Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cork Flooring

We reviewed many types of flooring in the two previous blogs.  One option not yet reviewed is cork flooring, an increasingly popular choice.  Cork flooring is attractive, easy to clean, and reasonably priced.  Cork tiles and planks are available in many colors and patterns.  Cork flooring is hypoallergenic and resistant to mold and mildew associated with some other types of flooring.  Cork is a natural renewable product obtained from the bark of trees generally located in the Mediterranean.  Cork flooring is typically more durable than wood and provides more give than hardwood, and is warmer to the touch.  Typical installed costs are $5.00 to $10.00 per square foot.

The resilience of cork flooring is also its weakness.  Sharp or heavy objects left on the floor for long periods of time can permanently damage the floors.  Since cork is a natural product direct sunlight will cause color to fade over time.

You cannot wet mop to clean cork floors as any water absorption can damage cork flooring.  The floors are kept clean with regular sweeping and dry mopping.

In general cork flooring holds many benefits with respect to a healthy environment in your home and is an environmentally conscious choice.  We recently installed a cork floor in a kitchen remodel.  Pictures are on our newsletter and website (

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Comparing Wood Flooring

We reviewed options other than wood flooring in the last blog.  This blog will review the pros and cons of three types of wood flooring. 

Laminate Floors - First a qualifier; laminate wood flooring is not really wood.  Pergo is the most commonly know brand name, but there are many options and companies supplying laminate flooring. Laminate flooring is a facsimile of wood with a remarkable ability to stimulate wood; it is very durable, easy to install, easy to clean.  Laminate flooring is resistant to staining and fading, does not scuff or wear through, get scratched by pets, or indent from normal family wear.  It will also hold up against light moisture.  They are floating floors; each piece attaches to the one adjacent and it is held down by gravity and perimeter trim.  Laminate flooring is not typically installed under cabinets or fixed appliances.  The major drawbacks are laminate floors cannot be refinished, will not hold up to heavy moisture, and are not real wood.  Typical installed costs are $5.00 to $9.00 per square foot.

Engineered Wood Floors - Engineered wood flooring is a fairly new product and a combination of laminate and true hardwood flooring.  There are a wide variety of wood types available in wood strips, wider width planks, or parquet squares.  Engineered wood floors consist of two or more layers of wood laminated together with a plywood bottom layer.  They are typically installed as floating floors with the panel edges attached to each other rather than to the subfloor.  Engineered wood can be sanded and refinished, but only 1-3 times.  The scratch and dent resistance is fair to good depending on the wood selected.  Light moisture will not damage the floor although heavy moisture can cause warping and damage.  With a natural wood top layer the flooring is not as dent or scratch resistant as laminate wood floors, and is also a bit more expensive.  Typical installed costs are $8.00 to $14.00; the biggest variable is the actual wood selected.

Natural Hardwood Floors - Hardwood flooring is rich, elegant, all natural, and creates a warm look to your home.  It is the most traditional of floors.  Solid wood flooring consists of one-piece boards that are typically nailed to a subfloor and comes unfinished, allowing you to apply a variety of finishes.  It is also available pre-finished, trading off additional purchase costs for less labor costs.  Solid hardwood flooring can be sanded and refinished multiple times, is durable, and not as cold or noisy as tile or stone.  Water of any type, light or heavy moisture, is not a friend of solid wood flooring.  Besides warping when wet it can fade in sunlight, can be easily dented depending on the species of wood chosen, and is difficult to install.  This is definitely not the first choice of the do-it-yourself installer.  There is a wide variation in types, hardness, and widths of wood available in wood strips, wider width planks, and parquet squares.  Oak hardwood flooring, the most typical wood for residential use, costs $8.00 to $10.00 per square foot installed.  Other woods can easily range up to or beyond $15.00 per square foot.  Wood floors can be installed in any room in the home.  Because of moisture concerns bath installations are not common.  With the better sealers and finishes now available kitchen installations are much more common than they once were.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Comparing Flooring

There are several good choices for floor finishes.  In a residential home the use of the room, installation requirements, and costs are major determining factors in selecting the floor finish.  In this blog I will review the most common non-wood options.  In the next blog I will review the wood options.

Carpet - It is soft, warm, and offered in a broad range of prices and selections.  There are a variety of fiber type {nylon, polyester, wool, etc} with varying degrees of wear and stain resistance.  In general carpet is better suited to low traffic areas such as bedrooms and living rooms.  It also a good choice for basements as a carpet with a good pad will provide a warmer basement floor than many other choices.  Carpet is also a good money-saving alternative.  With such a variety of carpet available it is hard to generalize but a mid-range carpet installed can be one-third the cost of a traditional oak floor installed and finished.   Moisture and wear are the enemies of carpet.  With that in mind carpet is rarely the choice for kitchens, baths, mudrooms, or basements that do not stay dry.

Area rugs - They are the cousin of carpets.  They can bring instant warmth to hard surface floors, cut down on noise, and may protect and enhance d├ęcor.  Similar to carpets, they are available in a wide range of sizes, color, patterns, textures, etc.

Ceramic tile - Tile is the traditional choice for kitchens, baths, foyers, and mudrooms.  Tile is a good choice for high traffic areas.  Tile supplies an elegant look, is durable, moisture resistant, and is offered in a variety of textures and colors.  Costs installed are typically in the $10.00 to $20.00 per square foot range including the required subfloor. 

Vinyl - Vinyl flooring is easy to maintain and clean, durable, and fairly inexpensive to install.  Sheet vinyl is available in 6 foot and 12 foot widths of any length.  Vinyl tile are typically 12” squares. Vinyl, like tile, is a good choice for kitchens, baths, and mudrooms.  Typical installed costs are $2.00 to $10.00 per square foot in good, better, and best categories.  At the top end of selection with unique patterns and colors installed cost can exceed the $10.00 per square foot installed cost.

Stone - Stone is the Cadillac of  flooring options.  Installed costs can easily be in the $15.00 to $30.00 per square foot range.  Stone is a classic look, natural, elegant, moisture resistant, and easy to maintain.  Besides the cost other negatives are stone can be cold, slippery, difficult to install, and can chip.  Typically stone is used in foyers or formal entries.