The Pros and Cons of 5 Common Flooring Materials

January 24, 2012

Flooring plays a key but understated role in the look of your home. An unattractive floor can cheapen the entire appearance of a room, while excellent flooring can enhance a drab room’s beauty. But it’s not all about looks. When choosing flooring, it’s essential that you pick a material that can withstand the traffic demands and climate of the room in which it will be installed. Otherwise, you may as well throw your money out the window. If you’re not sure what flooring is best for your home, take a look at this primer featuring the pros and cons of five flooring materials.

  1. Timber Flooring. For many people, timber floors are the ultimate in high-quality flooring. It’s not hard to see why. Easy to maintain and durable, timber floors add a warm, natural glow to a room. They also suit most housing styles, whether traditional or modern, and come in a range of hues depending upon the wood you choose. They are a good choice for people seeking a classic, elegant look for their home. Even better, they’re well-known to add value to property – something to consider if you’re renovating a rental property or planning to sell. The biggest downside to timber floors is that they are expensive. The wood can cost between $35- $100 per square meter, and installation costs can run even higher than that. What’s more, timber floods in high traffic area will need to be stripped every four to five years to maintain their beauty, adding to the overall cost. Also consider that timber floors are also very sensitive to moisture and humidity: should you suffer water damage from burst pipe, rain or flooding, your floor could be easily ruined.
  2. Laminate. Laminate flooring is a blend of synthetic and natural materials made to resemble timber or stone floors. The actual product is a composition of high-density fiber and wood particles bonded together and topped with a high-resolution photograph of natural wood or stone. Laminate flooring provides your home with the same timeless look as timber or stone floors, but costs a fraction of the price, running at approximately $14 – $19 per square meter. It is also very easy to install and maintain, is highly durable and scratch-resistant. It’s a great choice for high-traffic rooms, pet owners, and people who don’t have the budget for genuine timber or stone. Laminate flooring has a few disadvantages including that it makes a hollow sound when walking upon it. This sound can be reduced by putting down an acoustic underlay, but if you’re sensitive to sound, it may prove irksome in the long run. Laminate can also warp easily and probably shouldn’t be laid near bathrooms or kitchens. If you’re thinking about selling or renting your property, also consider that laminate flooring is usually immediately identifiable as such. Buyers or renters wanting true hardwood floors won’t be fooled.
  3. Bamboo. Known as an eco-friendly choice for flooring, the popularity of bamboo flooring has skyrocketed over the past decade. Although many people think of it as wood, bamboo is actually a fast-growing grass that matures within 3-5 years and regenerates without replanting or pesticides. Like timber floors, bamboo adds a natural warmth and beauty to a room. It’s also durable, moisture-resistant, simple to install and maintain, and less expensive than timber floors.The primary disadvantage to bamboo flooring is the assumption that bamboo is the greenest choice. In theory, using bamboo flooring means preserving natural wood sources, but there have been reports of woodlands being cleared to make bamboo fields. Also, while bamboo requires few pesticides during growth, keep in mind it may have been treated with toxic chemicals and glues during processing. Apart from the ecological aspect, some people complain that bamboo floors are softer than timber floors and less durable – but that depends on which variety of bamboo you choose.
  4. Ceramic Tile. The great advantage of ceramic tiles is that they’re inexpensive and available in almost every size, shape, or color imaginable. You can even buy tile that resembles stone or marble, saving you thousands over the genuine materials. Tile is also very easy to clean, scratch-resistant, and water-resistant, which has made them the traditional flooring choice for any room frequently exposed to wetness or moisture. If you live in a warm climate or near a beach, using tile flooring throughout your entire house can be a wise option. On the flip side, ceramic tiles must be perfectly installed otherwise they’re subject to cracking. If they do crack, repairing them is difficult, time-consuming and costly. Tiles also feel cold underfoot, which may not be pleasant for homes in colder environments.
  5. Linoleum. For those seeking a different option in natural flooring, linoleum may be a good choice. Linoleum is a product made of oxidized linseed oil mixed with natural products such as wood flour, pine rosin, limestone and cork dust. The material is inexpensive and offers a wealth of choices in color and design. It’s also comfortable underfoot, hypoallergenic, and long-lasting. Linoleum is most often used in kitchens, bathrooms, and foyers. It is also recommended for use in children’s rooms because of its durability and antimicrobial properties.The biggest problem with linoleum is that it collects and traps sub-floor moisture, which can damage both the linoleum and sub-floor. Thus, you should avoid using linoleum if your sub-floor is made of concrete or located in the basement. Also consider that the colors in linoleum tend to fade when exposed to direct sunlight. Finally, if you’re renting or selling your property, bear in mind that linoleum does not increase the value of your property.

By Michael Law, a NSW based renovator who works with the owner builder course providers at http://www.ownerbuildercouseonline.com.au. Should you like to contact Mike, please do so by sending him an e-mail.

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