simulates the look of hardwood, tile, natural stone and other types of flooring. Laminate has suffered from a stigma of looking fake and cheap, but new technology has allowed manufacturers to create beautiful flooring that is difficult to discern from the materials it imitates. Durable, easy to clean and stain resistant, laminate is also less expensive than other types of flooring. Its ease of installation makes it a favorite among do-it-yourself aficionados.
Available in many sizes, shapes and materials, tile can work with any style of home. Tile floors can be made of ceramic, porcelain, glass, granite, marble and slate. Tile floors are very durable and for the most part are easy to maintain, although certain finishes may require extra care. Tile is water resistant, making it a good choice for bathrooms. It does have a tendency to be slippery and cold - both of which can be taken care of with an area rug or mat.
Cork flooring is lightweight, low maintenance and a natural sound absorber. Popular in the 1920s, cork is making a comeback due to the fact that it is a sustainably harvested product.
Vinyl is another good choice for budget-conscious homeowners, and has the added benefits of low maintenance, water resistance, and ease of installation. Its biggest downside is that it is made from petroleum products, landing it in last place in regard to environmental health.
This article was designed to give you a basic understanding of types of flooring and help you navigate the array of choices. Your local flooring stores can provide in-depth knowledge and expertise to help you select the best choice for your home. For a list of flooring professionals near you, please click here.