HARD SURFACE FLOORING
Hard surface flooring has many benefits, but its own selection criteria. Choices include wood, tile, stone and composite stone, laminate, vinyl (it’s come a long way baby), and many new and not so new exciting alternatives. “Green” products such as bamboo, cork, rubber, linoleum, and surprisingly- leather, are receiving due attention, and selections are ever expanding. Some of these have been in significant designs historically, but are receiving new acceptance for residential use.
Wood floors are available in many different species or types of wood, but basically fall into two classes- unfinished and pre-finished. Unfinished wood is installed, sanded in place, and then generally finished with two to three coats of clear finish. Custom wood floors may be designed in an endless array of motifs and patterns of a single or multiple species, and the floor may be stained before finishing if desired.
Pre-finished wood flooring does offer a few advantages over unfinished. It’s a walk away installation. When the floor goes down its complete except for trim. The surface is factory finished, and is generally superior to field applied finishes. There is a downside. There map be some edges of planks that are slightly unlevel. This is usually not too noticeable, but can be an issue depending on the condition of your subfloor. There are options of different plank edge details of pre-finished floor, so be sure you know which one you are getting. With any wood installation the plywood subfloor should be in good condition, screwed (not nailed) to the joists, primed if there are any stains, and tar paper underlayment is applied prior to installation.
TILE AND STONE
Natural stone- marble, granite, limestone, travertine, slate- is always a beautiful choice in flooring. The durability of a particular stone is due in large part to its inherent hardness. Stain resistance is also a selection factor, so be sure to research the specific characteristics of the stone you are considering. Variations in manufacturing and the source of stone greatly affect the material cost and account for the huge spread in pricing for the exact same product. Stone can have a polished shiny surface, an unpolished textured finish, or a semi-polished honed finish with an almost 3-D look. In various projects I have mixed these finishes, and worked in patterns and borders which create very rich and interesting results.
Styles of ceramic, clay body, and porcelain tile have changed dramatically over the past few years. There are countless options from traditional looks to rich textured porcelains, gleaming iridescents, mosaics, glass tiles, and metallics. Border tile patterns and medallion motifs offer endless design possibilities and produce a rich and classic look depending on the particular layout. Man made tiles can sometimes produce installations that mimic natural stone for a more budget conscious design solution.
Flooring selections throughout the home should blend gracefully and functionally from one material to the next. Keep the palette simple and be sure to install the proper threshold when transitioning from one material to another. Sound deadening can be a consideration for hard surfaces, especially when they are installed upstairs. Always finish closets with the same material as the adjacent area.
Critical to the success of any new flooring are preparation and installation procedures. Always check the manufacturers’ recommendations, subfloor requirements, and use only specified materials, fasteners, adhesives, and post installation maintenance. Most warranties are null and void if the product is installed or maintained contrary to the manufacturers’ specifications. Choose wisely to insure enjoyment for many years to come.