Time to Change Your Flooring?

It's time for some new flooring in your home, but what do you choose? You like your neighbour's hardwood floors, but you aren't sure if they are right for your family's lifestyle. And what are your choices, anyway? Read on to find out more about your flooring options.

Residential flooring generally comes in four basic types of materials. what is referred to as "resilient" flooring includes all types of tile and sheet vinyls. Ceramic, hardwood products and carpeting are the other three flooring choices.

Vinyl tiles

Vinyl tiles are available in different styles and offer a wide selection of decorative patterns and colours. Frequently they are embossed to make them even more resistant to wear and tear and to improve their appearance. For the do-it-yourselfer, the major advantage is the convenient size, the self-stick backing that many come with and the reasonable price. Even a novice can do a good job of laying these tiles.

Sheet vinyls

Because they have to be cut to fit the floor shape and size ahead of time, sheet vinyls can be more difficult to work with. They also come in a wide variety of colours, patterns and grades at reasonable cost. The "inlaid" types, in which the colour and pattern extend through the thickness of the material, offer a longer life in heavy traffic areas.

Ceramic tiles

These are considered a permanent flooring, good for the life of a room, if they are properly installed. The thicker tiles are designed especially for floors, while thinner ones are intended for wall-use only. Ceramic tiles come in a variety of shapes, patterns, sizes and colours. They are more expensive but longer-lasting than vinyl floor coverings. These tiles can be installed over a smooth, dry concrete or acceptable wood-product sub-floor, but never over tongue-and-groove hardwood. They are installed with a special grout mixture and require special attention and care during installation.

Hardwood products

Like ceramic tiles, hardwood flooring products are especially popular in today's residential housing market. Hardwood products can be used in any room, but extreme care should be taken when installing them in kitchens, bathrooms or over concrete floors. Hardwood floors expand when wet and can buckle. Unless specially treated, they are not recommended for high moisture areas.

Because of their popularity, some hardwood flooring manufacturers have come up with products that can be installed easily by do-it-your selfers. Parquet flooring, for instance, comes in a variety of designs and colours that can give a room the warmth and depth of real wood. It is reasonably priced, comes in tile form, is simple to install and has an easy-care finish.


Carpeting comes in a variety of styles, textures and materials. The most common styles are level loops, also known as indoor/outdoor carpeting, multi-level loops and cut piles. Level loops are often installed in kitchens, basements and other high-traffic areas because they are easier to clean than carpets with higher pile. Multi-level loops offer a compromise between level loops and cut pile carpets. They are still relatively easy to clean and can be quite attractive. Most elegant are cut pile carpets. These can be very plush, but are also more difficult to keep clean.

Most carpets are made of nylon fibres. Nylon is considered the strongest, most stain-resistant and least expensive to manufacture. But it has some disadvantages: it is difficult to clean once stained and can generate a lot of static electricity. To reduce static, often other synthetic fibres are combined with the nylon. Wool carpets are probably the oldest and finest of all carpets; that's why they are also the most expensive. Many retailers no longer carry wool carpeting, or provide it only on a special-order basis.

Carpets can be installed over any good flooring except other carpeting. Leaving an old carpet and using it as padding under a new one is not recommended. Old carpets always have dirt embedded in the backing, which can work itself up into the new carpeting. Urethane foam padding has generally replaced the old hair-jute pad and rubber waffle padding. It's easier and cheaper to use for both do-it-your selfers and professionals. In addition, it's also lighter, longer-lasting and comes in various thicknesses.

Before choosing

Before making any flooring decision, think about the traffic patterns, the size of your family and the wear and tear expected. There's no point installing light, plush carpeting in an area that will be heavily soiled.

If you are installing the floor yourself, be sure to measure each room carefully. A flooring store representative can help you estimate the amount you will need and offer other advice.

If you are having a floor professionally installed, ensure the retailer sends an estimator to your home ahead of time to take accurate measurements and check the condition of the sub-floor. Get a number of estimates from various retailers and ensure the product you select has some form of written guarantee. New floors are expected to last a long time and you should get the most for your money.




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