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How to choose the best flooring for your home



Choosing flooring is far more complicated than just finding the best-looking product and installing it. Several factors at play will influence your decision--factors you may not immediately consider

FACTOR 1: Moisture. "Will the Flooring Be Installed in a Basement or Bathroom?"

Yes: You need flooring that is suited for a high- or medium-moisture environment

No: Great! Any type of flooring, including the ones above, may be used. Go to the next step

FACTOR 2: Durability. "Do You Have Pets or Children or...?"

Yes: Remarkably, some flooring that seems durable really isn't--at least not under the strain of Golden Retriever nails and children. Solid hardwood seems to invite scratches, though its saving grace is that scratches can be sanded out

No: Go to the next step

FACTOR 3: Cost. "What Is Your Square Footage Budget? $1.00 sq/ft? $5 sq/ft? More?"

Installation is the hidden cost for most flooring. Even the $0.99 Pergo at Lowe's needs to be installed by somebody--you or an installer. Prices below are materials-only. Expect to double the cost with professional installation

  • $2.00 and under: You'll find bargain laminate flooring hovering around this price; nothing gorgeous but it has a general wood-like appearance. Sheet and tile resilient flooring can also be found in this price range. Lots of gorgeous ceramic and porcelain tile can be found in this range--but tile is truly a labor-intensive installation.
  • $2.00-$5.00: The sweet spot price range for many types of flooring. You can snag some solid hardwood and engineered wood flooring, but don't expect any exotic woods. The more attractive laminates fall in this range, and the more quality resilient products fit very comfortable into this range, too.

  • $5.00 and up: Sky's the limit? Well, maybe not, but upping your price range means you can explore some of the harder, more exotic hardwood and engineered wood options--kempas, ipe, mahogany. The more off-beat laminate flooring products will be found here--plank laminate flooring. It would be ridiculous to pay over this amount for resilient flooring.

FACTOR 4: DIY Installation. "Are You Willing To Take on Flooring Installation Yourself?"

DIY work halves the cost of more flooring installs..

Yes: Good for you. Laminate flooring and glue-down wood engineered flooring are putty in the hands of most DIYers. Vinyl tile--same. Tile, as previously mentioned, does have a learning curve (got a spare room to practice a small tile installation? pantry, anteroom, mudroom?) Wall to wall carpet is tough for DIYers to lay down perfectly flat. Solid, tongue-and-groove hardwood is best installed by pros.

No: No problem. Even if they do not do in-house installation, most flooring stores maintain lists of local installers.

FACTOR 5: Maintenance. "Do You Want a Set-It-And-Forget-It Floor Requiring No Maintenance Tasks?"

Yes: Then go the resilient (vinyl) flooring route. Tile vinyl is easy to maintain, and sheet vinyl even easier. Concrete? If you can stand its coldness, concrete is low maintenance. Laminate flooring is easy to maintain, too--damp mop is all you need to keep it clean.

No: With wood, you trade beauty for maintenance. I don't care what the manufacturers say: solid or engineered wood is work, but it's worth it. One major task: keep high-traffic areas covered with throw rugs and runners.


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